LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Enough fentanyl to kill thousands of people is now off the streets of Little Rock.
Nearly 50 people are accused of being part of three, large drug-trafficking rings that officers say they’ve dismantled.
U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland, DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Justin King, and FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Scott Reinhardt announced the results Wednesday of investigations that concurrently spanned more than a year and a half. They said they dismantled organizations based in Little Rock that were run by Monterrio Fuller, Desmond Kelley, and Clifton Williams.
“People,” King said, “are making a lot of money off of—they’re preying on the citizens of Central Arkansas.”
Investigators targeted Fuller, Kelley, and Williams’ organizations because officers suspected them of dealing fentanyl. Fentanyl is an opioid that is 80 times stronger than morphine and 40 times more powerful than heroin. It is most commonly a white powder, is most commonly produced in China, and is often mixed in with other drugs.
“We’re seeing it from everything,” King explained, “from vape cartridges that have fentanyl in them, marijuana, synthetic forms of marijuana. We’re seeing it mixed with methamphetamine. And what people need to understand is: whenever they’re getting anything, they don’t know what is in it. But we treat everything like it could have fentanyl in it, nowadays.”
He added that most of the fentanyl sold in Arkansas is mixed with heroin. Hiland said a dose as small as 1/8 milligram is enough to kill someone. “And so, people that are using the other drugs have a real opportunity to face a fatal overdose,” he stated, “and they’ve got no idea what’s coming.”
According to the indictments announced Wednesday, at least two people died as a result of fentanyl overdoses where Williams was the supplier.
“It’s not hyperbole to say that we have a real issue in our community with this stuff coming in,” Hiland said. “It is deadly. It has been deadly and it will continue to be deadly, and that’s why we have to take a real hard line on it.”
Hiland mentioned that amounts of fentanyl barely visible to the naked eye are enough to kill. Reinhardt explained that that creates serious risks for the officers who investigate these cases. “I can’t say that enough: every time police officers, the lab, whoever it is, come in contact with the stuff, they risk their own lives,” he stated. “And just that amount that Cody described, that little amount of this can kill a person quick.”
King claimed that the dealers profited off that were known to contain potential-deadly levels of fentanyl. “And, you know, they have street names for it,” he added. “People are seeing—believe it or not, when they know that there are overdoses, people are going to buy that because they think it’s the higher high, and they’re always trying to get to that.”
Through the three investigations, Hiland brought charges against 49 people and officers have arrested all but four. King said officers seized nearly six kilograms of fentanyl, 21 kilograms of methamphetamine, and 53 kilograms of cocaine. They also seized 28 firearms. Hiland mentioned that Kelley’s organization was linked to the Highland Park Pirus gang, which he said is suspected of multiple violent crimes.
Officers arrested 15 of the suspected drug dealers Wednesday morning. But Hiland said during that announcement that he also wanted to send a message to the users. “This is a self-correcting error,” he said. “There is a real possibility that you take a dose and you die.”
King mentioned that many fentanyl and heroin users first got addicted to opioids by using prescription pain medications. But as restrictions on those drugs become tighter and “pill mill” clinics are shut down, users seek out other sources to satisfy their addictions.
“A drug trafficking organization will find that market,” he said, “and they will continue to put more distribution, sales in there. And you’ll have people that are coming in and they’re looking for ways to promote their product. And so, with social media and things like that, we’re finding that the word gets out really quick.”