DEA: 'There are no safe drugs' as cartels mix fentanyl into cocaine, meth and pressed pills

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EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – An El Paso drug dealer will spend the next 24 years and five months in prison for his role in the 2017 overdose deaths of two siblings who consumed cocaine mixed with fentanyl.

Federal officials hope Monday’s sentence against Paris Lamont Dennis, a.k.a. “Bama,” will send a strong message to those who peddle hard drugs that end up killing people.

“The message is, if a dealer deals a dose of drugs and the person that buys it, that uses it dies, that dealer is looking at a 20-year minimum mandatory sentence: 240 months. It doesn’t matter how much drugs they deal, how many pills, how many lines of cocaine or whatever,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Spitz told Border Report.

Dennis, 39, on or about Nov. 18, 2017, provided drugs to two individuals identified only as M.O. and R.O., according to a federal indictment. Dennis, described by authorities as a “known drug dealer,” found the two victims – which Border Report has learned were a brother and sister – unresponsive. An autopsy revealed they died of an accidental overdose of cocaine with detectable amounts of fentanyl.

A federal grand jury in 2019 indicted Dennis on drug and weapons charges, as he was a convicted felon in possession of a .357-caliber Taurus revolver. The suspect pleaded guilty to a single count of distribution of a controlled substance causing serious bodily injury. He was sentenced Monday in El Paso federal court.

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El Paso Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Greg Millard said stopping the flow and distribution of drugs, particularly the deadly fentanyl, is a top priority.

El Paso reported 12 fentanyl-related deaths in 2017 – the year the two siblings died – whereas last year it recorded 77.

The DEA last month alerted the public to a batch of cocaine laced with fentanyl circulating around the city.

“We really wanted to get the word out to our community,” Millard said. “There are no safe drugs. You may think you’re taking cocaine, methamphetamines or a pill. You may think that pill is Adderall or Xanax. However, if it was bought illicitly on the street, on the internet, it may contain fentanyl, and fentanyl is extremely dangerous and may cost you your life.”

Federal and local authorities for the past two years have been alerting the public to a surge in fentanyl trafficking and use. The synthetic opioid often manufactured by the Mexican drug cartels with base chemicals imported from Asia can be up to 50 times stronger than heroin.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported almost 108,000 drug overdose deaths in 2021; synthetic opioids like fentanyl accounted for two out of every three of those deaths.

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“The problem with these drugs is quality control. There is no quality control. You have no idea what was mixed in the drug you’re taking. One pill may contain a minute amount of fentanyl and another pill may contain enough to be a fatal overdose,” Millard said.

He said four out of 10 seized pills tested at DEA labs contained lethal doses.

The drug passes through border cities like El Paso on its way to bigger markets in the interior of the United States. But as the rising number of overdose deaths attests to, some of it is staying right here.

The DEA in 2020 reported that the Sinaloa cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) were the main exporters of fentanyl from Mexico to the United States.

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