Synthetic opioid potent enough to “kill over 50 million people” seized in California, authorities say

Two Southern California residents have been charged in a massive drug seizure that led authorities to seize more than 46 pounds of a deadly synthetic opioid.

Andres Jesus Morales, 30, and Christine Ponce, 27, were charged with four counts each of possession of a controlled substance for sale, the Riverside District Attorney’s Office announced on Thursday.

The two arrests come after the Riverside Police Department raided a home in the town of Perris, Calif., About 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles, on August 17. At the home, officers seized 46.2 pounds of carfentanil, 8.8 pounds of cocaine and 2.2 pounds. pounds of heroin.

No one was home at the time, but police said they identified Morales and Ponce as suspects in the case.

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Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid that is generally used as a tranquilizer for elephants and other large mammals, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. When given to humans, the drug is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl, according to the DEA. The agency also said that two milligrams of fentanyl is enough to kill someone.

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“If mixed with other drugs, the 21 kilograms of carfentanil seized could have been enough to potentially kill over 50 million people,” the Riverside district attorney’s office said in a statement.

The DEA first issued a public opinion on carfentanil in 2016, then Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg said, “This is crazy dangerous.” In November 2019, New York authorities seized 11 pounds of carfentanil in what was then the biggest seizure.

Last week’s collapse would be the largest carfentanil seizure in Riverside County history.

The arrests were made after authorities raided another house in town on September 14, where an additional 35.2 pounds of cocaine was seized. Morales and Ponce have pleaded not guilty and are being held without bail.

Their next court date is November 9.

Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @ jordan_mendoza5.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Opioids Strong Enough to Kill 50 Million People Seized in California

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