An Atlanta man has been indicted by a federal grand jury and arraigned on federal charges related to the distribution of the powerful narcotic, fentanyl.
Edward Culton, 25, faces charges of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, seven counts of aiding and abetting the distribution of fentanyl and one of count of possession with intent to distribute. U.S. Attorney Byung “BJay” Pak said in a statement that Culton’s alleged distribution of fentanyl led to two overdoses and in one of those instances, the person died.
Pak added that Culton allegedly disguised the pills to look like Roxicodone tablets — a brand of the narcotic oxcodone — but they were laced with fentanyl, which Pak says is “more potent and potentially lethal.”
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of deaths related to synthetic opioids and fentanyl more than quadrupled from 2010 to 2016, with the number of deaths jumping from 3,007 to 19,413.
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The charges relate to events that occurred between September 2017 and February 2018. During that time Culton allegedly supplied Herbert Nathans, 29, of Roswell, with “hundreds of fake Roxicodone pills” from Culton’s apartment in Buckhead, according to the DOJ. The pills were blue and imprinted with M30, resembling 30mg Roxicodone tablets.
Nathans allegedly sold some of those pills to a man who then died from a drug overdose on Oct. 3, 2017, the DOJ says. Nathans also allegedly sold one pill to a woman who overdosed after ingesting part of the pill on Jan. 8, 2018.
The DEA and Roswell police began to investigate Nathans and Culton. In January and February, undercover Roswell police officers purchased pills from Nathans on multiple occasions. On Feb. 15, the DEA executed a search warrant at Culton’s apartment and seized more than 900 of the blue fentanyl-laced pills.
“This counterfeit ‘pill peddler’ (Culton) was a menace to society,” Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division, said in a statement. “Pills in the underground drug market are often diluted with dangerous and deadly substances, as was the case in this investigation. Purchasing pills on the street is synonymous to playing Russian roulette, as there’s no quality control or efficacy in the process.”
On Aug. 13, Nathans pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute fentanyl.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Hartigan is prosecuting the case, which is being presented as part of Operation SCOPE — Strategically Combatting Opioids through Prosecution and Enforcement — an initiative launched by the U.S. Attorney’s Office to partner with federal and local law enforcement to fight illegally prescribed painkillers, heroin and opioids.
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Officers from multiple departments stepped in to save the man's life.