On March 27, 2017, Jessica Christine Holl of Lubbock, Texas, pleaded guilty to her involvement in a darkweb fentanyl trafficking ring. Three fentanyl traffickers landed in a federal investigation after ICE and the DEA intercepted two packages of fentanyl from China. One in 2015 and one in 2016. The package listed a Lubbock woman as the US recipient.
Texas law enforcement, in conjunction with the DEA and other federal agencies, investigated the case. According to court documents and press releases from the DEA, ICE, HSI, and the District Attorney, among others, the package interception led to the year-long Investigation—mainly through confidential informants. Three Lubbock residents became the primary suspects in the investigation: Jessica Christine Holl, Jamie Marie Robertson, and Sydney Caleb Lanier.
The criminal complaint accused the three individuals of crimes related to a fentanyl and furanyl fentanyl distribution conspiracy. “Between 2013 and October 2017,” federal authorities said, Holl, Robertson, and Lanier “distributed between $20,000 and $25,000 of fentanyl per week.” The investigation revealed that Lanier ordered fentanyl (and one of the weaker fentanyl cousins, furanyl fentanyl) from a darknet marketplace. Then Holl, the suspected main dealer at a street level, bought the drug and resold it to a number of local dealers in the area.
One of Holl’s buyers told law enforcement that Holl sold from the home shared with Robertson. He detailed the activities that occurred at the residence. One such activity, court documents vaguely explained, involved the use of two chemicals and heat. This very closely resembled my number of methods used to dilute fentanyl hydrochloride. She prepared the opioid for sale with “two chemicals that included an alcohol-based engine additive and heating the mixture to a powder.”
A common restructuring method used in the fentanyl distribution (and ingestion) process requires two products: methanol and lactose. The “chemists” then mix a certain ratio of fentanyl with a small amount of methanol. They heated lactose or similar ingredient and combined the mixture with timed intervals and regulated heat. After the process finished, a much “safer” form of fentanyl emerged, often under the guise of a new heroin known for the potency and white color.
More recently, vendors and dealers implemented less clandestine methods as chemical availability changed. This method, along with many poorly executed dilutions, carry a high risk of hotspots. And when a fentanyl ab/user without knowledge of the hotspots ingests the drugs, overdose chances skyrocket. Incidentally, perhaps, investigators in the state searched for a connection between Holl as a string of recent overdoses. As of her court appearance, no links surfaced.
Although Lanier admitted that he coordinated the scheme though the darknet orders, investigators fixated on Holl for the connection between fentanyl and Lubbock streets. Dealers who bought from Holl noted that Robertson sold for Holl if needed. She pleaded guilty to the unlawful use of a communications facility [with respect to a criminal enterprise].
Lanier pleaded guilty earlier this year to his role as the group’s leader and awaits sentencing.
Holl pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and furanyl fentanyl and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and furanyl fentanyl. She arranged a deal with the prosecutor—her guilty plea for a recommendation from the attorney’s office for a sentence lower than the maximum she faced.