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Massive Pill Pressing Operation Busted in New York

After a year-long investigation, law enforcement busted the largest “fentanyl” trafficking conspiracy in New York. The DEA, ATF, HSI, CBP, and local police investigated the case. And on May 16th law enforcement made their move and arrested for individuals in connection with the drug trafficking ring. The Criminal Complaint accuses four of them with conspiracy with intent to distribute both furanyl fentanyl and U-47700. Two of the four named in the criminal complaint were charged with possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.

U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced​ that the number of overdose victims climbs daily. A Google search shows an overdose on a near-daily basis. Many deaths were attributed to furanyl fentanyl and U-47700. The majority of which were in the Western District of New York and same general location of the four in the criminal complaint. The four: Robert Ian Thatcher, Maximilian Sams, Dwayne Banks, and Carlito Rios, Jr.

During the execution of the search warrants on May 16th, law enforcement found 200 blue pills that they suspected contained a mixture either of opioid. They also found seven firearms and ammunition with a single bulletproof vest. And of course, blue food coloring and blue powder. During the investigation, a DEA agent wrote in the complaint, that one of the defendants eBay records indicated that the ring pressed their own pills. The eBay records showed purchases of food colorings and dyes along with pieces of pill presses and, uniquely, parts of a 3D printer from which they printed firearms.

The first major event in the investigation, at least in the complaint, involved 5,330 blue pills. A laboratory later confirmed that the pills contained furanyl fentanyl. That incident occurred after an officer pulled over a car with two co-conspirators operating it. Law enforcement turned both co-defendant into informants. They explained that the group ordered drugs and drug materials from “encrypted websites.” (We have a video of a darknet vendor displaying a pill press in action if interested.)

One of the informants confirmed, on video, that Robert Ian Thatcher ran the operation. The ring, led by Thatcher, sold blue pills that were “supposed to be Percocet,” according to the informant. CC-1, the informant, continued by explaining that Maximillian Sams was a key distributor for Thatcher. He called Sams a financial genius. Neither of the men had jobs or gainful employment of any sort.

Confidential sources one two and three (CS-1, CS-2, and CS-3), informed investigators that Dwayne Banks also distributed for Thatcher. CS-2 explained that Thatcher pressed thousands of pills with a “fentanyl derivative.” And, additionally, he revealed the general location of the pill press, along with Thatcher’s residence where he or she (CS-2) purchased 200 – 400 pills every week and a half.

CS-3 identified Carlito Rios, Jr. as another one of Thatcher’s distributors. The source said Thatcher once claimed that he made $750,000 from the pills. According to the complaint, the source identified several overdose victims who died after using Thatcher’s pills. He further revealed the make and model of Thatcher’s car, along with the license plate number.

The complaint explained that Homeland Security Investigations conducted aerial surveillance of Rios. Customs and Border Protection at the JFK International Millbranch intercepted a package containing 249 grams of furanyl fentanyl. The package was labeled to a misspelled name of one of the defendants. Defendants were talked and searched in what appeared to be routine traffic stops. The DEA conducted numerous undercover buys. They identified a source in China. The amount of evidence collected in this case—including a seemingly-random collection of pills that an unidentified entity willingly turned over to police officers—tops that of many cases reported by DeepDotWeb.

On May 16, Law enforcement raided five locations and arrested all four defendants. They found the pills, weapons, pill “materials,” and a vest. And the investigation is far from over, acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. said. Law enforcement will try to connect the pills to recent overdoses in the area. Police in Charlotte, North Carolina, will investigate the unknown recipient of the original 5,330 pills. And HSI Special Agent-in-Charge James C. Spero explained that investigations overseas will begin. They know the ring operated beyond state borders but also believe Thatcher did business overseas.

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