An announcement from United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon of the US Attorney’s Office of the District of South Carolina revealed that a Charleston district judge had sentenced a fentanyl dealer to 20 years in prison for distribution of fentanyl that resulted in death. After the incarceration, the defendant—a 61-year-old—will spend another five years on federal supervision.
The defendant, Robert Bryan Mansfield, admitted that he had imported fentanyl in bulk from darknet vendors and then redistributed the drug through darknet markets. The investigation into Mansfield began after Homeland Security Investigations seized more than a kilogram of fentanyl that a supplier in Hong Kong had shipped to Mansfield’s home address. The same day, Homeland Security Investigations agents in Charleston obtained a search warrant that authorized them to search Mansfield’s home.
“Whether you are a dark web vendor or a traditional street dealer, DEA and its law enforcement partners will apply every resource to ensure you face the full measure of justice,” DEA Resident Agent in Charge Jason Sandoval said.
Law enforcement wastes very little time in cases that involve the illicit trafficking of opioids. This process undoubtedly speeds up when the opioid in question is fentanyl. And then turns into a same-day search warrant and arrest when the amount of fentanyl seized or intercepted reaches a the lethality of a chemical weapon capable of taking out a small town. In many cases, authorities have spent countless hours building a case that ensures a conviction. Keep in mind that federal prosecutors have maintained a conviction rate of roughly 90 percent. But with a kilogram of fentanyl in the mail, authorities seemingly move much more quickly than usual.
At the defendant’s house, HSI agents seized more than 100 grams of fentanyl, an assortment of psychoactive substances intended for redistribution, evidence that Mansfield had been selling drugs, and USPS mailers and information that linked Mansfield to USPS packages. Armed with the USPS information seized by HSI agents, United States Postal Inspection Service Inspectors—still on the same day—searched for packages that Mansfield had shipped that had not yet arrived at their destinations. The Inspectors pulled ten packages of fentanyl from the mail stream.
As Mansfield sat in jail in South Carolina with a federal hold, federal law enforcement agencies built a case that would ensure conviction. The US Drug Enforcement Administration joined the investigation and really made sure that Mansfield would remain in prison—if convicted—until he was roughly 80 years old. The DEA had evidence that the fatal overdose of a man in 2016 was due to fentanyl Mansfield had distributed. They introduced a superseding indictment that added one count of “distribution of fentanyl that resulted in death.” The charge carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.
At a change of plea hearing, Mansfield pleaded guilty to the new charge. And months later, United States District Judge David C. Norton sentenced the 61-year-old to 20 years in federal prison and five years of supervised release.