Parents are advised to be extra vigilant this year in checking what their children bring home on Halloween after agents in Los Angeles seized around 12,000 fentanyl pills packaged in several bags of candy, the latest incident of the deadly drug being disguised as something innocuous.
According to a statement from Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, a suspect carrying packages of fentanyl pills attempted to go through a TSA screening at Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday, trying sneak past screening and board a plane.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Narcotics Bureau Detectives and Drug Enforcement Agency agents assigned to the airport discovered the pills inside boxes of Sweetarts, Skittles and Whoppers.
The person carrying the drugs fled before he or she could be detained, but the suspect's identity is known. An investigation into the matter is ongoing.
"With Halloween approaching, parents need to make sure they are checking their kids candy and not allowing them to eat anything until it has been inspected by them," officials with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department warned in the statement.
"If you find anything in candy boxes that you believe might be narcotics, do not touch it and immediately notify your local law enforcement agency."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported over 71,000 overdose deaths from synthetic fentanyl in 2021, up from 57,000 deaths in 2020.
Last month, New York authorities arrested a New Jersey woman after discovering she had 15,000 rainbow-colored fentanyl pills inside a lego box. The DEA reported the incident was the largest fentanyl seizure in New York City history.
The 48-year-old suspect, Latesha Bush, was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on Sept. 30. A criminal complaint filed by the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor (SNP) against Bush charged her with one count of first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and one count of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.
New York authorities investigating suspected narcotics trafficking stopped Bush's vehicle and found the two black tote bags and a Lego package containing fentanyl pills in the car. The pills were imprinted with "M" and "30" to resemble Oxycodone pills.
"Disguising fentanyl as candy — and concealing it in children's toys — will never hide the fact that fentanyl is a deadly poison that harms our communities, our families, and our city," Police Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell said in a statement.
Investigators claim Bush traveled from New Jersey to Manhattan in a rental car, and the pills she was carrying originated from Mexico. Investigators said disguising fentanyl as candy or other prescription drugs is a tactic used by the Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel, two Mexican drug cartels.
Earlier this month, the DEA announced the results of its One Pill Can Kill initiative, which led to the seizure of more than 10.2 million fentanyl pills and approximately 980 pounds of fentanyl powder from May 23 through Sept. 8. Out of the 390 cases investigated, 51 were linked to overdose poisonings, and 35 were connected to one or both of the Mexican cartels.
In a national survey of 1,000 likely U.S. voters conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC for Rasmussen Reports, 91% of participants said they believe the country's fentanyl issue is serious, with 73% describing it as a "very serious problem."
The survey was conducted from Sept. 26 to Sept. 27 by phone, with a margin sampling of error of is +/- 3 percentage points and a 95% confidence level.