ORANGE COUNTY (KABC) -- A total of 15,000 "rainbow" fentanyl pills were seized during a major drug bust in Orange County, the sheriff's department announced.
According to a series a tweets posted by the Orange County Sheriff's Department, investigators executed search warrants at two locations in North Orange County.
During the search, they found two kilograms of fentanyl powder, 10 pounds of methamphetamine, and 15,000 multi-colored fentanyl pills - commonly known as "rainbow fentanyl." This marks the first time Orange County sheriff investigators have encountered "rainbow" fentanyl in their jurisdiction.
Law enforcement agencies have been warning the public about the dangers of fentanyl for years, but unfortunately, officials say those warnings appear to be going unheeded - especially among young people.
"Fentanyl poisoning is now the number one source of death for people between 18 and 45," said Martin Estrada, the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California as he unveiled a new public service announcement called "Death in Disguise," warning people about the dangers of fentanyl.
"We need this message to be circulated widely. Simply spreading this message will educate and will save lives."
The announcement was made in downtown Riverside Thursday with officials from both the Riverside and San Bernardino counties' district attorney's offices. The U.S. Attorney's Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration were also on hand.
Riverside County DA Mike Hestrin said the county's crime prevention unit has conducted more than 90 presentations at schools across the area, reaching more than 12,000 students.
"Simply put, fentanyl is a deadly drug," he said. "It is devastating our communities, it's devastating our county."
Officials said the most common scenarios in which people accidentally overdose on fentanyl fall into these two categories: people either purchase inexpensive prescription drug pills that they don't know are laced with fentanyl or purchasing illegal drugs that are laced with fentanyl.
Either way, Estrada said the victims often have no idea what they're taking.
"Many of these fentanyl poisonings occur because people thought they were buying a different kind of drug or a pharmaceutical, and instead got something laced with fentanyl that resulted in their death."
Also at the news conference was retired police detective Steven Filson, whose daughter, Jessica, died in January 2020 from a fentanyl overdose. He said she and her boyfriend bought what they thought was cocaine at a party, but the drugs were laced with fentanyl. Four people at the party were also killed.
"She was going to use cocaine to celebrate Nick's birthday, but the product they purchased unknown to them contained fentanyl," said Filson. "They partied and never woke up."
The U.S. Attorney's Office said the person who sold the drugs is being prosecuted and is expected to face trial in federal court in October. If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
"If you don't get it from a physician or a pharmacy, don't take it," said Filson. "It's fake 100% of the time. No exceptions."