RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CNS) -- Thousands of fentanyl-laced drugs, as well as powder containing the toxic substance, were seized during investigations in Riverside County beginning earlier this month, authorities said Monday.
According to the District Attorney's Office, the county's Gang Impact Team, staffed by law enforcement officers from the D.A.'s office, along with sheriff's deputies and personnel from multiple area police agencies, have been involved in three investigations that led to fentanyl confiscations.
None of the suspects allegedly in possession of the synthetic opioids was identified.
According to the D.A.'s office, a total of 40,000 M-30 pills packed with fentanyl and five kilograms of powdered fentanyl -- altogether valued at more than $1.5 million -- were taken off of the streets, along with three firearms.
"These investigations are part of the continuing effort of all Riverside County law enforcement agencies to save lives by stopping the flow of fentanyl in the county," according to an agency statement.
"Hundreds of people are dying every year (countywide) due to fentanyl poisoning. Victims, including young people, are illegally obtaining pills they believe are Oxycodone or Percocet, but instead contain fentanyl."
Only two milligrams can be enough to cause a fatality.
Fentanyl is manufactured in overseas labs, including in China, and according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, it's smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border by cartels.
The substance is 80-100 times more potent than morphine and is a popular additive, mixed into any number of narcotics and pharmaceuticals.
District Attorney Mike Hestrin told the Board of Supervisors last week that there were nearly 500 fentanyl-induced deaths countywide in 2021, which represents a 250-fold increase from 2016, when only two such fatalities were documented.
Statistics published last month by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed there were roughly 108,000 fatal drug overdoses in 2021, and fentanyl poisoning accounted for over 80,000 of them.