Federal officials say they have arrested a woman who was carrying 1.5 million “lethal doses” of fentanyl on her person on a cross country trip from Los Angeles to New York. Authorities picked up Evelyn Sanchez at a Kansas City bus stop on Tuesday. She appeared in court on Wednesday and was charged with possession with intent to distribute. You can read the Department of Justice press release here.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. K9 Officer Alerted Agents to the Fentanyl Under Sanchez’s Bus Seat
Sanchez, 33, was riding the bus cross country from California to New York. When her bus stopped in Kansas on Tuesday, Kansas City detectives interviewed Sanchez about the purpose of her trip. It is not clear why police interviewed Sanchez in the first place. But according to the Department of Justice, the police were not satisfied with her explanation of why she was traveling to New York.
A K-9 boarded the bus and alerted police to a hard, grey suitcase under Sanchez’s seat. After some hesitation, Sanchez admitted that the suitcase belonged to her. When authorities opened the suitcase, they found over five pounds of fentanyl inside.
2. Officials Say Sanchez Was Carrying Enough Fentanyl to Kill Thousands of People
The Kansas City police chief, Richard Smith, said “Our Interdiction Unit did an excellent job. This was a huge amount of fentanyl capable of killing thousands of people. I’m very proud of our detectives and of how our excellent working relationships with our federal partners are keeping dangerous drugs like this off the streets and holding traffickers accountable.”
Federal authorities said that Sanchez had 5.3 pounds of fentanyl on her, which they say amounted to 1.5 million lethal doses of the powerful drug.
3. Sanchez Initially Denied that the Suitcase Containing Over 5 Pounds of Fentanyl Belonged to Her
The Kansas City police were suspicious of Sanchez even before they found her suitcase full of powerful drugs. Officers said they didn’t believe that the 33 year old woman was being truthful when she explained her reasons for traveling from Los Angeles to New York City.
When a K-9 unit boarded the bus, the dog found a gray, hard suitcase under Sanchez’s seat. Apparently Sanchez tried to deny that the suitcase belonged to her — but, after a bit of back and forth, the Department of Justice said, “she eventually acknowledged that that suitcase belonged to her.”
The suitcase contained two separate, plastic-wrapped bundles, each containing N-phenyl-N-[1-(2-phenylethyl)-4-piperidinyl] propanamide, the drug more commonly known as fentanyl. All together, the bundles contained 5.3 pounds of the drug.
4. Sanchez Is Being Held in Federal Custody in Kansas
She is being held in federal custody until her next court appearance, when evidence will be presented to a federal jury. Authorities have not said whether she was working alone, or as part of a ring of drug traffickers.
5. Fentanyl is 50 Times More Powerful than Heroin and Has Been Linked to Countless Overdoses
Fentanyl is a synthetic drug which mimics the effect of morphine or heroin. It is a powerful pain reliever which can be used by people who have grown tolerant to opiods.
However, fentanyl is extremely powerful; the National Institute on Drug Abuse says it is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, and it’s also estimated to be 50 times more powerful than heroin.
Because fentanyl is so powerful, it can lead to overdoses even when taken in relatively low doses. American Addiction Centers says that “An opioid overdose becomes dangerous when breathing is slowed too much. Pulse also slows, body temperature drops, and individuals often become mentally confused, drowsy, and lethargic. Pinpoint pupils and potential loss of consciousness are further indicators of an opioid overdose.”