Two suspects were charged last week after an enormous quantity of the elephant tranquilizer carfentanil was seized by authorities in Riverside County, California.Tablets thought to have been laced with fentanyl at the Drug Enforcement Administration Laboratory.
Carfentanil, a synthetic opiate, is the most potent fentanyl analog found in the U.S. Typically used in a veterinary capacity to anesthetize large animals, the drug is 10,000 times more powerful than morphine and 100 times more powerful than fentanyl.
According to a news release from the Riverside County’s District Attorney’s office, the arrests and arraignments of 30-year-old Andres Jesus Morales and 27-year-old Alyssa Christine Ponce came after an extended investigation by the Riverside police Department.
In late August, authorities found a whopping 21 kilograms (approximately 46.3 pounds) of carfentanil at a house in the city of Perris, California, located about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Additionally, police were able to seize four kilograms of cocaine and one kilogram of heroin.
They searched the home in relation to a suspected drug trafficking ring in Riverside County.
Carfentanil is highly lethal: according to the Riverside DA’s office, a lethal dose of carfentanil for a human would be measured at a minuscule “nanogram level.” In contrast, it takes far more fentanyl, about 2 milligrams to kill a human.
For scale, fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.
If the 21 kilograms of carfentanil were to be mixed with other drugs, the quantity would have the potential to “kill more than 50 million people,” added the DA’s office in a statement.
At the time of the police’s initial search of the Perris house, neither suspect was home. However, when detectives served a search warrant at another home on September 14, Ponce and Morales were arrested. There, authorities also found another 16 kilograms (35.3 pounds) of cocaine.
Ponce and Morales are believed to be a couple. Both have pleaded not guilty to their felony charges, and they are being held without bail. Their next court date is set for November 9.
Officials believe the carfentanil seizure is the largest quantity of the drug to have ever been confiscated in Riverside.