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A federal jury in Nashville, Tennessee, found three men guilty of participating a fentanyl distribution conspiracy based in Madison during an 8-days trial.. The men are now waiting for their prison sentences alongside another five co-conspirators who had previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the fatal distribution conspiracy. The charges carry mandatory minimum prison sentences of 20 years.
All three men played different roles in the operation, according to court documents. Joedon Bradley, 32, helped move the pill-pressing network from Florida to Tennessee. Also convicted were Johnny Williams, 32, and Jonathan Barrett, 30. Investigators found that Bradley and a previously convicted co-conspirator had worked as the “ringleaders.” The ringleaders pressed counterfeit “A333” oxycodone pills with fentanyl, acetaminophen, and alprazolam. Two of those drugs have no place in real A333 oxycodone pills and the other two make one of the most legal drug combinations.
Johnny Williams, 32, and Jonathan Barrett, 30, purchased counterfeits from Bradley in bulk and redistributed them to other drug dealers. Bradley and his primary accomplice pressed roughly one thousand fake oxycodone pills every day. Investigators found that the ringleaders ordered and restocked their fentanyl and alprazolam supply from dealers met through the internet. The other items, including the pill presses, came from Amazon. They could have purchased powdered acetaminophen legally through almost any supplier.
This is of the first few recorded cases covered by DeepDotWeb where dealers have pressed fake oxycodone pills with one active ingredient found in the majority of oxycodone preparations. The rationale here is unknown, given that the dealers purchased and used typical pill binders. Oxycodone users are unlikely to notice the absence of a drug that does effectively nothing in contrast to oxycodone. The acetaminophen will not prevent a pill test from identifying fentanyl in the pill.
On top of the fact that the acetaminophen is almost inert as it is, noticing its presence alongside a drug much stronger expected—fentanyl compared to oxycodone—would be impossible. Especially when the customers thought they had taken only oxycodone at a dose they had prepared for and ended up with both fentanyl and alprazolam (often manufactured under the name “Xanax”) in their bloodstream. The combination is fatal.
And the sudden increase in opioid overdose deaths in several parts of Tennessee led to the group’s arrest. The Drug Enforcement Administration, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Murfreesboro Police Department, and the Food and Drug Administration formed a joint taskforce to find the dealers behind the fatal and non-fatal overdoses. The overdoses also meant stricter sentences. Barrett, the court heard, had learned that at least one of his customers had died on one of the counterfeit pills. He continued to sell them.
U.S. Attorney Don Cochran, after commending the jury for holding the dealers responsible for their crimes, told the press that “long prison sentences for [the defendants] will soon follow.” Notably, another conspirator faced the jury in alongside the three mentioned in the article. The jury found him not guilty of all charges.