Two Iowa men pleaded guilty to selling counterfeit oxycodone pills on the darknet. Like many of the counterfeit oxycodone sold on the darknet or on the streets, these pills contained the fentanyl analogue carfentanil.
In February, a federal grand jury indicted Cameron James Lensmeyer, 20, and Paul Sage, 20, for possession of carfentanil with intent to distribute, along with similar marijuana charges. Sage, at the time of his arrest, had a firearm in his possession and caught an additional charge for possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. They also charged Sage, exclusively, with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
The Drug Enforcement Administration actually caught both men nearly one year ago during an ongoing investigation into fentanyl and carfentanil dealers across the United States. Alongside the Tri-County Drug Enforcement Task Force, agents raided the duo’s shared Cedar Falls home. Inside, according to court documents, the agents discovered 800 pills they believed contained oxycodone. An understandable belief, given the pills looked like pharmaceutical oxycodone pills. Agents also found 600 grams of marijuana, 30 grams of cocaine, a .32-caliber Ceska Zbrojovka-Praha pistol with ammunition to match, three digital scales, and $20,000 in cash.
Months after the DEA arrested the men, results from purity testing indicated the drugs contained carfentanil. A small number of the pills contained a similar fentanyl analogue called cyclopropyl fentanyl. Cyclopropyl fentanyl, like carfentanil, is an analogue of fentanyl with a much higher potency than oxycodone—a relatively weak opioid when compared to the various opioids with higher lipid solubility. Unsurprisingly, this category of drug includes fentanyl, carfentanil, sufentanil, and the vast array of considerably newer fentanyl analogues and other fully synthetic opioids, many of which formerly existed in the legal gray area of “research chemicals.”
Even though the two men sold pills often attributed to other people’s deaths, the prosecution never connected their product to any fatal overdoses.
In early June, both men pleaded guilty in federal court in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Lensmeyer’s plea agreement described the drug trafficking operation. He admitted that he and Sage had been ordering the counterfeit fentanyl pills on the darknet. He never admitted he knew the pills had contained active ingredients that were not oxycodone. He also admitted the duo purchased alprazolam pills—pharmaceutical and pressed—from darknet vendors on an unspecified darknet market. He also admitted he had marijuana in his possession that he had planned to distribute. Sage was also convicted at the Cedar Rapids court. In addition to being guilty of possession with intent to distribute carfentanil and marijuana, he was convicted of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
They face a maximum of 20 years in prison for the drug charges, that depending on the sentencing judge’s decision, can include a lifetime of federal supervision. Sage faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison for the firearm charge and a maximum of life in prison. At an undecided date, following the finalization of a presentence report, United States District Court Judge Linda R. Reade will sentence both men.