Counterfeit oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl linked to nine overdose deaths last year

Narcotics suspect linked to nine overdose deaths in New Hanover County
Published: May. 18, 2022 at 5:26 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Nine people died last year after they overdosed on counterfeit oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl.

Earlier this month, investigators with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office seized more than 1,000 similar pills after a months-long investigation into Salvatore Joseph DeFonte, who now faces more than two dozen drug-related charges.

Investigators have not linked any of the nine deaths to pills DeFonte allegedly sold, according to a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, though the investigation remains ongoing.

Lt. Jerry Brewer said he hopes this arrest serves as a wake-up call for those struggling with addiction.

“It’s unfortunate that people are hooked on drugs,” said Lt. Brewer. “In New Hanover County, we have a lot of places they can go to get help and we would hope that they go and get that help so they don’t fall victim to someone like him who has created deaths in New Hanover County.”

Although this arrest is a big win for the county, there’s still an ongoing problem with fentanyl in the community.

“Over the last several years, we’ve seen the introduction of fentanyl or synthetic fentanyl from overseas or other places,” said Brewer. “You don’t know the quantity, you don’t know the quality, you don’t know how potent it is and they really don’t care because they’re just trying to sell a drug. We’ve had hundreds of deaths over the last decade due to fentanyl.”

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