(U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Texas) — A Saginaw man running a fentanyl pill-pressing operation was sentenced Friday to 30 years in federal prison, announced U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Leigha Simonton.
Adrian Warren, 33, aka “Peanut,” pleaded guilty in October 2022 to possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. He was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge Reed C. O’Connor.
Codefendant Joanna Martinez-Otero, 28, pleaded guilty in October 2022 to maintaining a drug involved premises and was sentenced on Tuesday to 15 years in federal prison; Jamie Rodriguez, 39, pleaded guilty in September 2022 to possession with intent to distribute controlled substances and was sentenced in January to nearly 11 years in federal prison.
The Drug Enforcement Administration took possession of the pill press.
“Fentanyl is the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered.”Eduardo A. Chávez, Special Agent in Charge of DEA operations in Dallas-Fort Worth
“One of the scariest things about fentanyl is that drug traffickers press it into pills that look identical to real pills containing other medications, meaning many users are buying and ingesting these counterfeit pills off the street without knowing they contain a drug 100 times more potent than morphine,” said U. S. Attorney Leigha Simonton. “Fentanyl is tearing through our communities at an alarming rate, poisoning our friends, our family members, and worst of all, our children. We will not rest until we stop this killer drug from circulating in our communities. We urge everyone to immediately educate themselves and their loved ones about the dangers of ingesting any type of pill that comes off the street because it could contain this deadly substance.”
“Fentanyl is the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered,” said Eduardo A. Chávez, Special Agent in Charge of DEA operations in Dallas-Fort Worth. “The sentence handed down to Mr. Warren, Ms. Martinez-Otero, and Mr. Rodriguez is a clear message that the production and trafficking of fentanyl will not be tolerated in our neighborhoods. DEA and all of our law enforcement partners will continue to work together and keep this poison off our streets.”
According to court documents, the investigation began when DEA agents learned that Mr. Warren and others were likely operating a pill press machine to make counterfeit pills in Fort Worth.
Over the course of the investigation, they learned that Mr. Warren had purchased more than two dozen kilograms of excipient – an inactive binder used in the production of pills – in various colors, including blue (often used in the illicit production of counterfeit oxycodone pills), white (often used in the illicit production of counterfeit Xanax pills), and yellow. In the months that followed, his associates, Ms. Martinez-Otero and Mr. Rodriguez, also purchased several kilograms of excipient in a range of colors.
On Aug. 3, 2022, agents met with a young woman seen exiting Mr. Warren’s residence. She described herself as a recovering drug addict and consented to a cursory search of her phone, where agents found coded text messages between her and Mr. Warren discussing narcotics. They later watched as she entered a fast food restaurant, where she met with Ms. Martinez-Otero and tipped off the conspirators about the DEA’s investigation.
That evening, agents followed Mr. Rodriguez to a storage facility, where he met Mr. Warren and Ms. Martinez-Otero. After Mr. Rodriguez departed the facility, a marked patrol unit pulled him over and arrested him. He admitted that Mr. Warren had asked him to deliver a backpack of approximately 2,000 counterfeit pills to the storage unit and confirmed that Mr. Warren had a tableting machine, or pill press.
That night, agents also attempted to follow Mr. Warren from a residence in Saginaw, but he began driving erratically and at a high rate of speed, making surveillance challenging. Shortly thereafter, agents spotted smoke emanating from a nearby field and found Mr. Warren’s truck had skidded off the street, rolled over, and come to rest on the cab; Mr. Warren had apparently escaped the wreckage and fled on foot. Law enforcement arrested Mr. Warren a short time later.
Amid the accident debris, agents found a used pill press machine covered in blue fentanyl residue. Agents later discovered a counterfeit blue M-30 pill containing fentanyl sandwiched between the punch dies of the pill press machine:
Agents then followed Ms. Martinez-Otero to the residence in Saginaw, where they arrested her and seized more than 100 counterfeit blue M-30 pills that field-tested positive for fentanyl. They also recovered multiple kilograms of excipient and a short barrel rifle.
In the storage facility, they found thousands of additional pills and other controlled substances, including 45 grams worth of counterfeit blue M-30 pills laced with fentanyl, 100 grams counterfeit hydrocodone pills laced with fentanyl, 174 grams of counterfeit Xanax bars laced with fentanyl, 576 grams of counterfeit MDMA (ecstasy) pills laced with fentanyl, 1248 grams of methamphetamine, a bag of blue excipient laced with heroin, and a 9mm pistol previously reported as stolen.
The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Dallas Field Division – Fort Worth District Office, US Postal Inspections Service, and the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office conducted the investigation, and the Saginaw Police Department assisted in Mr. Warren’s apprehension. U.S. Attorney Levi Thomas prosecuted the case.