More than 7.5 kilos of the deadly drug fentanyl were seized from what police say was a multi-state drug ring that distributed narcotics in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. The ring allegedly had a large operation in Philadelphia as well.
State police worked with the FBI and investigators in Wilmington and New Castle County to break up the massive drug-trafficking operation that distributed large quantities of fentanyl and other drugs throughout the region, said State Police Lt. Robert Jones.
“It was the largest fentanyl seizure in Delaware law enforcement history. It was enough fentanyl to kill 750,000 Delawareans,” Jones said. The overwhelming majority of overdose deaths in the state in recent years have been related to fentanyl, which is frequently added to other drugs to induce a stronger reaction in the user.
Jones said police are working to connect possible overdose deaths to drugs sold by the ring. Dealers frequently stamp the drugs they distribute with a “brand name.” Police will try to track those stamps to overdose deaths. But because the group sold fentanyl by itself for others to mix with the drugs they sold, it will be hard to track those sales directly to overdose deaths. “The investigation is not over and we’re going to try to do everything we can to try to find out who those sellers were and identify those stamps so if there is any overdose deaths, we can charge them,” Jones said.
In addition to seizing the drugs and multiple weapons, police arrested Luis Renteria of Newark, who’s accused of leading the operation, along with more than two dozen associates. Police say the group was transporting multi-kilogram quantities of fentanyl, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana from as far away as California and Florida for distribution in Delaware and surrounding states.
“While we see the scope of drugs and illegal weapons seized, it can be hard to measure the full gravity this criminal organization could have had in our state,” State Police Superintendent Lt. Col. Melissa Zebley said.
Police said Renteria used a pair of houses in Newark as well as homes in New Castle, Stanton and Philadelphia to run the operation.
The ring is also believed to be responsible for some violent incidents in the city of Wilmington which are still under investigation, Jones said.
“The actions of these kinds of criminal enterprises have ripples that stretch across our region, and at times across the nation,” said Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings. “Disrupting them helps disrupt a drug trade that I, and everyone else here today, can attest breeds violence in Delaware and elsewhere.”