ROCK HILL, S.C. - The U.S. Attorney for South Carolina said the investigation that led to a large-scale drug ring bust Wednesday stretched back to November of 2016. However, York County drug officers told Channel 9, before the feds got involved, they were putting the pieces together in a large opioid case.
Local agencies contacted the DEA and FBI when it became clear how large the drug ring was. The multi-state federal drug operation this week targeted cocaine, and fentanyl. The FBI would not release exact amounts on Friday, but two presses for making fentanyl pills were found inside a home on Stephanie Lane in Rock Hill. The pills are often sold on the street, intentionally mislabeled as oxycodone.
The city of Rock Hill placed notices on the home listing it as hazardous, because of possible chemicals left over from drug making. DEA agents wore hazmat suits because fentanyl absorbed through the skin can be deadly. York County drug agents said it's a huge problem.
Marvin Brown of the York County Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Enforcement Unit said fentanyl is growing in popularity because it can be bought cheaply from china and shipped here. The drug comes in powder form, and then is pressed into pills to increase profits.
"We are seizing hundreds of thousands of pills. Not a hundred pills, not a thousand pills, but hundreds of thousands of pills," Brown said.
After raids at 17 homes on Wednesday, 14 people now face federal charges. Eleven are already in custody.
Police believe the raids caused some to possibly panic. On Jones Avenue, someone dumped almost 7,000 fentanyl pills on the street. Brown said they're a 100 times more dangerous than heroin, and their bright candy color could have attracted children.
'They're a bright blue, purple kind of color, and if some child would come along and open one of the bags and swallow those pills, it'd probably be fatal," he said.
Bob Norwood leads the York County All on Board Coalition which battles the opioid epidemic through education. The organization focuses on teen drug and alcohol abuse, but the opioid epidemic has led the coalition to educate the public about the danger of pills bought on the street.
"You don't know what you're buying. It's very dangerous. What they're experimenting with is hundreds of times more dangerous than it used to be," Norwood said.
As for this week's federal raids, Norwood said it's sad to see in Rock Hill but also a positive.
"It's encouraging to know that they're dialed in on some places, where hopefully we can get some of this stopped," he said.
Drug agents said the operation this week isn't over, referring to it as only round one.
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