Florida police find enough fentanyl to kill nearly half a million people during Palm Coast drug bust

Florida police say they have seized enough fentanyl to kill nearly half a million people in a drug bust in Palm Coast.  

Brian Pirraglia, 39, and Michael Connelly, 40, were both taken into custody on Monday by Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies after they executed a search warrant at Pirraglia’s home. 

Officers uncovered 916 grams of fentanyl in total, which would be enough to kill 481,000 people. A dose of around two milligrams can be fatal, and there are 1,000 milligrams in a gram.

Around 510 grams of fentanyl were found bagged in Pirraglia’s kitchen, and a plastic jar labeled ‘protein’ contained another 406 grams of the deadly drug, Click Orlando reported.

It comes amid a nationwide crisis over fentanyl – a synthetic opioid similar to morphine which is  50 times more potent than heroin.

Officers uncovered 510 grams of a substance that tested positive for fentanyl bagged in Pirraglia's kitchen, as well as a plastic jar labeled 'protein' containing another 406 grams of the deadly drug

Officers uncovered 510 grams of a substance that tested positive for fentanyl bagged in Pirraglia’s kitchen, as well as a plastic jar labeled ‘protein’ containing another 406 grams of the deadly drug

Michael Connelly, 40, and Brian Pirraglia, 39, were taken into police custody on September 7, and held on $3,000 and $500 bonds, respectively

Michael Connelly, 40, and Brian Pirraglia, 39, were taken into police custody on September 7, and held on $3,000 and $500 bonds, respectively

Police said they also seized several hypodermic syringes; multiple spoons caked a white, powdery residue; a glass vial; a silicone smoking pipe with burnt cannabis residue; and a metal grinder in the master bedroom of the home.

More than 41 grams of Sulfamethoxazole and Trimethoprim, a prescription-only narcotic, were also recovered in a bedroom, according to deputies. 

The sheriff’s office said both men have a long criminal history.

Connelly has been hit with charges of fraud, grand theft auto, cocaine and hydromorphone possession, and probation violation since 2007.

Pirraglia’s rap sheet began in 2014, and includes shoplifting, fentanyl possession and resisting an officer without violence.

‘These two are frequent guests at the Green Roof Inn (jail) and have yet to learn their lesson,’ Sheriff Rick Staly said.

Connelly has been charged with possession of drug paraphernalia/equipment and a legend drug without a prescription while Pirraglia was held solely on the possession of paraphernalia/equipment charge. 

Connelly has been held on $3,000 bond, and Pirraglia is held on a $500 bond, officials said.

Police also seized several hypodermic syringes; multiple spoons caked a white, powdery residue; a glass vial; a silicone smoking pipe with burnt cannabis residue; and a metal grinder in the master bedroom of the home, according to the Flagler County Sheriff's Office

Police also seized several hypodermic syringes; multiple spoons caked a white, powdery residue; a glass vial; a silicone smoking pipe with burnt cannabis residue; and a metal grinder in the master bedroom of the home, according to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office

The bust comes amid an unprecedented uptick in cocaine overdoses across the country – with officials blaming drugs that have been cut with fentanyl by dealers. 

Widespread seizures of contaminated cocaine over the past years indicate drug dealers are mixing fentanyl into the drug, to either make it more potent or profitable to sell.

It can also be inadvertently mixed into cocaine by drug dealers who use the same blending equipment to cut other drugs – like heroin.

Over the past four years, cocaine-related fatalities have more than doubled.

The rising death toll reflects the increasingly common – and deadly – cocktail of cocaine and fentanyl.

According to Florida’s Medical Examiners Commission, 2,499 of the 2,882 statewide cocaine deaths involved cocaine in combination with other drugs.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 83,000 people lost their lives to drug-related overdoses in the 12-month period ending in July 2020 – a significant increase from 2019, when more than 70,000 people died of overdoses.

The rate of overdoses remained stable from 2009 through 2013, but then shot upward about 27 percent each year from 2013 through 2018 - and the rate of increase has only increased since then

The rate of overdoses remained stable from 2009 through 2013, but then shot upward about 27 percent each year from 2013 through 2018 – and the rate of increase has only increased since then

Data from the CDC indicates there was a 26 percent increase in the number of cocaine-related overdose deaths, with fentanyl being the most likely driver of these fatalities

Data from the CDC indicates there was a 26 percent increase in the number of cocaine-related overdose deaths, with fentanyl being the most likely driver of these fatalities

What’s more, the preliminary data also indicated there was a 26 percent increase in the number of cocaine-related overdose deaths, with fentanyl being the most likely driver of these fatalities.

U.S. deaths from cocaine overdoses totaled 14,666 in 2018, according to a report from the CDC.

What’s more, the rate of overdoses remained stable from 2009 through 2013, but then shot upward about 27 percent each year from 2013 through 2018 – and the rate of increase has only increased since then.

According to Florida’s Medical Examiners Commission, 2,499 of the 2,882 statewide cocaine deaths involved cocaine in combination with other drugs - such as fentanyl

According to Florida’s Medical Examiners Commission, 2,499 of the 2,882 statewide cocaine deaths involved cocaine in combination with other drugs – such as fentanyl

Death counts through May 2020 also suggest an acceleration of overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic

Death counts through May 2020 also suggest an acceleration of overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic

Death counts through May 2020 also suggest an acceleration of overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last August, six New York residents on Long Island died from overdoses of cocaine that had been laced with fentanyl.

The victims, who ranged in age from 25 to 40, died between August 11 and August 13 and were from towns on the North Fork. 

More recently comedians Fuquan Johnson and Enrico Colangeli, 48, and their friend Natalie Williamson, 33, overdosed and died after allegedly ingested fentanyl-laced cocaine at a house party in Venice Beach. Los Angeles model and comedian Kate Quigley, 39, also overdosed, and was left in serious condition but managed to survive.  

Enrico Colangeli (left) was found dead along with Fuquan Johnson (right) and Natalie Williamson (not pictured). Colangeli and Johnson performed at the HaHa Comedy Club in North Hollywood

Enrico Colangeli (left) was found dead along with Fuquan Johnson (right) and Natalie Williamson (not pictured). Colangeli and Johnson performed at the HaHa Comedy Club in North Hollywood

39-year-old Los Angeles model and comedian Kate Quigley allegedly ingested fentanyl-laced cocaine at a house party in Venice Beach on Saturday, overdosed, and was left in serious condition - but managed to survive

39-year-old Los Angeles model and comedian Kate Quigley allegedly ingested fentanyl-laced cocaine at a house party in Venice Beach on Saturday, overdosed, and was left in serious condition – but managed to survive

A Canadian coroners office revealed this month that child star Logan Williams died from an accidental fentanyl overdose in April last year. 

Logan, who shot to fame playing a young Barry Allen on CW’s The Flash, was found dead at a care home in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia on April 2 of last year. He was just 16 years old. 

A report written by the BC Coroners Service, obtained by The New York Post on Wednesday, confirms Logan succumbed to ‘unintentional illicit drug toxicity (fentanyl)’ . The death has been classified as as ‘accidental.’

It follows a preliminary toxicology report which was released in May 2020, which determined Logan was killed by a drug overdose.  

What is fentanyl and why is it so dangerous?

 

Fentanyl was originally developed in Belgium in the 1950s to aid cancer patients with their pain management. 

Given its extreme potency it has become popular amongst recreational drug users. 

Overdose deaths linked to synthetic opioids like fentanyl jumped from nearly 10,000 in 2015 to nearly 20,000 in 2016 – surpassing common opioid painkillers and heroin for the first time. 

And drug overdoses killed more than 72,000 people in the US in 2017 – a record driven by fentanyl. 

It is often added to heroin because it creates the same high as the drug, with the effects biologically identical. But it can be up to 50 times more potent than heroin, according to officials in the US. 

In America, fentanyl is classified as a schedule II drug – indicating it has a strong potential to be abused and can create psychological and physical dependence. 

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