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Four charged in alleged fentanyl distribution conspiracy in South Dakota

According to the DEA, as little as two milligrams could be a lethal dose. The group's alleged conspiracy could have been enough to kill as many as 20,000 people.

FatalFentanylDose.jpg
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says a two milligram dose of fentanyl — the amount pictured on the end of this pencil — can be lethal, depending on a person’s body size, tolerance and past usage.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
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ABERDEEN — Four South Dakotans are facing charges after they allegedly conspired to distribute fentanyl in northeastern South Dakota.

Jevon McLeod (also known as “Buddy Traffick”), 32, and Tiarah Bissonette, 24, both of Sisseton, and Daren Basche, 57, and Trey Petrich, 22, both of Watertown, were indicted of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance by a federal grand jury on July 11.

All four appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Moreno on July 14 and pleaded not guilty.

Court documents allege that, beginning on an unknown date and continuing until their arrests on July 11, the group intentionally conspired with each other and possibly more individuals to distribute 40 grams or more of a mixture of a substance containing fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers to be 80-100 times stronger than morphine. Originally developed for use via skin patches to treat severe pain in cancer patients, its properties have led it to become common for use in heroin distribution.

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The DEA says fentanyl is added to heroin to increase its potency or to be disguised as highly potent heroin. Many users believe that they are purchasing heroin and actually don’t know that they are purchasing fentanyl, often resulting in overdose deaths.

It doesn't take much fentanyl to overdose either. According to the DEA's Facts about Fentanyl webpage, a dose as small as two milligrams can be fatal depending on a person’s body size, tolerance and past usage.

Using that figure, the group's alleged conspiracy could have been enough to provide a lethal dose to as many as 20,000 people.

Their focus for the substance was allegedly northeastern South Dakota.

The charges come as a result of an investigation conducted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, as the alleged conspiracy took place within the bounds of the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation.

Following their initial appearances, McLeod, Basche and Bissonette were remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, while Petrich was released on bond pending trial.

If convicted, each could face a maximum sentence of up to 40 years in prison, a $5 million fine and life of supervised release.

A trial date has not yet been set.

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