“I’m asking the DEA to increase federal coordination on this effort in order to protect Pennsylvanian’s residents from this deadly drug,” Senator Casey said. “Rebranding this fentanyl-laced heroin could endanger more Pennsylvanians. It’s critical that residents remain vigilante and that the DEA work with state and local law enforcement to make every effort to get this drug off the street.”
The full text of Senator Casey’s letter is below:
Dear Administrator Leonhart:
I am writing today with great concern over a recent spread of deadly contaminated heroin in western Pennsylvania. As the Drug Enforcement Administration continues to assist with investigating the heroin mix responsible for twenty-two deaths, I urge you to provide robust federal resources to help identify the source of the tainted heroin, remove it from the streets, and bring to justice those responsible.
Last week, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner first noticed an unusual trend in apparent overdose deaths and performed tests on several samples of heroin, the results of which revealed the presence of fentanyl. This narcotic, which can be one hundred times as strong as heroin, was apparently mixed with heroin and sold in stamp bags labeled “Theraflu,” “Bud Ice,” and “Income Tax.” In a matter of days, the tainted heroin was found in six counties and has led to twenty-two deaths. On January 30, a twenty-nine year old man was charged with possession and intent to sell over 2,000 bags of heroin, some of which are believed to be related to the increase in heroin overdose deaths in the region.
To prevent further casualties, great efforts have been made to inform the public of the dangers presented by the tainted heroin. The Pennsylvania Attorney General recently warned, however, that drug dealers still in possession of the dangerous heroin blend may be rebranding the stamp bags now that their names have been widely reported in the news. This development underscores the need for swift action to find and confiscate the rest of the tainted heroin.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Pennsylvania has the third highest rate of heroin abuse in the country, and heroin abuse in western Pennsylvania is on the rise. The current spate of overdoses is part of a much broader epidemic of heroin and prescription drug abuse, and I look forward to working with you to identify solutions to the underlying causes of this abuse.
With reports that the fentanyl-mixed heroin likely came from outside of Pennsylvania, the federal nexus to this issue is clear. I respectfully request that the DEA provide significant support to state and local law enforcement in identifying and eliminating the source of the heroin, and bringing charges against the producers and sellers responsible for twenty-two senseless deaths. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Tywon Laniel Newby, 39, 532 N. State St., Clairton, has been charged with one felony count of possession with the intent to deliver heroin and one misdemeanor count of possession of heroin.
During the search, law enforcement discovered 25 stamp bags believed to contain heroin, as well as a shoebox containing approximately 48 bricks of suspected heroin with each brick containing approximately 50 individual stamp bags. The bags were stamped 'Sky High'. The 'Sky High' stamp may be related to other recent heroin stamps containing a mixture of heroin and the narcotic fentanyl that are believed to be response for a rash of overdose-related deaths in Western Pa.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane said, "It is my highest priority to find and hold accountable those involved in the distribution of this deadly drug mixture."
Investigators believe that drug dealers may be "rebranding" the heroin now that the stamps, including "Theraflu" and "Bud Ice," have been widely reported to be highly dangerous. The trafficking and use of this deadly heroin remains part of a widespread and ongoing investigation with federal, state and local counterparts.
Attorney General Kane encouraged the public to aid law enforcement by relaying any information they may have regarding the heroin trade to her tipline at 1-800-442-8006.