WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) — An Ohio man was indicted on fentanyl and guns charges after a traffic stop in Wheeling.
U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld announced that Christopher W. Thomas, 32, of Thornville, Ohio was indicted on Tuesday by a federal grand jury for the possession of fentanyl and methamphetamine as well as the unlawful possession of a firearm.
Thomas was stopped by the West Virginia State Police on March 3, 2022 on Wheeling Island. Arresting officers found 240 grams of suspected fentanyl in his possession in powder form and in the form of counterfeit Xanax pills.
Ihlenfeld said Thomas possessed items necessary to manufacture pills, including a metal pill press with a hydraulic jack, cutting agents and a portable mixer.
Drug traffickers are mass-producing fake pills that contain lethal doses of fentanyl. Mr. Thomas had a portable laboratory in his car and possessed everything necessary to make his own tablets and then sell them to unsuspecting customers in the Ohio Valley.U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld
“It’s very dangerous. This is a disturbing national trend that has come here to Wheeling, West Virginia.” U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld
U.S. Attorney Ihlenfeld is distressed over cases like Christopher Thomas’s.
“What we have in this case is someone who is taking lethal amounts of fentanyl, putting them into pills, then selling them.”U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld
Thomas’ case is one of many throughout the state and nation, a story that’s been told too many times.
“The problem has exploded. What we’re seeing now is these counterfeit pills that contain fentanyl are being seized at a rate much greater than we’ve seen.”U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, more than 9.5 million counterfeit pills had been seized so far this year. That’s more than the last two years combined.
The scary part is there’s no easy way of telling the difference between what’s real and what’s not.
“And the pills look real. The fakes look better than the real ones that are being produced by pharmaceutical manufacturers.”U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld
U.S. Attorney Ihlenfeld warns us against pills found on social media or the internet. He says your safe bet is to only take pills prescribed to you from a medical practitioner.
While it sounds simple, the statistics show otherwise.
“We know that a lot of people in our country are taking pills that are counterfeit because they’re easier to access, you don’t need a prescription, but unfortunately, many are being misled, and it’s easy to be misled because they appear legitimate, but that’s what’s so frightening.”U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld
Officers also recovered a loaded Sig Sauer 9mm pistol, a box of additional ammunition, nearly $5,000 in cash and 81 grams of methamphetamine.
Thomas is facing up to 20 years of incarceration for each of the drug counts and up to 10 years on the gun count.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Clayton J. Reid is prosecuting the case on behalf of the government. The West Virginia State Police, the Marshall County Drug Task Force, a HIDTA-funded initiative and ATF investigated.