Police in the US arrested two suspected drug dealers in possession of enough elephant tranquilizer to kill 50 million people if mixed in with other substances, authorities announced Thursday.
Andres Jesus Morales, 30, and Alyssa Christine Ponce, 27, were arrested in the southern California town of Perris on September 14 after a search warrant was carried out, the Press Enterprise reported.
The pair are accused of possessing 21 kilograms of carfentanil – a powerful synthetic opioid drug more 100 times more potent than fentanyl, which is often mixed in with heroin unbeknownst to users, leading to overdoses and death.
Carfentanil has been used to tranquilize elephants, but officers say they are seeing rising cases of the drug being seized from dealers in California.
Both suspects pleaded not guilty to all charges in court on Thursday.
“If mixed in with other drugs, the 21 (kilograms) of carfentanil seized could have been enough to potentially kill more than 50 million people,” the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office said in a press release.
Officers with the Riverside Police Department served a search warrant at a home on Glimmer Way in Perris on August 17 and seized 21 kilograms of carfentanil, four kilograms of cocaine and one kilogram of heroin, the District Attorney’s office said.
Detectives served a search warrant on Limousin Street and found the suspects along with another 16 kilograms of cocaine.
Police department spokesperson Ryan Railsback said that his agency has been seeing more carfentanil appear on the streets during investigations this year, adding to rising cases of fentanyl overdoses and deaths.
“It’s outrageous that this stuff is out there,” he told the Press Enterprise. “It seems like every time you have something like (the current fentanyl situation), you thought you’ve seen enough and then you have a seizure like this… This stuff is out there and it’s killing people left and right.”
Morales and Ponce are being held without bail.