LAWRENCEVILLE, GA — A Peachtree Corners man was convicted Wednesday of manufacturing and possession with intent to distribute Furanyl Fentanyl from China and stamping the pills to appear like the pharmaceutically prepared pill Oxycodone, said the Gwinnett DA. In all, agents found over 400 completed pills stamped as Oxycodone along with $265,120 in cash and over 10 kilograms of white powder.
Judge Kathryn Schrader found Christopher Ramone West guilty on all counts and was sentenced to 44 years total with the first 29 years to be served in prison.
When authorities searched a U-Haul unit rented by West, agents discovered one large industrial pill press and two smaller pill presses capable of producing over 25,000 pills per hour. The defendant had between 7-8 kilograms of white powder inside of the unit as well which he used to create pills. Agents discovered that the defendant was then stamping the pills to appear like the pharmaceutically prepared pill Oxycodone. In total, agents discovered over 400 completed pills stamped as Oxycodone along with $265,120 in cash inside of a box in the storage unit. Agents later searched the defendant’s mailbox at his apartment and discovered an additional three kilograms of white powder making the total amount of recovered powder to be over 10 kilograms.
In Nov. 2016, the Department of Homeland Security notified the Gwinnett Metro Task Force, or GMTF, that West was likely involved in the manufacturing of illegal pills due to defendant ordering large amounts of pill making materials from a Canadian company. Agents with GMTF placed the defendant under surveillance from December 2016 through January 2017. On Jan. 27, 2017 agents with GMTF went to the West’s address at 1304 Concepts 21 Drive, Peachtree Corners and performed a search. Agents discovered evidence of the West being involved in the manufacture of pills but did not discover any pills or controlled substances at his apartment.
During the search of West, agents discovered keys that the defendant had on a lanyard around his neck which appeared to belong to a U-haul storage unit. Agents travelled to 5365 Jimmy Carter Boulevard, Norcross, which is a U-haul self-storage facility and learned that West had indeed rented a unit.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab was able to confirm that the powder located inside of the storage unit and mailed to the defendant was not Oxycodone but rather Furanyl Fentanyl and a synthetic substance called U-47700. Both substances, at the time of the offense, were not scheduled substances in the State of Georgia (although they had been outlawed federally). Subsequent to the defendant’s arrest both substance have been outlawed in Georgia and classified as Schedule I controlled substances.
At the bench trial Special Agent J. Poole with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (formerly with GMTF) testified as the lead agent in this case that based upon the large amount of money found in the defendant’s possession and his banking records, which showed large amounts of money flowing in and out of his account, that the defendant was selling and distributing the pills, which appeared to be Oxycodone but which were in fact Furanyl Fentanyl and U-47700. Poole also testified that it was very likely that the West was purchasing the Furanyl Fentanyl and U-47700 from China and having it shipped to him. There was also evidence that the defendant may have used bitcoins through the Dark Web to order substances in order to manufacture the pills.
Photo courtesy Gwinnett County Police Department