Public Safety

Waverly men plead to distributing counterfeit pills containing elephant tranquilizer

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Two Waverly men who distributed counterfeit pills that contained a potent narcotic used in an elephant tranquilizer pleaded guilty in federal court last week.

Cameron J. Lensmeyer, 20, was convicted of possession with intent to distribute carfentanil and marijuana. Evan P. Sage, 20, was convicted of possession with intent to distribute carfentanil, cocaine, and marijuana, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

According to a plea agreement, Lensmeyer admitted that he and Sage purchased hundreds of prescription pills, including oxycodone and alprazolam pills through a “dark web” marketplace online.

Evidence from a previous detention hearing showed authorities seized over 800 blue pills that appeared to be prescription oxycodone pills from the men’s Cedar Falls residence in June of last year. Investigators also seized over $20,000 in cash, over 30 grams of cocaine, over 600 grams of marijuana, and a loaded .32 caliber handgun.

Later testing determined that the blue pills contained carfentanil, according to testimony at that hearing. Carfentanil is a powerful narcotic that is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl.

A public warning to the public and law enforcement about the health and safety risks of carfentanil back in 2016, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid that DEA, local law enforcement and first responders started seeing the presence of the narcotic in 2016 and it has been linked to a significant number of overdose deaths in various parts of the country, the DEA reported

Carfentanil is used as a tranquilizer for elephants and other large mammals, according to the DEA. The lethal dose range for humans is unknown.

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“Counterfeit prescription pills have become all too common,” U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan Jr. said in a statement after last week’s hearing. “A pill may look like a prescription drug, but unless it was prescribed by a legitimate health care provider, looks can be deceiving. These pills can kill.”

Lensmeyer and Sage remain in U.S. Marshal’s custody pending sentencing. Each man faces up to 20 years on the drug charge. Sage also faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison, which would run consecutively to the drug conviction.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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