A large bust by Pennsylvania State Police involving two individuals and suspected fentanyl occurred on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Stonycreek Township of Somerset County earlier this week.
Jose Cortez Benitez, 34, of San Mateo, California, is in the Somerset County Jail awaiting a preliminary hearing Wednesday before District Judge Susan Mankamyer, Somerset County District Attorney Molly Metzgar confirmed. Cortez Benitez faces charges of intent to deliver, a felony; possession of a controlled substance, a misdemeanor; and summary offenses of improper sunscreening and obscured plates. Bail was denied because of "extremely high risk of flight," according to court documents. No defense attorney was listed.
There was no information in court documents as of Friday morning about the second person state police said was involved in the traffic stop, Ramiro Hernandez, of New Rochelle, New York.
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"First and foremost, I thank the dedication of all of the law enforcement officers who conducted this stop. The danger they put themselves in to make these busts often goes unnoticed, and on behalf of all the citizens of Somerset County, I am grateful for their service," Metzgar said.
Three kilograms of fentanyl equals about 6.6 pounds. The Drug Enforcement Administration has said that one kilogram of fentanyl has the potential to kill 500,000 people. Just 2 milligrams of fentanyl, which is equal to 10 to 15 grains of table salt, is considered a lethal dose that can come in the form of pills or powder.
"This drug in particular is very dangerous and with the amount that was taken off the street in this bust it was certainly a massive hit to the illegal drug distribution operation involved," Metzgar said.
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Drug poisonings are the leading killer of Americans between the ages of 18 and 45. About 108,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021, with 66% of those deaths related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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This article originally appeared on The Daily American: State police seize suspected fentanyl in Somerset PA turnpike stop