BHC law enforcement seeing increased presence of fentanyl
December 15, 2022
LOVELL — A Las Vegas man was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in prison for distributing counterfeit pills that contained fentanyl, resulting in the death of Steven Corr Jr., a Cowley native who died at the age of 30 in 2019.
Daniel Anguiano, 43, pleaded guilty in June 2021 to distributing a controlled substance, specifically fentanyl and acetyl fentanyl, according to the press release by the United States Department of Justice.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid drug that is approximately 80100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. A few milligrams of fentanyl, which is equivalent to a few grains of table salt, may be deadly. Acetyl fentanyl is an analog of fentanyl that is 10-15 times more potent than morphine, according to a Dec. 2 Department of Justice press release.
While Corr’s death occurred in Nevada, Big Horn County is not isolated from fentanyl. Big Horn County Sheriff Ken Blackburn and Lovell Police Chief Dan Laffin have seen an
increased presence of the alarming drug in local communities.
Pat Stevens, who raised Corr as his grandmother, said the Anguiano decision is a source of great relief for her family.
“We waited two and a half years. I was afraid this man would walk after what he did,” Stevens said. “What I learned is that our justice system works, our court system works. We had a judge that really weighed the circumstances. It gave me a lot of faith in our justice system.”
Corr’s death was originally reported as being due to a fall, but an autopsy report several months later showed that his death was actually the result of a fatal amount of fentanyl.
According to Stevens, Corr, an avid outdoorsman and a passionate climber, accepted an oxycodone pill from a coworker to help with his back that was injured on the job. The coworker did not disclose to Corr that the pill was laced with fentanyl.
“It was just a tiny little bit,” Stevens said. “But even such a small amount can be deadly.”
Stevens said at first she felt ashamed and tried to keep quiet about the result of her son’s autopsy, but in the following years she has decided that she has an obligation to be vocal about the issue.
“I’ve worked with a lot of mental illness with my job as a social worker,” Stevens said. “Most of the problems come when families try to hide the issue. I’ve come to realize that the drug problem is the same way. My family has been impacted by this, and I need to speak up.”
Laffin said his department has made multiple seizures of fentanyl-laced pills in recent years.
“There is an increase in fentanyl-laced narcotics,” Laffin said.
Laffin said, based on what his department has encountered, that the problem is isolated to illicit drugs, and that the department has not seen any fentanyl present in legitimate prescription drugs or over-the-counter drugs.
But among those who sell illegal drugs, fentanyl is becoming increasingly common. That’s especially dangerous as there is no way to determine how much fentanyl is present in an illicit drug.
“There’s no control measure,” Laffin said. “There is no way to monitor concentrations.”
There have not been any recent overdoses in Lovell, Laffin said, but the opportunity is certainly there.
“We’re not as severe as the national trend,” he said, “but fentanyl is here.”
Blackburn mirrored Laffin’s comments and said fentanyl-laced pills have become increasingly common county wide.
“It’s like playing Russian roulette,” Blackburn said. “One dose might be really hot, one dose might not be and when mixed with other drugs, it might be lethal.”
Most alarming, Blackburn said, is that multiple recent arrests have found what appears to be a significant amount of powdered fentanyl, which is more potent and dangerous. The substance is still being tested, and the department has yet to receive final confirmation on whether the powder found in those arrests is fentanyl, Blackburn said.
It just pinpoints, Blackburn said, that the problem is continuing to become more prevalent within Big Horn County.
“Anybody that has their head buried in the sand and thinks this isn’t a problem is mistaken,” Blackburn said. “It’s still a problem. If anything, it’s getting a little bigger.”
For Stevens, the presence of the drug locally means that she has an obligation to continue to speak up on the damage fentanyl and similar opioids can cause.
“I may be a single rock, but I can make a ripple,” Stevens said.
This story was published on Dec. 15, 2022.