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Man gets life in prison for selling fentanyl that killed 11


Fentanyl is a lab-made opioid 50 times stronger than heroin and roughly 100 times stronger than morphine.

By Eduardo Medina


A Minnesota man was sentenced to life in prison earlier this week for selling fentanyl that caused the deaths of 11 people who had bought it believing it was a less dangerous drug, the Justice Department said.


The man, Aaron Broussard, 31, of Hopkins, Minnesota, obtained fentanyl from drug suppliers in China and conspired with them to smuggle the deadly drug into the United States, selling the product on his website, prosecutors said in a news release.


He mailed it across the country, the Justice Department said, and it was used by the 11 people, who had expected to receive a less dangerous drug similar to Adderall. Instead they ingested a fatal amount of fentanyl, a lab-made opioid 50 times stronger than heroin and roughly 100 times stronger than morphine. In addition to the people who suffered fatal overdoses, four others were seriously injured by the drugs provided by Broussard, prosecutors said.


After delivering the life sentence, Judge Susan Richard Nelson of U.S. District Court in St. Paul told Broussard, “Your disregard for human life is terrifying,” according to prosecutors.


The Office of the Federal Defender in the District of Minnesota, which represented Broussard, did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment Monday night.


Broussard was convicted in March in U.S. District Court in St. Paul of 17 criminal counts, including conspiracy, importation of fentanyl and distribution of fentanyl resulting in death, the Justice Department said.


On March 12, 2016, Broussard placed a drug order from China for 100 grams of a less dangerous drug. But the package actually contained 100 grams of 99% pure fentanyl, the Justice Department said.


“Although Broussard had experienced a similar mix-up in August 2015 and was repeatedly told to test his drugs, he did not do so,” the Justice Department said.


From March 31 to April 27, 2016, Broussard placed the repackaged fentanyl in hundreds of priority mail parcels and distributed them from a post office in Hopkins, west of Minneapolis, the Justice Department said. He would respond to online orders placed on his website, PlantFoodUSA.Net., which posed as a site for plant food, prosecutors said.


One victim, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, went into cardiac arrest and later died at a hospital. The victim’s mother pointed authorities to a small plastic baggie in her son’s room that contained a white crystalline powder, which later tested positive for fentanyl, the Justice Department said.


Another victim, in Ramsey County, Minnesota, died in his office. And in Scranton, Pennsylvania, a 26-year-old woman unknowingly ingested fentanyl and died of an overdose, prosecutors said.


“Many of these customers died, or were otherwise overcome, within minutes after ingesting the drugs he sent them,” prosecutors wrote in a motion for detention. “One can hardly imagine a more serious drug crime.”


Broussard heard that his product was causing adverse reactions, but he continued distributing it, prosecutors said.


“Even after he learned that several customers had been hospitalized and nearly died, Broussard never warned his customers not to take the deadly drugs,” the Justice Department said.


Broussard later reached out to his suppliers in China and requested a discount on his next drug delivery, prosecutors said.


Andrew M. Luger, the U.S. attorney in Minnesota, said in a statement that Broussard’s actions had brought devastation on friends and families of the victims.


“Although the trauma felt by the victims can never be undone and the true cost can never be calculated,” Luger said, “Mr. Broussard will now spend the remainder of his life behind bars.”



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