STEUBEN — Maine Drug Enforcement agents and area law enforcement have seized more than a pound of the powerful narcotic fentanyl valued at over $100,000 in busts in Steuben and Bangor this past week, MDEA Northern Division Commander Darrell Crandall announced on Tuesday.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency describes fentanyl as a synthetic opioid that is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Just two to three milligrams of fentanyl can kill a person, according to drugs.com.
The drug is so powerful, law enforcement officers and first responders are encouraged to wear protective clothing during drug raids to prevent accidentally inhaling the drug or absorbing it through the skin.
The most recent bust occurred Monday in the Washington County town of Steuben. A Steuben man was arrested and police seized 228 grams of fentanyl, Crandall said.
After conducting surveillance at a location off of Route 1, MDEA agents working with Washington County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Wayne Smeal, 65, on one count of aggravated trafficking of fentanyl.
Smeal was taken to the Washington County Jail. His bail has been set at $50,000 cash.
Crandall said agents, acting on information, had watched Smeal arrive in the area, park his vehicle at a business and walk into a wooded area.
“When Smeal returned to his vehicle MDEA agents approached him, found him to be in possession of approximately 10 grams of fentanyl and also found a loaded .357 revolver in his pocket,” Crandall said. “Agents then searched the wooded area where Smeal had been and recovered a plastic container with another 218 grams of fentanyl inside.”
That incident prompted police to obtain a search warrant for Smeal’s home. The commander said police seized $6,560 in cash at the house. The money is alleged to be proceeds from drug sales.
“This incident is part of an ongoing investigation that previously resulted in the arrest of Smeal’s son, 32-year-old William Smeal,” Crandall said.
The younger Smeal was arrested on May 2 on one count of possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, police said.
In a separate incident on May 29, Bangor police arrested a resident of Tampa, Fla., and New Bedford, Mass., who they reported had 300 grams of fentanyl in his vehicle as well as $8,000 in cash.
Victor Arroyo, 50, who has a 2007 conviction in Florida for cocaine distribution, was charged with aggravated trafficking in fentanyl, Crandall said.
Arroyo was taken to the Penobscot County Jail. His bail was set at $40,000.
“These two incidents, spanning just four days, netted more than a pound of this highly lethal substance that is being smuggled into Maine by criminal drug trafficking organizations based in other states,” the commander said. “If these drugs had been sold in gram quantities, the conservative retail value is more than $100,000.”
Crandall said fentanyl is usually found in a white or off-white powder as are many other drugs.
“It would be virtually impossible to differentiate between heroin and fentanyl (or any other white/off-white powder) without a presumptive test,” Crandall said. “It has also been found in tablets that are made in illicit pill presses and those could take any color, shape or have any symbol on them.”