Two Green Bay Men Sentenced to Federal Prison for Trafficking Fentanyl Disguised as Percocet
MILWAUKEE - John G. McGarry, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration-Milwaukee, and U.S. Attorney Gregory J. Haanstad for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced that on May 24 and June 1, 2023, Senior U.S. District Judge William C. Griesbach sentenced Don A.K. James, Jr., 24, and Frederick L. Brewer, 34, to 15 years and 12 years in federal prison, respectively, after a jury convicted the Green Bay men of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, possessing fentanyl with intent to distribute, and distributing fentanyl, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841 and 846.
The evidence presented at trial showed that in January and February 2022, Brewer sold fentanyl pills to an informant working with the Brown County Drug Task Force (“BCDTF”). The potentially lethal pills had been illicitly manufactured to resemble Percocet®, in the form of blue “M30” pills. After BCDTF investigators arrested Brewer, they learned that James—Brewer’s brother—had negotiated with an Arizona-based source to buy thousands of counterfeit Percocet® “M30” pills containing fentanyl. James flew to Arizona in early January 2022 to buy at least 15,000 pills.
While there, he sent a video to a large-scale buyer in the Green Bay area. The video showed that James had at least 19,000 pills to distribute. James flew back to Wisconsin and boasted to the buyer that James now had 30,000 fentanyl pills and was ready to do business. Brewer conspired with and assisted James in the fentanyl-trafficking operation, including when James returned from Arizona with the “load” of pills.
When James was arrested, he attempted to swallow a bag of 58 fentanyl pills. After a several-minute struggle, during which BCDTF investigators administered Narcan to protect James against a potential overdose, they caused James to spit out the still-intact bag. James feared that he had swallowed two pills and pleaded for additional medical help. Investigators quickly summoned an ambulance, which transported James to the hospital for medical clearance. James later posted bail and was released, only to be re-arrested in June 2022 when he was found in possession of over 750 fentanyl pills with the intent to distribute.
In sentencing both men, Judge Griesbach emphasized that trafficking fentanyl is equivalent to distributing “poison.” The judge cited recent data from the DEA that 6 in 10 counterfeit pills tested at DEA Crime Labs contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl. In 2021, the DEA determined that 40% of pills were potentially lethal, but by 2022, the fatal dosage increased to 60% of tested pills.
According to the DEA, fentanyl remains the deadliest drug threat facing this country. It is a highly addictive synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Just two milligrams of fentanyl, the small amount that fits on the tip of a pencil, is considered a potentially deadly dose. According to the CDC, 107,622 Americans died of drug poisoning in 2021, with 66% of those deaths involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
This case was investigated by the Brown County Drug Task Force and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Funnell prosecuted the cases.