Suspects arrested and charged after large seizure of powerful opioid carfentanil in Perris

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Two Perris residents accused of possessing 21 kilograms of carfentanil — a powerful synthetic opioid more potent than fentanyl and used as a tranquilizing agent for elephants — are in police custody and have been charged with multiple felonies after what was believed to be the largest seizure of the drug in Riverside County history, authorities announced Thursday, Sept. 23.

Andres Jesus Morales, 30, and Alyssa Christine Ponce, 27, were arrested in Perris on Sept. 14 following a search warrant that was served at a home on Limousin Street, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office said in a press release.

Morales and Ponce were both charged on Sept. 16 with four felony counts of possession of a controlled substance for sale, with three enhancement charges based on the quantity of the substances they allegedly possessed. Both pleaded not guilty to all charges in court Thursday and denied the enhancement charges, court records show.

Carfentanil is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Carfentanil can be lethal at the 2 milligram range, according to the DEA.

“If mixed in with other drugs, the 21 (kilograms) of carfentanil seized could have been enough to potentially kill more than50 million people,” the DA’s Office said in the press release.

On Aug. 17, officers with the Riverside Police Department served a search warrant at a home on Glimmer Way in Perris and seized 21 kilograms of carfentanil, four kilograms of cocaine and one kilogram of heroin, the DA’s Office said. While nobody was at the home when the warrant was served, detectives were able to identify Morales and Ponce as the suspects, the DA’s Office said.

On Sept. 14, detectives served the search warrant on Limousin Street and in addition to locating the suspects, another 16 kilograms of cocaine were found in the garage, the DA’s Office said.

Officer Ryan Railsback, spokesman for the police department, said his agency has started to see more carfentanil pop up through investigations this year. The department already had been dealing with the rise in fentanyl associated with overdoses and deaths locally this year, Railsback said.

“It’s outrageous that this stuff is out there,” Railsback said. “It seems like every time you have something like (the current fentanyl situation), you thought you’ve seen enough and then you have a seizure like this.”

He said that he hoped this seizure makes a dent in the supply locally, but he “won’t hold his breath.”

Detectives are still unaware of the carfentanil’s origin — let alone many of the origins of fentanyl locally — and whether or not it was being manufactured locally or trafficked in, Railsback said.

“This stuff is out there and it’s killing people left and right,” Railsback said.

Morales and Ponce are being held without bail.

The DEA warns that only outfitted law enforcement personnel should handle fentanyl-related substances that can come in the form of a powder, blotter paper, tablets, and spray.

Signs of exposure can include respiratory depression or arrest, drowsiness, disorientation, sedation, pinpoint pupils, and clammy skin, the DEA said. Anyone believed to be exposed should seek immediate medical attention and can be mitigated by administering naloxone, moving the victim to fresh air, washing their eyes and mouth out with cool water, according to the DEA.

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