A major drug blast won’t end the fentanyl scourge, two gang unit officers say

Detective Mark Deshaies (left) and Sgt. Gary Hensler of the FWPD Gang & Violent Crimes Unit discuss a recent drug bust and what it means for Fort Wayne

FORT WAYNE, Indiana (WANE) – The arrest of a small fentanyl kingpin last week left Fort Wayne Police Department officers pleased with the catch.

After all, they’d been watching Kevin Jones for years and knew at least one of his victims. A couple of Jones associates — Jacob S. Hoffman, 23, and Daylon Rowe, 27, — were snapped in another incident the same day, according to officers involved in the investigation. The arrests have taken 10,000 counterfeit Percocet/deadly fentanyl pills off the streets.

But they have no illusions that this will end the scourge of fentanyl, which killed 170 people last year in Fort Wayne alone. With toxicology tests pending, it looks like that number will stay the same. That’s not counting the 1,700 non-fatal drug overdoses treated by police, fire and emergency services, said Detective Marc Deshaies, a member of the FWPD’s Gang and Violent Crimes Unit.

The Gang Unit, Vice & Narcotics, street cops, and the Allen County Sheriff’s Department work hand-in-hand to bring down the dealers and bring people back from the dead with a dose of NARCAN, a nasal-administered drug that officers suspect say she brings people back from the dead dead.

Deshaies, Sgt. Gary Hensler, also of the Gang Unit, and Detective Sgt. Mark Gerardot of Vice & Narcotics met with WANE 15 on Tuesday to discuss the significance of this arrest, which allegedly released 5,000 counterfeit Percocet/Fentanyl pills weekly and fortnightly removing roads, and putting into perspective the maddeningly elusive web of suppliers and dealers who make them, will be so difficult to stop this threat.

As many as 30 drug dealers sell the deadly counterfeit Percocet pills, not to mention low-quality treated cocaine “for the kick”.

There are probably a few dozen to 30 Jones-sized dealers here selling the tiny pills, which can come in a variety of colors with varying amounts of fentanyl in them. Depending on individual tolerance, less than 2 milligrams can be deadly, making each pill a “pill that can kill,” a phrase featured on local billboards to warn users and family of the threat.

Fort Wayne is being inundated with these pills, Deshaies says.

“Hundreds of thousands of these pills hit the Fort Wayne market every few weeks. There’s so much abundance.” The pills used to cost about $15 to $25 each. Now the price has dropped to around $5-$6 per tablet.

“They cost two dollars if you have a good source,” says Gerardot.

The Jones case becomes a federal case and sends a message to other traders

While it’s not the dent the public or police might be hoping for, investigators are hoping that Jones’ arrest sends a chilling message after Jones’ case was transferred to the US District Court, Indiana’s Northern District.

“The fact that federal agencies are able to ban and take over such cases is a much more chilling effect,” Deshaies said. “What is happening brings everyone’s attention to the fact that these investigations could now give you mandatory minimum requirements.”

The prescribed minimum sentence is based on drug quantity, and Jones was caught with more than 5,000 pills totaling 516 grams. Jones’ 11 gun and drug charges filed by the state were based on a charge of “knowingly possessing with intent to distribute a controlled substance, including 400 grams or more of a compound or substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl, a controlled list II, reduced substance.”

Although Hoffman and Rowe remain in state custody, their bail is high. Hoffman is in the Allen County Jail in lieu of $632,000 bail and Rowe has $200,000 bail.

It’s not just the pills that contain fentanyl, respondents said. Fentanyl is now added to low-grade cocaine to give it a ‘hit’.

It was Deshaies who arrested Jones during a traffic stop around 3:00 p.m. on January 17, following an initial stop on January 7 where officers found loose powder residue and two pills containing fentanyl in a shoe box in a 2009 Hummer registered on Jones. Suspiciously, the license plate was obscured and Jones was unable to produce his Indiana driver’s license, registration and insurance at the time.

The federal complaint says officers monitored Jones’ home at 6204 Pheasant Pass and on Jan. 17 observed him getting into a 2012 Dodge Challenger registered in his name. He checked his surroundings and then went back inside to get a black backpack.

An Indiana State Police trooper tried to catch up to Jones, who pulled into a parking lot on Maplecrest Road and accelerated as he rounded a building. As he got around the back of the building, investigators saw his backpack getting caught in the driver’s door and dragging across the floor.

At 100 mph, Jones led officers on a chase, his backpack still dragging the ground as he weaved through traffic.

Then 26-year-old Jones tried to walk through a residential neighborhood in Fort Wayne, where officers blocked his path until he stopped in the backyard of a house. Police believe Jones didn’t realize the backpack was still attached to the car.

As officers picked up the backpack, a few small round blue pills marked M-30 fell out of a hole onto the floor. Inside the backpack were several large sandwich bags containing 1,000 loose M-30 pills, samples of which were being tested for fentanyl.

Three other sandwich bags contained nearly 84 grams of cocaine. Officers found a digital scale typically used to weigh drugs for sale and a Cashapp Visa card with Jones’ name on it.

During a police interview, Jones said he had been selling M-30 fentanyl pills for about three years and that his customer base averaged about 100 pills per transaction. Jones said he bought 5,000 pills every two weeks for resale and personal use along with the same-use cocaine.

A probable cause affidavit written by Deshaies detailed a search of Jones’s home, where his three children and their mother lived. Police found a Romarm/CUGIR mini-Draco pistol in his upstairs music studio and a Glock .357 hidden in the attic insulation. He claimed possession of both guns. Methamphetamine and supplies used to pack drugs and a powder-covered knife used to cut hard drug material were found in the music studio.

Police discovered a loaded AK pistol with a live cartridge placed on a shelf 3 feet high where children could reach it, court documents said.

Most drug dealers are no longer producing; Supply is cheap

Few drug dealers press their own pills, but Gerardot said when local dealers decided to make their own presses a few years ago, the overdose problem began to explode.

“Mexico had pretty good quality control,” but not so much the local drug dealers who got sloppy.

Leads to Jones have been pouring in for years, but gathering enough material for a probable cause and arresting him is not as easy as it might seem.

“Everything is fair game,” Deshaies said. Anonymous tips are beneficial, but they don’t carry the same weight as tips from people who give their name or reliable sources that have a high degree of credibility.

“There’s a big difference between knowing it and proving it,” Deshaies said, giving an example of one victim. “We may all know who killed her son, but we must say succinctly that it was done under penalty of perjury that day.”

Angry calls are made from residents saying, “Why don’t you take care of this drug dealer,” but officials want to know, “What can you guys tell us to fill this gap?” Sometimes we get the help of citizens willing to give you that name to move that pipeline forward.” FWPD has received 30 tips on Jones over the years, Hensler said.

What’s the mindset behind these dealers selling pills knowing they’re killing?

“They are encouraged,” Deshaies said. “If I don’t do it, someone else will.”

Deshaies said there was an overdose at the Jones home. Paramedics had to be called.

“It happened, even in his own circle. He creates death and destruction, it is beside the point.”

Hensler said during an investigation it could be some form of gambling.

“Dirtbags have to be lucky every time,” said Hensler. “We just have to be lucky once. He (Jones) was lucky for four years.”

It’s not their goal to annoy the low-level user; The end goal is to get to the source, the supplier, and move up the chain.

But sometimes the person will help us with “a tiny crack brick or a syringe with a little bit of dope, although it may not be in the best interest to pursue that person, put him or her in jail and lock them up. Climb the ladder, help develop information that will take you to the top of the ladder,” Deshaies said.

Gerardot is a student of the opioid pandemic and sees it on a far larger scale than Fort Wayne. Working in tandem with Federal Drug Task Force officials, local officials are working on large cases that “encompass not just Fort Wayne but other states as well. You have to look at it like a spider web.”

Two major drug cartels are spread across Fort Wayne, and the network is vast, Gerardot said. “It will never end.”

Hensler says his officers have to do their best here. Jones was at the upper level but also made street-level deals.

“If we can’t prove things, we can’t invent them. Kevin Jones was just a highlight of the time to get more information,” Deshaies said.

https://www.wane.com/news/crime/big-drug-bust-wont-end-the-fentanyl-scourge-two-gang-unit-officers-say/ A major drug blast won’t end the fentanyl scourge, two gang unit officers say

Dais Johnston

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