The online classifieds ad service Craigslist has sections devoted to housing, jobs, items for sale, and community discussion forums. But, as it turns out in recent months, the illegal sale of fentanyl has also flourished on Craigslist. The online platform provides a convenient method for illicit drug dealers to advertise and arrange meetups with their customers. Fentanyl, the deadliest drug of them all, seems to be prominently for sale on Craigslist Los Angeles.
Most of the time, drugs are disguised under lightly veiled pseudonyms on Craigslist- such as “roofing tar” or “black tar” for heroin or “clear sealant” for crystal methamphetamine. Similarly, Fentanyl is most commonly sold under names like “China White”, “China White Doll”, or “China White Plates”. The ads typically display no photographs or images other than the map of the areas where the vendors serve.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is typically 80-100 times stronger than morphine. Pharmaceutical fentanyl was developed to treat severe pain associated with cancer. It is commonly added to heroin to increase potency. Fentanyl presents a high risk of addiction, dependency, and overdose. According to the National Center on Health Statistics, 60 percent of opioid-related deaths in 2017 involved the use of fentanyl.
Craigslist Los Angeles
A search of Los Angeles Craigslist turned up numerous listing with code words for fentanyl. While some posts were brazen, it should be noted that the search did turn up numerous ads of vendors selling actual dinnerware items that included photographs or bowls, plates, and teacups. However, other ads such as this one, advertised under the headline “White dishes antique china” stated “Tired of the same old black asphalt tar that just doesn’t work?” and “I have the best stuff hands down”.
Another post from Inglewood under the headline “White China plate sets” boasted “I got what you need and I respond within 5 minutes from your text” and “try before you buy”. Clearly, these posts contribute to the deadly spread of fentanyl and are against the law.
Last month, a Hollywood-based drug dealer was named in a federal criminal case alleging a Craigslist fentanyl sale resulted in a fatal overdose. A federal grand jury indicted Andrew Madi, 25, on the federal charge of distributing a controlled substance resulting in death, U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Ciaran McEvoy said in a written statement in December, 2018. “Madi is an opioid dealer who used the Craigslist website to sell fentanyl to the victim on July 3, 2018,” said McEvoy.
After going over the victim’s cell phone records, investigators were able to learn that the victim initially approached Madi about purchasing black-tar heroin after seeing Madi’s Craigslist post for “roofing tar”. Madi replied that he was out of heroin, but had “China White” instead. The two then met at a West Hollywood shopping center where Madi sold the man just over half a gram of fentanyl, according to prosecutors. Madi later texted the customer to see how he was doing and he replied that the drug was “pretty powerful” and that “this white does the job”, according to the indictment.
The customer was found dead from an overdose in his apartment on July 6, said McEvoy. A baggie located near the victim contained .32 grams of fentanyl. The investigation revealed that Madi had advertised on Craiglist to sell fentanyl, heroin, and Xanax dating back to at least March, according to officials. If convicted as charged, Andrew Madi faces a minimum of 20 years in federal prison and a maximum sentence of life behind bars.
Changing the Narrative
In the midst of the worst drug crisis in American history, it’s shocking to see the sale of deadly opioids over the internet. Public health and law enforcement officials credit the record overdose-death rates in the last few years to widespread opiate addiction and the arrival of synthetic fentanyl. As the nation’s opioid crisis worsens, lawmakers are fighting to create and enforce new policies targeting these ads. Due to the resilience of both illicit drug dealers and the internet itself, it’s critical to keep working towards making recovery accessible for all.