TAMPA, Fla. — A Tampa man is in jail facing several drug-related charges after a joint investigation between the Tampa Police Department and Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
Police claim Myron Ray was trafficking drugs like heroin and Oxycodone laced with fentanyl.
Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin. The CDC says it's the deadliest drug in the country.
According to a search warrant obtained by ABC Action News, both agencies conducted the investigation using surveillance and confidential informants to eventually arrest Ray.
"It does become a higher priority when we find fentanyl is involved," said Cpl. Kenny Petrillo who heads TPD's Opioid Task Force.
The warrant says detectives had a confidential informant approach Ray and buy drugs using Tampa Police Department investigative money. In the area of East Adamo Drive and South Faulkenburg Road the informant and Ray exchanged money for drugs. Members of TPD's Opioid Task Force and HCSO's Special Investigations Division were nearby watching the exchange.
Detectives field tested what appeared to be an Oxycodone pill and confirmed they contained fentanyl. In fact, the pills were 100% fentanyl and TPD says Ray's customers didn't know it.
"They are not buying what they believed they were getting," said Petrillo, "The idea of fentanyl creeping into our community it's enough to take out a lot of people. It's a dangerous drug."
During the same week, investigators sent the informant out again to purchase heroin from Ray. A field test revealed the heroin was also mixed with fentanyl.
Ellen Snelling is in the front-lines of the opioid epidemic. Two-and-a-half years ago her brother overdosed on heroin laced with a type of fentanyl.
"I think everybody should be concerned because their loved one could be next," she said.
Investigators executed a search warrant at Ray's home at Alexandria Place Townhomes complex in Tampa. They seized cash, marijuana, fentanyl pills, possible loose fentanyl powder, MDMA and drug paraphernalia. They would ultimately find enough fentanyl to kill thousands, according to Petrillo.
Ray is charged with several drug charges including trafficking in cocaine, possession of controlled substances, tampering with physical evidence and violation of parole.
"Just to have those people off the streets is great. I don't have any sympathy for them at all, " said Snelling.
Petrillo says it feels good to arrest the dealers. At TPD HQ, he says, they have pictures of several other dealers they are keeping an eye on.
"Anytime that we arrest someone it's putting some families at ease thinking maybe that's the person who contributed to the overdose of their loved one," he said.
Families like Snelling's. To this day she doesn't know which dealer gave her brother his last high.
"They are playing Russian Roulette with people's lives," she said.
Florida's Medical Examiner's Commission released new numbers last week. It shows that while opioid caused deaths are down 13%, deaths caused by fentanyl are up by 64%, in the first half of last year.
The synthetic drug is 100 times more potent than morphine and is often found in counterfeit pills that look like opioids. Federal officials are trying to crackdown on foreign sources and believe they are making progress with nations like China and Mexico.