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Colorful fentanyl pills hidden in popular candy boxes seized at the LA airport

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Suspected fentanyl pills seized at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles.

This image provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department shows suspected fentanyl pills seized at the Los Angeles International Airport Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022 in Los Angeles. Approximately 12,000 suspected fentanyl pills were confiscated from a person who attempted to go through TSA screening with several bags of candy and miscellaneous snacks with the intent of boarding a plane.

Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department via Associated Press

Popular candy boxes containing fentanyl pills were seized by authorities at the Los Angeles International Airport.

Here’s what we know about the situation.

How the pills got to the airport

An unidentified person attempted to go through a security screening with bags of candy and other snacks around 7:30 a.m., according to a statement put out by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department.

“It was discovered that inside the ‘Sweetarts’, ‘Skittles’ and ‘Whoppers’ candy boxes were fentanyl pills,” the statement said.

NPR reported that 12,000 pills were captured by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration authorities at the scene.

“The suspect fled prior to being detained by law enforcement but has been identified and the investigation is ongoing,” the department said. The suspect’s name has not been released to the public yet.

The dangers of fentanyl

A warning was given by the DEA back in August that fentanyl disguised as colorful candies were spreading across the U.S.

DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in this initial alert that this tactic is a “deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults.”

The DEA reported that 107,622 Americans died from drug poisoning or overdoses in 2021 and about 66% of these reported deaths were the result of synthetic opioids like fentanyl, according to CNN.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that fentanyl specifically was involved in 77% of adolescent overdose deaths last year.

Utah man in prison for selling fentanyl on the darknet

The Deseret News reported that Utah resident Aaron Shamo was sentenced to prison for life in 2020 for selling fentanyl-laced painkillers on the darknet.

The jury found Shamo guilty on 12 of 13 charges, one of which — continuing a criminal enterprise — led to his sentencing of life in prison.

Gavin Keblish died after taking a pill he bought from Shamo’s website with the intention of relieving his leg surgery pain. Gavin’s mother, Tova, testified in the hearing about her only son’s death as a result of Shamo’s online site.

“You may be saying, ‘I didn’t make him take it. I didn’t kill him.’ But you did,” Tova Keblish said to Shamo in the courtroom.

The 12-person jury did not rule on whether Shamo was the lone drug seller that resulted in Gavin’s death.