Charges: Marysville residents bought fentanyl equipment from China

On Thursday, investigators say they found a pill press that could make thousands of fentanyl pills.

Investigators found this pill press that could be used to make fentanyl-laced pills in a search of a Marysville home on Thursday. (U.S. Attorney’s Office)

Investigators found this pill press that could be used to make fentanyl-laced pills in a search of a Marysville home on Thursday. (U.S. Attorney’s Office)

MARYSVILLE — Two Marysville residents came to the attention of federal authorities last month during an inspection of a package shipped from China marked “Furniture Parts.”

Inside, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in Los Angeles found equipment used to press letters or numbers into pills. Some were marked with an “M” and others with “30,” according to court documents.

Federal prosecutors suspect the equipment was meant to make counterfeit oxycodone pills that would instead contain fentanyl. Customs officers seized the package last month.

On Thursday, prosecutors charged the Marysville duo, Jose Eduardo Garnica and Lauren Malina Wilson, in U.S. District Court in Seattle with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute fentanyl as well as possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

Fentanyl — a highly potent synthetic opioid that can be up to 100 times stronger than morphine — has wreaked havoc in Snohomish County and across the nation in recent years. Of 251 fatal overdoses reported among county residents in 2019, fentanyl played a role in 71, according to the county medical examiner’s office. Of 303 in 2020, fentanyl caused 124. Of just over 350 last year, 157 were from the drug. In one month late last year, 18 residents died from fentanyl overdoses.

So far this year, 177 people have died from overdoses in the county. Fentanyl was a factor in 66 of those.

Residents have been charged with felonies after selling to people who ended up overdosing. Others from Snohomish County have gotten many years in prison on federal charges.

Further investigation found Garnica received six other packages in Marysville since April. Three times, they were marked as “piston rod material iron,” according to the federal charges. Another read “zinc alloy meat cutter.” Wilson lived at the same Marysville home. She had 12 guns registered in her name. She bought almost all of them in a three-month period in 2020.

Bank records showed Garnica had transferred over $400,000 to a cryptocurrency exchange from three different bank accounts, according to court papers.

On Thursday, investigators from the FBI and federal Department of Homeland Security searched the Marysville residence and detained Garnica and Wilson. In the garage, they found a pill press and other equipment that could be used to make counterfeit pills, federal prosecutors allege.

“Fentanyl pills are linked to the huge increase in overdose deaths in Washington State,” U.S. Attorney Nick Brown said in a press release. “A pill press, such as the one in this case, can create 30-50 pills a minute — up to 3,000 potentially deadly pills per hour. Seizure of this press helps reduce the supply of these dangerous pills.”

A hazmat team reportedly found “far more” than a dozen guns. They located empty shipping crates from China.

Inside Wilson’s GMC Yukon, investigators found an Aleve bottle. But there were “M30” pills inside. Another 10 loose M30 pills were found in a BMW there, along with a baggy with more pills.

On Thursday, Garnica and Wilson were being held at the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac pending additional hearings, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; jake.goldstein-street@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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