Crime

Bellingham man indicted in scheme to traffic fentanyl disguised as oxycodone pills

DEA warns police and public: Fentanyl exposure can kill you

Jack Riley, deputy administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, explains the danger that exposure to fentanyl, a synthetic drug commonly sold as heroin, creates for law enforcement officers and the general public.
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Jack Riley, deputy administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, explains the danger that exposure to fentanyl, a synthetic drug commonly sold as heroin, creates for law enforcement officers and the general public.

A 30-year-old Bellingham man is one of two charged Friday in a multi-count indictment for a scheme to allegedly traffic fentanyl disguised as fake prescription oxycodone pills in Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties.

Law enforcement searches of a car and an Arlington house with a hidden room reportedly yielded more than 10,000 fentanyl pills, nearly $1 million in cash, jars of gold coins and an arsenal of firearms.

Bellingham’s Griffin Thompson, who was arrested Thursday night and will appear in U.S. District Court Friday afternoon, was charged by U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes on suspicion of conspiracy and possession of fentanyl with the intent to distribute, according to a Department of Justice press release.

Bradley Woolard, 39 of Arlington, was arrested as he attempted to cross the border into Mexico on Sept. 1 and is charged in five counts of the indictment alleging drug distribution and illegal firearms possession, according to the release.

He remains in custody in San Diego and will likely make an appearance in the Western District of Washington later this month.

“Fentanyl is an incredibly potent and dangerous drug that has been linked to overdose deaths across the country,” Hayes said in the release. “To make matters worse, the fentanyl in this case has been pressed into pills meant to look like the prescription drug oxycodone.”

According to records filed in the case, law enforcement acted on a tip and observed Thompson July 27 as he traveled from Bellingham to Woolard’s home in Arlington.

Thompson spent a short time at the house, the release said, then began the return drive to Bellingham.

After a traffic stop, the release said, a drug detection dog alerted police to Thompson’s car, where they found three bags containing approximately 1,000 fake oxycodone pills. Thompson also reportedly had more than $8,000 in cash.

Officers got search warrants for Woolard’s home and on July 28 found more than 10,000 fentanyl pill disguised to look like 30 milligram oxycodone prescription narcotic pills, according to the release.

The pills, which were pale blue and had an “M” printed one side and a “30” on the other, tested positive for fentanyl.

“Along with all the usual and terrible risks associated with illegal drugs, these pose the added problem of appearing to be one thing – oxycodone – when they are something altogether different and even more dangerous,” Hayes said.

Searches of the house also reportedly found $400,000 in cash from two safes, another $270,000 from behind the water heater and tool chest in the shop area and $200,000 hidden in a dishwasher.

An additional $110,000 in cash was found hidden behind the drywall of the house along with jars of gold coins, the release said.

Investigators also reportedly discovered a hidden room in the house containing 29 firearms, ranging from handguns to assault rifles and three silencers, along with a large amount of ammunition.

According to the release, this was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation led by the DEA with assistance from the Whatcom County County Drug and Gang Task Force and the Snohomish Regional Drug and Gang Task Force.

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