State attorney, local law enforcement launch war against ‘scourge’ of fentanyl

By Don Coble don@claytodayonline.com
Posted 9/28/22

CLAY COUNTY – A 43-year-old man was arrested in St. Augustine and brought back to Clay County to face charges of trafficking 49.9 grams of fentanyl to an undercover agent last year.

There was a …

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State attorney, local law enforcement launch war against ‘scourge’ of fentanyl

Posted

CLAY COUNTY – A 43-year-old man was arrested in St. Augustine and brought back to Clay County to face charges of trafficking 49.9 grams of fentanyl to an undercover agent last year.

There was a reason for the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, Drug Enforcement Agency and Green Cove Springs Police Department to be proud of their work. After all, according to the DEA, it only takes two milligrams to kill someone, so Stephen Cole Capranica was caught with enough fentanyl to potentially kill nearly 25,000 people.

Capranica’s arrest no longer is the exception. It’s become part of a deadly pattern that prompted Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody to the Clay County Jail last week following a pair of fentanyl raids that netted 8.35 kilograms of fentanyl as part of a massive drug ring that included a Mexican drug cartel, a source in California and dealers in Clay, Duval and Nassau counties.

CCSO got a tip following a traffic stop by the Florida Highway Patrol in Jacksonville about the large quantities of fentanyl being shipped to the county through the U.S. Postal Service.

Capranica was arrested after the DEA alerted the agency of a person who was a “multi-ounce distributor of fentanyl.” A month later, they orchestrated a purchase to a confidential source.

He was arrested in St. Johns County and sent back to Clay on Sept. 24, where he will be held on a $250,003 bond until his next hearing on Oct. 25.

Moody and Sheriff Michelle Cook said they will be relentless to put people responsible for distributing fentanyl behind bars.

“We are in the midst of an unprecedented risk to Floridians,” Moody said. “This highly toxic opiate opioid called fentanyl has flooded into our country with the sheer volume that has made it into our country and our state has placed us at great risk, not only for those that are using illicit substances which may be laced with fentanyl, without their knowledge.

“We know that we're seeing a record number of overdoses last year. We’ve lost 300 people a day, and the majority of those were from fentanyl. Fentanyl is the largest killer of the working age population at 45 right now.”

Moody said she now is part of a bipartisan coalition of attorney generals who want fentanyl reclassified as a weapon of mass destruction.

China and Mexico have combined to flood the United States with poisonous fentanyl. It’s become such a problem. Moody said more people already have died from fentanyl poisoning and overdoses than who died – estimated at 58,148 – in the Vietnam War.

Moody said the state has launched a new website, treatmentatlas.org to help addicts find help with treatment.

But for the traffickers, Moody and Cook said the only response will be long stints in prison. The two men – Alvin A.J. Mercado of Fleming Island and Jason Teril Setzer of Orange Park – identified in last week’s 8.35-gram raid each face a minimum of 25 years in prison, if convicted. Setzer is being held at the Clay County Jail with a $17.105 million bond, while Mercado’s bond was set at $10,003 million.

“If you learn of drug traffickers who are poisoning Floridians with fentanyl, go after them aggressively,” Moody told sheriffs across the state. “And if someone dies as a result of their actions, charge him with murder because that is what this is. This is a substance that will kill and people are selling this and poisoning Floridians knowing that it can have deadly consequences.”

In Clay County, in addition to the three trafficking cases, local law enforcement has made nine arrests for possession or selling fentanyl during September. More important, Cook said there had been 261 reported overdoses in the county this year with 34 confirmed drug-related overdoses deaths and six other suspected drug-related cases.

“The most popular drugs of choice today are often mixed with the drug fentanyl,” Cook said. “We have seen fentanyl and marijuana, cocaine, opioids methamphetamine and just about everything else.”

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