A Minnesota man has been sentenced to life in prison for selling fentanyl online, which caused 11 overdose deaths and serious bodily injury to four people, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release Monday.
Prosecutors say that between 2014 and 2016, Aaron Broussard, 31, worked with China-based drug suppliers to smuggle substances such as fentanyl into the U.S. He marketed the drugs on his website, PlantFoodUSA.net, claiming to sell plant food. He used the U.S. mail system and a United States Postal Service “Click-N-Ship” account to get the drugs to different parts of the country.
The DOJ said on March 12, 2016, Broussard placed a drug order for 100 grams of 4-FA, a controlled substance analogue, shipped from China. What was actually shipped was 100 grams of 99% pure fentanyl.
Broussard had a similar mix-up in August 2015 and was repeatedly told to test his drugs, but he didn’t test them, prosecutors said.
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Between March 31 and April 27, 2016, he sent his branded packages containing fentanyl to more than 12 customers throughout the U.S. The customers ordered and expected a drug similar to Adderall. After ingesting the fentanyl, which they thought was an Adderall-like substance, 11 of the customers died from a fentanyl overdose and at least four customers suffered serious bodily injury.
After hearing that several customers were hospitalized and nearly died, Broussard continued sending his packages and never warned his customers not to take the drugs.
Broussard did, however, reach out to his suppliers in China to request a discount on his next drug delivery, prosecutors said.
In March 2022, he was convicted on 17 counts of conspiracy, importation of fentanyl, possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, distribution of fentanyl resulting in death, distribution of fentanyl resulting in serious bodily injury, and possession with intent to distribute controlled substance analogues.
“Let today’s sentencing serve as a wakeup call to the drug traffickers pushing fentanyl in and around our communities,” Drug Enforcement Administration Omaha Division Special Agent in Charge Justin C. King said in the release. “A mere two milligrams of fentanyl, equivalent in size to a few grains of salt, is enough to potentially kill a person. The threat of fentanyl is real, and the traffickers pushing this deadly substance will be held accountable for the lives they’ve taken, the families they’ve hurt and the communities they’ve devastated.”
Saleen Martin is a reporter on USA TODAY’s NOW team. Follow her on Twitter at @Saleen_Martin or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.