A Perris man and woman accused of possessing a sizable quantity of manufactured drugs that can kill in ultra-small doses — with a potency far greater than most opioids — pleaded not guilty Thursday to multiple felony charges.
Andres Jesus Morales, 30, and Alyssa Christine Ponce, 27, were arrested last week following an extensive Riverside Police Department investigation that led to the alleged discovery of 21 kilograms of carfentanil.
The carfentanil find was a shock, according to the District Attorney’s Office, because it is not intended for human consumption and carries grave risks if consumed on even micro levels.
“It is more potent and potentially much more deadly than fentanyl,” the DA’s office said in a statement. “Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. It only takes about two milligrams of fentanyl to be fatal.
“Carfentanil is 100 times more powerful than fentanyl and 10,000 times more potent than morphine. A lethal dose of carfentanil in humans would be at the nanogram level — much smaller than the two milligrams of fentanyl that can kill. If mixed in with other drugs, the 21 kilos of carfentanil seized could have been enough to potentially kill more than 50 million people.”
Morales and Ponce were each charged with possession of controlled substances for sale, possession of fentanyl for sale, possession of cocaine for sale and possession of heroin for sale.
The pair were jointly arraigned before Riverside County Superior Court Judge David Gunn, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for Nov. 9 at the Riverside Hall of Justice.
Gunn ordered both defendants held without bail — Morales at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta, and Ponce at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.
According to the DA’s Office, Riverside police had since the start of the year been investigating a drug trafficking operation involving sales and distribution of fentanyl, coke and other illegal drugs.
Detectives last month served a search warrant at a property on Glimmer Way in Perris, where they seized the cache of carfentanil, along with four kilos of coke and one kilo of heroin, prosecutors said.
No one was arrested at the time, but the investigation soon pointed to the defendants as the alleged distributors, according to the DA’s office.
Prosecutors did not disclose where the substances may have been procured. However, it has been well established by the Sheriff’s Department and other agencies that fentanyl is largely manufactured in China and illegally channeled across the border with Mexico into the United States.
District Attorney Mike Hestrin and Sheriff Chad Bianco announced in February that they would be working closely to crack down on fentanyl suppliers and prosecute cases involving drug-related fatalities.
Six individuals to date have been charged in the county with second-degree murder stemming from fentanyl overdoses.
Earlier this month, the county and Corona Chamber of Commerce joined in a public service campaign titled “What’s In Your Pills? Fentanyl Kills.” The message is intended to reinforce the dangers of consuming fentanyl on an level.