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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

How The Death Of A Young Mom Led To The Unraveling Of A National Fentanyl Trafficking Network

"Sol Prendido" for Borderland Beat

The DEA used info from Diamond Lynch's phone to find where she got the drugs that killed her, a trail that stretched from Washington, D.C., to California to Mexico.

It began with the death of a 20-year-old mom, just a month after her baby boy’s first birthday. She was one of 70,000 Americans lost to the scourge of fentanyl in 2021.

Police officers couldn’t save Diamond Lynch, who overdosed in her Washington, D.C., apartment after taking a pill laced with the powerful and dangerous chemical opiate. But they quickly began investigating how she died, with the help of federal prosecutors and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Starting with some text messages and a handful of pills, authorities unraveled a massive fentanyl distribution network that extended from the D.C. area to California to Mexico. So far, 25 people have been charged. Court documents say the dealers did business largely in the open, largely on Instagram, and smuggled fentanyl-laced pills in candy boxes. The pills were made to look like Percocet and other pharmaceutical opiates.

It’s part of a DEA initiative called "OD Justice,” an effort to work backward from overdose deaths to try to hold traffickers accountable and make a dent in the flow of fentanyl.

“We are doing hundreds of investigations like this across the United States,” Anne Milgram, head of the DEA, told NBC News.

Investigators used messages on Diamond Lynch’s phone to find the dealers who sold her the fatal dose, Milgram said. “Then we expanded it out to who was supplying them. We traced that back to Los Angeles, San Diego and ultimately to Mexico.”

Diamond Lynch. 
Drug Enforcement Administration

In an investigation dubbed "Operation Blues Brothers," after the color of the deadly pills, federal agents benefitted from the carelessness of the accused drug traffickers, who communicated via social media messages that can easily be obtained with warrants. This also showed how, as Milgram put it, “social media has become the superhighway of drugs.”

“What we see day in and day out across the United States,” she said, “is that these pills — the fentanyl that’s killing Americans — are being sold on Snapchat, on TikTok, Facebook marketplace, Instagram, openly. … These individuals were using Instagram for almost every part of their business. They were using it to pick the blue color of the [pills] that they were buying from the wholesalers to sell on the streets. They were using it to coordinate shipments from L.A. to D.C. They were using it to arrange payments. So basically every part of the business is being facilitated by Instagram, in this case that ultimately resulted in Diamond’s death,” Milgram noted.

Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, declined to comment on the record. The company has said drug sales are banned from its platform and that the problem of fentanyl crisis is a “whole of society” problem. 

Two of the 25 defendants have pleaded guilty — Larry Jerome Eastman and his sister, Justice Michelle Eastman, who admitted to supplying the drugs that killed Diamond Lynch. He was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison and she got just over three years. The other defendants have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, drug trafficking, gun and other charges.

Fentanyl pills found in a suspect's house. 
Drug Enforcement Administration

According to court records and an internal DEA document obtained by NBC News, investigators seized nearly 95,000 fentanyl-laced pills linked to the network and more than 14 pounds of the drug itself, enough to kill more than 400,000 Americans.

At the same time, Milgram acknowledged that enforcement does not appear to be putting a dent in the overall flow of fentanyl into the U.S. — and that the risk for drug users is greater than ever.

“We’ve seized almost 70 million fake pills containing fentanyl this year to date,” the DEA administrator said. “Last year, the entire year, we seized about 58 million. Now, seven out of 10 of those pills contain a potentially deadly dose. Last year it was six out of 10.”

Said Milgram, “Fentanyl is the deadliest drug threat we’ve ever seen in the United States.”

Court records say investigators found Larry and Michelle Eastman through CashApp transactions on Diamond Lynch’s phone, which led them to Instagram photos of him displaying cash and drugs.

Larry Eastman’s iCloud account contains photos of him with large amounts of cash.
U.S. District Court for D.C.

Evidence from the Eastmans led authorities to a larger retail network in D.C., which was purchasing drugs from a wholesale network in California, the records show. Instagram photos showed members of the California group posing with illegal guns, some of which were seized in court-ordered searches. The Californians were buying their drugs from the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico, which manufactures them using precursors imported from China, officials say.

“Why are the cartels sending more pills and fentanyl to the U.S.?” Milgram asked. “Why are they making them stronger and more deadly? And the short answer is that all they care about is making money and selling more. They want to get people addicted to fentanyl. It’s how they sell more. So the fact that some people die … they see it as the cost of doing business.”

Weapons found at the home where two suspects were located on March 22. 
Drug Enforcement Administration

Diamond Lynch’s mom, Paula Lynch, was aware her daughter had a drug problem. She had overdosed once before, only to be saved by two doses of Narcan, which can counteract the effects of opiates. But Paula told NBC News she had no idea just how much risk her daughter was taking by purchasing what she thought were prescription opioid pills from a street dealer.

“We didn’t know,” she said. “I thought it was more of a recreational thing. … We never heard the word ‘fentanyl’ until she was deceased.”

Paula, who is now raising her grandson, says she will live with regret forever that she couldn’t help her daughter.

“What I would say to young people is definitely one pill can kill,” she said. “It’s chemical warfare on American citizens, period.”

NBC News


  1. nobody is making music like Joeyy rn

  2. 70K dead and NOW they finally solved it? Lame something

  3. “ We never heard the word ‘fentanyl’ until she was deceased” and the parent of the year award goes to this lady.

    1. Literally my first thought was she's prob one of these parent's that go like "my child totallyyyy would never do that"

  4. I’m sick of this crap of Fentanyl deaths and drug cartels bringing drugs but what about prescription drug deaths and drug addiction and abuse ? Are they protecting big FARMA ? No one got arrested and incarcerated. USA justice is a joke.

    1. People can't get real Pharmaceutical opiates anymore. That ship sailed a decade ago. No one can use that as an "EXCUSE" for their addictions anymore. I'm sure there's a few rogue drs over prescribing, but no where near the extent it was. Even those who have legit need are hard pressed to get a script. DEA flags cancer patient scripts now. Fent pills are cheap, easy to get very much en vouge. Time to restygmatize addicts. Too much empathy has made a huge mess. Every single person on earth kno s the dangers of drugs. If you make the choice to use, then you are a weak idiot. Personal accountability is the problem. Our society has none.

    2. @6:17pm. This year I saw a news article that said half of drug addicts use prescription drugs in the United States.

    3. People on here are a microcosm of society, no wonder we are fucked. Scared little know it all's, fuckin pathetic creature's

  5. Impressive going after the low hanging fruit. Investigation a 4 year old could wrap up in an afternoon.

    Where's Ivan and El Mayo? $3.2 billion budged you'd think go further.


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