A North Carolina man was arrested last week after reportedly being caught with multiple drugs and phony driver’s licenses.
At about 9:51 p.m. June 4, a Rio Rancho police officer was in his patrol car in the 1000 block of Commercial Drive when he saw a man in a black shirt, blue jeans and large backpack running west in an area that did not have a crosswalk.
The officer told the man to stop, but he did not and a foot chase began.
The suspect dropped the backpack and tried to hide behind a bush, but the officer quickly found him.
The man identified himself as a 29-year-old named “Timothy Upton” with an Oregon driver’s license that belonged to an elderly woman in Oregon, according to a criminal complaint.
After the suspect gave officers a fake Social Security number, he was arrested.
During a search, the officers found New Mexico and Arizona licenses with different names and the suspect’s face on them on the suspect along with a Social Security card with someone else’s name.
The officers discovered the real identity of the suspect, 43-year-old Brandon Schweinsberg of Oakboro, North Carolina, after finding a pill bottle with his name on it inside of a black case located in the backpack. A name search showed he had an NC license.
Along with the pill bottle, officers found about 24 grams of a clear crystalline substance the officer believed to be meth, 79 blue pills marked “M30” that is “consistent with” fentanyl, small plastic baggies and a small scale, the complaint states.
Schweinsberg is being accused of two counts of trafficking (by possession with intent to distribute), first offense; resisting, evading or obstructing an officer (arrest); concealing identity; crossing at other than crosswalk; and possession or use of an altered, forged or fictitious license.
He gave no plea at Monday’s initial appearance.
If convicted, Schweinsberg could face up to 20.5 years in prison and pay a $22,500 fine.
The complaint does not state how the suspect got the drugs and why he was in Rio Rancho.
‘A growing fentanyl threat’
Schweinsberg is far from being the only person to be arrested for possession of fentanyl.
About 20 local, state and federal agencies around New Mexico conducted a 90-day operation targeting “the growing fentanyl threat” and suspects in violent crimes.
Operation Blue Crush, which recently finished, netted 310 arrests – 60 percent of which were related to fentanyl, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
The operation was led and coordinated by New Mexico’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program. The national initiative was created in the 1980s to reduce drug trafficking and production.
Greg Millard, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s El Paso division, said that, to his knowledge, no other state has conducted an operation specifically targeting fentanyl traffickers, the Journal reported.
“What is kind of a one of a kind is a statewide operation focused on fentanyl traffickers,” he said. “These aren’t fentanyl users; we were very clear to the enforcement initiatives we’re not going after users. We’re going after the dealers.”
In the last few years, law enforcement has confiscated millions of pills to try to combat the growing fentanyl threat.
The number of pills seized in the United States went up about 3,224 percent from 290,304 in 2018 to 9,649,551 in 2021, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
“An increase in illicit pills containing fentanyl points to a new and increasingly dangerous period in the United States,” National Institute of Drug Abuse Director Nora D. Volkow said in a press release.
What is being done to curb the epidemic?
The U.S. Department of Justice reports that government at all levels – career public servants, law enforcement, and public health officials – is partnering with educators, treatment professionals, and nonprofit organizations to bring awareness and develop strategies and solutions for communities.
Strategies include targeted and proactive drug law enforcement activity like Operation Blue Crush to dismantle the trafficking organizations; prevention programs and drug awareness and education campaigns; and intervention and treatment options that address the short- and long-term health of addicts and recovering addicts.
At a closer to home level, DOJ suggests:
- Have a meaningful conversation with family members. Reject the notion that “it can’t happen to you or your family.” Talk aloud about the threat opioid abuse brings to your family. Commit to asking the tough questions.
- Invest in the family and community’s future. Many intensely affected regions routinely host public forums, town halls, prevention activities at schools, community vigils, walks, and fun runs. Get involved and participate.
- Speak up. Contact law enforcement when suspect drug-related activity is happening in the neighborhood. Successful policing relies on a whole community approach to identify and bring drug trafficking organizations to justice.
- Keep any prescription drugs in the house secure and locked away, out of reach of others.
- Take advantage of national or local take back days sponsored by law enforcement or your local pharmacy to discard any unneeded drugs.