Investigation: St. George News reporter responds to illegal opioid ad on the internet

Composite stock image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — If you’ve been scrolling through the Utah Gun Exchange website lately, you may have come across more than just guns and ammunition.

Screenshot of an ad posted to Utah Gun Exchange on Nov. 9, 2018 | St. George News | Click to enlarge

Ads selling drugs like OxyContin, Percocet, Xanax, Hydrocodone and Roxicodone, a brand name of OxyContin, have been appearing on Utah Gun Exchange, a popular online classified site where Utah residents can sell and purchase firearms. Some ads also referenced marijuana.

One ad that popped up on Nov. 9 and was brought to the attention of St. George News was titled “Glock 9 available Oxy’s available,” and the description under the ad shared a phone number with “Text only to place an order fast and discret(sic) delivery.” It’s unclear how long these ads were posted on the website, but they were eventually taken down.

When St. George News tried to reach the number listed on the ad, as well as a few others, the call went straight to voicemail with no indication as to who the seller was. However, a few minutes later, the following text was received:

“Hi there missed a call from this number what do you need? and what mg?”

In a text conversation with the person, St. George News was able to get to the point of him or her saying they would indeed be able to sell OxyContin, specifically 30 mg tablets.

Read more: Utah sues drug company for ‘misstatements’ about opioids

Bryan Melchior, co-owner of Utah Gun Exchange, described the people who place these ads as “unauthorized spammers,” adding that they’ve been frequently hitting the website with bogus ads.

“This is a game of cat and mouse,” Melchior told St. George News. “We update our filters, then they find a way around our filters. Then the same cycle continues.”

Utah Gun Exchange also performs a manual human scrub every business morning, he said, to diminish any unwanted ads that its system doesn’t catch.

This isn’t the only website accessible to ads selling illegal substances, Melchior said, because sellers will post anywhere they can that’s free.

Nationwide, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently began cracking down on websites illegally selling dangerous drugs.

In October, the FDA targeted 465 websites illegally selling drugs, according to a statement from the agency. In most cases, drugs like opioids marketed online can contain lethal doses of fentanyl – a synthetic opioid that is considered more potent than morphine.

Related story: FDA approves super-potent opioid pill despite fears of abuse, overdose deaths

During its crackdown, the FDA also completed screenings at airports such as Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York for illegal drugs. Of 626 packages examined, more than 750 products were denied entry into the U.S., with some of the products purchased online from sites in Canada, United Kingdom and India.

Although the person from the ads on Utah Gun Exchange admitted to being able to sell opioids, it’s unclear if the situation is a scam to get personal financial information.

Melvin Patterson, of the Drug Enforcement Administration, told St. George News it’s certainly possible that it could be a scam because scammers realize most people aren’t going to report to law enforcement that they’ve been ripped off by a drug dealer. He also said the phone number listed on the ad is most likely spoofed, because no drug dealer is going to give out his or her personal phone number.

“You’re going to say, ‘Well I was trying to purchase some drugs, and this guy took my personal financial information,'” Patterson said. “Who are you going to complain to?”

But if this situation isn’t a scam, Patterson said, it’s just as dangerous because it’s highly possible people are not going to receive what they paid for.

“The big risk is it could be something that’s deadly that you purchased, because there’s no quality control over the products that are being sent to you or manufactured and sent to you,” he said.

Federal law prohibits buying controlled substances, such as narcotic pain relievers, sedatives, stimulants and anabolic steroids, without a valid prescription from a doctor, according to the DEA. Patterson said the repercussions are the same as if a dealer were selling on the streets.

“Obviously their criminal history would come into play, but would they be subject to being arrested or prosecuted? Absolutely.”

Both the FDA and DEA encourage reporting suspicious online pharmacies or the unlawful sale of medical products on the internet. People can submit a tip, anonymously or not, to the DEA or by calling 877-792-2873.

Email: mheckenliable@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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10 Comments

  • Comment December 6, 2018 at 9:02 pm

    That ad there looks like an outright scam. But if you hunt around you should be able to find places online that sell counterfeit drugs from china or india. And yes, a lot of the times they’ll do things like sell fetanyl as oxy, and whatever else. It’ll be a grab bag surprise what you actually get as to what’s on the label. I guess there are people dumb enough to actually order them and consume them–addicts and what not.

  • Happy Commenter December 6, 2018 at 11:59 pm

    Between these scammers and the calls from telemarketers from Karachi lowering your credit card interest rates, the pain relieving braces and renewing your car warranty 15 times a day, you would have to be a total moron to fall for any of it. But then again, there are the “flat earthers”, and that is self explanatory. Hahaha!

    • Carpe Diem December 7, 2018 at 7:14 am

      Have you had this phone call / message? “Hello, this is the IRS. We are going to place a lien on you! You need to call xxx-xxxx right away!”

      • Happy Commenter December 7, 2018 at 4:02 pm

        They want you to pay via a prepaid Moneypak card. That should be a clue right there, but then again there are the “flat earthers!”

  • Carpe Diem December 7, 2018 at 7:09 am

    Saw a report on KSL last night. There is going to be a movie about the situation. A guy bought a Kilo of coke on the Dark web. Had it sent to his house USPS. SMH
    Anyway, the DEA arrived minutes later, and arrested him. Then, someone in LE stole his dark web logins and then the login name was used to steal / scam some 500K in bitcoin. They put a hit out to injure him, then kill him. He had to fake his death with photos and lie low for a year as the investigation wound down. He got off scot free if you can call it that. Spoiler alert: The dark web guy who threatened the hit on him is in prison on two life sentences, and the Fed G-men are also in prison. OK, this happened in Utah.

  • Red2Blue310 December 7, 2018 at 7:50 am

    And Utah politicians are afraid of cannabis getting into the hands of our children.

  • Utahguns December 7, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    Utah Gun Exchange is a rookie garage operation.
    They’ve never had the firewalls or website moderators to combat this issue because this was going on for over a year. Search functions on their site don’t work either. All they care about is their revenue from the advertisers.
    When you offer a listing service for free, you get what you pay for.

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