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Smyth County: Fentanyl trafficker pleads guilty to federal distribution charge

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A Smyth County man, who ordered approximately 30,000 fentanyl pills from California and sold them in Southwest Virginia, pleaded guilty this week in U.S. District Court.

Zachary Ryan Hutton, 21, of Marion, pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly possessing with the intent to distribute and distributing 400 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing fentanyl.

“The Commonwealth of Virginia, and Southwest Virginia in particular, has seen a dramatic uptick in substance abuse disorder in recent years,” United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh said. “Disrupting and prosecuting fentanyl trafficking networks—especially pressed pills—is one of my Office’s top priorities.  We know we cannot arrest our way out of this epidemic, but when traffickers brazenly spread tens of thousands of lethal pills across the country and into our Virginia communities, we will hold them accountable.”

According to court documents, law enforcement began investigating a flood of illegal pills in Smyth County that resembled pharmaceutical-grade oxycodone pills, but were inconsistent in size, shape, and color, indicating that they were counterfeit pills. The investigation revealed that the active ingredient in these “pressed” pills was fentanyl. Pills of this type are sometimes referred to as “Roxicodone,” “pressed,” or “M30” pills.  The pills often have an imprint of an “M” on one side and a “30” on the other side.

In June, the U.S. Postal Service–Office of Inspector General intercepted a package addressed to “Ryan Hutton” at the residence of Hutton’s grandmother in Marion, Virginia. The package contained approximately 561 grams of pressed fentanyl pills.

Law enforcement conducted a controlled delivery of the package, at which time Hutton was arrested and found to be in possession of an additional 798 pressed pills. During the subsequent investigation, law enforcement learned that Hutton had ordered fentanyl pills by mail for at least four months, received approximately 30,000 pills during that time frame, and paid a source in California $20,000 for the most recent package.

Hutton is scheduled to be sentenced on July 7 and faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison. In addition, Hutton will pay a $50,000 judgment to the United States. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The Smyth County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Postal Service–Office of the Inspector General, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Whit D. Pierce is prosecuting the case.

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