|Sidney Lanier was an unemployed former computer repairman with a bad back before he became the biggest fentanyl distributor in Lubbock. All he needed was a computer and a very rudimentary knowledge of chemistry to produce wholesale amounts of a highly profitable and dangerous street drug.|
Buying, mixing, and selling fentanyl takes none of the brains of the fictional Walter White, the main character in the TV series 'Breaking Bad'. Sidney Lanier dropped out of school in the 10th grade. Lanier and his crew were also brazen, sloppy, and battling their own growing addictions. Yet they raked in hundreds of thousands during the two-plus years they operated.
|All it took for Lanier to get started was an internet search. Laboratories in China offer to sell various forms of fentanyl on the web, no questions asked and they guarantee delivery. That meant if customs agents intercepted a package or it failed to arrive for any reason, the lab would send the same order again at no charge. In some cases, officials believe the Chinese labs have routed fentanyl packages destined for the United States through Canada to avoid seizure.|
The 36-year-old Lanier found instructions online for preparing fentanyl for retail sale. He received the fentanyl in crystalized form. For one order from a Chinese lab, he paid $3,500 for 300 grams of pure fentanyl. He mixed the fentanyl with methanol — the primary ingredient in antifreeze — to suspend the drug in liquid. The vial was mixed in a sugar alcohol, available in pharmacies. The mixture was heated for 45 to 60 minutes, drying it into a powder. A good batch produced from one vial could fetch $45,000 to $60,000 on the streets of Lubbock. If he sold all of his vials, his profit was over a half-million dollars.
|The fentanyl business was booming, but Lanier and his crew were making mistakes, which allowed police to pick up their trail. The drug of choice in the high plains of west Texas has long been methamphetamine. Meth generally doesn’t kill people taking it. Fentanyl is different. As the death toll mounted police knew they had to move fast.|
On Oct. 17th they arrested a street dealer who sold fentanyl for Lanier's crew. He said he delivered $ 3,000 per day in profits. Before dawn on Oct. 27th two separate teams of federal agents, local police, along with SWAT units, executed search warrants and broke down the door of Lanier's home. Lanier and two of his crew have been charged with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl. All remain jailed.
|Since his arrest, Lubbock drug detectives have not been called to a single suspected fentanyl overdose. Authorities aren't celebrating. They feel it's only a matter of time, and likely not much of it, before the next independent distributor picks up where Sidney Lanier left off.|