CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — A Maryland man was sentenced Wednesday after he was caught distributing enough fentanyl to cause 10,000 fatal overdoses in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle in November of 2018.
Sven Alston, 33, of Baltimore was sentenced to spend four years and 10 months in prison by Chief U.S. District Judge Gina M. Groh, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office Northern District of West Virginia.
According to the release, Alston pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting possession with intent to distribute fentanyl back in October of 2019. He was found in a motel in Spring Mills, West Virginia, which is near Martinsburg, with 30 grams of fentanyl, 39 grams of a synthetic opiate called U47700, and a cutting agent, as well as digital scales and plastic baggies, according to the release.
Authorities also seized other drugs and $9,600 in cash, the release said.
The investigation was supported by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force under the Attorney General-led Synthetic Opioid Surge Special Operations Division’s “Project Clean Sweep,” which, according to the release, seeks to reduce the supply of synthetic opioids in “hot spot” areas previously identified by the Attorney General of the United States.
This comes amid record overdoses nationwide. National Institute on Drug Abuse data shows that beginning in 2016, synthetic opioids other than Methadone (primarily fentanyl) surpassed prescription opioids as the leading cause of overdose deaths in the United States. That data shows that since then, deadly overdoses from synthetic opioids have continued to climb, causing about 30,000 deaths in 2017, about 35,000 in 2019, and nearly 60,000 in 2020, leading to then-record-breaking overdose deaths that year. 2021 also marked record-breaking deadly overdoses of more than 107,000 Americans.
According to a press release from West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey about supporting the classification of fentanyl as a Weapon of Mass Destruction due to those record overdoses, more than 75,000 people died from synthetic opioid overdoses from February 2021 to February 2022, making it the number one killer of adults aged 18-45.