A Buckhead man is facing federal charges of providing counterfeit painkiller pills containing a stronger, deadly drug that caused two overdoses, one of them fatal.

Edward Culton, 25, was arraigned Sept. 10 on charges of possession and distribution of the opioid drug fentanyl. He allegedly supplied the drug to Hubert Nathans, 29, of Roswell, who last month pleaded guilty on conspiracy to distribute charges in the OD cases, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Culton is accused of creating hundreds of fake pills of Roxicodone, a prescription opioid painkiller, that actually contained the stronger opioid fentanyl. Prosecutors accuse Culton of supplying the fake pills to Nathans, who sold them.

One of Nathans’ customers overdosed and died on Oct. 3, 2017, according to federal prosecutors, and another overdosed and survived on Jan. 8 of this year.

On Feb. 15, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency executed a search warrant at Culton’s Buckhead apartment and allegedly found more than 900 of the counterfeit pills containing fentanyl, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Very strong drugs like fentanyl hidden in counterfeit pills is among the drug-dealing patterns that concern authorities as they deal with the opioid addiction and overdose epidemic.

“Pills in the underground drug market are often diluted with dangerous and deadly substances, as was the case in this investigation,” said Robert J. Murphy, the special agent in charge of the DEA’s Atlanta Field Division, in a press release. “Purchasing pills on the street is synonymous to playing Russian roulette, as there’s no quality control or efficacy in the process.”

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.