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Press Release

Armed Drug Trafficker Sentenced to 10 Years for Distributing Carfentanil, Heroin, and Cocaine

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Michigan

DETROIT – An armed drug trafficker selling a fentanyl analogue advertised as “heroin” was sentenced today to 10 years in prison, United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison announced.

Ison was joined in the announcement by Orville O. Greene, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Branden Smith, 38, of Detroit, Michigan, was sentenced by United States District Judge Victoria A. Roberts after he pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute drugs and for possessing carfentanil.  According to court records, Smith was identified by federal agents as a multi-state distributor of illegal drugs, including heroin. Following several months of investigation, undercover law enforcement agents purchased what Smith had advertised as “heroin,” but was in fact carfentanil, a dangerous fentanyl analogue. Investigators ultimately executed a search warrant at a residence associated with Smith. They found distribution quantities of multiple controlled substances (including carfentanil), multiple electronic scales, vacuum sealers, face masks, and rubber gloves. Smith was arrested on the scene, and investigators recovered a Glock 23 pistol in his waistband, as well as an AK-47 extended pistol in the driver’s side door of the vehicle he was observed exiting.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2020 alone, more than 56,000 deaths involved synthetic opioids in the United States, which accounted for over 82% of all opioid-involved deaths in 2020. Carfentanil is one of the most potent fentanyl analogues and is estimated to be 10,000 times more potent than morphine. 

“Deadly drugs like carfentanil are lethal by themselves, but even more dangerous when they are marketed as another drug. Adding guns to that mix increases the harm and risk to the community exponentially,” U.S. Attorney Ison said. “That’s why federal law provides for sever penalties for armed drug trafficking, and we will not hesitate to insist on those penalties when necessary to keep this community safe.”

“Today’s sentencing underscores the commitment of the men and women of the DEA, the USAO EDMI and the Warren Police Department, to hold accountable, anyone who chooses to distribute deadly drugs like Carfentanil in our communities,” said Special Agent in Charge Greene.  “Mr. Smith intentionally misrepresented the fact he was selling a fentanyl analogue, 100 times more potent than fentanyl and which is normally used to tranquilize elephants and other large mammals.  Mr. Smith’s possession of firearms further compounded the danger he posed to the community and today he was held to account for his actions.”  

The case was investigated by federal agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, alongside task force officers from the Warren Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Caitlin Casey and Robert White prosecuted the case for the United States.

Updated June 29, 2023

Drug Trafficking