CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Today, U.S. District Judge Kenneth D. Bell sentenced Antonio Morquett Phillips, 46, of Hickory, N.C., to seven years in prison followed by five years of supervised release for distribution of fentanyl, announced Dena J. King, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
Alicia Jones, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Charlotte Field Division, Robert Schurmeier, Director of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), and Chief Reed Baer of the Hickory Police Department join U.S. Attorney King in making today’s announcement.
According to court documents and today’s sentencing hearing, in February 2022, law enforcement initiated an investigation into Phillips for suspected distribution of fentanyl-based pressed pills. During the investigation, an ATF special agent acting in an undercover capacity conducted multiple controlled purchases of fentanyl-pressed pills from Phillips. On May 25, 2022, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Phillips’ residence. During the search, officers seized approximately 1,000 fentanyl pills, five firearms, and body armor.
On May 23, 2023, Phillips pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute fentanyl.
In making today’s announcement, U.S. Attorney King thanked the ATF, the SBI, and the Hickory Police Department for their investigation of this case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alfredo De La Rosa of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte prosecuted the case.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and remains the deadliest drug threat in the United States. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) One Pill Can Kill public awareness campaign, the agency has seized a record 62 million fentanyl pills to date in 2023, which exceeds last year’s totals of 58 million pills. Laboratory testing indicates 7 out of 10 pills seized by DEA contain a lethal dose of fentanyl.
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