Identical triplet brothers have been arrested and charged in connection with operating a drug ring that is believed to have supplied altered Xanax bars containing the the highly deadly opioid, fentanyl, to area teenagers in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The 21-year-old Dossou brothers, named Atsou, Atsouste and Etse, were each arrested on May 31, and charged with vary degrees of offenses related to their alleged possession, manufacture, intent to sell, actual sale and trafficking of schedule IV drugs.
The arrests came after police used a confidential informant to contact Atsouste and arrange for the successful delivery of 1,000 manipulated Xanax bars, authorities said.
‘I didn’t expect that out of him,’ Victor Vinson, a long-time neighbor who knew Atsouste from around their luxury apartment building, told CBS. ‘He was a real good person.’
He added: ‘You never know who your neighbor is. We expect our neighbor to be a positive person, but you never know.’
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In August 2017, Raleigh policed learned through Garner Police that an informant had claimed the brothers would order as many as 10,000 fentanyl pills and 100,000 Xanax pills from the dark web at a time, warrants said.
The brother would have the drugs shipped to multiple locations ‘associated with Este Dossou and his criminal enterprise,’ and would then press their own bars. This would allow them to cut the Xanax bars with the much cheaper, and highly deadly, fentanyl, which is ’50 to 100 times more potent’ than morphine, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
‘Fentanyl is a class of drugs which includes fentanyl itself and then other fentanyl analogues and so far in the US we’ve seen between somewhere between 15 and 30 different analogues show up in the illicit drug supply,’ Dr. Christopher Jones of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) said.
‘I think it’s really this emergence of such a variety of synthetic opioids that is also leading to the rise in overdose deaths because the drug supply is unpredictable and individuals who are using drugs don’t particularly know exactly what they are using.’
Drug overdose deaths have now become the leading cause of accidental deaths in the US with 52,404 fatalities in 2015, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
It’s believed that Atsouste, Etse and Atsou were ‘major suppliers’of Xanax to Holly Springs High School students, the warrants said.
The arrests came after a police informant contacted Atsouste through a Facebook message in March, and arranged a successful delivery of 1,000 counterfeit Xanax bars, which the police took into evidence, according to warrants.
Police identified Atsouste, who was driving a red Porsche Cayenne, as the person who made the delivery, they said.
Also in March, an informed tried to arrange another delivery of 1,000 more counterfeit Xanax bars, to which Atsouste first implied he was ‘re-upping’ or replenishing his stock, before he could fulfill the request.
Police said later that day, they observed Atsouste traveling to a gas station off of Jones Sausage Road and switching vehicles, to return three hours later.
At that point, police said he contacted the informant and let that person know he could then make the sale.
According to warrants, Este lives at The Hue Apartments on Hargett Street, and Atsouste lives at the SkyHouse Apartments on S. Blount Street.
Police believe Atsouste received a pill press and supplies to make counterfeit pills through the mail at his SkyHouse residence, in part based on a clerk’s statement that he had received numerous packages at the address over the past several months.
‘It’s amazing, behind closed doors, what goes on that could be a major criminal enterprise, and what’s being checked in through the front door,’ Keith Allen, another area resident said. ‘It’s astounding really.’
Atsou Dossou Sr., the father of the men remained hopeful the for the future of his sons, who came to the US at the age of seven from West Africa.
‘You can have children who can grow up well, but who go stray a little bit. But we have hope that we will have them back,’ he said.
Atsouste has been charged with selling and delivering a schedule IV drug, and possession with the intent to manufacture, sell, and distribute a schedule IV drug.
Etse has been charged with conspiracy to sell and deliver a schedule IV drug, and conspiracy of possession with the intent to manufacture, sell and distribute a schedule IV drug.
Atsou has been charged with trafficking opium or heroin, and possession with the intent to manufacture, sell and distribute a schedule IV drug.
Fentanyl is a Schedule II drug, which means it’s consider to have ‘a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence,’ according to the DEA.
Xanax is a Schedule IV drug, and it thought to have ‘a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence.’
Heroin is a Schedule I drug, ‘with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.’
Atsouste will appear in court in July, while Atsou and Este have their next court appearances scheduled for September 11.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders.