Chicago man formed $1.2 million worth of meth and fentanyl into pills resembling real medications, prosecutors say

CHICAGO — A Chicago man is charged with manufacture-delivery of fentanyl after federal and state investigators linked him to a pill-making machine and nearly $1.2 million worth of fentanyl-laced methamphetamine pills disguised as genuine prescription medications.

Allen Dean, 30, of the 200 block of West Hill on the Near North Side, was held in lieu of a $50,000 bail deposit by Judge Ankur Srivastava on Tuesday afternoon.

Federal authorities began investigating Dean three years ago after U.S. Postal Inspection Service agents discovered that someone was mailing parcels containing fentanyl from California to an address in Chicago’s Burnside neighborhood, Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Vojta said during Dean’s bail hearing.

In April 2019, agents intercepted one box with Allen’s fingerprints on the outside and found that it contained a half-ounce of a chemical commonly used to manufacture narcotics, Votja said.

Allen Dean and images of genuine and fake oxycodone pills. | DEA; Partnership to End Addiction

Nearly four years later, on February 15, the Drug Enforcement Administration learned that a pill press, used to form powders into solid pills, was being shipped in two parcels from China to the same Burnside address involved in the 2019 shipment, according to Votja. A border search allegedly revealed that one box contained the press and the other contained the machine’s motor.

The DEA installed a GPS device on the press, and postal inspectors delivered it to the Burnside residence on March 1. Allen was seen carrying the press into the home, Votja said. A few days later, the GPS tracker indicated that the press had been moved from the Burnside home to an apartment in the Gresham neighborhood.

Votja said investigators saw Dean enter the apartment several times during March.

Postal inspectors delivered the press motor to the Burnside address on March 29 and, believing that a fully operational pill press had been delivered, investigators secured a search warrant for the Gresham apartment the next day.

That evening, before investigators executed the warrant, agents saw Dean arrive at the Gresham address in a white car and tried to stop him, Votja said. But Dean drove onto the sidewalk and sped away, according to Votja. When DEA agents blocked him in, Votja continued, he ran and climbed into a “gated facility,” where he stole a security guard’s vehicle, crashed through the facility’s gate, and sped away. Police later found the car abandoned in Chicago.

Police towed the white car that Dean allegedly drove to the Gresham address. Inside, they found a box containing the pill press motor and nine pill bottles labeled oxycodone and acetaminophen that actually contained 834 tablets of a methamphetamine-fentanyl mixture, according to Votja.

Inside the Gresham apartment, investigators found the unit unoccupied, except for an apparent pill-making operation. There was one functioning pill press, part of the press that had been delivered to the Burnside home, over a pound of white powder believed to be a mixture of methamphetamine and fentanyl, and a blue powder binding agent, Votja alleged.

Investigators also found 5,460 pills believed to be methamphetamine and fentanyl imprinted with identifiers associated with the legitimate prescription drugs Percocet and oxycodone, Votja said. He added that the mixture of methamphetamine and fentanyl is unusual and noted that the Illinois State Police lab had only recorded 28 cases of the blend in the past year.

The pills and powder allegedly have a street value of $1,197,735.

Police also executed a search warrant at Dean’s home on the Near North Side. There, they found “multiple” pills bearing Percocet markings that tested positive for fentanyl, according to Votja.

Dean’s private attorney, Cierra Norris, launched a vigorous defense of the father of two. She said he has no criminal background and owns a trucking company. The receipt that police left inside his home after the search warrant listed several items that authorities seized, including Rolex watches, boxes of ammunition, and a computer, but did not mention anything about the pills Votja said investigators found.

She also argued that if the case against Dean was any good, federal prosecutors would have taken it.

“If there was even a scintilla of evidence, we wouldn’t be in state court,” Norris said.

Votja countered that nothing prohibits state prosecutors from taking a narcotics case and called Norris’ claim “somewhat laughable.”

Judge Srivastava denied a prosecution request to hold Dean without bail, saying that a high cash bail with electronic monitoring is sufficient to ensure that the community is protected and Dean will return to court.

Fentanyl, an opioid up to 50 times more potent than heroin, is frequently mixed into street drugs without the end user’s knowledge. With just two milligrams considered a lethal dose, fentanyl is widely considered the primary reason that opioid-related deaths increased nearly 750% from 2015 to 2021.

Earlier this month, police arrested two men at Midway Airport after they allegedly arrived on a flight from California with 44 pounds of fentanyl in their luggage.

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