CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A South Charleston man has entered a guilty plea for possession with the intent to distribute fentanyl through counterfeit pills.

Timothy Brian Jackson, 44, of South Charleston, pleaded guilty Thursday. He admitted to creating and had intent to distribute fake oxycodone pills that contained fentanyl or other dangerous opioids including protonitazene and butonitazene.

United States Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia Will Thompson joined law enforcement officials for a press conference Thursday at the Robert C. Byrd U.S. Courthouse in Charleston to announce the plea and the details of the case.

Will Thompson

On August 9, 2022, law enforcement officers intercepted a package from Jackson that was placed in the United States Mail intended to go to Connecticut. The package contained over 300 pills that looked identical to 30-milligram oxycodone pills. Thompson said the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Mid-Atlantic Laboratory confirmed the pills contained the emergent synthetic opioid protonitazene, which is equally if not more potent than fentanyl.

“These pills looked like they came straight from the factory,” said Thompson.

On August 29, 2022, a search warrant was executed by officers at Jackson’s apartment that he rented in St. Albans. There, they found various quantities of pills that again, looked like legitimate 30-milligram oxycodone pills. The DEA Mid-Atlantic Laboratory confirmed that some of the pills contained fentanyl and others contained protonitazene or butonitazene, which is a federal Schedule I controlled substance with opioid effects.

Over 10,000 pills were seized. Jackson said he used his basement to make the counterfeit pills.

Officers also found in Jackson’s apartment various quantities of powders containing these substances, along with several hydraulic pill presses, punch and die kits used to imprint the pills with “M30” markings, a pharmacy-grade powder mixing machine, various binding powders, two loaded pistols and a large amount of cash.

“You can call it a workshop but it’s more of a high-tech lab,” Thompson said about Jackson’s basement in his apartment.

Thompson added that the “M30” punch and die sets were from China and the commercially manufactured binding powder came from a company in the U.S.

With authorities finding these pharmaceutical drugs, “an untold number of lives” have been saved.

“These are very scary types of drugs that we are taking off the streets,” Thompson said. “When we saw the actual pills, this looks like something you could pick up at your pharmacy.”

A lot of fake fentanyl pills have been produced in West Virginia recently, according to Thompson.

DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge J.T. Scroggs said the drugs they are seeing being made and distributed today are way more dangerous.

“Synthetic drugs being trafficked are more addictive, more potent and more dangerous than we’ve ever seen before,” Scroggs said Thursday.

According to Scroggs, more than 110,000 people died of drug poisonings in 2023. For Americans between the ages of 18 and 45, drug poisonings are the leading cause of death today.

West Virginia does lead the nation in drug poisoning deaths per capita, according to Scroggs.

Thompson said they have not confirmed where the fentanyl came from in this case, but investigators do know that it came from outside the country.

Multiple law enforcement and government agencies played a role in the investigation. Thompson commended the investigative work of the DEA, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The West Virginia Fusion Center, the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office, the Metropolitan Drug Enforcement Network Team, the Charleston Police Department, the St. Albans Police Department, and the St. Albans Fire Department hazardous materials team also worked on the case.

“This case is a great example of the wonderful work that can be accomplished by our law enforcement officers working together,” said Thompson.