First Elephant Tranquilizer Charges in Chicago Brought to Federal Court

A grand jury has indicted a Cincinnati man on charges of selling an elephant tranquilizer in Chicago, the first time someone has been charged here with selling the drug — which was mixed with heroin to boost its potency, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Clifford Reed, 27, is charged with selling about a kilogram of heroin mixed with carfentanil — the elephant tranquilizer — and another potent opioid, fentanyl, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

Reed is accused of selling the drugs to the informant on Sept. 9 in a vehicle near 93rd and Stoney Island on the South Side. An audio recording was made of the deal, authorities say.

A grand jury indicted Reed earlier this month and he was arraigned Tuesday in federal court in Chicago.

Carfentanil, synthetic heroin also known as “super heroin,” is 100 times stronger than fentanyl and about 10,000 times stronger than morphine. Carfentanil and fentanyl are added to heroin to increase its strength, which is attractive to addicts but leads to increased deaths.

Zachary Fardon, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, warned of the dangers of carfentanil in October during a speech at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law.

“I mentioned that two milligrams of fentanyl is enough to kill a person. Well, that same two milligrams of carfentanil is enough to knock out a 2,000-pound African elephant,” Fardon said.

“So it’s no surprise then that carfentanil-laced heroin is a killer. Last month, it was responsible for at least eight overdose deaths in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area. And unfortunately I can tell you that carfentanil is not limited to Ohio and points east. It is right here in Chicago. Right now.”

This year through the beginning of December, 392 deaths in Cook County were attributed to heroin and 366 to fentanyl, officials say. A 46-year-old Chicago man who died in September was the first person known to have died of carfentanil in Cook County. The results of his autopsy were announced earlier this month.

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