Two Pittsburgh men were jailed Thursday after state police said they found $150,000 worth of suspected heroin during a traffic stop on the turnpike in Somerset County.
Quayln Cephis-Latimer, 22, and Rasheim London Wallace, 23, were arrested after a traffic stop at mile post 122 in Stonycreek Township by troopers from the state police criminal investigation drug unit.
It’s believed the two were driving from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, said Somerset County District Attorney Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser.
Cephis-Latimer and Wallace were arraigned by on-call District Judge Sandra Stevanus of Confluence and sent to the Somerset County Jail.
The judge set bond at $250,000 for Cephis-Latimer and $100,000 for Wallace.
Authorities are testing the 7,500 stamp bags for traces of fentanyl, a synthetic morphine up to 100 times more powerful than heroin.
Fentanyl-laced heroin is being blamed for 22 overdose deaths in western Pennsylvania, state Attorney General Kathleen Kane said Friday.
The heroin blend, sold in bags stamped “Theraflu” and “Bud Ice,” has been linked to a rash of fatal overdoses in and around Pittsburgh. Authorities believe bags marked “Sky High” might contain the same deadly mix of heroin and fentanyl.
“(These bags) did not have that marking but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been tainted,” Lazzari-Strasiser said. “Until we test it we won’t know for sure.”
Drug dealers may be “rebranding” the heroin now that the stamp names have been reported to be highly dangerous, Kane said in a statement.
Lazzari-Strasiser believes the deadly drug has found its way into Somerset County and may have resulted in one death already.
County Coroner Wallace Miller said there have been four suspected drug overdoses in the county since the start of this year. Authorities won’t know if tainted heroin is to blame until tests are completed, which could take up to 10 weeks, he said.
“It is the intention of the state police to investigate the reported sale and possession of this deadly drug,” Cpl. William Link of the Somerset barracks said in a news release.
Anyone with information on heroin use in Somerset County is being asked to call state police at 445-4104 or the Somerset County Drug Task Force at 1-866-609-9989.
Authorities in Cambria County also are hunting for the deadly drug but are unsure if has filtered into that area.
The Cambria County Drug Task Force and agents from the state Attorney General’s Office have no indication the tainted heroin is being sold in the county, District Attorney Kelly Callihan said.
“That doesn't mean it’s not here,” she said. “It could be on its way here as we speak. The task force and the police departments are aware of how dangerous and potent it is.”
Fentanyl is a painkiller typically used by cancer patients. Combined with heroin, it can be deadly.
“You have no idea what you’re putting into your body,” Lazzari-Strasiser said. “It’s like playing Russian roulette.”
Patrick Buchnowski is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on twitter.com/PatBuchnowskiTD.