ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WRIC) — The fifth member of a narcotics ring that sold counterfeit Fentanyl pills in Northern Virginia was sentenced Thursday to eight years in prison.

Ericka Oliver, 34, was one of five so far sentenced in the scheme, in which traffickers purchased raw Fentanyl and pressed it into counterfeit versions of prescription opioids, which they then resold to dealers and users in the DC area.

The conspiracy was unraveled in part by the cooperation of two informants, both of whom had previously been dealers who did business with the ring, and both of whom cooperated in hopes of receiving lighter sentences.

The Alexandria Police Department, which initiated the investigation, uncovered extensive evidence of the drug operation during a June 1, 2020 raid of an Alexandria apartment. An affidavit filed by the detective who lead the investigation says they found not only Fentanyl, but also corn starch and other ‘cutting’ agents frequently mixed with the drug to dilute its effects.

That apartment belonged to an individual who turned informant for the police, pointing to Oliver and Taurean Venable, 37, as the distributors of kilogram quantities of Fentanyl.

The informant turned over their cell phone, which contained a long history of communication with Oliver in which they coordinated distribution and supply of the counterfeit pills.

Cell phone messages between Oliver and the informant show them coordinating the purchase of Fentanyl.

Oliver and co-conspirators went to great lengths to disguise the Fentanyl as regulated — though illicit — prescription opioids, purchasing pill presses and expressing frustration when the home-made compounds failed to hold their pill shapes.

In one conversation, recovered from Venable’s phone, they discussed the pressing of pills with an ‘M’ — designed to imitate the prescription opioid Levarphanol.

A conversation between Oliver and Venable shows how concerned they were that their pills closely resembled prescription medications.

According to a sentencing letter filed by prosecutors after Oliver’s conviction, her involvement in the conspiracy afforded her a lavish lifestyle that “included often having large quantities of
cash, driving several vehicles, owning luxury items including watches worth tens of thousands of dollars, and maintaining at least two properties (for a total of $7,204 per month in rent).”

But in their own sentencing letter, Oliver’s lawyers said she had been struggling with an addiction of her own, and was only a small player in a bigger operation.

“Ericka’s heroin use and connection to that world led her to know about Fentanyl,” they wrote. “She neither organized or led anyone.”

Oliver received a shorter sentence than Venable, who was given 10 years in federal prison, and the ring’s leader, Cornelius Frazier, who faces 12 and a half years.