MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The disclosure that some pills found at Princes Paisley Park home and studio were counterfeit and contained the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl strongly suggests the pills came to the superstar musician illegally.

But exactly how Prince obtained the drugs is still unknown, four months after he collapsed in an elevator on April 21 and died of an accidental fentanyl overdose. Authorities have so far revealed little about their investigation, saying it’s active and moving forward.

PrinceAP

Former prosecutors and defense attorneys who are familiar with drug investigations say it’s likely someone will be prosecuted, whether or not Prince knew he was consuming illegal drugs.

“They will not say it was just Prince’s fault and let it go at that,” said Phil Turner, a former federal prosecutor in Chicago now in private practice.

An official close to the investigation told The Associated Press on Sunday that some of the pills found at Paisley Park were falsely labeled as a common generic painkiller similar to Vicodin, but actually contained fentanyl. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, also said that records show Prince did not have a prescription for any controlled substances in Minnesota in the last 12 months.

The only way to get fentanyl — a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more powerful than heroin — is through a legal prescription, or illegally from the black market, said Joe Tamburino, a Minnesota defense attorney.

“When you have weird stamped pills in aspirin bottles, sometimes things are what they seem, which is illegally obtained controlled substances,” Tamburino said. “How he got them? Who knows.”

Fentanyl has been responsible for a surge in overdose deaths in some parts of the country. When made into counterfeit pills, users don’t always know they’re taking fentanyl, increasing the risk of fatal overdose.

Tamburino, who is not connected to the Prince case, said investigators will likely talk to those close to Prince, and they’ll also search the computers, phones and communications of Prince and his associates, to see whether the pills were purchased online. Those searches would typically involve examining text messages, Instagram messages and other communications.

“This is not to say the people close to him are guilty — we have no idea of that. But that’s where it would start,” Tamburino said. He also added that investigators are probably looking at security footage from Paisley Park, if any exists, to see who might have been going to and from the studio.

Gal Pissetzky, a defense attorney in Chicago, said there are many ways Prince could have obtained the drugs: from a close adviser or friend, from a dealer on one of the stops he made as he was on tour, or over the Internet himself. He added that investigators might also use cellphone data to track Prince’s whereabouts.

If someone gave Prince the drug that killed him, that person could face a third-degree murder charge, punishable in the state of Minnesota by more than 12 years in prison, Tamburino said.

In addition, any illegal operation that involved making and dealing fentanyl could open many people up to a host of drug charges, from trafficking to conspiracy. Because the sale resulted in Prince’s death, it would increase the chances that someone could get the maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted, Turner said.

Turner said he believed there was a good chance someone will eventually be charged. Improved forensics tools, including the ability to use narcotics chemical signatures to narrow down possible manufacturers, also increase the chances of arrests.

If China- or Mexico-based producers were involved, American authorities may have to focus on a dealer or doctor in the U.S. who supplied the drugs knowing the substance was illegal, Turner said. But U.S. agents can and do go after suspects based in countries not inclined to closely cooperate with law enforcement here, such as China.

The drugs could also be made by people who are not associated with cartels. Enticed by big profits, small-time drug dealers are buying pill presses online and using low-cost fentanyl powder from China to make fake pills, according to a July 2016 Drug Enforcement Administration intelligence brief.

Dealers unaffiliated with drug cartels can buy a kilogram of fentanyl powder for a few thousand dollars from a Chinese supplier and turn it into hundreds of thousands of counterfeit pills for millions of dollars in profit.

But inexperience has a cost. The small-time operators aren’t mixing fentanyl correctly and turning out pills with varying strengths, some containing three times a lethal dose. “Such wide disparity in dosing reveals that the producers were likely new to incorporating fentanyl in pill production, as the fentanyl was not thoroughly mixed with the other powders before binding and pressing into pills,” the DEA brief said.

Pissetzky said news of the falsely labeled drugs tells him that the pills did not come from a doctor.

“There’s a big, big black market for counterfeit drugs. When people buy these, they don’t personally know, many times, that they are not the real thing, and that’s when you get overdoses,” Pissetzky said.

 

Tarm reported from Chicago.

PHOTOS: AP

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10 thoughts on “Charges Likely In Prince Death Investigation

  1. Everybody here writes like they knew Prince. He would of done this,that, he wasn’t the type to do this…..how do you know? We’re you his close friend? We’re you his relative? It’s all your speculation and stop playing detectives. I’m so tired of reading stupidity. Has it ever occurred to you he had a terrible incurable disease and he wanted out of here? Give me a break

  2. Sally Minh on said:

    Prince was murdered and some one out there knows the truth!!!! All these stupid theories…and 4 months later they find some mislabeled pills..probably placed there by the guilty partly..oh please….spare me the continuous lies and cover ups….wake up people…don’t buy into the bullshit….Love u always Prince💜💜💜

  3. I believe he put his clothes on inside out to alert those that knew him to the fact that there was wrong doing. It’s ludicrous to believe Prince would do so without a reason.

  4. Kelly Obrien on said:

    Had to have been taken out. Prince would never be caught dead with his clothes inside out, some aquaintence dropped him off around 8:00, who the heck was that, i agree he was fearful of harm coming to him, and he was to smart for all of this to go down like it has…..it is sooo obvious, so, prince did not have a cell phone so tracking calls may be difficult, but why hasn’t that been done yet? Why hasn’t the surveillance tapes been thoroghly examined yet? What the heck man!

  5. So who put all these knock off pills all about & in his things & when?
    Who put his clothes on backward?
    Who dropped him off that night & who found him & why was the LA doctor’s son there when he was found?

    Most of us wont take things if we dont know whats in them, much less a mental genius, a health conscious, highly spiritual, controlled perfectionist, with & a strong mental state & awareness, & an advocate for being a better higher self.

    Most of us arent going to put full clothes on when we feel like we may be dying, passing out or running for help in that situation.

    Something is very wrong with the bs theyre feeding!

  6. Kathy McKee on said:

    I am totally convinced that he was murdered. Granted he was taking Tylenol with condine for his chronic hip pain. Having said that, there is no way he knew the pills were laced with fentanyl. The autopsy proved he had not been taking fentanyl for a long period of time. Someone or some people wanted him gone to cash in on his estate. I am also certain he did leave a will and that was stolen by this or those murderers. Really, a man worth 350 million dollars doesn’t have someone advise him he should have a will??? Prince was not stupid by any stretch of the imagination. The truth will come out and whomever did this will be prosecuted!! RIP PRN…. You are a musical icon and will live on forever in the hearts of those who truly loved and admired you!!!

  7. I’ll never believe he wasn’t afraid for his life at the time of his death. I agree with you that he may have been trying to keep his mind busy in an attempt to seek help. I will never believe that he overdosed of his own accord. I’ve always thought he was murdered and that he knew someone was after him. His prolonged periods of being awake I think stemmed from fear and knowledge that his life was in jeopardy.

  8. I’ve said this from the beginning he was murdered and I feel like someone in his inner circle knew what they were giving him but he didn’t I watching you and you know who you r it’s only a matter of time before your caught so do everyone a favor and turn yourself in!! Remember I got my 👀👀👀👀 on you💜

  9. Someone in P’s circle knew exactly what they were doing! I feel that P didn’t know it was fetanyl. That is why his clothes were prob on backwards and his socks inside out. I am no expert, But, Prince could have panicked because he was feeling strange and knew something was not right. P could have put back his clothes on and off to keep his mind going. I think he was afraid…. He might have been in a hurry and ended up in that elevator. Rest N 💜💜💜💜 Maestro

  10. ButterPecan on said:

    I hope they find out who provided mislabeled drugs to Prince. This is totally irresponsible and cost the untimely death of one of the most talented artist of our time! They should be locked away forever!

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