Leader of major opioids manufacturing & trafficking ring pleads guilty

Oct 26, 2018

Federal authorities say they have brought down the leader of a major opioids manufacturing and trafficking ring that has been supplying New York's Southern Tier and Northern Pennsylvania.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says Robert Ian Thatcher, 30, of Elmira is facing a minimum penalty of 10 years in prison, a maximum of life and a $10 million fine for his role leading the importation of furanyl fentanyl from China on the dark web and converting it into pills that look like Percocet.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Harvey says at least two people died from the pills, while another overdosed more than once but was revived using Narcan.

The U.S Attorney's Office says the illegal opioids were manufactured to look like these blue Percocet pills.

“This defendant and his co-conspirators may have thought they could elude law enforcement detection by purchasing supplies through the so-called ‘dark web,’ but as this investigation showed, that is clearly not the case,” said U.S. Attorney James Kennedy. “Whether these criminals choose to pedal their deadly poison in urban, suburban or rural areas, we will track you down and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law. The opioid epidemic has taken far too many lives, but thanks to the efforts of many, including law enforcement, health officials and treatment and prevention organizations, we are starting to stem this deadly tide.” 

To date, authorities say 13 people connected with the ring have been convicted of federal narcotics offenses. Each is awaiting sentencing.

Another Elmira resident, Isaiah McLaurin, was convicted in September 2017 of witness tampering, after he made threats on Facebook against a Drug Enforcement Administration agent during the investigation. McLaurin was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison.