Man Who Was Charged After Kids Ate Gummies From Fentanyl-Positive Bag At School Accepts Plea Deal

A man who was charged after seven elementary school students in Amherst, Virginia, ate gummies from a bag that later tested positive for fentanyl accepted a plea deal on Monday.

After the December incident at Central Elementary School sent five children to the hospital, a search warrant was issued for Clifford Dugan Jr.’s residence, and he was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, WSLS reported. Dugan pleaded guilty to the firearm charge on Monday, and in return, his contributing to the delinquency of a minor charge was dismissed.

Amherst County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Adam Stanley said Dugan’s charges came from the search warrant and are separate from the gummy bear incident at the school, which remains under investigation.

Authorities said in December that one of the students who ate the gummies brought the bag of candy to school and shared the gummies with six other students during lunch. After eating the gummies, two children were rushed to the hospital by ambulance and three others were taken to the hospital by their parents. An SRO at the school noticed residue in the bag that contained the gummies, and the bag later tested positive for fentanyl.

All five students who received medical attention after eating the gummies from the fentanyl-positive bag recovered within a week, the Amherst New Era-Progress reported.

Dugan and 26-year-old Nicole Sanders were arrested shortly after the incident. Sanders was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and the possession of a schedule I or II drug. She is scheduled to appear in court next week, and Dugan’s sentencing is set for August 12.

In 2022, the Drug Enforcement Agency warned of “an alarming emerging trend” of fentanyl pills made to look like candy.

“Rainbow fentanyl—fentanyl pills and powder that come in a variety of bright colors, shapes, and sizes—is a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said. “The men and women of the DEA are relentlessly working to stop the trafficking of rainbow fentanyl and defeat the Mexican drug cartels that are responsible for the vast majority of the fentanyl that is being trafficked in the United States.”

Fentanyl is around 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin, according to the DEA. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that nearly 75,000 Americans died from drug overdoses involving synthetic opioids — which are primarily fentanyl — in 2023, which was a decrease from 2022 when over 76,000 people died from synthetic opioid overdoses.

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