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Daniel Puerta-Johnson was an introverted and kind teenager.
His friends would often go to him for relationship advice, Daniel’s father, Jaime Puerta, told Fox News. Daniel was 16 years old during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when he reached out to a drug dealer on Snapchat.
It was March 2020, and Daniel was battling depression. He was seeking an oxycodone pill to self-medicate.
Jaime thought it was suspicious when Daniel asked to walk the dog one day.
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In hindsight, Puerta said, Daniel was getting what the teen thought was oxycodone.
But, at dinner a few hours later, all seemed normal to Jaime. The two had a lovely evening together, Jaime recalled. Daniel hugged his father and gave him a kiss on the cheek before saying goodnight just as he had always done.
The next morning, Jaime found Daniel dead is his bedroom. His only son had died of a fentanyl overdose. Jamie was one of 70,000 Americans killed between December 2020 and December 2021, many of them children under 18 like Daniel who tried a pill laced with fentanyl for the first time.
“He was just an innocent kid. He made one dumb decision, and he died. Daniel didn’t deserve to die. We’re not supposed to bury our children,” Puerta told Fox, heartbroken over his son’s sudden death.
Puerta, a former U.S. Marine, is president of an organization that advocates for victims like Daniel. He spreads awareness so other parents are spared the experience of losing a child as he did. His organization is called Victims Of Illicit Drugs, known as VOID.
Some experts contend the fentanyl problem has become a national security issue involving state-sponsored attacks.
Puerta agrees that it is.
“Is this a way of China attacking our democracy? I would think so. There’s so much fentanyl right now in this country that it’s enough to kill every single man, woman and child in the United States,” Puerta said.
China remains the primary source of fentanyl, a drug that kills more than 100 people in the U.S. every day. The Drug Enforcement Administration says China remains the primary global source of fentanyl for the world.
Two techniques are used to deliver the drug to the U.S. It is either shipped to the U.S. directly via international mail or shipped via Mexico. In some cases, Chinese sellers label these deadly drug shipments with Spanish-language advertisements to help clear customs. U.S. lawmakers say the crime syndicates in China operate with the knowledge of the Communist Party.
Once in Mexico, traffickers take the fentanyl to clandestine labs and try to dilute it, often times with imprecise measurements and equipment. It’s then smuggled across the border into the U.S., where they are already partnered with distribution networks. At the end of the supply chain are money laundering networks, set up to get these deadly drugs into the hands of America’s unsuspecting youth.
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“The Chinese Communist Party is involved in just about everything economically, business-wise, coming out of China, and you have Chinese scientists that have partnered up with the cartels,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn, told Fox.
Blackburn has teamed up with Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., to sponsor the bipartisan Kids Online Safety Act of 2022. Advocates say the U.S. government needs to view this in terms of national security.
“Fentanyl isn’t being sold in any other country in the world other than the United States and Canada,” Gretchen Peters, executive director of the Alliance to Counter Crime Online, told Fox. “It’s flooding into these countries and, at first, I thought it was an exaggeration that this was in some way state sponsored. Now, I’m not so sure.”
In August 2021, the State Department offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of People’s Republic of China national Zhang Jian, the leader of the alleged Zhang Drug Trafficking Organization in China.
Between 2013 and 2016, with Zhang acting as principal leader and organizer, the criminal organization imported and distributed fentanyl into the U.S., leading to overdose deaths of four Americans in North Dakota, Oregon, North Carolina and New Jersey, according to the Justice Department. It also led to serious health issues for five other Americans.
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China officially banned the production of fentanyl in 2019 under pressure from the Trump administration, pushing the Chinese drug manufacturers into Mexico, which is now a key part of the supply chain.
The Chinese Embassy pushed back in a statement from its spokesperson.
“These assertions are highly irresponsible and utterly false,” the spokesperson said. “Up to now, China has not found any scheduled precursor chemicals trafficked to Mexico or received any notification from the Mexican side about seizing scheduled chemicals originating from China.
“Such made-up allegations show zero sense of responsibility towards American fentanyl abuse victims and their families and seriously mislead the Chinese and American people.”
Jaime Puerta suggests parents pay more attention to what their kids do on social media and to talk to them about it often.
“All we need to do is make one bad decision and you’re dead. And that’s unfathomable. It’s unconscionable. And I believe that our government has to do something about this immediately,” Puerta said.
He wants Daniel to be remembered as a beautiful old soul.
“All he wanted to do was good in this world,” Puerta said. “That’s all he wanted to do. He just wanted to graduate on stage with his friends. He wanted to go and pursue a college education in systems engineering. He wanted to spend a lot of time with his girlfriend. He wanted to build himself a nice life. And that’s all gone. It was all gone in the second. And now we have to deal with the consequences.”