tv 2020 ABC April 27, 2019 10:00pm-11:00pm PDT
vitac -- ♪ he pushed his body to the limit. >> tonight, on an all-new "20/20," the real story on what killed prince. >> i couldn't believe it. i didn't believe it. >> he said don't pray for me yet, i'm all right. one or two days later, he was found dead. >> breaking news, the prince mystery. >> was found dead. >> at the age of 57. >> extremely high levels of fentanyl in his system. >> fentanyl is about 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin. >> his half-sister. >> fentanyl, what is this drug? i had no idea. >> and his former chef. >> i did share, you know, with other people what was happening. and they just chose to ignore it.
>> addicted to pain pills but authorities said killed by black market counterfeits that he didn't know contained fentanyl. >> they made them look like they're made by a u.s. corporation. they're killing people across this country. girlfriends, mothers, sons. >> how can it be that he's gone >> tonight, we're following the trail of deadly fakes. >> they're just dropping. >> just hit the fan. >> overdose, overdose. >> all the way to the source in china. >> should be a high-end chemical company. no prescription needed. cheapest prices. >> who's making it? >> fentanyl is killing people. we know that. >> and who's dying from it? >> prince's death is a warning sign for people because he took something that ultimately killed him. >> good evening, everyone. i'm amy robach. >> and i'm david muir. this is "20/20." reporting tonight on his six-month investigation, here's
bob woodruff. >> ready for takeoff. >> cleared for takeoff. >> reporter: on a cloudy april evening in 2016, a gleaming private jet takes off from the atlanta airport carrying some very special cargo. on board, one of the most iconic musical superstars in the world, the purple one himself -- prince. ♪ ♪ purple rain >> reporter: this is video of prince in atlanta that night for a solo acoustic concert billed as a piano and microphone show. >> this was a stripped down show. and in fact, he did two concerts in one night, then he was scheduled to fly back to minneapolis. >> reporter: sharing that late night flight home, his bodyguard kirk johnson, and close companion 31-year-old performer judith hill. >> judith hill was a well-regarded backup singer. she was hired by michael jackson
to sing a duet on what would have been the "this is it" shows. and she also appeared on "the voice" and did quite well. ♪ >> reporter: hill and prince are about halfway into that flight from atlanta when there's a midair crisis. >> he's just limp. he's like, we're shaking him, there's nothing. >> reporter: in this never before heard audio -- obtained by "20/20" -- hill later tells authorities that all of a sudden her famous companion was slumped over unresponsive. >> he looked dead and i was freaking. i was just like, my heart was pounding. he looks like lifeless, lifeless. kirk and i went straight to the cockpit and we're like, we got to like, "land, we have to land. we have an emergency situation." >> reporter: the jet makes an emergency landing in the small town of moline, illinois, where it's met by an ambulance. >> we got a call sometime in the middle of the night.
>> reporter: in this exclusive audio, one of the paramedics later describes to police the desperate condition of the unconscious superstar. >> in my surprise i said, "that's [ bleep ] prince." so i noticed that he was lying supine and he wasn't breathing. >> he was breathing maybe four breaths per minute. you know that death is near unless there's emergency intervention. >> reporter: to the paramedics, it's clear that prince is suffering from an overdose. so they inject him with an opioid blocking drug called narcan. >> we gave him two milligrams of narcan, which was pretty ineffective. we gave him another two milligrams of narcan and that woke him up. >> and i was like, "oh my god, thank you. he's alive." like, so whatever they did worked. i was like, "i don't know if he's going to make it, but he got through that and i was so thankful." >> reporter: prince is rushed to a moline hospital, where he tells a doctor that he took two percocet painkiller pills after
his show. >> and the doctor essentially says, "b.s., you did not. you took more than one shot to come back from whatever you've taken." >> reporter: for some reason, prince refuses to take a blood test to determine what caused the overdose. but then, his bodyguard hands over an aspirin bottle like this one. >> inside the bayer aspirin bottle were several dozen white oval pills that had a stamp on them, watson 853. >> reporter: watson 853 is the mark for a prescription opioid similar to vicodin. but these pills were not just any painkillers. they were hiding a deadly secret that would reveal itself later. in the morning, prince flies home, leaving behind a mystery. >> no one would have imagined that anything involving drugs would have happened to prince. prince was well-known as being someone who did not take drugs and did not approve of other people taking drugs.
>> reporter: it is not easy to find people close to prince willing to talk about the notoriously private star. but this woman was willing to speak to "20/20" for her first public interview -- chef crystal blanchette. in 2010, crystal landed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as a chef for the reclusive superstar. she went on tour with him and worked at the lavish paisley park complex that serves not just as prince's living quarters, but also has a full recording studio and performance venue. >> it was a beautiful experience to be able to be in the place where he, you know, kind of created his masterpieces. ♪ i want to be your fantasy >> reporter: prince's public persona may have been flamboyant and over the top, like in the iconic video for "kiss." but crystal says she found the private man to be quiet and unassuming. >> he was always a gentleman. when i would go grocery
shopping, he would come out and get the groceries. he would take the trash out for me. he was always respectful to me. >> reporter: but her friendly boss was also suffering from a lot of pain -- a result of all those years dancing frenetically on stage. >> he pushed his body to the limit. you know, he wore those high heels whenever he performed, and he did stuff that you could not believe when you watched him on stage. >> reporter: after getting hip replacement surgery, prince could be seen using a cane -- like here at the 2013 grammy awards. he was prescribed opioid painkillers, and crystal says he became addicted. >> there was a change in his moods. to just be irritable, annoyed, uncomfortable. i saw someone that i just knew i couldn't have in my life anymore. i did share, you know, with other people what was happening.
and, um -- they just chose to ignore it. >> reporter: crystal says she decided to walk away from her dream gig at paisley park. but years later, her fears about prince's addiction seemed to come true during that overdose crisis in moline. with his fans anxiously wondering what went wrong during the incident, prince moved quickly to reassure them that all was well. >> after that plane landed, he put on a party at paisley park to tell everybody who were his fans, "i'm fine. no really, i'm fine." >> reporter: but prince clearly wasn't fine at all. just days after that impromptu party, a man who had just traveled halfway across the country walks up to the front entrance of paisley park, looking for prince. what this visitor would find inside the fabled mansion would be a shocking and horrible twist of fate. >> at the very moment when it looked like prince might get the
help he needed, he had died just hours earlier. >> reporter: stay with us. jake... seresto, seresto, seresto. whatever your dog brings home to you, it shouldn't be fleas and ticks. seresto gives your dog 8 continuous months of flea and tick protection in an easy-to-use, non-greasy collar. seresto, seresto, seresto. ohh no, jake. seresto. 8-month. seresto, seresto, seresto. ♪ ♪ capital one knows life doesn't update you about your credit card. so, meet eno, the capital one assistant that catches things that might look wrong, and helps you fix them. another way capital one is watching out for your money,
when you're not. what's in your wallet? ♪ go! come on! it's nice to know you can be all-in. even when your bladder isn't. poise® liners have a clean and fresh layer, and stay 5x drier. so you can stay you and stay amazing. poise®. the #1 brand for light bladder leaks. it's a revolution in sleep. the sleep number 360 smart bed, from $999, intelligently senses your movement and automatically adjusts to keep you both comfortable. and now, save $400 on select sleep number 360 smart beds. plus free premium delivery when you add a base. ends saturday.
are confusing quilted northern are confusing quilted northernf. for a bouncy castle. they're both durable, flexible and nice to have at parties. but quilted northern is not a bouncy castle. it's just really nice toilet paper. kohl's lowest prices of the season! prices so low - no coupons needed! kids' tops - $5.99... girl's sandals - $16.99... outdoor table top - 60% off... plus - get kohl's cash! it's the lowest prices of the season wednesday through sunday - at kohl's. please sir. there must be something you can do... son.. my father is going. my brothers too. i'd rather die than stay... son, you can't. your heart's not strong enough. my heart is as strong as any. ♪ ...you have to let me go. uncover the lost chapters of your family history with ancestry.
>> reporter: on the morning of april 21, 2016, a man walks up to the front door of one of minnesota's landmark sites, paisley park, the home of prince. his name is andrew kornfeld, and he's the son of a prominent rehab therapist in california, on his way to treat prince. >> andrew kornfeld is put on a red eye from california to the twin cities. he wants to talk to prince and see if he can convince prince to get clean off the opiates that he seems to be on. >> reporter: but even as kornfeld waits inside paisley park to meet prince, in an almost shakespearean tragedy, the 57-year old superstar's dead body is found on the floor next to an elevator. >> that's the thing that breaks your heart. prince almost got the help he
needed, but he didn't. >> we're coming on the air with the breaking news that the pioneering musician, prince has died. >> we do know that prince was found unresponsive at his estate in minnesota. >> reporter: the stunning news of prince's untimely death hits the public like a tsunami, seismic shockwaves of grief and disbelief wash over the legendary performer's legion of fans all over the world. >> how did you feel when you heard the news today? >> devastating. >> it was just horrifying. you're talking about the most talented pop musician of his era. a guy who had the most astonishing assortment of talents that we've ever seen. >> reporter: that talent on full display during this iconic performance at the rock and roll hall of fame. >> so many people danced, fell in love, had the greatest nights of their lives watching prince
perform. the idea that he would succumb to the same thing that had taken so many other artists, that was shocking. >> reporter: that deep sorrow and concern over what caused his death -- >> nice too meet you. >> nice to meet you. thank you for this. >> no problem. >> reporter: -- even more profound among his close family and friends. >> i just couldn't believe it happened, to tell you the truth. >> reporter: in a rare interview, prince's half-sister sharon nelson agreed to sit down with "20/20." did you teach him music? >> oh, no. you don't teach the teacher music. >> reporter: to talk about her precocious musical sibling. >> he played the piano when he was 5. my dad would say, "boy, stop pounding on those keys!" this is a gift, bob. not many are born with it, but god blessed him with that gift. >> reporter: sharon says her
half-brother's sudden death was a complete mystery to his family. >> he said something at the last party he gave. he said, "don't pray for me yet. i'm all right." and one day or two days later, he was dead. >> reporter: to get to the bottom of that mystery, police go through every room of the once off-limits estate. and they find bottles filled with pills bearing that stamp "watson 853." remember, those were the same opioid pills he had with him during that overdose crisis in moline. >> he had a lot of pills that were scattered around and the watson 853 is stamped on these pills. and so watson 853 can be a legitimate pain reliever, similar to vicodin. >> reporter: but then, a huge shock, the coroner's report comes out and reveals that, in fact, prince did die from an overdose. but the culprit was something that took everyone by surprise, a drug called fentanyl. what was your reaction when you realized it was fentanyl? >> well, i looked it up. i had to go google it.
what is this drug? what is it? i had no idea. >> reporter: to find out more about fentanyl, "20/20" came here, the testing labs of the u.s. drug enforcement agency outside washington, d.c. >> fentanyl is what we call a synthetic opioid. it's a very strong pain reliever. >> reporter: fentanyl is legally prescribed in patches to treat people suffering severe pain, like endstage cancer patients. it's recently made headlines as a new way to execute criminals. >> fentanyl is about 30 times to 50 times more potent than heroin, and just as an example, two milligrams of fentanyl would be considered for most of the population a lethal dose. >> reporter: but that begs the question. how in the world did prince obtain this incredibly powerful drug? the startling answer came after investigators tested a sampling of those pills confiscated at paisley park. it was revealed that they were not legitimate prescription painkillers at all.
they're actually counterfeits, laced with fentanyl instead of the real ingredient. that "watson 853" imprint, a complete fake. >> it looks the same as a regular pill. and, see, that's the danger of because you don't know what you're getting. you're getting a potential death pill. it can kill you. >> he wouldn't have taken a pill like that at all, had he known. but if you're taking it for pain, then you think you're gonna get healed, and you're not. you're gonna die first. >> reporter: and it's not just prince. many other unsuspecting americans have fallen prey to black market counterfeit pills containing fentanyl instead of the actual ingredient. everything from fake painkiller pills like oxycodone and percocet to xanax, an anti-anxiety med taken by millions. >> there's so many people that are dying of this thing. whatever it may be, they're putting it out there. >> reporter: a tragic case involving counterfeit xanax
unfolded near the beautiful seaside town of santa cruz, california. here, tosh ackerman grew up an all-american boy with a passion for little league baseball. >> tosh was just a great person, very kind-hearted, very genuine. >> reporter: in october 2015, a friend gave 29-year old tosh a xanax pill after he said he was having trouble sleeping. >> this was his room. >> reporter: the next morning, his mother carrie says tosh was found unresponsive in his bedroom. >> they tried everything they could do to revive him, but it was way too late. it was way too late. it seemed so surreal for the longest time, it still does. how can it be that he's gone and i have to live the rest of my life without him? >> reporter: an autopsy revealed
that, just like prince, tosh had died of a massive fentanyl overdose. that xanax pill, another one of those fake pills laced with fentanyl. it was so toxic that tosh died despite taking less than half of the pill. >> it's russian roulette. you have no idea if this pill is one of those or not. he did not plan to die that night. he had his whole life ahead of him and wanted more. >> reporter: that friend, who gave tosh the counterfeit xanax, was arrested after trying to dump the pills by the side of a road. he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in prison. but what remains unknown -- where those poison pills came from, and more importantly, who made them. you're furious with the ones that actually manufactured these pills -- >> oh, yes. yes. it's greed, just out and out greed. >> those are the people who need to be held accountable. >> you're poisoning people, is ultimately what you're doing. >> reporter: it's the same mystery tormenting prince's family. more than two years after prince's death, authorities still haven't been able to track where his deadly fake pills came from.
>> do you have any idea where these pills came from? >> none whatsoever. they don't care who lives or dies. >> reporter: but coming up, "20/20" travels all the way across the country to follow the trail of one of the men churning out those poison pills. here in this florida garage, a bombshell is uncovered. the secrets of a counterfeit pill maker and who he was selling to -- next. drivers just wont put their phones down. we need a solution. introducing... smartdogs. the first dogs trained to train humans. stopping drivers from: liking. selfie-ing. and whatever this is. available to the public... never. smartdogs are not the answer. but geico has a simple tip. turn on "do not disturb while driving" mode. brought to you by geico. in your noise cancelling trheadphones?ry maybe not. maybe you could trust you won't be next to a loud eater.
(eating potato chips loudly) or you could just trust duracell. (silence) ♪ show your gut some love. only activia has billions of our live and active probiotics. a delicious way to enjoy probiotics every day. with 20 years of devotion to gut health. activia. like no other. delivered to your door try tso you can do more.very. ♪ feels so good ♪ feels so good ♪ feels so good target run and done. when yoyou act fast.uder... boo so do we. raid kills roaches 7 times faster than the next leading ant
>> reporter: if you travel just a little south of the theme parks and resorts of orlando, florida, you'll come to the small town of kissimmee. population, 69,000 souls. that population decreased by one in february 2016, when police answer an emergency call here at this elegant-looking mcmansion. >> 911. >> reporter: inside they discover the body of a 40-year old woman named catherine brady -- dead from an overdose of fentanyl. her boyfriend comes under immediate suspicion.
this man, 36-year old eric falkowski. >> in fact, she was the mother of two of his children. died of an overdose, and as the police came to investigate that, they searched the premises. >> reporter: during that search, police open falkowski's garage and are met with a huge surprise -- bags of bogus prescription pills, everything from percocet to xanax. and they find something else -- bags full of raw fentanyl powder. remember, minute amounts of fentanyl are potentially lethal, yet falkowski has huge quantities of the powerful drug. also in that garage, another astounding find -- a sophisticated pill press and pill stamps that falkowski used to churn out the counterfeit prescription drugs by the thousands. >> even the arresting officer said to me, you can't believe how much drug stuff he has here.
he's like a huge drug store. and i said you should lock him up and throw the key away. >> reporter: falkowski's expertise at creating these potentially deadly counterfeit pills made no sense to catherine brady's father frank, who always regarded falkowski as somewhat of a deadbeat. >> he was pretty worthless and wanted no part of working. he was lazy. he wanted to stay in his jammies all the time. >> reporter: but falkowski was apparently able to find the perfect "work at home" job, making counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl. >> he learned on the internet and from some friends as to how to make the mix. >> reporter: falkowski's lawyer david komisar says it was also easy for his client to simply mail order the printing press and pill stamps online. >> he had bought a pill press off of amazon. he would buy counterfeit pill, dyes that would mimic the look of a percocet off of ebay. >> reporter: e-bay told "20/20" they stopped selling prescription pill dyes a few months ago.
but we were able to still find pill presses being sold by amazon, which told us there can be legitimate uses for them. >> it's scary that people can go online and they can buy a pill press. they can buy the pill dyes. you know, there's obviously laws that control that stuff. but you know, we're not talking about people that are looking to follow the law. >> reporter: the dea showed us how criminals are using the equipment bought online to make their counterfeit pills. >> so the powder would get placed in here, so this will be the fentanyl with any other cutting agent or binder. and then as i spin the wheel, the upper punch will come down, apply pressure to create the tablet, and then up comes tablet. >> so you just take the pill out, put it in the little bottle and sell it. >> reporter: here's another key piece of equipment falkowski was able to easily buy online -- a "v" mixer.
a $3,000 commercial grade pill mixing machine. his ingredients were pill binding powder and crushed tylenol mixed with raw fentanyl, which is much cheaper and more potent than other opioids. >> he felt like he had a relatively safe formula that would mimic the effect of a percocet. >> with a load of pills that he makes in a day, how much would he make? >> he could make $400, $500 over a course of a day. >> reporter: falkowski thought he had hit the jackpot with his counterfeit pill operation, showing off his expensive home and flashy vehicles on his facebook page. but it all came crashing down when his girlfriend died after taking his product. falkowski was arrested by and charged with illegal drug possession. and to the relief of catherine's grieving family, was seemingly headed for a very long prison sentence. >> i'd like to punch him in the mouth. he's not sorry. he's sorry he got caught and his
lifestyle has been uprooted. he should be in jail forever. >> reporter: that's what catherine's father may have thought. but we're on falkowski's trail as he heads to tennessee, where the number of his victims skyrockets. >> it just hit the fan. it was just one after another. overdose, overdose. >> reporter: a fentanyl overdose crisis in a college town. when we return. [music and singing in the background] [music and singing in the background] [music and singing in the background]
get four lines of unlimited data feafor $100 a month,! action! plus four free smartphones when you switch! now jump! cut? jump! lunch? no, jump!!! is this a lunch order?! jump!!! ooooh do they have chimichangas? mom? ¡mom! mom! mommy at t.j.maxx we believe just because the name's the same, doesn't mean the gift should be. mom deserves better, and you do too. get quality gifts she'll love, at prices you'll love. maxx life at t.j.maxx charmin ultra soft! ♪ it's softer than ever. charmin ultra soft is softer than ever... so it's harder to resist. okay, this is getting a little weird. enjoy the go! with charmin!
you need to place yourself whilein the moment.ears, ♪ our products make the wins more victorious... and the rewards even sweeter. you need confidence in the appliances you select to build the home and life you love. our products and services bring moments like these to every family. shop top-brand appliances including kenmore at sears. ♪
welcome to nashville. for your countried safety -- >> reporter: on this day, we're following the trail of that counterfeit pillmaker from kissimmee, florida, 700 miles north to a small town close to nashville, tennessee. >> the fentanyl problem in this country is growing so fast, just hitting city after city. this is the town of murfreesboro, and this one has got a terrible story. >> reporter: in july of 2016, the quiet of this small college town was shattered by a series of emergency calls.
>> go ahead, caller. >> my fiance, he's od'd on something. >> reporter: paramedic jody hobbs says the calls flooded in from all over town. >> it just hit the fan. and it was just one after another. overdose, overdose. >> reporter: one victim found here in this burger king parking lot. >> and he wasn't breathing? >> no, he was not breathing at all. >> they were just droppin'? >> yeah, like flies. literally. >> reporter: another woman found collapsed inside this biker bar. >> yeah, pretty much came in here, seen her in the bathroom and pulled her out. >> reporter: all told officials say there were 20 overdose calls in a 24-hour period, stretching emergency responders close to the breaking point. >> we were running low on narcan. so many doses had been used, we're like if this keeps up -- >> we're in trouble, yeah. >> reporter: what paramedics discovered was causing the alarming outbreak, these percocet painkiller pills, bearing the stamp a333.
but just like those pills that killed prince and tosh ackerman, it's discovered they're complete fakes containing the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl. >> it was marked as percocet, looked just like a percocet. exact same markings. >> oh, it looked exactly like it. >> reporter: while paramedics are able to save most of the victims, it was too late for two of them, including a woman found here at this housing complex, 33-year-old tiffanie scott. >> we get there, and we go to the back bedroom, and she was in her bed and she had died. >> reporter: just like prince, tiffanie's family says she was given pain drugs after a medical procedure and was left hopelessly addicted. >> but when the government just started cracking down on these legal opioid prescriptions, tiffanie, and a lot of americans, just turned to the black market, to buy their pills, right there on the streets. >> she thought she'd be doing her every night or everyday habit, take one and go to bed, and she never woke back up. >> reporter: tiffanie's family, keenly interested in finding out who gave her those fatal
counterfeit percocets. her brother derrick says one of tiffanie's friends revealed to him that the supplier was someone named "punky." >> i started questioning, i was like, what's punky's last name? where's he living at? >> reporter: it turns out "punky" is the nickname of a local man named jonathan barrett. he's arrested. and during his interview with police, barrett admits to callously continuing to sell those deadly pills for $9 a pop even after learning from a friend that they were causing overdoses. >> she was like, "those pills ain't percocets. they messed monk and cassie up where they had to go to the hospital." >> okay, do you sell more pills after that? >> yeah. >> okay, then when do you find out that somebody dies? >> later that day. >> reporter: barrett and other tennessee dealers are charged with selling the counterfeit percocet pills. through them police are able to track the pills back to the person who made them. and believe it or not, it was none other than eric falkowski -- that man remember months
earlier falkowski was arrested after his girlfriend catherine brady died of a fentanyl overdose and police discovered a sophisticated pillmaking operation in his garage. catherine's family thought falkowski was going to be quickly locked away. but to their horror, that's not what happened. >> the next thing i knew, he was out on bail and i go, oh man, he'll take off. >> reporter: and sure enough, a flat-broke falkowski leaves florida in his tracks and ends up in nashville, tennessee. here in music city, he hooks up with a drug dealing associate who wants him to set up a new pillmaking operation. this time on the cheap. >> the one thing that he needed that was seized in his previous arrest was this commercial grade v-mixer. it costs several thousands of dollars. and the person that was having him make these drugs refused to buy that. >> reporter: so komisar says falkowski's partner came up with another idea -- a shocking one. to mix the pill ingredients together in an empty milk jug. >> and it was this mixing of
these chemicals together, in a milk jug, which resulted somewhat like the three little bears. some of the pills had zero fentanyl in 'em, some of the pills had just a right mix. and there were people that took 'em who died. >> reporter: and -- you guessed it -- it was those very same poorly mixed counterfeit pills that caused that terrible outbreak in murfreesboro. >> we're angry because of, knowing what this guy did. he came to tennessee and done the same thing to his, you know, girlfriend. >> just i mean, why? how do you sleep at night? >> reporter: after those deadly pills were traced back to him falkowski was arrested yet again. he and his associates were convicted of illegal drug distribution and are looking at 20 years to life. >> he feels horrible about what he's done. that's the only reason i'm doing this interview is to warn people -- don't mess with fentanyl. it's just too dangerous to use. it will take you out whether
you're a rock star, or you're a street junkie. >> reporter: but there remains one burning question for the families of falkowski's victims -- just how did he and other pillmakers get their hands on that potentially lethal fentanyl powder in the first place? >> they need to find the source or where the people are getting the, um, the raw fentanyl. i mean, they gotta cut it off at the source. because it's falling in the wrong hands. >> reporter: coming up -- "20/20" follows the source of the fentanyl. >> no prescription needed -- cheapest prices. >> reporter: going online to reveal the people peddling the deadly power. >> fentanyl, when it comes to the united states, is killing people. you know that. >> i know that. >> reporter: as we follow the fentanyl trail to an improbable place thousands of miles away. >> it should be a high end chemical company. >> reporter: when "20/20" continues.
and relief from symptoms caused feel the clarity of non-drowsy claritin by over 200 indoor and outdoor allergens. like those from buddy. because stuffed animals are clearly no substitute for real ones. feel the clarity. and live claritin clear. kohl's lowest prices of the season! prices so low - no coupons needed! women's tank tops - $5.99... young men's tees and tanks - two for $12... the big one bath towel or pillow - $2.99... plus - get kohl's cash! it's the lowest prices of the season wednesday through sunday - at kohl's.
see that park up there, that's where i think they're coming down from. >> reporter: our journey to find the source of illegal fentanyl took us here -- lawrence, massachusetts, where dea agents are targeting possible customers trying to buy raw fentanyl powder on the streets. >> if it's down here and it's a dope deal, it's fentanyl. >> it's all fentanyl now. >> female coming up. >> yeah, that's her. >> female with tan dress and cigarettes. >> reporter: watch closely as this female drug courier is spotted dropping off a package containing fentanyl to an undercover informant posing as a prospective customer. >> she's in the car right now. and they're doing the deed. >> that's her down there. >> reporter: with the location now confirmed as a hot spot for fentanyl deliveries, a suspected buyer is trailed as he leaves the area in this pickup truck. >> vehicle just committed to 213.
>> that's them right there. >> reporter: the state police pull the vehicle over, and a search of the driver's cigarette carton hits pay dirt -- five grams of fentanyl powder. >> so if that is five grams and it's somewhere gonna be around 50 dosage units, i mean, there's possibly a lot of death. >> reporter: but alarmingly, it turns out there's a much easier way to score fentanyl powder without the risk of getting busted on the streets. it's the very same way that convicted pillmaker eric falkowski got his fentanyl. and it's as easy as the click of a mouse. >> he did the research on the internet and discovered that he could literally go online and find fentanyl in china. >> straight from china? >> coming straight from china. yes, sir. they were in a u.s. postal service box. they were packaged and sent directly to his home. >> reporter: u.s. officials say criminals like falkowski are exploiting china's huge, poorly regulated chemical manufacturing industry to get their illegal
fentanyl shipments. here at u.s. entry points, like jfk airport in new york, customs officers fight a nonstop battle to detect incoming packages containing fentanyl. >> you have to hunt for it. we've got concealments like a teddy bear, greeting cards. we've got different kinds of concealment, makes it more difficult. >> do you have any idea what percentage is from china as opposed to other countries? >> the vast majority is from china. >> reporter: but could it really be that easy to mail order fentanyl from china? to find out, "20/20" simply googles "buy fentanyl online." and just check out the search results. >> no prescription needed, cheapest prices. >> reporter: chinese websites brazenly offering fentanyl for sale. this one even features a clever promotional video. >> forget about the questionable quality of the product, forget about problems with customs. >> reporter: we inquire about purchasing 250 grams of fentanyl. >> i am looking to buy some
fentanyl. >> reporter: enough to make thousands of counterfeit pills. and we get plenty of takers, offering to sell to us for $1,200 to $1,600 and ship to the u.s., no questions asked. so we decide to take it a step further -- thousands of miles further. in fact, traveling all the way to china to find out just who is behind those e-mails. here in beijing, we're able to coax a representative of one of those websites to speak with us on skype. >> hello, is this lucy? >> yes. >> hey, i'm now here in beijing. >> reporter: this friendly customer service rep called "lucy" was eager to show off her product to us. >> you want to see the product? i can show you the video, to take it now let my factory workers. >> reporter: and sure enough, a short while later we receive this video of what we're told is
raw fentanyl powder. lucy also sends us these photos showing how the fentanyl will be packaged to get it past u.s. customs. wrapped in foil bags and labeled as sports powder. but when we ask if we can arrange a face-to-face meeting, "lucy" suddenly balks. >> so can we come to where you are? >> no, sorry. i also cannot be sure if you are a real buyer. maybe after a long time, i will trust you. >> reporter: so we decide to try to find the fentanyl labs ourselves, taking the five-hour bullet train ride to wuhan. a hub of chemical manufacturing in china, and the city that lucy's website and others list as their place of operations. here in this sprawling city of 19 million, people we spoke to on the street said they had never even heard of fentanyl. >> never heard of it.
people in china mail this to the united states? >> china mailed it to the usa? >> yeah, and it's very dangerous. people could die. >> of course that's very bad. >> reporter: we next pay a visit to the addresses in wuhan listed on the websites of those fentanyl-selling labs. looking for 1503. let's ask him. come on in. but here at this wuhan office park, we find a wedding planning company instead of a fentanyl manufacturer. >> they moved in last october, so the company's gone since maybe march. >> reporter: it was the same at this building, listed as the address for a company willing to sell us fentanyl online. >> human pool. that's not it. nobody in this building had ever heard of this company. so the address on their website, clearly it's a lie. >> reporter: what we found comes as no surprise to u.s. authorities, who say most of these labs are actually clandestine, underground operations.
like this place, raided last year by chinese police. >> we're going to talk to one of the chinese officials who can tell us about fentanyl. this is the ministry of public security. >> reporter: to find out exactly what the government is doing to crack down on the illicit fentanyl trade, we arranged an interview with a senior director at the drug control office. >> given the fact that in the u.s. the demand for fentanyl is skyrocketing, do you think that it's even possible that china can stop the exportation of fentanyl to the united states? >> translator: i want to make it clear that it's impossible for fentanyl that's produced legally in china to be exported to the u.s. so it must be done by criminals using underground processing plants and the internet. >> we got online and bought fentanyl very easily. and there was one woman we spoke to named lucy, who said she could send this to us in the united states. is there any way to stop this
from happening? >> translator: i agree that cybercrime is a challenge to every nation. if there are banned substances that violate the law, we'll conduct criminal investigations. >> reporter: but as for the friendly lucy, despite the government promises of a crackdown, she says her company has no plans to stop selling illegal fentanyl to the u.s. >> but you're okay selling illegal drugs? [ speaking chinese ] >> do you know who prince is? >> no, sorry. >> he is very famous. there have been a lot of people dying from fentanyl. are you okay with that? >> i know that. they don't know how to use this. someone use more of this product then they will die. so you must know how to use, then it's safe. >> reporter: that callous response does not sit well with the families of fentanyl overdose victims in the u.s. >> the more they allow this to
come into the country, this ingredient fentanyl, it's gonna lead to more deaths, unless people wake up, you know? >> reporter: next, prince's loved ones still looking for justice. >> you want somebody to be found responsible? >> i do. i do. we're gonna fight until we find 'em. >> reporter: stay tuned. my copd medicine... ...that's why i've got the power of 1 2 3 medicines with trelegy. the only fda-approved 3-in-1 copd treatment . ♪trelegy. ♪the power of 1-2-3. ♪trelegy 1-2-3 trelegy. with trelegy and the power of 1 2 3, i'm breathing better. trelegy works 3 ways to... ...open airways,... ...keep them open... ...and reduce inflammation...
...for 24 hours of better breathing. trelegy won't replace a rescue inhaler for sudden breathing problems. trelegy is not for asthma. tell your doctor if you have a heart condition or high blood pressure before taking it. do not take trelegy more than prescribed. trelegy may increase your risk of thrush, pneumonia, and osteoporosis. call your doctor if worsened breathing, chest pain, mouth or tongue swelling ...problems urinating, vision changes, or eye pain occur. think your copd medicine is doing enough? maybe you should think again. ask your doctor about once-daily trelegy and the power of 1 2 3. ♪trelegy 1-2-3 save at trelegy.com we've transformed this home to show the keurig k-café brewer makes any house a coffee house. just pop that in for a coffee or brew a shot and froth milk for a latte or cappuccino. easy peasy. now she's a barista! it's so frothy. a little piece of heaven. thank you. but how's the coffee? are confusing quilted northern for robes. they're both cushiony, comforting, and add elegance to your home. but quilted northern
is not a robe. it's just really nice toilet paper. ♪work so hard give it everything you got♪ ♪strength of a lioness tough as a knot♪ ♪rocking the stage and we're never gonna stop♪ ♪all strength, no sweat... just in case you forgot♪ ♪all strength, no sweat... ♪no no no sweat... it's a revolution in sleep. the sleep number 360 smart bed, from $999, intelligently senses your movement and automatically adjusts to keep you both comfortable. and now, save $400 on select sleep number 360 smart beds. plus free premium delivery when you add a base. ends saturday. (laughter) no woman should resist the urge to laugh her bladder off. for women with light to heavy leaks, poise absorbs 40% faster than always discreet. so you can stay you
and stay amazing. poise, the #1 brand for light bladder leaks. poise, the #1 brand ♪ this euphoriaw feels phenomenal ♪♪ ♪ feels so good ♪ better than my birthday ♪ feels so good ♪ higher than a jet plane ♪ feels so good ♪ swish up on that fadeaway ♪ feels so good ♪ even got my own parade ♪ come on ♪ what a feeling get your game on with same day delivery order pickup and drive up. target run and done.
>> reporter: over three years after the tragic overdose death of prince, sharon nelson has not given up on finding out who gave her half-brother those deadly counterfeit pills. >> dad gave him music. >> reporter: you want somebody to be found responsible? >> i do. i do. we're gonna fight until we find
'em. >> for his family members and for the people left behind, they want answers, you know? where did these drugs come from? >> reporter: but despite a lengthy, intensive investigation, authorities have been unable to crack the case. >> law enforcement worked so hard to try to find out who gave them those pills. and we were unable to determine that. >> reporter: why is that so hard? >> well, it's difficult because, for one, i think he was very private. >> reporter: authorities say their job was made more difficult by a wall of silence from prince's inner circle -- some of whom refused to even be interviewed by investigators. >> not everybody was willing to be candid and open. >> reporter: though the two-year criminal investigation into prince's death was closed, attorneys for his family have started their own civil investigation. >> his family would like us to get to the bottom of this because they would like to save other people's lives. >> if this could happen to prince, it could happen to anybody else in america. >> reporter: meanwhile, the ackerman family is taking
another course of action. carrie luther, the mother of tosh ackerman, killed by that counterfeit xanax pill, has become a crusader. she travels the country to speak about the dangers of the counterfeit pill epidemic. on this day, speaking at the national press club in washington, d.c. >> my son didn't plan to die that night. i never planned to outlive my child. >> reporter: tosh's family determined to not let his death be in vain. a huge mural in tosh's memory has been painted outside his father's skateboard shop. >> this will never be gone over. this will be here as long as i'm here. >> i miss tosh every day. and i am thankful that his death is going to potentially save hundreds of lives, if not more. >> reporter: an optimism shared by the family of prince. >> when he passed, every light on every building was purple around the world. so i believe that his fans probably will never take that
pill, and others should learn from it. hopefully his death can start a conversation in this country. tonight the cdc now says last year alone in this country more than 72,000 people died from drug overdoses. many of those cases involving fentanyl. >> so if you have a family member or a loved one dealing with opioid addiction, you can go to our website, abcnews.com for more resources that could help. that is our program for tonight. i'm amy robach. >> i'm david muir. thank you for watching. good night.