NEW YORK CITY (WPVI) -- A New Jersey woman was arrested after a recent traffic stop in New York City in which authorities allegedly found a powerful narcotic packaged like candy and placed into LEGO boxes.
The brightly-colored drug, dubbed "rainbow fentanyl," has become what federal drug agents on Tuesday called "every parent's worst nightmare."
The arrest of Trenton resident Letitia Bush happened on September 28 when agents and officers stopped a vehicle on the Manhattan side of the Lincoln Tunnel that allegedly contained 15,000 multicolored pills.
The drugs have an estimated street value of $300,000. Bush is charged with criminal possession in the first and third degrees.
The pills were imprinted with "30 M" to resemble 30mg oxycodone hydrochloride pills, usually prescribed to treat severe pain after an operation or a serious injury.
The DEA said it was important to sound the alarm about rainbow fentanyl before Halloween.
"The pills look like candy," said New York City's special narcotics prosecutor Bridgette Brennan. "We believe it is critically important to educate the public about this new form fentanyl is taking."
The DEA and law enforcement partners say it's the first significant seizure of rainbow fentanyl.
Rainbow fentanyl began showing up on the streets on the West Coast in February and has gradually made its way across the country.
The multicolored pills are similar looking to party drugs and are meant to be more appealing so Mexican cartels responsible for trafficking them can cultivate a new market among younger people, according to the DEA's Frank Tarrentino, who called it "newly packaged poison."
"Fentanyl is cheap, it is easy to make and they're able to create these products for cheap and sell them much higher," said Caryelle Lasher, Director of the Camden County Department of Health.
Lasher says fentanyl is responsible for nearly 3,000 overdose deaths in the state of New Jersey in 2021 and that rate has significantly climbed over the years.
"We've had overdoses that have been fatal and taking the lives of people that thought they were consuming Adderall or Xanax or Percocet and really it was all or largely fentanyl," said Lasher.
Lasher says parents should talk with their kids about the dangers of all street drugs because fentanyl is being laced in counterfeit pills made to look like a prescription pill.
The health department is launching a "Fentanyl is Fatal" campaign in South Jersey schools to educate students on the dangers.
"Fentanyl is everywhere and it is on everything," Tarrentino said.
The DEA says it seized 36 million lethal doses nationally after launching a 15-week enforcement and education campaign titled, "One Pill Can Kill."