Prosecutors in North Dakota say Oregon man bragged about large powdered fentanyl operation

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FARGO, North Dakota — An Oregon man accused of supplying a powerful synthetic drug that led to at least two fatal overdoses in North Dakota boasted to investigators about the scope of his operation, a federal prosecutor said Friday.

Brandon Hubbard, 40, is accused of selling powdered fentanyl that made several people sick in the Grand Forks area. He has pleaded not guilty in federal court to several charges, including conspiracy to distribute controlled substances resulting in serious bodily injury and death.

U.S. Attorney Chris Myers said during a detention hearing in Fargo on Friday that the seriousness of the charges and Hubbard's own admission about his distribution network shows he should remain in custody until trial, which is scheduled for June 23 in Grand Forks.

"His words were, 'I'm one of the largest — if not the largest — fentanyl dealers in the United States,'" Myers said.

Hubbard was arrested in Portland, Oregon, in February and first appeared in federal court in North Dakota last week.

Defense attorney Charles Sheeley asked for Hubbard to be released to receive medical attention for a chronic arm injury from a biking accident. U.S. Magistrate Judge Alice Senechal ordered that he remain in jail, saying she needed more information before considering a temporary release.

Half a dozen people are charged in the case. Hubbard and three Grand Forks residents are accused of distributing the drugs that resulted in two overdose deaths. A third death in Grand Forks also has been attributed to fentanyl, but police have not named the source in that case.

Investigators say the fentanyl and other drugs were sold on a website only accessible through a router designed to conceal a user's location, Internet usage and identity. All transactions were required to be conducted using the Bitcoin virtual currency system, which investigators say was meant to conceal the drug trafficking operation.

Several agencies in Grand Forks have combined to issue warnings and even a video about the dangers of powdered fentanyl, which police say is 100 times stronger than morphine and 20 to 30 times stronger than heroin, on average.

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