ST. PAUL, Minn. – A Hopkins man was sentenced to life in prison for distributing controlled substances, including fentanyl, which resulted in the deaths of eleven people and serious bodily injury to four people, U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger.
“Eleven lives lost. Families, friends and communities forever changed by the devastation wrought by Aaron Broussard’s deadly fentanyl. Although the trauma felt by the victims can never be undone and the true cost can never be calculated, Mr. Broussard will now spend the rest of his life behind bars,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger.
“Let today’s sentencing serve as a wake-up call to the drug traffickers pushing fentanyl in and around our communities,” said Justin C. King, Special Agent in Charge of the Omaha Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). “As little as two milligrams of fentanyl, equivalent in size to a few grains of salt, is enough to potentially kill a person. The threat of fentanyl is real, and the traffickers who sell this deadly substance will be held accountable for the lives they have taken, the families they have hurt, and the communities they have devastated.
“Today’s sentencing of Aaron Broussard sends a clear message about the crucial role the United States Postal Inspection Service and its law enforcement partners play in protecting American consumers from narcotics. illegal shipments shipped via US Mail.United States Postal Inspectors have pledged to continue their work to dismantle drug trafficking operations to protect USPS customers and employees from greedy drug traffickers who favor the benefit human lives,” said Inspector in Charge Ruth M. Mendonça of the United States Postal Inspection Service, Denver Division.
According to evidence presented at trial, from 2014 to December 6, 2016, 31-year-old Aaron Rhy Broussard obtained controlled substances, including fentanyl, from China-based drug suppliers. Broussard conspired with his China-based suppliers to smuggle what would turn out to be deadly drugs into the country. Broussard marketed these drugs for sale on his website, PlantFoodUSA.net, under the guise of selling plant food. He then used United States Mail and a United States Postal Service “Click-N-Ship” account to send packages of lethal drugs across the country.
On March 12, 2016, Broussard placed an order for 100 grams of 4-FA, a controlled substance analogue, which was shipped from China. The package actually contained 100 grams of 99% pure fentanyl. Although Broussard experienced similar confusion in August 2015 and was repeatedly told to test his medication, he did not. Between March 31 and April 27, 2016, Broussard sent its branded packaging containing fentanyl to more than a dozen customers across the United States. Customers had ordered and expected to receive an amphetamine analogue, similar to Adderall. They were not opiate users and had no tolerance for the deadly fentanyl that Broussard sent them. After ingesting fentanyl, thinking it was Adderall, eleven of the clients died from a fentanyl overdose and at least four clients suffered serious bodily injuries.
Broussard continued to distribute his fatal packages despite hearing of adverse effects. Even after learning that several clients had been hospitalized and nearly died, Broussard never warned his clients not to take the deadly drugs. Broussard contacted its suppliers in China to ask for a discount on its next delivery of drugs.
On March 31, 2022, following a 10-day jury trial before U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, Broussard was found guilty of 17 counts, including conspiracy, importation of fentanyl, possession with intent distributing fentanyl, distributing fentanyl resulting in death, distributing fentanyl resulting in grievous bodily harm, and possession with intent to distribute controlled substance analogues.
During the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson praised the bravery shown by the victims and their families in providing their impact statements to the court. Imposing the life sentence, Judge Nelson told Broussard, “Your disregard for human life is terrifying.”
This case is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, in partnership with Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Protection, the University of Minnesota Police Department, the Police Department of Peoria Heights (Illinois), Dallas Police Department (Texas), Broome County Sheriff’s Office (New York), Volusia County Sheriff’s Office (Florida), Orange (California), Garrard County (Kentucky) Sheriff’s Office, Hazel Green Police (Wisconsin) Department and Atlanta Police Department (Georgia).
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas M. Hollenhorst and Melinda A. Williams prosecuted the case.