A Minnesota man was sentenced to life in prison Monday for selling fentanyl online that led to 11 fatal overdoses.
A federal jury in March convicted Aaron Broussard, 32, of Hopkins, of 17 counts including distribution of fentanyl resulting in death. Federal prosecutors said at trial that Broussard’s customers thought they were buying a stimulant similar to Adderall.
Senior U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson praised the bravery of victims and family members who gave impact statements in court, and told Broussard: “Your disregard for human life is terrifying,” the Justice Department said in a news release.
Defense attorney Aaron Morrison argued in a court filing before sentencing that a 20-year prison term would be sufficient, saying his client didn’t know he was mailing fentanyl to his victims. Prosecutors responded that Broussard kept selling fentanyl even after learning some people had become seriously ill.
“Even after he learned that several customers had been hospitalized and nearly died, Broussard never warned his customers not to take the deadly drugs,” the Justice Department said. “Broussard did reach out to his suppliers in China to request a discount on his next drug delivery.”
U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger hailed the sentence, but acknowledged the toll Broussard’s actions had taken.
“Eleven lives lost. Families, friends, and communities forever changed by the devastation brought on 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 remainder of his life behind bars,” Luger said in a statement.
The leading cause of death for Americans between 18 and 45 is fentanyl overdoses. With a majority of the chemicals in fentanyl produced in China, the Drug Enforcement Administration is now calling on the Chinese government to crack down on the supply chain networks producing the illegal drug.
“We would like China to do more,” DEA administrator Anne Milgram. “For example, we need to be able to track every shipment of chemicals that’s coming out of those Chinese chemical companies and coming to Mexico.”
Fentanyl’s threat to teens is also a concern because of how easily fentanyl-laced drugs can be bought online, Milgram said. Three quarters of teen overdose deaths in 2021 involved fentanyl, according to a study published in JAMA in April.