11 Investigates: Testing reveals ‘fentanyl’ seized in downtown Pittsburgh was actually cutting agent

PITTSBURGH — The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office said 450,000 doses of fentanyl were seized during a drug bust at a downtown Pittsburgh bus station, but Channel 11 Chief Investigator Rick Earle discovered it wasn’t fentanyl after all.

Earle discovered that the agents out in the field apparently made a mistake.

The Attorney General’s Office said it was stamped as fentanyl and looked like fentanyl, but lab tests revealed it was only a cutting agent, like baking soda.

It was the big news story last fall.

>> Man allegedly caught with enough fentanyl to kill 35% of Pennsylvanians released from jail

A New York man, Yan Cepeda, was busted at the Greyhound bus station in downtown Pittsburgh.

The Attorney General’s office announced the major drug bust in a news release that Cepeda allegedly had nine kilograms of fentanyl, or 450,000 doses worth $1.6 million, along with other drugs.

But 11 Investigates has learned that the fentanyl turned out to be a cutting agent, like baking soda.

It’s used to mix in with the illegal drugs.

A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office told 11 Investigates that the product was stamped and packaged as fentanyl and was field tested by agents.

“After being sent to the lab, testing revealed it as a cutting agent,” wrote the spokesman in an email to 11 Investigates.

The case also drew widespread attention when District Justice Xander Orenstein agreed to release Cepeda on nonmonetary bond.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala criticized Orenstein, arguing that Cepeda, who’s from New York City, is a flight risk.

While the case no longer involves fentanyl, there’s still the 1.1 kilograms of cocaine authorities say Cepeda had on him as well.

The Attorney General’s office said that has been confirmed as cocaine by the lab.

Cepeda, meanwhile, skipped his hearings and hasn’t been seen since he was released by Orenstein.

A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

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