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Wise man pleads guilty in federal fentanyl case

Staff report • Jul 20, 2018 at 12:26 PM

ABINGDON, Va. — A Wise County man has pleaded guilty to illegally importing a powerful narcotic painkiller that he had purchased over the Internet from China.

Kristofer Rucinski, 35, appeared Thursday in United States District Court in Abingdon. According to U.S. Attorney Thomas T. Cullen, Rucinski entered a guilty plea to one count of using a communications facility to unlawfully import fentanyl and fentanyl analogues.

“Fentanyl and other deadly opioids have contributed to a public health crisis in Western Virginia,” Cullen stated in a press release. “We will continue to prosecute those who attempt to import these and other deadly drugs into the United States.”

According to evidence presented during the hearing, Rucinski ordered and attempted to order fentanyl analogues over the Internet to be delivered to his residence in Wise. Fentanyl can reportedly be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and doesn’t need to be ingested to have an effect. According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, by merely touching the substance it can be absorbed through the skin, placing unsuspecting people at risk of overdose.

On Feb. 15, Customs and Border Patrol officers intercepted a package sent from China containing fentanyl that was addressed to Rucinski. A controlled delivery of the package was made six day later to Rucinski’s residence, resulting in a search warrant being executed and Rucinski being arrested.

Additional analogue substances were located in the residence. Rucinski was interviewed by law enforcement and admitted that he had been ordering the drugs from the Internet and using Bitcoin to pay for them.

According to a previous report on the case by the Bristol Herald Courier, Rucinski is a former adjunct professor at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.

Rucinski is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 11. He faces a potential maximum sentence of four years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000.

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