Authorities say they caught a Powell woman accepting a substantial shipment of fentanyl pills that she intended to distribute in the area.
Victoria A. Zupko was arrested on the afternoon of March …
Authorities say they caught a Powell woman attempting to accept a substantial shipment of fentanyl pills that she intended to distribute in the area.
Victoria A. Zupko was arrested on the afternoon of March 21, shortly after she accepted a package that at one point had reportedly contained 10,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl and a pound of methamphetamine. (Authorities reportedly emptied the drugs from the package before covertly delivering it to Zupko.) Both quantities are substantial for this area, and their street value could easily surpass $500,000, authorities say.
Zupko is facing three felony counts in Park County Circuit Court of endangering children. She is alleged to have allowed her three children to remain in an area where meth or fentanyl is possessed, stored or ingested. Law enforcement officials say they found apparent fentanyl pills and residue in various parts of her home on Springhill Road; Zupko’s youngest child was present at the time of the arrest.
Wyoming’s endangering statute used to only apply to meth, but the Legislature expanded the crime in February to include fentanyl — an increasingly prevalent synthetic opioid that can be lethal in even small doses.
At her initial court appearance on Friday, Zupko appeared to express gratitude to those who arrested her.
“I thanked everybody, whether I should have or not, for putting me in this situation,” she said from the Park County Detention Center. “Because I truly am thankful to have saved three kids’ lives.”
While the current charges carry up to 15 years worth of prison, it’s possible that more severe charges could follow from federal authorities, who reportedly have expressed interest in picking up the case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office recently indicted a Cody man, Tucker Wirfel, who reportedly received up to 1,000 fentanyl pills in the mail in December and intended to distribute them.
After being arrested and read her rights last week, charging documents allege that Zupko “admitted … to the distribution of fentanyl-laced counterfeit oxycodone within Park County and the State of Wyoming.”
As of Monday, she remained in the Park County Detention Center, with bail set at $175,000 cash or surety.
Charging documents contain little detail about what led authorities to Zupko’s doorstep. In an affidavit used to support her arrest, Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Shane Reece said only that Zupko had been identified as a fentanyl distributor as part of “a multi-county drug investigation” that has spanned “the course of several months.”
DCI apparently suspected that Zupko was receiving substances through the mail, as Reece asked the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for assistance. And on March 14, the agent received notice that a suspicious package was headed to Zupko’s Powell residence.
The parcel was pulled aside at a USPIS office in Casper and presented to a Casper Police Department K-9 named Banjo. The dog — who is trained to detect the odor of marijuana, cocaine, meth and heroin — alerted to the package, indicating there were illegal narcotics inside, authorities allege.
Banjo’s alert helped the USPIS obtain a federal search warrant and open the package. Inside, they found a black paint can, surrounded by expanding foam and containing roughly 1 pound of meth and about 10,000 fentanyl-laced counterfeit oxycodone tablets.
DCI then worked with USPIS, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Powell Police Department to deliver the package to Zupko on March 21, when only she and her 4-year-old child were home.
A USPIS inspector brought the package to the front door around 9:30 a.m., and left it there when Zupko didn’t answer. Officers continued surveilling the home until around 12:40 p.m., when she brought the package inside.
Officers moved in roughly five minutes later, armed with a search warrant. A “partially consumed” pill was found on the floor by Zupko’s feet near a couch, the agent wrote, while another seven or eight pills, apparent meth and drug paraphernalia were found on her person.
Another 60 to 70 pills were found in the master bedroom, two were found on the floor of the kitchen and living room and fentanyl residue was found on pieces of foil scattered around the house, “within the reach of small children,” Reece wrote.
The child was reportedly frightened by the raid and quickly taken into protective custody by Department of Family Services personnel, who had been on standby, charging documents say. Zupko said the children were later placed with a family member.
With Circuit Court Judge Joey Darrah setting bail at $175,000 cash or surety, Zupko could potentially go free by posting that sum or by paying a bail bondsman 10% of the amount — $17,500.
The prosecutor in the case, Deputy Park County Attorney Laura Newton, unsuccessfully argued for bond to be set at $250,000 and only in cash.
“This case is very serious as far as a risk to public safety,” Newton said, citing the danger posed to Zupko’s children by the fentanyl in the home.
“She also has federal charges pending,” Newton added. “She has great reason to flee.”
In her remarks, Zupko said that if she does make bond, she wants to enter rehab.
Judge Darrah said he also hopes that Zupko is able to receive treatment, but he called the case “very serious.”
“I have friends … [whose] children have died of fentanyl overdoses, and it is a huge public safety concern,” the judge said.
Beyond the concern about Zupko’s children, “I don’t quite understand why there would be 10,000 [pills], that much narcotics in one person’s possession if those were not going to be distributed to somebody else, who potentially could OD on those,” Darrah said.
He indicated that he would be willing to consider a lower bond once Zupko has a court-appointed attorney on board.
(Editor's note: This story was updated on March 30 to reflect that authorities say they emptied the drugs from the package before covertly delivering it.)