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Antonio Morquett Phillips
Courtesy of Catawba County Sheriff's Office

Hickory Man Receives Seven Year Sentence In Drug Case

On Thursday (November 2) U.S. District Judge Kenneth D. Bell sentenced 46-year-old Antonio Morquett Phillips of Hickory to seven years in prison followed by five years of supervised release for distribution of fentanyl. The announcement was made by Dena J. King, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Chief Reed Baer of the Hickory Police Department was among those joining U.S. Attorney King in making Thursday’s announcement.

According to court documents and Thursday’s sentencing hearing, in February 2022, law enforcement initiated an investigation into Phillips for suspected distribution of fentanyl-based pressed pills. During the investigation, an ATF special agent acting in an undercover capacity conducted multiple controlled purchases of fentanyl-pressed pills from Phillips. On May 25, 2022, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Phillips’ residence. During the search, officers seized approximately 1,000 fentanyl pills, five firearms, and body armor.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and remains the deadliest drug threat in the United States. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) One Pill Can Kill public awareness campaign, the agency has seized a record 62 million fentanyl pills to date in 2023, which exceeds last year’s totals of 58 million pills. Laboratory testing indicates 7 out of 10 pills seized by DEA contain a lethal dose of fentanyl

On May 23, 2023, Phillips pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute fentanyl. In making Thursday’s announcement, U.S. Attorney King thanked the ATF, the SBI, and the Hickory Police Department for their investigation of this case. As of earlier today (November 3), Phillips was being held in the Catawba County Detention Facility.