INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana man has been sentenced to over 15 years in federal prison for trafficking fentanyl and methamphetamine.

The United State Department of Justice reported that 41-year-old Indianapolis native Tyler Sanders will serve 183 months behind bars after pleading guilty to possession of illegal substances with intent to distribute.

The US DOJ noted that Sanders possessed 400 or more grams of fentanyl and 500 or more grams of methamphetamine.

Court documents indicate Sanders was involved in a drug trafficking scheme that was bringing fentanyl and methamphetamine from Mexico to Indianapolis. In a press release, DOJ officials wrote that an investigation into the large-scale drug trafficking operation was opened in February 2019.

Homeland Security Investigations officers conducted surveillance on Sanders’ residence on April 5, 2019, according to the DOJ. Agents saw Sanders load a Chevrolet Suburban with large, black, plastic trash bags before leaving his home.

Soon after he hit the road, Sanders was involved in a traffic stop initiated by Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers because he was speeding on Massachusetts Avenue.

DOJ officials confirmed K-9s were used during the stop. Upon obtaining a positive K-9 alert on the vehicle, IMPD officers located the trash bags that Sanders had previously loaded into the vehicle.

The large trash bags contained smaller plastic bags and plastic-wrapped “bricks,” per the DOJ. Police discovered 33.51 kilograms of methamphetamine in the plastic bags and 3.98 kilograms of fentanyl in the “bricks.”

Sanders’ trafficking of fentanyl posed a great deal of risk to the Indianapolis area because as little as two milligrams of fentanyl can be fatal, according to the DOJ and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. DEA data indicates that one kilogram of fentanyl has the potential to kill 500,000 people. Six out of every 10 fentanyl tablets sold on U.S. streets now contain a potentially lethal dose of the substance, per the DEA.

In its release, the DOJ wrote that fentanyl is now the leading cause of death in the United States. The DEA’s website shows that 58.3 million fentanyl-laced fake pills and 13,000 pounds of fentanyl powder were seized in 2022.

Fentanyl-laced street pills — also known as “M30s” because the letter and number combination is often imprinted on the drugs — are made to look like and simulate the effect of regular prescription medications like Oxycodone, Percocet and Xanax, per the DEA. The DEA strongly encourages the general public to stay away from street pills because they are routinely fake and often contain a poisonous amount of fentanyl.

After he is released from prison, Sanders will be supervised by the United States Probation Office for 10 years. He will also be subjected to a $2,000 fine, per the DOJ.

“We know that a majority of the fentanyl and meth plaguing our streets ultimately comes from international cartels operating across the southern border,” United States Attorney Zachary A. Myers said via press release. “Cutting off suppliers who are responsible for selling and transporting drugs from Mexican cartels is a priority of federal law enforcement. We, alongside HSI and the Drug Enforcement Administration, are committed to weeding out these offenders and making an example of their criminal behavior with serious federal prison sentences.”

Sanders’ sentence was executed by U.S. District Court Judge James R. Sweeney II. The HSI, DEA, IMPD and Indiana State Police investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter A. Blackett prosecuted the case.