Pill City: How Two Honor Roll Students Foiled the Feds and Built a Drug Empire

In 2015, two West Baltimore computer geek teens engineered the city's largest-ever prescription drug heist and proceeded to upend and disrupt forever the traditional street-corner drug business. With police preoccupied by protests after Freddie Gray's death, Willie "Wax" Harris and James "Brick" Feeney hooked up with leaders of the Black Guerrilla Family street gang to steal pharmaceutical opiates worth $100 million from a dozen neighborhood drugstores. Possessing a premium product at zero cost and with their own algorithm, they set up a darknet-encrypted phone service for serious addicts and rookies to order pills anonymously at rock-bottom prices with Uber-like doorstep delivery. They called their business Pill City, and crime journalist Kevin Deutsch (The Triangle) tapped into his street resources and gang access to discover who they were and how they did it.

With direct connection to Wax and Brick over their encrypted lines and firsthand observation of the old-school street gangs fighting to protect their livelihood, Deutsch connects the dots. Pill City examines how these wonky sons of junkie moms bypassed probable college scholarships to take the express train to riches. Along the way, they unleashed bloody turf wars and seeded a multitude of largely poor African American addicts and overdose fatalities. Streetwise, brutal, deeply researched and filled with candid interviews from both sides of the law, Pill City is true-crime reporting with an edge--while the opiate epidemic it describes is still gaining steam across the United States. Pill city has become pill country. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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