LOS ANGELES - Cracking down on the opioid crisis in California, authorities have charged 20 suspected drug dealers with distributing narcotics resulting in death.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) along with the United States Attorney’s office held a joint press conference Thursday to announce details of their investigation that led to 11 criminal cases filed against alleged drug dealers who sold or provided narcotics to users who suffered fatal overdoses from opioids such as fentanyl.
According to Tracy Wilkison, Acting United States Attorney for the Central District of California, these cases accuse the defendants of being directly responsible for the death of 12 people.
In one of the cases filed this week, a man allegedly sold fentanyl to people staying at a Redondo Beach hotel… which resulted in the death of two people last October.
Another case states that a 20-year-old man sold counterfeit oxycodone pills, which contained fentanyl, to a 15-year-old boy resulting in his death.
Wilkison says fentanyl has become the prime driver of the ongoing opioid crisis and is involved in more overdose deaths than any other drug.
She says fentanyl is being used to manufacture counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs. Fentanyl is also increasingly being seen in cocaine and oxycodone.
"Most of the victims in this case had no idea that they were taking fentanyl and that costed them their lives," Wilkison stated.
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According to DEA Special Agent Bill Bodner most of the suspects used social media to advertise drugs for sale, many targeting teens.
"When teenagers attempt to purchase prescription drugs on the black market, more often than not they are sold fentanyl. Colored, sized and stamped to look like the prescription drug," Bodner said.
He says one pill is often strong enough to cause death.
As part of their joint investigation with the DEA they are going after street levels dealers whose actions caused death.
In each case announced today, the alleged drug dealer can face a minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
However, in one of the cases, the alleged drug dealer faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison due to prior narcotic distribution convictions, Wilkison announced.
Bodner says the common thread between all the cases are greed, a for-profit crime.