Seven accused of distributing fentanyl that killed 10 people in Orange County

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Federal prosecutors have charged seven people with distributing lethal doses of fentanyl that have killed 10 people over the past few years in Orange County.

The cases, announced on Friday, underscore how the powerful synthetic opioid has taken over the illegal drug market in Southern California. Most of the people who overdosed in those cases had used cocaine or counterfeit pills that they unknowingly were mixed with fentanyl, prosecutors say.

The seven defendants, who are charged in separate cases and not part of an overall conspiracy, are charged with distributing fentanyl causing death. If convicted of the offence, they each face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.

William Dick Jr., 40, is accused of selling drugs to four people at a Newport Beach home last October, three of whom overdosed and died.

The lone survivor told police he and his wife went to a house on Balboa Island where their friends were staying, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent wrote in an affidavit. The man said he called a dealer he had purchased cocaine from in the past and ordered $200 worth of drugs, according to the affidavit.

The dealer showed up at the Diamond Avenue house and gave her a white powder which he described as cocaine. The man said he, his wife and their friends snorted the substance. At one point he began to feel tired and stretched out; When he woke up, he found his wife and friends unresponsive and called 911.

Detectives found text messages on the man’s phone in which he discussed the drug delivery, according to the affidavit. Using the messages, detectives identified Dick as the alleged dealer and obtained a warrant to search his Costa Mesa home, where they found several firearms, ammunition and a zip-lock bag containing gunpowder residue. cocaine, the affidavit states. Under the floor mat of Dick’s Ford Explorer were two plastic bags containing approximately 8 grams of fentanyl, the DEA agent wrote.

Dick, who was arrested Thursday, has not yet pleaded guilty.

In another of the cases, a grand jury on Wednesday indicted Tyler David Wilkinson, 23, for selling counterfeit oxycodone pills to a 17-year-old who overdosed and died in Lake Forest last June. The teenager had responded to an ad Wilkinson had placed on Snapchat, prosecutors said.

Wilkinson, a resident of Santa Ana, remains at large.

And Carter Joseph Klein, 25, is accused of selling fake oxycodone pills containing fentanyl to an Orange Coast College student who died in February 2021. Arrested earlier this month, Klein, a resident of Newport Beach, pleaded not guilty.

The other defendants are Omar Alejandro Reynoso, 30; Anthony Bernard Fender, 31; Isai Hernández Higinio, 23; and Matthew Benjamin Hurley, 24.

Reynoso, who lives in Costa Mesa, has pleaded not guilty to allegations that he provided fake Xanax pills containing fentanyl to a woman and a man who overdosed and died in separate incidents in 2019. Higinio and Hurley also pleaded not guilty in their cases.

Fender allegedly sold a lethal dose of fentanyl to a man in March 2021, after he was convicted of drug trafficking in 2013 by Orange County Superior Court. If convicted on the new charge, Fender could face a mandatory life sentence.

In his affidavit, the DEA agent detailed a strange twist in Dick’s case.

A week after the overdoses, the man who survived mixed cocaine showed up at Newport Beach police headquarters with an attorney who Dick’s girlfriend said was also representing herself and Dick. writes the agent.

Based on the surviving man’s text messages, detectives suspect the lawyer, whose name is not mentioned in the affidavit, brokered the drug deal, the affidavit says.

Questioned with the lawyer present, the man denied having purchased cocaine. His new story, according to the affidavit, was that the cocaine was already there when he arrived at the Balboa Island house, on a tray on the coffee table. Officers suspect he coordinated this detail with Dick, who described a similar set during the search of his home, the affidavit states.

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