SANTA ANA (CNS) - Seven suspected drug dealers are facing federal charges for allegedly selling fentanyl-laced narcotics that caused fatal overdoses, including one case in which three people died in Newport Beach, prosecutors announced today.
The victims include two minors and one community college student. In most of the cases, the victims did not know they were ingesting fentanyl, which can be deadly in tiny amounts. Some of the alleged traffickers knew or had reason to believe their products contained the powerful synthetic opioid, even though they claimed to be selling other narcotics, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
``The opioid crisis has resulted in the widespread distribution of fentanyl and a horrific trail of misery resulting from the untimely death of tens of thousands of Americans each year,'' U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison said in a statement. ``These cases highlight two important lessons, with the first being that many street drugs are contaminated with an extremely powerful opioid that often leads to death. The second is that narcotics dealers face severe consequences in federal court when the distribution of their products results in a fatal overdose.''
All seven defendants being prosecuted in Santa Ana federal court are charged with distribution of fentanyl resulting in death, which carries a sentence of between 20 years and life in federal prison, prosecutors noted.
Prosecutors said the defendants are:
-- William Edward Dick Jr., 51, of Costa Mesa, was arrested Thursday for allegedly selling fentanyl-laced cocaine that killed three people in a Balboa Island house on the night of Oct. 24. A criminal complaint alleges that two couples had gathered in Newport Beach, enjoyed a dinner together and one of them decided to purchase cocaine for the group. They eventually contacted Dick, who agreed to sell them $200 worth of cocaine, which he delivered to the house where the couples were staying. After snorting the purported cocaine, all four suffered overdoses, and three of the individuals were pronounced dead at house the next morning;
-- Omar Alejandro Reynoso, 30, of Costa Mesa, was arrested Monday after a grand jury indicted him last week on two counts of distribution of fentanyl resulting in death. Reynoso allegedly provided counterfeit Xanax pills containing fentanyl to a man and a woman who died in his hotel room in incidents three weeks apart in November 2019. At his arraignment this week, Reynoso pleaded not guilty and was ordered to stand trial on June 14. A magistrate judge ordered him detained without bond while the case is pending;
-- Tyler David Wilkinson, 23, of Santa Ana, was named in a four-count federal grand jury indictment that alleges he sold counterfeit oxycodone pills to a 17-year-old victim who died in Lake Forest of a fentanyl overdose. The victim purchased the pills in June 2021 after responding to an advertisement Wilkinson posted on Snapchat, the investigation revealed. Six months before the transaction that led to the teen's death, Wilkinson allegedly possessed distribution quantities of several types of narcotics, including nearly 1,400 counterfeit oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl. Wilkinson allegedly continued to sell fentanyl-laced pills, even after law enforcement executed a search warrant at his residence. Wilkinson is currently being sought by authorities;
-- Anthony Bernard Fender, 31, of Tustin, was arrested Monday following a grand jury indictment alleging he sold fentanyl powder that resulted in the death of a 40-year-old man. The indictment further alleges that Fender committed the federal offense after being convicted of a drug trafficking crime in Orange County Superior Court in 2013, which, if proven, would subject Fender to a mandatory life sentence;
-- Carter Joseph Klein, 25, of Newport Beach, was arrested on April 14 after being named in a one-count indictment that accused him of distributing fentanyl that led to the overdose death of an 18-year-old Orange Coast College student. Klein allegedly sold fentanyl-laced counterfeit oxycodone pills to the victim in February 2021. Klein was arraigned on the indictment on April 15, when he entered a not guilty plea and was ordered to stand trial on June 7;
-- Isai Hernandez ``Joker'' Higinio, 23, of Santa Ana, was arrested April 1 pursuant to a grand jury indictment alleging he distributed fentanyl in counterfeit Percocet pills to an 18-year-old Tustin resident who died after ingesting the drug. Hernandez was arraigned on April 4, at which time he pleaded not guilty and was ordered held without bond. A trial is scheduled for May 31; and
-- Matthew Benjamin Hurley, 24, of Virginia, was arrested in January on charges alleging that he distributed fentanyl at a motel in Costa Mesa that resulted in a fatal overdose. Hurley, who has been ordered detained without bond, is scheduled to go on trial in Santa Ana on Sept. 27.