Skagit County, WA– Two Skagit County residents are charged in U.S. District Court in Seattle in connection with a drug distribution ring selling fake oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl in Whatcom and Skagit Counties, announced U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran. The pills are linked to the overdose death of a 17-year-old Bellingham teen. ROSALIANA LOPEZ-RODRIGUEZ, 21, of Mount Vernon, Washington, was arrested last week, and her supplier, GIOVANNI ALEJANDRO NUNEZ, 21, was arrested December 3, 2019, following a rapidly moving investigation to track down the source of the tainted pills. Both remain in custody.
“Getting these tainted pills off the street are a top priority for law enforcement,” said U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran. “It is heartbreaking to meet with the families of these overdose victims who lost their children to fentanyl. We will hold those spreading these poisons accountable.”
According to the criminal complaint, a family member found the 17-year-old unresponsive on November 9, 2019. Despite the effort of emergency responders, he could not be revived. Investigators found a whole and a partial pill near the young man. The pills were designed to look like oxycodone 30 mg pills with the letter M and 30 stamped on them. However, they were not genuine and were tainted with fentanyl. Similar pills have been linked to other overdose deaths throughout the Puget Sound region.
The investigation identified LOPEZ-RODRIGUEZ as the person who sold the pills to the victim. In an effort to identify her source of supply, law enforcement utilized undercover officers and confidential sources to purchase pills. Law enforcement subsequently identified NUNEZ as LOPEZ-RODRIGUEZ’s supplier.
Court-authorized search warrants were served last week on the residences of LOPEZ-RODRIGUEZ and NUNEZ. At NUNEZ’s residence, law enforcement located a safe with hundreds of fake oxycodone pills, which matched the appearance of the fentanyl-laced pills linked to the fatal overdose.
“Ingesting any part of these fentanyl-laced pills can be life ending,” warned DEA Special Agent in Charge Keith Weis. “Investigating the sources of these pills remains a top priority for law enforcement along with alerting the public that these pills are dangerous drugs representing dire consequences to our communities.”
“The recent overdose death associated with counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl highlights the growing impact of the opioid crisis,” said Whatcom County Undersheriff Doug Chadwick. “The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office and the Whatcom Gang and Drug Task Force will continue to aggressively investigate those that bring these drugs into our communities”.
Currently both LOPEZ-RODRIGUEZ and NUNEZ are charged with possession of narcotics with intent to distribute. The charge is punishable by up to twenty years in prison.
The charges contained in the criminal complaint are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case is being investigated by the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Whatcom County Drug and Gang Task Force, which is made up of members of the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, Bellingham Police Department, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Homeland Security Investigations. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Seungjae Lee.
Information Written and Provided by U.S. Attorney’s Office is Communications Director Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@usdoj.gov