Seven charged with distributing fentanyl that killed 10 in Orange County
Federal prosecutors have charged seven people with distributing fatal doses of fentanyl that killed 10 people over the last several years in Orange County.
The cases, announced Friday, underscore the degree to which the powerful synthetic opioid has pervaded the illegal drug market in Southern California. Most of the people who overdosed in the cases had used cocaine or counterfeit prescription pills that, unbeknown to them, were laced with fentanyl, according to prosecutors.
All seven defendants, who are charged in separate cases and not an overarching conspiracy, are accused of distributing fentanyl resulting in death. If convicted of the offense, they would each face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.
William Dick Jr., 40, is charged with selling drugs to four people at a Newport Beach home last October, three of whom overdosed and died.
The lone survivor told police that he and his wife had gone 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 from whom he’d bought cocaine in the past and ordered $200 worth of the drug, according to the affidavit.
The dealer showed up at the house on Diamond Avenue and gave him a white powder that he said was cocaine. The man said he, his wife and their friends snorted the substance. At some point he began to feel tired and laid down; when he woke up, he realized his wife and friends weren’t responsive and he called 911.
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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 got a warrant to search his Costa Mesa home, where they found several guns, ammunition and a zip-lock bag with cocaine residue, the affidavit says. Under the floor mat of Dick’s Ford Explorer were two plastic bags that contained about 8 grams of fentanyl, the DEA agent wrote.
Dick, who was arrested Thursday, has yet to enter a plea.
In another of the cases, a grand jury on Wednesday indicted Tyler David Wilkinson, 23, on charges of selling counterfeit oxycodone pills to a 17-year-old who overdosed and died in Lake Forest last June. The teen had responded to an advertisement that Wilkinson placed on Snapchat, according to prosecutors.
Wilkinson, a resident of Santa Ana, remains at large.
And Carter Joseph Klein, 25, is charged with selling fake oxycodone pills that were laced with fentanyl to an Orange Coast College student who died in February 2021. Arrested earlier this month, Klein, a Newport Beach resident, has pleaded not guilty.
The others facing charges are Omar Alejandro Reynoso, 30; Anthony Bernard Fender, 31; Isai Hernandez Higinio, 23; and Matthew Benjamin Hurley, 24.
Reynoso, who lives in Costa Mesa, has pleaded not guilty to allegations he provided fake Xanax pills that contained fentanyl to a woman and man who overdosed and died in separate incidents in 2019. Higinio and Hurley have also pleaded not guilty in their cases.
Fender allegedly sold a fatal dose of fentanyl to a man in March 2021, after being convicted of dealing drugs in 2013 in 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 the laced cocaine showed up at Newport Beach police headquarters with a lawyer who, according to Dick’s girlfriend, was also representing herself and Dick, the agent wrote.
Based on the surviving man’s text messages, detectives suspected that the attorney, unnamed in the affidavit, brokered the drug deal, the affidavit says.
Interviewed with the lawyer present, the man denied buying cocaine. His new story, according to the affidavit, was that the cocaine was already there when he got to the Balboa Island home, on a tray on the coffee table. Agents suspect he coordinated this detail with Dick, who described a similar tray during the search of his home, the affidavit says.
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