2 men who sold fentanyl that killed California firefighter sentenced to federal prison
Two San Diego County men who sold a lethal dose of fentanyl to a Cal Fire firefighter were sentenced last week to more than a decade in prison, federal prosecutors said.
Justin Mata, 41, and Everett Curtis, 48, both of Poway, were charged in the January 2021 death of Brian Parrish, 45. They pleaded guilty to fentanyl distribution charges, admitting they knowingly supplied the drugs that led to Parrish’s death, prosecutors said.
U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant sentenced Mata to 15 years in prison and Curtis to 12½ years.
On Jan. 30, 2021, Curtis and Parrish exchanged text messages about buying fentanyl acquired from Mata, federal prosecutors said. Curtis picked up Parrish and the two drove to a casino to meet Mata, who provided the firefighter with the drug, prosecutors said.
Parrish died the next morning of an overdose, prosecutors said.
In L.A. County, the number of deaths linked to fentanyl rose from 109 in 2016 to 1,504 in 2021, the county public health department found.
“Brian Parrish dedicated himself as a firefighter to combating California’s deadly wildfires, and his loss is tragic for his family and the entire community,” U.S. Atty. Randy Grossman said in a statement. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will relentlessly pursue justice for victims like Brian, and continue to hold dealers accountable under federal law when their drugs result in death.
“If you are a dealer — find a different business — you will be caught and no money you make from fentanyl is worth the hard time you will spend in a federal prison cell,” Grossman said.
Parrish’s family described him as a loving, funny, “nature boy,” according to court records. Parrish’s father said he was “born smiling,” according to prosecutors.
Parrish’s fire captain told the court that Parrish “was a great firefighter” who “loved what he did” and “what the job represented.”
Fentanyl deaths among teens more than doubled from 2019 to 2020, increasing from 253 to 680. Last year, the number jumped to 884, according to a report from the Journal of the American Medical Assn.
A third defendant in the case, Ashley Cohen, 28, of San Diego, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring with Mata, her boyfriend, to distribute fentanyl. Cohen was not implicated in Parrish’s death. She was sentenced to more than three years in federal prison.
According to a recent San Diego County drug abuse task force, prescription drug overdose deaths have decreased, but fentanyl overdoses increased in 2021. They make up 93% of the 873 total deaths last year.
People seeking help to deal with addiction can call the San Diego County Access & Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240.
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