The federal government is currently prosecuting 11 criminal cases against alleged drug traffickers who sold or provided illegal narcotics to people who subsequently died from fentanyl or fentanyl-laced products.
According to a press release by the Department of Justice, the 11 cases name 12 defendants, all of whom are charged with distributing narcotics resulting in death. Many of the named defendants are already serving time in California prisons for related drug charges, while others have cases currently processing through the California court system. If convicted of these additional federal charges, each defendant will face a 20-year mandatory minimum prison sentence at best and life without parole in federal prison at worst--these in addition to state charges they may already face or for which they have already been convicted.
The current federal charges come as a result of an extensive investigation by the DEA's Overdose Justice Task Force, which has been tasked with addressing the recent spike in opioid-related deaths in the Los Angeles area due to fentanyl and other powerful narcotics.
The Growing Fentanyl Problem
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is roughly 100 times as potent as morphine. (A single kilogram of fentanyl is sufficient to kill half a million people.) As a Schedule II controlled substance, it is often prescribed under careful supervision by doctors treating patients for severe chronic pain or post-surgery pain. However, because it is cheap and easy to produce, fentanyl is increasingly being manufactured and sold illegally on the streets, either in pure form or mixed with other illegal drugs like methamphetamine and heroin to increase their potency. Because there is no regulation of the drug in these settings, overdoses and deaths have become problematic. According to the DEA, many users of these products are taking lethal doses of fentanyl unwittingly because it has been pressed into counterfeit pills, which are made to look like legitimate prescription opioids.
The number of opioid-related deaths has spiked dramatically over the past year, prompting a health alert by the CDC, which reported a 38 percent increase in overdose deaths between June 2019 and May 2020. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl are the main driver of this trend. Ten western states (including California) have seen the rate of synthetic opioid overdose deaths go up by nearly 100 percent over this time.
The filing of these federal charges represents the “first steps” by the Justice Department to bring justice to the families who have suffered the loss of loved ones due to the distribution of illegal fentanyl. “While our actions can't bring back a loved one, we hope that we can save other lives by putting these individuals behind bars so they can't continue to distribute dangerous opioids in the community,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Bill Bodner.
The recent aggressive actions by the federal government toward drug-related offenses underscores the need to have skilled legal counsel if you are facing federal drug charges of any kind. For assistance today, call the Sigal Law Group at (818) 325-0570 to schedule a free consultation.