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DEA investigations result in the prosecution of multiple defendants

(SAN DIEGO) - In response to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ call for a 45-day surge in opioid-related enforcement, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations have led to the arrest of multiple defendants in relation to deadly opioids.

The most significant opioid-related cases since the onset of the surge on January 29 include charges against three alleged opioid dealers who are believed to be collectively responsible for eight overdoses, including three deaths, plus the dismantling of a pill-mill operation and action against two doctors.

“The destruction that opioid abuse is causing in our communities is devastating to families, our medical community and the citizens of San Diego,” says DEA San Diego Acting Special Agent in Charge Steve Woodland. “DEA will continue to conduct investigations into both the diversion of prescription opioids by doctors and the illegal distribution of heroin and fentanyl on our streets.”

The United States faces the deadliest drug crisis in our history. Approximately 64,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses in 2016 – the highest drug death toll and the fastest increase in that death toll in American history. This epidemic is being driven primarily by opioids – prescription painkillers, heroin, and synthetic drugs like fentanyl. For Americans under the age of 50, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death.

These cases include:

  • On March 16, 2018, Corey Green was charged with distribution of fentanyl resulting in the death of a Fallbrook man. Two days before he was found dead on the floor of his home, he’d told his wife he’d been sober for 100 days. She called 911 but it was too late.

  • On March 2, 2018, Kyle Shephard was charged with distribution of fentanyl resulting in the death of a 25-year-old Marine Corporal at Camp Pendleton. According to the complaint, Shephard distributed fentanyl pills to the Marine Corporal with Shephard acknowledging that the pills could lead to an overdose.

  • Max Gaffney was arrested January 29, 2018, and charged with distribution of heroin resulting in death. According to the indictment, Gaffney distributed heroin on February 16, 2017, which resulted in the death of a person identified only as K.R.

  • On March 12, 2018, Physician Egisto Salerno, who owns and operates a medical office on El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego, and seven others were arrested on federal charges stemming from their alleged roles in a conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute hydrocodone as part of a ‘pill mill’ operation. According to court documents, Salerno prescribed opioids for dead and incarcerated people. According to the complaint, Dr. Salerno was paid a fee for performing cursory physical examinations on sham patients (often homeless) and prescribing medically unnecessary hydrocodone. The conspirators would then allegedly drive the ”patients” to a pharmacy to pick up the hydrocodone, pay the “patients” in exchange for the hydrocodone, and drop the “patients” off at or near homeless shelters.

  • On March 1, 2018, Joel Rodriguez of Chula Vista, CA pleaded guilty to being the source of fentanyl that resulted in the non-fatal overdoses of five people in Alpine. In his plea agreement, Rodriguez admitted that he obtained fentanyl from Mexico and then delivered it to another person for distribution in San Diego. Eventually, Rodriguez’s fentanyl led to the accidental overdoses of five individuals in Alpine on or about December 7, 2017. The victims, who believed that they were using cocaine, ended up in the hospital, including two who had to be treated at the scene with Naloxone – a drug that reverses the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system caused by opioids.

For more information on opioids and the dangers of opioid abuse, visit www.dea.gov; www.getsmartaboutdrugs.gov , or www.justthinktwice.gov.


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