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Three Defendants Arrested in Connection with Illegal Fentanyl Pill Manufacturing Operation

JUN 10 (SAN FRANCISCO) –Kia Zolfaghari, King Edward Harris II, and Candelaria Dagandan Vazquez were named in a federal criminal complaint alleging that they conspired to run an illegal fentanyl pill manufacturing operation out of an apartment in the Sunset District of San Francisco, announced United States Attorney Brian J. Stretch and Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge John J. Martin. 

According to the complaint, which is now unsealed, Zolfaghari, 39, of San Francisco, is alleged to have operated a pill press in his apartment to manufacture counterfeit oxycodone pills, which did not contain oxycodone but instead were laced with fentanyl.  Fentanyl, a Schedule II controlled substance, is a highly potent opiate that can be diluted with cutting agents to create counterfeit pills that attempt to mimic the effects of oxycodone, and can typically be obtained at a lower cost than genuine oxycodone.   However, small variations in the amount or quality of fentanyl can have significant effects on the potency of the counterfeit pills, raising the danger of overdoses. 

The complaint alleges that Zolfaghari sold over 1,500 fentanyl-laced pills, over the course of six transactions, to a confidential source working with law enforcement.  The complaint further alleges that Harris, 34, of Oxnard, brokered these narcotics sales in a series of recorded calls with the confidential source and hand-delivered two of those purchases to the confidential source. 

According to the complaint, Zolfaghari also sold the fentanyl-laced pills to customers through an online marketplace.  The complaint alleges that Zolfaghari’s wife, Vazquez, 38, of San Francisco, conspired with him to carry out his drug trafficking operation, and delivered packages of pills for mailing, purchased packaging supplies, and accepted payments for narcotics via her bank account.

Zolfaghari, Harris, and Vazquez were arrested this morning and made their initial appearance today in federal court in San Francisco before the Honorable Laurel Beeler, U.S. Magistrate Judge.  Their next court appearance will be before Judge Beeler at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, June 13, 2016.

A complaint merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of 20 years, and a fine of $1,000,000 or twice the gain or loss from their criminal activity, for each violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846.  However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rita Lin is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Amanda Martinez and Theresa Benitez.  The prosecution is the result of a seven-month investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, the Internal Revenue Service, the United States Postal Service, and Customs and Border Protection, with assistance from the San Francisco Police Department and San Francisco Fire Department. 

This case is the product of an extensive investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, (OCDETF) a focused multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force investigating and prosecuting the most significant drug trafficking organizations throughout the United States by leveraging the combined expertise of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.


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