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Oxnard man sentenced to five years in prison for brokering sale of fentanyl pills

(SAN FRANCISCO) – King Edward Harris II was sentenced today to five years in prison for distributing fentanyl pills, announced United States Attorney Brian J. Stretch and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge John J. Martin.

Harris, 35, of Oxnard, pleaded guilty on April 7, 2017, to six counts of distributing and possessing with intent to distribute fentanyl.  According to the plea agreement, Harris admitted that, over the course of six transactions, he brokered the sale of over 2,300 counterfeit oxycodone pills created by a supplier operating a pill press in San Francisco.  Although the pills were marked as genuine oxycodone pills, they were instead laced with fentanyl.  Harris admitted that, in total, the pills contained over 160 grams of fentanyl. 

On November 29, 2016, federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment charging Harris with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, as well as six counts of distribution and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). 

Fentanyl is a dangerous and highly potent opiate about 100 times more powerful than morphine.  Just two milligrams of fentanyl can constitute a lethal dose.  Fentanyl is particularly dangerous when it is used to create counterfeit pills.  Illegal pill press operations will sometimes use fentanyl, which is cheaper than other opiates, to create fake pills that are stamped to look like genuine oxycodone pills.  Because fentanyl is such a powerful opiate, a small difference in the amount of fentanyl in a homemade pill can make a huge difference in its potency.  Counterfeit pills containing fentanyl have already been linked to numerous unintentional overdoses by users who believed they were ingesting a much less powerful opiate.

“Counterfeit pills made with fentanyl represent a fearsome public safety threat to our communities and intensify the opioid crisis,” said U.S. Attorney Stretch.  “The distribution of fentanyl must be stopped and our office will continue to fight against its devastating effects on the men, women and children in northern California.” 

The sentence was handed down by the Honorable Susan Illston, U.S. District Judge, following Harris’s guilty plea.  Judge Illston also sentenced the defendant to a five-year period of supervised release.  The defendant was remanded into federal custody and will begin serving the sentence immediately.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rita Lin is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Amanda Martinez, Rawaty Yim, Theresa Benitez, and Wincy Wong.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the DEA, United States Postal Inspector, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and the Internal Revenue Service.


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