Law Enforcement Issues public safety warning about Fentanyl-Laced Pills in Imperial Valley; Alleged Dealer Charged with Supplying Fentanyl that caused fatal overdose of 15-year-old high school student
EL CENTRO, Calif. – The region’s highest-ranking law enforcement officials joined together today to issue a dire public safety alert about the extreme danger of fentanyl-laced pills following the fatal overdose of a 15-year-old boy, the youngest person known to have died as a result of fentanyl in Imperial County.
U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer announced that a complaint was unsealed Wednesday charging 20-year-old Lorenzo Anthony Garcia of Brawley in the overdose death of a young football player from Central Union High School. Garcia was arraigned in federal court in El Centro Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruth Bermudez-Montenegro.
According to the complaint, on the morning of October 8, 2019, the victim’s grandfather tried to wake him up for school, but the child was lifeless and unresponsive. Garcia was allegedly dealing counterfeit blue M30 oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl – known on the street as “blues.” He was also selling Xanax, methamphetamine and other illicit narcotics. Some of his customers were high school students. The complaint alleges that Garcia continued to distribute the counterfeit pills even though he knew about the overdose death.
“The most effective way to prevent tragic deaths like this one is by talking to your kids about drugs,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge John W. Callery. “Tell your kids about the consequences of using drugs and use this story as an example. Because not only did a 15-year-old boy lose his life to drugs, a 20-year-old young man will possibly lose the next 20 years of his life in jail.”
Fentanyl is 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin and so dangerous that, in its purest form, even a tiny amount can be deadly. The price of fentanyl – whether as powder or pill – is declining, meaning that both forms are increasingly available in our community.
“There is no margin for error when kids make a mistake with fentanyl, and the consequences can be deadly,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “Parents! Get educated and teach your children the deadly consequences of taking pills that are not prescribed to them. The pills might be laced with fentanyl, and fentanyl can kill them!”
“This case is a tragic reminder of the fentanyl crisis in the United States,” said El Centro Police Chief Brian Johnson. “The senseless death of a child is a sobering reminder that parents, teachers, and all public safety professionals need to work together to educate our youth and help encourage them to make good decisions about drugs and other dangerous behavior. We hope this tragedy will be a reminder to our youth to not experiment with drugs, alcohol, and tobacco products, all which are harmful to the developing young body and brain. If you know someone is using drugs, be a buddy and have the courage to get them help so we can prevent another tragedy. Working together we can all make a difference.”
“I would like to personally thank U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer for the action his office has taken regarding the senseless death of this young man,” said Imperial County District Attorney Gilbert Otero. “Under his leadership, our Federal counterparts have actively assisted local law enforcement in holding violators accountable for their actions. In the end, those who benefit the most are the victims and the public as a whole. My staff and I look forwarding to continue the relationship both offices have established.”
In San Diego County, officials expect the final tally for fentanyl overdose deaths in 2019 to reach 150. That’s up more than 600 percent from five years ago, and more than 60 percent from 2018. And the rapid increase continues in 2020. So far, Imperial County has not experienced the high number of fentanyl overdose deaths seen in other regions, but the numbers are on the rise.
The Southern District of California, which includes San Diego and Imperial counties, is the fentanyl gateway to the rest of the country. Fentanyl is crossing the border in this district in record quantities. Mexican drug trafficking organizations are using San Diego ports to smuggle fentanyl in record numbers.
Just five years ago, there were only six fentanyl seizures, collectively 68 pounds, by border officials in the Southern District of California. In 2019, however, there were 214 seizures, totaling 1,792 pounds. That’s an increase of more than two thousand five-hundred percent.
Under federal law, sellers and suppliers of drugs that cause death or serious bodily injury may face a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence. In recent years, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged 18 alleged dealers with that 20-year mandatory minimum offense – including today’s case.
OTHER AGENCIES: United States Attorney’s Office, El Centro Police Department