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Drug Enforcement Administration

Seattle

Frank Tarentino, Special Agent in Charge

January 12, 2021

Contact: Jodie Underwood

Phone Number: (206) 553-1162

Mount Vernon, Washington, woman pleads guilty to conspiracy to distribute fentanyl-tainted pills

Pills caused fatal overdose in Whatcom County

SEATTLE - A 22-year-old Mount Vernon, Washington, woman pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to conspiracy to distribute fentanyl.  Rosaliana Lopez-Rodriguez sold counterfeit oxycodone pills tainted with fentanyl in Skagit and Whatcom Counties.  The pills are connected to at least two overdoses, including the overdose death of a Bellingham 17-year-old.   Lopez-Rodriguez and a co-conspirator were arrested in December 2019, after an investigation to track down the source of the tainted pills.  Both defendants have been in custody since their arrests.

According to records filed in the case, a family member found the 17-year-old victim unresponsive on November 9, 2019.  Despite efforts of emergency responders to resuscitate, the victim died; the  cause of death was later determined to be fentanyl overdose.  Investigators found a whole and a partial pill near the 17-year-old victim.  These pills were designed to look like oxycodone 30-milligram pills, with “M” and “30” stamped on them.  But, they were fakes tainted with fentanyl.  Similar pills have been linked to other overdose deaths throughout the Puget Sound region.  In fact, a friend of the 17-year-old victim nearly died after smoking one of the pills in November 1, 2019.  Lopez-Rodriguez knew of that near-fatal overdose when she sold the 17-year-old victim more pills on November 9, 2019.

As part of her plea agreement, Lopez-Rodriguez also admitted selling an undercover law-enforcement officer fentanyl pills, which Lopez-Rodriguez stated she had received from the co-conspirator.  In addition, Lopez-Rodriguez admitted that during this investigation, law enforcement served court-authorized search warrants at each defendant’s residence.  At Lopez-Rodriguez residence, in her bedroom, law enforcement found two and a half fentanyl pills.  At the co-conspirator’s residence, law enforcement found a safe containing hundreds of fake oxycodone pills that matched the appearance of the fentanyl-laced pills linked to the fatal overdose.  Lopez-Rodriguez admitted that the co-conspirator had provided her with the pills that killed the Bellingham 17-year-old.

The co-conspirator is scheduled for trial in May 2021. 

Lopez-Rodriguez faces a mandatory minimum five years in prison and up to forty years in prison when sentenced by Chief Judge Ricardo S. Martinez on April 16, 2021.  Under the terms of the plea agreement, the prosecution and defense will each recommend a term of imprisonment between five and eight years.  Chief Judge Martinez is free to impose any sentence allowed under the statute.

The case is being investigated by the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Whatcom County Drug and Gang Task Force, which is made up of members of the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, Bellingham Police Department, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and Homeland Security Investigations.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jonas Lerman.

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