Federal prosecutors have charged seven people with distributing lethal doses of fentanyl that have killed 10 people in Orange County in recent years.
The cases announced Friday underscore the extent to which the powerful synthetic opioid has penetrated the illicit drug market in Southern California. Most of the people who overdosed in the cases had used cocaine or counterfeit prescription pills unbeknownst to them with fentanyl, according to prosecutors.
All seven defendants, who are charged on separate counts rather than an overarching conspiracy, face charges of distributing fentanyl resulting in death. If convicted of the crime, they would each face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.
William Dick Jr., 40, is charged with selling drugs to four people at a Newport Beach home last October, three of whom overdosed and died.
The sole survivor told police that he and his wife went to a house on Balboa Island where their friends were staying, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent wrote in an affidavit. The man said he called a dealer where he had bought cocaine in the past and ordered $200 worth of the drug, the affidavit said.
The dealer showed up at the house on Diamond Avenue and gave him a white powder, which he said was cocaine. The man said he, his wife and their friends snorted the substance. Eventually he felt tired and lay down; When he woke up, he found his wife and friends unresponsive, so he called 911.
According to the affidavit, investigators found text messages on the man’s phone discussing the drug delivery. From the messages, detectives identified Dick as the alleged dealer and obtained a search warrant to search his Costa Mesa home, where they found multiple guns, ammunition and a zippered bag containing cocaine residue, the affidavit said. Under the floor mat of Dick’s Ford Explorer were two plastic bags that contained about 8 grams of fentanyl, the DEA agent wrote.
Dick, who was arrested Thursday, has yet to file a plea.
In another case, a grand jury on Wednesday indicted 23-year-old Tyler David Wilkinson for selling counterfeit oxycodone pills to a 17-year-old who overdosed and died in Lake Forest last June. According to prosecutors, the teenager had responded to an ad Wilkinson placed on Snapchat.
Wilkinson, a Santa Ana resident, remains at large.
And Carter Joseph Klein, 25, is accused of selling counterfeit oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl to an Orange Coast College student who died in February 2021. Klein, a Newport Beach resident, was arrested earlier this month and has pleaded not guilty.
The other defendants are Omar Alejandro Reynoso, 30; Anthony Bernard Fender, 31; Isai Hernandez Higinio, 23; and Matthew Benjamin Hurley, 24.
Reynoso, who lives in Costa Mesa, has pleaded not guilty to providing counterfeit Xanax pills containing fentanyl to a woman and man who overdosed in 2019 and died in separate incidents. Higinio and Hurley have also pleaded not guilty to their cases.
Fender allegedly sold a fatal dose of fentanyl to a man in March 2021 after he was convicted of drug trafficking in Orange County Superior Court in 2013. If convicted on the new charges, Fender faces a mandatory life sentence.
In his affidavit, the DEA agent detailed a strange twist in Dick’s case.
A week after the overdose, the man who survived the laced cocaine showed up at the Newport Beach Police Department with an attorney who, according to Dick’s girlfriend, was also representing himself and Dick, the agent wrote.
Based on text messages from the surviving man, investigators suspect the attorney, who is not named in the affidavit, brokered the drug deal, the affidavit states.
In conversation with the lawyer present, the man denied having bought cocaine. According to the affidavit, his new story was that when he got into the Balboa Island home, the cocaine was already there, on a tray on the coffee table. Agents suspect he coordinated this detail with Dick, who described a similar tray during the search of his home, the affidavit said.