Federal authorities in Los Angeles Thursday announced 11 criminal cases against alleged drug dealers who sold or provided narcotics to users who suffered fatal overdoses from opioids such as fentanyl or fentanyl analogues.

As a result of the Drug Enforcement Administration-led operation, each of the 12 defendants named in the 11 cases is charged with distribution of narcotics resulting in death. If convicted, each would face at least a 20-year mandatory minimum prison sentence and potential maximum sentence of life without parole in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“These charges are the first steps in bringing justice to the families of victims who often died without knowing they were ingesting some of the world’s most powerful opioids,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison. “The conduct alleged in these cases demonstrates the grave threat people face now that fentanyl is widespread and is commonly hidden in a variety of illicit narcotics. The danger posed by opioids is real — both for unwitting users who risk death and for the dealers who face decades in prison for spreading deadly poison in our communities.”

The cases are the result of investigations by the DEA’s Overdose Justice Task Force, which was created to address opioid-related deaths in the greater Los Angeles area, most of which are caused by the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Under the program for the DEA’s Los Angeles Field Division, DEA agents collaborate with local law enforcement to analyze evidence to determine if there are circumstances that might lead to a federal criminal prosecution, and if so, proactively target the drug trafficker. Since the start of the Overdose Justice program in 2018, the DEA has worked with an ever-expanding list of local police agencies to obtain a dozen federal indictments that specifically charge death resulting from narcotics trafficking.

The 11 cases announced Thursday add to that list of prosecutions. The task force is currently investigating other incidents and expects to file additional criminal cases in Los Angeles federal court.

Defendants include:

— William Vaughn Fulton, 39, of Torrance, who was named in a five-count indictment accusing him of distributing fentanyl that caused two deaths on consecutive days in Redondo Beach hotel rooms;

— Alexander Declan Bell Wilson, 20, of Rolling Hills, who was indicted on one count of distributing pills containing fentanyl that led to the death of a 15-year-old boy on May 15 of last year;

— Sean Robert McLaughlin, 47, of Aliso Viejo, the former security manager at the American Junkie nightclub in Newport Beach, who was charged in an eight-count indictment alleging he distributed furanyl fentanyl, an analogue to fentanyl with a nearly identical chemical makeup. During the early morning hours of Nov. 18, 2016, the indictment alleges, McLaughlin provided a powdered drug to nightclub guests that resulted in three overdoses, one of which was fatal;

— Jason Amin Soheili, 26, of Laguna Hills, who was charged in federal court in Santa Ana with mailing fentanyl to a man in Fillmore, Utah, who died after taking the drugs on Feb. 21;

— Michael Boukhanian, 42, of Northridge, who was named in a one-count indictment alleging he sold counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl on Aug. 27 to a Woodland Hills man who died soon after receiving them;

— Tobin Oliver Wood, 49, of Costa Mesa, who is charged with distributing fentanyl that caused the overdose death of a 32-year-old San Clemente man, who died on the morning of Oct. 2, 2018;

— Calvin Chi, 28, of Hacienda Heights, who has agreed to surrender Friday to face charges related to the death of a 29-year-old woman who overdosed on oxymorphone on Oct. 10, 2018;

— Edwin Lopez, 21, of Riverside, who was indicted on a charge related to a May 17, 2020, transaction in which he allegedly sold counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl to a 20-year-old Fontana man who suffered a fatal overdose two days later;

— Saied Ziafathy Nobar, 57, of the Rancho Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, and his nephew, Amir Ziafathy, 33, of Granada Hills, who face charges of distributing fentanyl that resulted in an overdose death on Dec. 30, 2019;

— Marcos Isaac “Kumar” Rodriguez, 27, who resided in Costa Mesa, but recently relocated to Escondido, who faces federal charges that allege distribution of fentanyl resulting in death and distribution of fentanyl; and

— Bradley Shepley, 35, of Westlake Vilage, who is charged with distribution of heroin resulting in death and with participating in a heroin trafficking conspiracy in relation to the overdose of a 26-year-old man who died in his Oak Park residence on Nov. 6, 2017.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.