Fentanyl - Photo courtesy of Joaquin Corbalan P on Shutterstock

A convicted felon accused of storing thousands of fentanyl pills, as well as large quantities of methamphetamine and heroin, for sale out of his Cherry Valley home and other properties was charged Tuesday with multiple counts of possession of controlled substances for sale.

Julio Cesar Castillo, 51, was arrested Friday following a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department investigation.

Along with the three possession for sale counts, Castillo is charged with possession of controlled substances while armed, being a felon in possession of a loaded firearm and sentence-enhancing allegations of possessing in excess of 10 kilograms of heroin and over 1 kilogram of cocaine.

The defendant is being held in lieu of $500,000 bail at the Smith Correctional Facility and was slated to make his initial court appearance Tuesday afternoon at the Banning Justice Center.

According to sheriff’s Sgt. Jacob Cooley, Gang Task Force personnel initiated an investigation that resulted in search warrants being obtained and executed Friday at Castillo’s residence on Lambert Road, along with properties in Beaumont and Calimesa.

“Through the warrants, (deputies) seized approximately 28 pounds of methamphetamine, 5.5 pounds of heroin, approximately 2,000 suspected M30 fentanyl pills, 2.5 pounds of fentanyl powder, 400 glass smoking pipes commonly used for smoking meth and one unserialized 9mm `ghost gun,”’ Cooley said.

Castillo was taken into custody without incident.

Court records show that he has prior convictions for being a felon with a gun, unlawful intercourse with a minor and possession of drug paraphernalia.

According to public safety officials, there were 415 fentanyl-related deaths countywide last year. In 2021, there were just over 400 — a 200-fold increase from 2016, when there were two documented poisonings.

Statistics published last May by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed there were roughly 108,000 fatal drug overdoses in 2021, and fentanyl poisoning accounted for over 70,000 of them.

The synthetic opioid is manufactured in overseas labs, including in China, and it can be 80-100 times more potent than morphine, mixed into any number of street narcotics and prescription drugs without a user knowing what he or she is consuming. Ingestion of only two milligrams can be fatal.

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