SAN FRANCISCO – A federal grand jury has charged Matthew Sanchez and Francisco Javier Schraidt Rodriguez with distribution of fentanyl resulting in death and conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute fentanyl and alprazolam in connection with a scheme to transport the drugs from Mexico to California, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Daniel C. Comeaux.
According to the indictment filed October 6, 2020 and unsealed today, between about June 2018 and November 2019, Schraidt Rodriguez, 61, a pharmacist in Mexico, smuggled bottles of alprazolam and counterfeit, fentanyl-laced pills across the border from Mexico to California. Once he was in the United States, Schraidt Rodriguez shipped these bottles and pills to a drug dealer in Monterey County. The dealer, in turn, then sold some of the bottles of alprazolam and fentanyl-laced pills to Sanchez. The indictment further describes how Sanchez, 25, of Monterey County, once in possession of the drugs, sold some of the bottles and pills to an individual who also was living in Monterey County. The individual ingested one or more of the fentanyl-laced pills and, as a result, died of a fentanyl overdose on September 5, 2019.
“Fake Oxycodone pills are flooding Monterey County,” said U.S. Attorney Anderson. “These fake pills are laced with fentanyl. The drug dealers who are pushing these fake pills couldn’t control the amount of fentanyl in them even if they cared. Fentanyl is dosed in micrograms. Dealers don’t have the equipment or the ability to control what they are selling. Our young people are dying by the score from ignorance and indifference.”
“Sadly, we are seeing overdose deaths from fake prescription pills dramatically increase. The profit margin for selling these pills is very small, but the lethal margin of error for those who ingest these pills is minute,” stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Comeaux. “A $5 profit from selling one of these pills could also lead to a potential 20 years in prison.”
Fentanyl, a Schedule II controlled substance, is a highly potent opiate that can be diluted with cutting agents to create counterfeit pills that purport to mimic the effects of Oxycodone, and can typically be obtained at a lower cost than genuine Oxycodone. However, small variations in the amount or quality of fentanyl can have significant effects on the potency of the counterfeit pills, raising the danger of overdoses. Fentanyl has become the leading cause of drug overdose deaths in the United States. In this case, the counterfeit, fentanyl-laced pills that Schraidt Rodriguez and Sanchez distributed were shaped and colored to resemble Oxycodone pills that are sold in the legitimate marketplace. The counterfeit pills, known as M30s, are round tablets that are light blue in color with an “M” imprinted on one side and a “30” imprinted on the other.
The indictment alleges that, during Sanchez’s and Schraidt Rodriguez’s drug distribution scheme, Schraidt Rodriguez sold approximately $81,859 worth of counterfeit, fentanyl-laced M30 pills; bottles of alprazolam; and other narcotics to a drug dealer in Monterey County. This drug dealer sold Schraidt Rodriguez’s fentanyl-laced M30 pills and bottles of alprazolam to Sanchez. At the peak of their drug sales, Sanchez bought approximately 100 counterfeit, fentanyl-laced M30 pills at a time from this drug dealer.
The indictment alleges that during the period of the conspiracy, Schraidt Rodriguez confirmed to the Monterey County drug dealer that the counterfeit M30 pills contained fentanyl, and that drug dealer, in turn, told Sanchez that the counterfeit M30 pills contained fentanyl. Sanchez communicated with the decedent by text messages and other means to arrange sales. Certain of these text messages stated that the M30 pills to be provided to the decedent contained fentanyl.
In sum, Sanchez and Schraidt Rodriguez are charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute fentanyl and alprazolam, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C), and distribution of fentanyl resulting in death, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C).
An indictment contains allegations only and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted of the conspiracy charge, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison. If convicted of the distribution resulting in death charge, the defendants face a statutory mandatory minimum sentence of at least 20 years in prison, and a maximum statutory penalty of up to life in prison. In addition, the court may order terms of supervised release, fines, forfeitures, and restitution, However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Both Sanchez and Schraidt Rodriguez are in custody on federal arrest warrants. Sanchez’s next federal court appearance is scheduled for October 9, 2020, at 10:30 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kandis A. Westmore. Schraidt Rodriguez’s next appearance in federal court is scheduled for October 13, 2020 in the Southern District of California, where the court will address issues related to his later appearance in the Northern District of California to face these charges.
This case is being prosecuted by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California. This case is the result of an investigation by member agencies of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, a focused multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force investigating and prosecuting the most significant drug trafficking organizations throughout the United States by leveraging the combined expertise of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The case was investigated by the DEA, with assistance from the Customs and Border Protection, Office of Field Operations; the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations; and the Pacific Grove Police Department.