SANTA ANA, California – A San Fernando Valley man was sentenced today to 180 months in federal prison for selling fentanyl to a 22-year-old man who suffered a fatal overdose approximately 20 minutes after ingesting the drug.
James Dorion Rodriguez, 29, of Van Nuys, was sentenced by United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney. Rodriguez pleaded guilty in December 2019 to one count of distribution of fentanyl resulting in death.
Less than one month after he had been convicted in a separate drug trafficking case, Rodriguez arranged to sell cocaine to the victim. Investigators believe that Rodriguez intended to sell cocaine to the victim, but accidentally gave him fentanyl in the March 18, 2018 transaction.
The victim then ingested the drug and drove away. Hours later, the victim was found dead in his car in a nearby parking lot in Sherman Oaks. Based on telephone records, the victim died within 20 minutes of snorting the fentanyl.
Court documents filed in this case detail how investigators used surveillance video, phone records and witness statements to determine that Rodriguez supplied the narcotics to the victim only hours before he was found dead.
Rodriguez continued to deal in fentanyl and other opioids after the victim’s death. In September 2018, investigators executed a search warrant of Rodriguez’s car and found approximately 7 grams of powder fentanyl, a digital scale, multiple notebooks documenting drug dealing, and plastic baggies. After his arrest by federal authorities later that month, Rodriguez confessed to dealing fentanyl and delivering drugs to the victim on the night of the victim’s death.
This investigation in this case was conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration. This was the first pursuant to a law enforcement partnership established to aggressively investigate opioid overdose deaths and prosecute the responsible drug dealers.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Benjamin R. Barron, Chief of the Santa Ana Branch Office.