Federal Authorities Announce 11 Cases Charging Alleged Drug Dealers with Providing Opioids that Led to Fatal Overdoses | USAO-CDCA

          LOS ANGELES – Federal authorities today 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 operation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration, each of the 12 defendants named in the 11 cases is charged with distribution of narcotics resulting in death. If convicted, each defendant would face at least a 20-year mandatory minimum prison sentence and a potential maximum sentence of life without parole in federal prison.

          “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 United States 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 collaborative work to build these cases demonstrates our shared commitment to go after individuals who push fentanyl within our communities and further the opioid crisis, devastating families across the nation,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Bill Bodner. “Drug dealers who market and sell counterfeit pills via online marketplace and social media platforms may think they can hide behind technology and are absolved from responsibility, but they are not. While our actions can’t bring back a loved one, we hope that we can save other lives by putting these individuals behind bars so they can’t continue to distribute dangerous opioids in the community.”

          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 the synthetic opioid fentanyl. Under the Overdose Justice 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 approximately one dozen federal indictments that specifically charge death resulting from narcotics trafficking. The 11 cases announced today add to that list of prosecutions. The Task Force is currently investigating other incidents and expects to file additional criminal cases in federal court.

          The 11 cases announced today include seven new cases that were filed this week and one case in which prosecutors this week filed special allegations that would lead to a mandatory sentence of life without parole in federal prison if the defendant is convicted. The cases are summarized below.

          U.S. v. Fulton

          William Vaughn Fulton, 39, of Torrance, was named in a five-count indictment filed Tuesday that accuses him of distributing fentanyl that caused two deaths on consecutive days in Redondo Beach hotel rooms. In addition to the two charges of distributing fentanyl resulting in death, Fulton is charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, and being a felon in possession of ammunition.

          The indictment alleges that Fulton distributed fentanyl on October 10, 2020 to a person who died, and the next day he allegedly distributed fentanyl at another hotel where another person died after ingesting the drug. When he was arrested on October 13 by the Redondo Beach Police Department, Fulton allegedly possessed more than two ounces of fentanyl and over 2.5 ounces of methamphetamine. Police also seized two 9mm “ghost guns” and 12 rounds of ammunition Fulton allegedly illegally possessed because, from 2004 through 2017, he previously had been convicted of 24 felony offenses.

          Fulton is currently in state prison after pleading guilty to related charges. The United States is seeking a writ to bring him into federal custody.

          The DEA and the Redondo Beach Police Department are investigating this matter. Assistant United States Attorney Jenna Williams of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section is prosecuting the case.

          U.S. v. Wilson

          Alexander Declan Bell Wilson, 20, of Rolling Hills, was arrested Wednesday after being indicted on Tuesday on one count of distributing pills containing fentanyl that led to the death of a 15-year-old boy on May 15, 2020. Law enforcement reviewed Snapchat conversations between the two that show the victim thought he was buying oxycodone, a commonly used and widely abused semi-synthetic opioid.

          Wilson is scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment this afternoon.

          The DEA and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department are investigating this matter. Assistant United States Attorney Marina A. Torres of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section is prosecuting the case.

          U.S. v. McLaughlin

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

          In the indictment filed Wednesday, McLaughlin also is charged with possessing hydrocodone, cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy for distribution on the same night as the overdoses. McLaughlin is further charged with distributing cocaine in September 2016.

          McLaughlin was initially charged in December 2017 by Orange County District Attorney’s Office, which has agreed to allow the United States Attorney’s Office to take over the prosecution.

          The DEA and a task force officer from the Seal Beach Police Department are investigating this matter. The Newport Beach Police Department referred the case to federal authorities last year. Assistant United States Attorney Bradley E. Marrett of the Santa Ana Branch Office is prosecuting the case.

          U.S. v. Soheili

          Jason Amin Soheili, 26, of Laguna Hills, was arrested Wednesday pursuant to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday in federal court in Santa Ana. Soheili is charged with mailing fentanyl to a man in Fillmore, Utah, who died after taking the drugs on February 21.

          The affidavit in support of the complaint outlines evidence that Soheili sent a parcel containing fentanyl “blues” to his friend, who moved to Utah from Orange County to participate in a drug rehabilitation program. Law enforcement recovered the actual package with Soheili’s fingerprints at the victim’s residence. A search of Soheili’s home on April 20 resulted in the seizure of items indicating drug trafficking activity, including various narcotics, several of which tested positive for fentanyl, the complaint states.

          At his initial court appearance Wednesday afternoon, Soheili was ordered held without bond, and an arraignment was scheduled for June 1.

          The United States Postal Inspection Service, which worked with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the Millard County (Utah) Sheriff’s Office, is investigating this matter. Assistant United States Attorney Vib Mittal of the Santa Ana Branch Office is prosecuting the case.

          U.S. v. Boukhanian

          Michael Boukhanian, 42, of Northridge, was arrested late this morning after a grand jury named him in a one-count indictment filed on Wednesday. Boukhanian allegedly sold counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl on August 27, 2020 to a Woodland Hills man who died soon after receiving them. Boukhanian is expected to be arraigned Friday afternoon in federal court in Los Angeles.

          The DEA and the Los Angeles Police Department are investigating this matter. Assistant United States Attorney Jehan M. Pernas of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section is prosecuting the case.

          U.S. v. Wood

          Tobin Oliver Wood, 49, of Costa Mesa, was arrested on April 7 pursuant to a grand jury indictment that charges him with distributing fentanyl that caused the overdose death of a 32-year-old San Clemente man, who died on the morning of October 2, 2018. Wood allegedly posted an ad on Craigslist offering “Roxy board short,” which is a street term for oxycodone pills.

          Wood, who has pleaded not guilty and is free on bond, is scheduled to go on trial on March 22, 2022.

          The DEA, the Huntington Beach Police Department and the Costa Mesa Police Department are investigating this matter. Assistant United States Attorney Maxwell K. Coll of the General Crimes Section is prosecuting the case.

          U.S. v. Chi

          Calvin Chi, 28, of Hacienda Heights, has agreed to surrender Friday morning to face charges related to the death of a 29-year-old woman who overdosed on oxymorphone on October 10, 2018. Investigators uncovered text communications between Chi and the victim that allegedly show Chi sold the oxymorphone, along with alprazolam (also known as Xanax), to the victim hours before her death. The victim was found dead, slumped over in the front seat of her car, parked about a half mile from Chi’s San Gabriel Valley residence. Chi was indicted by a federal grand jury on Tuesday.

          In the fall of 2019, Chi was convicted in state court of unrelated drug trafficking charges and sentenced to probation. In July 2020, deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department conducted a probation compliance check of Chi’s residence and found evidence of drug sales, including scales, baggies, a variety of pills, and more than five grams of methamphetamine. In addition to the charge of distribution of narcotics resulting in death, Chi is charged with possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine.

          The DEA and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department are investigating this matter. Assistant United States Attorney Maria Jhai of the General Crimes Section is prosecuting the case.

          U.S. v. Lopez

          Edwin Lopez, 21, of Riverside, was arrested this morning on a grand jury indictment that charges him with one count 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. The evidence in the case indicates that Lopez used Snapchat to negotiate the drug deal, and possibly other transactions, with the victim.

          Lopez is scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon in United States District Court in Riverside.

          The DEA and the Fontana Police Department are investigating this matter. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department has provided assistance. The Riverside Branch Office is prosecuting the case.

          U.S. v. Nobar and Ziafathy

          Saied Ziafathy Nobar, 57, of the Rancho Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, and his nephew, Amir Ziafathy, 33, of Granada Hills, face charges of distributing fentanyl that resulted in an overdose death on December 30, 2019. The defendants allegedly sold the victim two counterfeit oxycodone pills that contained fentanyl. Nobar and Ziafathy were arrested in this case on March 16, and they are currently scheduled to go on trial on July 27.

          The FBI, the DEA and the Los Angeles Police Department are investigating this matter. Assistant United States Attorney Ali Moghaddas and Kathrynne Seiden of the General Crimes Section are prosecuting the case.

          U.S. v. Rodriguez

          Marcos Isaac Rodriguez, a.k.a. “Kumar,” 27, who resided in Costa Mesa, but recently relocated to Escondido, was arrested today pursuant to a two-count indictment that alleges distribution of fentanyl resulting in death and distribution of fentanyl. The indictment, which was filed on April 28, charges Rodriguez with distributing fentanyl in two transactions, the second of which resulted in the death of a 33-year-old Costa Mesa man on December 26, 2019. Rodriguez allegedly sold the victim counterfeit oxycodone pills that contained fentanyl.

          Rodriguez is expected to be arraigned this afternoon in United States District Court in Santa Ana.

          The DEA and the Costa Mesa Police Department are investigating this matter. Assistant United States Attorney Jake D. Nare of the Santa Ana Branch Office is prosecuting the case.

          U.S. v. Shepley

            Last year, a Westlake Village man was indicted on federal charges of participating in a conspiracy that allegedly distributed heroin to a Ventura County man who suffered fatal overdose, and this week federal prosecutors filed a new document that would bring a mandatory life sentence if he is convicted.

          Bradley Shepley, 35, 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 November 6, 2017. On Tuesday, prosecutors filed a two-count information alleging that Shepley was convicted in Los Angeles Superior Court in June 2017 of two felony narcotics offenses. If convicted in federal court of the heroin charge, and if prosecutors can prove he was previously convicted of narcotics offenses, Shepley would face a mandatory minimum sentence of life without parole in federal prison.

          Shepley, who is being held in custody without bond, has pleaded not guilty to the offenses alleged in the indictment, and he is currently scheduled to go on trial on November 2.

          The DEA and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department are investigating this matter. Assistant United States Attorney Keith D. Ellison of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section is prosecuting the case.

          Indictments and criminal complaints contain allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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