SANTA ANA, California – Federal authorities today announced seven criminal cases against drug dealers who sold fentanyl-laced narcotics that caused fatal overdoses in Orange County, including one case in which three people died in Newport Beach.
The sweep has resulted in the arrest of six defendants pursuant to federal grand jury indictments or criminal complaints. One charged defendant is a fugitive currently being sought by authorities.
All seven defendants are charged with distribution of fentanyl resulting in death. If convicted of this offense, each defendant would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a potential sentence of life without parole.
“The opioid crisis has resulted in the widespread distribution of fentanyl and a horrific trail of misery resulting from the untimely death of tens of thousands of Americans each year,” said United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison. “These cases highlight two important lessons, with the first being that many street drugs are contaminated with an extremely powerful opioid that often leads to death. The second is that narcotics dealers face severe consequences in federal court when the distribution of their products results in a fatal overdose.”
“Often when we discuss the rampant rise of drug-caused deaths there’s a focus on numbers, but today’s announcement is an important reminder that these numbers are more than that – these are our children, loved ones and friends,” said DEA Los Angeles Special Agent in Charge Bill Bodner. “Fentanyl does not discriminate and it’s affecting every community, ethnicity and generation throughout our country. As we tackle the fentanyl crisis locally, we are intent on bringing justice to victims and their families, while putting drug dealers on notice that even selling one pill can have harsh federal penalties.”
The cases announced today 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 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 three dozen federal indictments that specifically charge death resulting from narcotics trafficking.
The victims in these cases are of diverse backgrounds, with two of the deceased victims being minors and one a community college student. In most of the cases, the victims did not know they were ingesting fentanyl, which can be deadly in tiny amounts. Some of the alleged drug traffickers knew or had reason to believe their products contained fentanyl, even though they claimed to be selling other narcotics.
All of the case were filed in United States District Court in Santa Ana and will be prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office:
- William Edward Dick Jr., 51, of Costa Mesa was arrested Thursday for allegedly selling fentanyl-laced cocaine that killed three individuals in a Balboa Island house on the night of October 24, 2021. A criminal complaint filed on Wednesday alleges that two couples had gathered in Newport Beach, enjoyed a dinner together, and one of them decided to purchase cocaine for the group. They eventually contacted Dick, who agreed to sell them $200 worth of cocaine, which he delivered to the house where the couples were staying. After snorting the purported cocaine, all four suffered overdoses, and three of the individuals were pronounced dead at house the next morning. Dick, who is currently charged with one count of distribution of fentanyl resulting in death, is scheduled to make his first court appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in Santa Ana. The DEA and the Newport Beach Police Department are investigating this matter, which is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Bradley Marrett.
- Omar Alejandro Reynoso, 30, of Costa Mesa, was arrested on Monday after a grand jury indicted him last week on two counts of distribution of fentanyl resulting in death. Reynoso allegedly provided counterfeit Xanax pills containing fentanyl to a man and a woman who died in his hotel room in incidents three weeks apart in November 2019. At his arraignment on Tuesday, Reynoso pleaded not guilty and was ordered to stand trial on June 14. A United States magistrate judge ordered Reynoso detained without bond while the case is pending. The DEA and the Costa Mesa Police Department are investigating this matter, which is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jake Nare.
- Tyler David Wilkinson, 23, of Santa Ana, was named Wednesday in a four-count federal grand jury indictment that alleges he sold counterfeit oxycodone pills to a 17-year-old victim who died in Lake Forest of a fentanyl overdose. The victim purchased the pills in June 2021 after responding to an advertisement Wilkinson posted on Snapchat, the investigation revealed. Six months before the transaction that led to the teen’s death, Wilkinson allegedly possessed distribution quantities of several types of narcotics, including nearly 1,400 counterfeit oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl. Wilkinson allegedly continued to sell fentanyl-laced pills, even after law enforcement executed a search warrant at his residence. Wilkinson is currently being sought by authorities. The DEA and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department are investigating this case, which is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jake Nare.
- Anthony Bernard Fender, 31, of Tustin, was arrested Monday pursuant to a grand jury indictment filed last week that alleges he sold fentanyl powder that resulted in the death of a 40-year-old man. The indictment further alleges that Fender committed the federal offense after being convicted of a drug trafficking crime in Orange County Superior Court in 2013, which, if proven, would subject Fender to a mandatory life sentence. The DEA and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department investigated this matter, which is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Bradley Marrett.
- Carter Joseph Klein, 25, of Newport Beach, was arrested on April 14 after being named in a one-count indictment that accused him of distributing fentanyl that led to the overdose death of an 18-year-old Orange Coast College student. Klein allegedly sold fentanyl-laced counterfeit oxycodone pills to the victim in February 2021. Klein was arraigned on the indictment on April 15, when he entered a not guilty plea and was ordered to stand trial on June 7. The DEA and Costa Mesa Police Department are investigating this matter, which is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Rosalind Wang.
- Isai Hernandez Higinio, a.k.a. “Joker,” 23, of Santa Ana, was arrested April 1 pursuant to a grand jury indictment filed last month that alleges he distributed fentanyl in counterfeit Percocet pills to an 18-year-old Tustin resident who died after ingesting the drug. Hernandez was arraigned on April 4, at which time he pleaded not guilty and was ordered held without bond. A trial in this case is scheduled for May 31. The DEA and Orange County Sheriff’s Department are investigating this matter, which is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Melissa Rabbani.
- Matthew Benjamin Hurley, 24, of Virginia, was arrested January 3 on charges alleging that he distributed fentanyl at a motel in Costa Mesa that resulted in a fatal overdose. Hurley, who has been ordered detained without bond, is scheduled to go on trial on September 27. The DEA and the Huntington Beach Police Department are investigating this case, which is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Gina J. Kong.
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.