PACIFIC GROVE, Calif. (KRON) — Three alleged drug dealers accused of selling fentanyl to Monterey County high school students were charged in connection to multiple overdoses.
A 15-year-old Pacific Grove boy suffered a fatal drug overdose on March 5 after he inhaled smoke from a crushed counterfeit “M30” blue pill containing fentanyl.
“The mother of yet another local high school student (who overdosed) reported that ‘numerous students are using and addicted to Percocet,'” prosecutors wrote.
Students seeking Percocet and Xanax pills overdosed because the pills were laced with fentanyl, investigators in Monterey County discovered.
Three teens were charged in the Monterey County case: Benjamin Reily Bliss, 18, of Carmel; Brandon William Carranza-Arthur, 19, of Monterey; and Louis “Lulu” Alexander, 19, of Monterey.
Charges filed by federal prosecutors are part of a push from prosecutors across the country to crack down on drug dealers.
According to a criminal complaint filed by the United States Attorney’s Office, all three teens played a role in distributing pills to high school students.
Even after the 15-year-old boy’s death, investigators said the suspected drug dealers continued selling fentanyl-laced pills to juveniles.
A second juvenile overdosed on March 23, but survived.
“Text messages from the surviving juvenile’s cell phone established that on March 20, Bliss provided transportation for the juvenile. Bliss picked up the surviving juvenile and provided a ride to San Francisco, where the juvenile purchased a baggie containing fentanyl in the form of a multicolored powdery/rocky substance. The juvenile allegedly paid $250 for the drugs which, after using, resulted in a non-fatal overdose on March 23,” federal prosecutors wrote.
Alexander used Snapchat to advertise, offer, and sell fentanyl-based counterfeit oxycodone and Xanax pills to high school students in the Monterey area, according to the criminal complaint.
A third juvenile suffered a near-deadly overdose from pills he bought from Alexander in October, according to prosecutors.
While the third juvenile was recovering in the hospital, the victim’s mother discovered Snapchat messages in his cellphone in which he communicated with Alexander for pills, prosecutors said.
Law enforcement also obtained text messages between Carranza and another high school student. The text messages revealed that the juvenile was having intense cravings for drugs. Carranza negotiated a price and quantity of pills that could be supplied, prosecutors said.
Alexander and Carranza-Arthur appeared before Judge Nathanael Cousins on Friday to face charges, and Bliss appeared in court Monday.
Bliss was charged with aiding and abetting distribution of fentanyl, while Carranza and Alexander were charged with unlawfully using, or causing to be used, the Internet to advertise, or to offer to sell or distribute a controlled substance.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Amani Floyd and Maya Karwande are prosecuting the cases.
Bliss faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted. Alexander and Carranza face four years in prison.
The cases are the result of a lengthy investigation by the DEA with assistance from Homeland Security Investigations; the FBI; the police departments of Pacific Grove, Seaside, Monterey, Salinas, Marina, Greenfield, and Soledad; the Monterey County Probation Department; and the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office.