A new federal and state task force designed to go after drug dealers linked to opioid overdose deaths arrested a Van Nuys man Wednesday on suspicion of selling a lethal dose of the powerful drug to a man who overdosed on it hours later.
It is the first case for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s new Tactical Diversion Squad, U.S. Department of Justice officials said in a written statement. The task force is made up of both federal and state officials.
Investigators found and arrested James Dorion Rodriguez, 27, at a motel in Mission Hills, authorities said.
An indictment returned by a federal grand jury late last month alleges Rodriguez sold fentanyl to a 23-year-old man, who was found dead from an overdose in his crashed car along Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks on March 18, according to the DOJ. Rodriguez had intended to sell the victim cocaine, but gave him fentanyl by mistake, authorities said. The victim died after snorting the drug.
At his initial court appearance Thursday in federal court in Los Angeles, Rodriguez was ordered to be held without bail pending trial, which was scheduled for Nov. 27, DOJ spokesman Thom Mrozek said.
The prosecution will be the first of many under the new task force, U.S. Attorney for California Nick Hanna said.
“With this state and federal partnership, we are going after drug dealers who leave a trail of death and misery in their wake,” he said. “Fentanyl is a highly dangerous synthetic drug that has caused countless overdose deaths in our community, and we will use every tool at our disposal to send these dealers to federal prison.”
DEA Associate Special Agent in Charge Daniel Comeaux said he also had a message for opioid dealers.
“You are predators and the federal law enforcement system will not tolerate you,” he said.
The alleged deadly drug deal took place one month after Rodriguez was convicted of felony cocaine trafficking in Los Angeles County Superior Court, DOJ officials said.
If convicted as charged, Rodriguez faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison, and a maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The Los Angeles Police Department assisted the DEA in the investigation.