A man has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the overdose death of a teenager in Eastvale last October, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hesterin said Monday.
Joseph Michael Costanza, 21, of Eastvale is suspected of selling drugs laced with fentanyl to an 18-year-old man who died after overdosing, according to a news release from the District Attorney’s Office.
In addition to the murder count, Constanza has also been charged with three other felonies: one count of sales of a controlled substance, fentanyl, to a minor; and two counts of possession of a controlled substance, fentanyl, for sales, the release stated.
The charges include an enhancement of drug sales to a minor and an allegation of causing great bodily injury.
“There is no safe way to use or to sell fentanyl. Simply put, it is lethal,” Hestrin said. “Those who sell fentanyl should know that and, if they choose to sell it anyway and someone dies, the dealer should be prosecuted for murder.”
The victim, 18-year-old Angel Vasquez, was discovered unresponsive at a home on the morning of Oct. 4, 2020, according to prosecutors. He died after being taken to a local hospital.
Another victim, identified only as a 16-year-old, was also found to have overdosed at the residence but survived.
Costanza was arrested after a sheriff’s task force served a search warrant at his home on Feb. 11. During the search, authorities found M30 pills in the defendant’s bedroom, as well other evidence “related to the selling of illegal drugs,” according to the DA’s release.
He faces a potential sentence of 15 years to life if convicted on the second-degree murder count, and up to 17 years in prison for the other charges.
In announcing the charges, prosecutors noted that fentanyl “is known to be an extremely dangerous and potent manmade opioid that is very lethal and potentially deadly in even very small amounts,” according to the release. “It is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.”
Even ingesting just two milligrams of the drug can result in death, they said.
Prosecutors allege that Costanza knew the dangers the M30 pills posed, but continued to sell them anyway.
During the investigation, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department discovered that a woman overdosed and died at the defendant’s home last July, and that other non-fatal overdoses also took place at the residence.
The DA’s office did not provide any additional information about those overdoses.