Seven people described as drug dealers face federal drug charges for allegedly selling fentanyl-laced narcotics that later caused fatal overdoses in Orange County, including three people found dead in a Balboa Island home rental last year, officials announced Friday.
Six of the defendants have been arrested, but one is currently being sought by authorities, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
Two of the people who died were minors, one of whom was a community college student.
In most of the cases, the victims were unaware that they were ingesting fentanyl, officials said. But some of the defendants knew or had reason to believe that the drugs contained the powerful and deadly narcotic.
The defendants and the charges they face are listed below:
William Edward Dick Jr., 51, of Costa Mesa, was arrested Thursday after allegedly selling fentanyl-laced cocaine that led to the deaths of three people in a Balboa Island house on Oct. 24, 2021.
A criminal complaint alleges that two couples had gathered in Newport Beach, and after having dinner together, one of them purchased cocaine for the group. They contacted Dick, who agreed to sell them $200 worth of cocaine, which he delivered to the rental the couples were staying in.
After snorting what they thought was just cocaine, all four people suffered overdoses, and three were pronounced dead at the house the next morning, officials said.
The victims were later identified as Samantha Haiman, 45, of Riverside, and Andrew Adams and Desiree Temple, who were both 43 years old and from Yorba Linda.
Dick is charged with one count of distribution of fentanyl resulting in death. He is expected to appear in court Friday. The case is still being investigated by the DEA and the Newport Police Department.
Omar Alejandro Reynoso, 30, of Costa Mesa, was arrested Monday after being indicted by a grand jury on two counts of distribution of fentanyl resulting in death.
He allegedly provided counterfeit Xanax pills containing fentanyl to a man and a woman who later died in his hotel room in two separate incidents that occurred three weeks apart in November 2019, officials said.
Reynoso pleaded not guilty this week and was ordered to stand trial on June 14. The judge ordered him to be held without bond. The case is being investigated by the DEA and the Costa Mesa Police Department.
Tyler David Wilkinson, 23, of Santa Ana, was named in a federal grand jury indictment alleging he sold counterfeit oxycodone pills to a 17-year-old victim in Lake Forest who later died of a fentanyl overdose.
An investigation revealed the victim bought the pills last June after responding to an advertisement posted on Snapchat by Wilkinson.
Six months before that transaction, Wilkinson allegedly possessed distribution quantities of several kinds of narcotics, including nearly 1,400 counterfeit oxycodone pills that were laced with fentanyl, officials said. He continued to sell the pills even after authorities executed a search warrant at his home.
Wilkinson is being sought by authorities, as the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the DEA continue to investigate the case.
Anthony Bernard Fender, 31, of Tustin, was arrested Monday after a grand jury indictment alleged he sold fentanyl powder that led to the death of a 40-year-old man, officials said.
The indictment alleges Fender committed a federal offense after being convicted of a drug trafficking crime in 2013. If proven, Fender would face a mandatory life sentence.
Isai Hernandez Higinio, aka “Joker,” 23, of Santa Ana, was arrested April 1 after a grand jury indictment filed last month alleged he distributed fentanyl in counterfeit Percocet pills to an 18-year-old Tustin resident who died after ingesting the drug, officials said.
Hernandez was arraigned April 4. He pleaded not guilty and was ordered held without bond. His trial is set for May 31, officials said.
Matthew Benjamin Hurley, 24, of Virginia, was arrested Jan. 3 after allegedly distributing fentanyl at a motel in Costa Mesa that led to a fatal overdose.
Hurley remains in custody without bond and is scheduled to stand trial on Sept. 27.
Each defendant faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a potential sentence of life without parole if convicted as charged.
“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 Bill Bodner, special agent in charge for the DEA in Los Angeles. “Fentanyl does not discriminate and it’s affecting every community, ethnicity and generation throughout our country.”