East Bay drug dealer charged with selling fentanyl-laced pills that killed buyer

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SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – The United States Attorney’s Office charged Gage Pascoe with the distribution of pills containing fentanyl that resulted in the overdose death of his customer, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and Special Agent in Charge Daniel C. Comeaux, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The federal complaint alleges that Pascoe, 22, of Pittsburg, California, sold counterfeit pills that appeared to be Oxycodone but instead contained the lethal drug fentanyl.  The young adult customer purchased the pills from Pascoe and shortly after taking the apparent Oxycodone pills at a Walnut Creek home died from an overdose of fentanyl.

“This sad, tragic death shows how easy it is to die from drugs bought from drug dealers,” said U.S. Attorney Anderson.  “Counterfeit pills marked and sold as one drug, such as Oxycodone pills with “M30” stamps, commonly contain fentanyl instead.  Even a tiny amount of fentanyl is deadly.  Drug buyers must be aware that pills bought from drug dealers may be laced with fentanyl.  Drug dealers should know we vigorously prosecute those who sell drugs that cause fentanyl overdoses.”

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“Fentanyl is cheap, man-made and potent. Overdose can occur in the smallest amount and in this case it left a family with unimaginable loss,” stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Daniel C. Comeaux. “We will pursue those who distribute this deadly drug and continue to seek justice for those lives that have been lost.”

The complaint charging Pascoe describes how he was a repeat dealer of illegal drugs to the victim.  The complaint outlines that Pascoe communicated in the days before the death through a series of text messages with the victim, who he knew from attending the same high school, to sell Oxycodone to the victim.  The texts, outlined in the complaint, show that Pascoe offered “more oxy” to his victim customer and they eventually met up in Pittsburg at night for Pascoe to sell the purported Oxycodone pills to the victim.  The next day, June 17, 2020, the victim was found dead at a Walnut Creek home.  The complaint describes how the victim’s father found pills in the victim’s room with “M30” stamped on them, which is a common stamp on counterfeit Oxycodone pills containing fentanyl.  A lab analysis found those pills to contain fentanyl.  As the complaint further describes, an analysis of the victim’s body showed the victim died from a fatal fentanyl overdose.

Pascoe was arrested on Saturday, December 5, 2020, and made an initial appearance today in San Francisco federal court before United States Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler.  Pascoe is currently being held in custody pending further proceedings.  He is scheduled to appear for a detention hearing before United States Magistrate Laurel Beeler on December 14, 2020, at 10:30 am.

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The charges contained in the criminal complaint are mere allegations.  As in any criminal case, the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Pascoe is charged with one count of distribution of fentanyl resulting in death or great physical injury, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C).  If convicted of this count, he faces a maximum penalty of life in prison and a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison, and a maximum fine of $1,000,000.  However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

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The case is being prosecuted by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California. The investigation of this case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Concord Police Department, and the Walnut Creek Police Department.

This investigation and prosecution is part of OCDETF, which identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

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