ABINGDON, Va. – A Marion, Virginia man pleaded guilty last week to possession with the intent to distribute the deadly drug fentanyl.
Dakota Shadoe Tunnell, 21, became known to law enforcement in early 2021 when a flood of illegal pills began showing up in Smyth County, Virginia. The pills resembled a pharmaceutical preparation of oxycodone-hydrochloride pills, but were inconsistent in size, shape, and color as compared to pharmaceutical-grade pills. Pills of this type are sometimes referred to as “pressed” or “M30” pills.
During the investigation, law enforcement determined that Tunnell had been purchasing 300 to 500 pills at a time from his supplier and redistributing them in the Marion, Virginia area. On September 5, 2021, law enforcement executed a controlled purchase of approximately 100 pills from Tunnell for $1,700.
“The sale of fentanyl has grown dramatically in Southwest Virginia. People need to be aware of the dangers associated with these illegal ‘pressed pills’ because one pill can kill,” United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh said today. “The illicit use of fentanyl results in death or serious bodily injury more than any other controlled substance, and we will vigorously prosecute those who disseminate it.”
Tunnell pleaded guilty to one count of possessing with the intent to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl and is scheduled to be sentenced on January 25, 2022. He faces a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum statutory penalty of up to 40 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The Smyth County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Whit D. Pierce is prosecuting the case.