San Luis Obispo County Man Arrested on Federal Charges Alleging He Sold Fake Prescription Pills that Caused Fatal Fentanyl Overdose

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

          LOS ANGELES – A Paso Robles man has been arrested on federal charges of selling counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl to a 19-year-old Atascadero resident who suffered a fatal overdose from the synthetic opioid, the Justice Department announced today.

          Timothy Clark Wolfe, 24, was taken into custody Thursday by special agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration, and he was arraigned on the federal charges this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.

          A federal grand jury on July 19 charged Wolfe in a two-count indictment that accuses him of distributing fentanyl resulting in death and possession with the intent to distribute alprazolam (often sold under the brand name Xanax).

          Wolfe pleaded not guilty to the charges in the indictment and a September 20 trial date was scheduled. A federal magistrate judge ordered Wolfe released on $150,000 bond.

          The indictment alleges that, on March 8, 2020, Wolfe sold the victim the fentanyl-laced pills, “the use of which resulted in the death and serious bodily injury of E.V.”

          During a search of Wolfe’s residence on March 9, 2020, Atascadero Police discovered the alprazolam, which the indictment alleges he intended to distribute.

          The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office charged Wolfe in relation to the overdose death on May 20, 2020. The District Attorney’s Office will dismiss their state charges in light of the federal prosecution.

          An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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          The charge of distributing fentanyl resulting in death carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a maximum statutory penalty of life. The charge of possession with the intent to distribute alprazolam carries a maximum statutory penalty of five years in federal prison.

          The DEA’s Los Angeles Field Office is investigating this matter. The Atascadero Police Department and the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office provided substantial assistance.

          Assistant United States Attorneys Julia Hu of the Major Frauds Section and Jena MacCabe of the General Crimes Section are prosecuting this case.

          The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 108,642 people died as the result of a drug overdose in the United States during the one-year period ending February 2022. Synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and its analogs, are the primary driver of the increase in drug overdose deaths. Synthetic opioids are involved in 67% of all drug overdose deaths and 89% of opioid-involved drug overdose deaths.

          According to the DEA, criminal drug networks in Mexico are mass-producing illicit fentanyl and fake pills pressed with fentanyl in clandestine, unregulated labs. These fake pills are designed to look like real prescription pills, typically replicating prescription opioid medications such as oxycodone (common brand names include Oxycontin and Percocet) and hydrocodone (Vicodin); sedatives such as alprazolam; and stimulants (Adderall). The DEA warns that pills purchased outside of a licensed pharmacy are illegal, dangerous and potentially lethal. For more information, please visit www.dea.gov/onepill.

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