A former Mexican pharmacy employee has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison for distributing fentanyl-laced pills that killed a Monterey County resident.
Francisco Javier Schraidt Rodriguez, 63, was charged with distributing fentanyl and conspiring to distribute fentanyl and alprazolam in a replacement filing filed in March. He pleaded guilty to both charges in April.
From June 2018 to November 2019, Rodriguez colluded with others to sell counterfeit pharmaceutical pills containing fentanyl, as well as bottles of alprazolam (US brand name Xanax) packaged as “Farmapram,” he admitted in his plea deal.
During the conspiracy, Rodriguez was living in Mexico and working at a Mexicali-based pharmacy, while his co-conspirator was in Monterey County, according to a press release from the United States Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of California.
On multiple occasions, Rodriguez’s co-conspirator ordered bottles of alprazolam and fentanyl-laced “M30” pills. M30 tablets are round and often light blue in color, although they are available in many other colors. Meant to mimic Oxycodone, “M” is imprinted on one side of the pill and “30” on the other.
After receiving an order, Rodriguez transported the drugs from Mexicali, Mexico, and across the United States border to Calexico, California. He then mailed the drugs to his co-conspirator’s Monterey County address. Rodriguez sent the M30s in about 100 pills at a time, often fronting the pills and accepting payment at a later date after his co-conspirator resold the drugs.
Rodriguez acknowledged in his plea deal that when he sold the M30s, he knew the pills contained fentanyl. His co-conspirator also knew what the pills were laced with, as they asked Rodriguez if the M30s contained fentanyl and he advised they did, according to federal prosecutors.
Now the leading cause of drug overdose deaths in the United States, fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Nonprescription fentanyl is sold on Snapchat and Instagram as counterfeit pills such as Percocet, Xanax and Oxycontin. Nearly half of all counterfeit pills tested contained a lethal dose of fentanyl, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Many who take counterfeit pills cut with fentanyl are unaware that they have taken a lethal dose of the drug.
Rodriguez admitted that the M30 pills he sold killed a victim who overdosed on his pills. He described in his plea deal that between August 2019 and September 5, 2019, he sold M30 pills containing fentanyl to his Monterey County co-conspirator. He acknowledged that some of those M30s were subsequently sold to the Monterey County victim, who had ingested part of one or more of the fentanyl-laced tablets, causing an overdose.
The victim was found unconscious in his home. He died as a result of the overdose. The victim left behind a husband and a son.
In addition to his seven-and-a-half-year federal prison sentence, Rodriguez has also been sentenced to three years of surveillance after his release. Rodriguez was remanded in custody at the hearing earlier this week to serve his sentence immediately.