Mt. Vernon, Washington man sentenced to 8+ years in prison for dealing deadly fentanyl
Some 900 pills seized from his home; same pills linked to overdose death
Seattle – A 22-year-old Mount Vernon, Washington, man was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 100 months in prison and 4 years of supervised release for conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, announced U.S. Attorney Nicholas W. Brown. Defendant Jiovanni Nunez supplied counterfeit oxycodone pills tainted with fentanyl to an associate, who distributed them in Skagit and Whatcom Counties. The pills are connected to at least two overdoses, including the overdose death of a Bellingham 17-year-old. At the sentencing hearing Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez said, “This entire case is tragic… the victim’s family continues to suffer as a direct consequence of the defendant’s actions.”
“Far too many people are dying from these fentanyl tainted pills — especially the young and vulnerable,” said U.S. Attorney Brown. “It is critical that we not only stem the flow of the drugs into our community, but also remind people that using these pills often leads to death and devastation, with families left to mourn.”
Nunez and co-conspirator, Rosaliana Lopez-Rodriguez, 23, of Mount Vernon, were arrested in late 2019 after an investigation to track down the source of the tainted pills. According to records filed in the case, a family member found the 17-year-old victim unresponsive on November 9, 2019. Despite efforts of emergency responders to resuscitate him, the victim died; his cause of death was later determined to be fentanyl overdose. Investigators found a whole and a partial pill near the 17-year-old victim. The pills were designed to look like oxycodone 30-milligram pills, with “M” and “30” stamped on them. But they were fakes tainted with fentanyl. Similar pills have been linked to other overdose deaths throughout the Puget Sound region. In fact, a friend of the 17-year-old victim nearly died after smoking one of the pills on November 2, 2019. Nunez’s co-conspirator knew of that near-fatal overdose when she sold the 17-year-old victim more pills a week later, on November 9, 2019.
During this investigation, law enforcement executed court-authorized search warrants at each defendant’s residence. At Nunez’s residence, law enforcement found a safe containing more than 900 fake oxycodone pills that matched the appearance of the fentanyl-laced pills linked to the fatal overdose. Co-conspirator Lopez-Rodriguez admitted that Nunez supplied her with the pills that killed the Bellingham 17-year-old.
Speaking to the court today, the victim’s mother talked about her son as a bright light for many people. Her son’s death left “a big hole of grief we carry that nothing can fill.” The mother noted that Nunez “knew how deadly the pills were,” and continued “dealing lethal poison in our community.”
Lopez-Rodriguez was sentenced to 84 months in prison in August 2021.
The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, the Skagit County Interlocal Drug Enforcement Unit (SCIDEU), and the Whatcom County Drug and Gang Task Force, which is made up of members of the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Department of Corrections, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and Homeland Security Investigations.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jonas Lerman.