Can you really overdose from inhaling fentanyl?
Federal agents investigating the spring 2016 fentanyl overdoses of dozens of people in the Sacramento region – including 12 who died – have broken up what they say was a massive pill-making operation in Stockton that was selling thousands of tablets containing fentanyl, heroin and methamphetamine.
Eight people have been named in the case, which is outlined in a detailed 99-page criminal complaint unsealed in federal court in Sacramento on Thursday following a three-year investigation that used undercover sources, telephone wiretaps, intercepted email messages and hidden cameras.
The case, spelled out in an affidavit from U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration special agent Matthew T. Clayton, began with an anonymous phone call to investigators about a Stockton man the caller said was ordering pill presses, dies and drugs over the internet from China and selling counterfeit Xanax and other pills throughout Stockton, Sacramento and the Bay Area.
The call came in shortly after the overdose cases came to the attention of authorities in March and April 2016.
“During that time frame, approximately 52 individuals in the greater Sacramento area overdosed on fentanyl linked to counterfeit narcotics tablets; 12 of these individuals died from overdoses,” the affidavit says.
Over the next three years, agents focused on a group in Stockton pinpointed by the anonymous caller, and searches of Federal Express and U.S. Postal Service packages turned up pill press components and counterfeit tablets, the affidavit says. Tips to agents also indicated the group sold pills “in ‘boat’ quantities, meaning 1,000 pill increments” at $5 apiece, the affidavit says.
Two of the defendants in the case, twin 37-year-old brothers Jamaine Dontae Barnes and Jamar Deontae Barnes, appeared in federal court in Sacramento Thursday and were ordered to remain in custody. Six other defendants were named in the complaint: Vincent Isaiah Patterson, Kavieo Daeshaun Lee Wiley, Jeremy Jerome Barnett, Tashawn Terrell Dickerson, Johnesa Denae Thompson and Lamont Montez Thibodeaux.
The affidavit notes that the investigation of overdose deaths in the Sacramento area is continuing.
“DEA has not yet determined with certainty who is responsible for manufacturing and distributing the fatal pills, but there are and have been other suspects in addition to Jamaine Barnes,” the affidavit says.
But the document also notes that after a confidential DEA source had purchased 2,000 pills from the group the source got a call and text message from Jamaine Barnes who indicated he “needed to get all of the pills back because the pills were bad.”
When the source went to return the tablets they found Barnes’ “behavior as being paranoid” and said he was discussing “that some people had died in Sacramento from ingesting them,” the affidavit says. The source added that they heard Barnes and another person “discussing how Jamaine Barnes had ‘put the wrong s--- in,’ in reference to the bad pills,” the document says.
Barnes replaced the pills sold to the source, and included 200 to 250 extra one “for the inconvenience,” the affidavit says.