Two men have been charged for providing the lethal doses of fentanyl to a 41-year-old San Diego woman who overdosed in October, according to federal prosecutors in San Diego.
Travis Ray Ballou, 40, and Tony Davis, 63, face charges of distribution of fentanyl resulting in death. If convicted they each face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The pair join a third man, Christopher James Starcuzzi, charged Jan. 8 with the same crime, stemming from the death of a San Diego man who overdosed on July 18.
In the first case, a court complaint says that the woman, identified as J.C.G., overdosed at a residence in National City on Oct. 24 after using heroin laced with fentanyl. After checking the text messages on her phone, Drug Enforcement Administration investigators suspected that Ballou was the supplier of the drugs.
He was arrested the next day, and told agents that he had supplied the woman with heroin on the day she died as well as the two previous days.
The woman overdosed on Oct. 23 and was rushed to the hospital, where she given the naloxone — known by the brand name Narcan — a medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, court records say. She survived and checked herself out of the hospital.
She contacted Ballou again on Oct. 24, told him she had overdosed and also ordered more drugs, according to court documents. That evening, she fatally overdosed on the drugs she had purchased.
Investigators then checked Ballou’s phone and determined through text messages who his supplier was. One text message sent Oct. 24 referenced the woman, with Ballou telling Davis that the woman had overdosed and gone to the hospital just the day before.
“So your stuff def has fetnal (sic) in it,” he wrote.
In the earlier case, prosecutors said Starcuzzi supplied the fatal dose of drugs that killed a man identified only as E.P. in court records. He was found dead in July on the floor of an apartment he shared with a woman on Riviera Drive in San Diego.
The woman told police that E.P. had smoked some marijuana the night before and had also taken a tablet of what he apparently believed oxycodone. After learning that the county Medical Examiner had determined E.P.’s death was from a fentanyl overdose, the woman gave investigators the rest of the pills that had been purchased.
Tests revealed they were laced with fentanyl.
Agents arrested Starcuzzi on Dec. 27, and in a subsequent interview he admitted he provided the fatal drugs to the man. He has pleaded not guilty and remains in the federal jail downtown.
New U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer said in a statement that the office will continue to pursue overdose deaths as homicides as the opioid epidemic continues.
According to the Medical Examiner’s Office, the number of fentanyl-related deaths rose sharply from 33 in 2016 to 84 in 2017. The total for 2018 is expected to be larger still.
“As the opioid epidemic continues to rage across the nation, we are committed to doing everything we can to save lives,” Brewer said. “That includes investigating overdose deaths as homicides and pursuing charges against dealers of the poison that is killing people every single day in this country.”