13 arrested in connection with fentanyl-laced drugs that led to fatal overdoses

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LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 13: An officer stands in front of a displayed photograph showing counterfeit fentanyl pills during a press conference about a series of criminal cases against alleged drug dealers who sold or provided narcotics to users who suffered fatal overdoses from opioids such as fentanyl or fentanyl analogues in downtown on Thursday, May 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. Fentanyl and other highly potent synthetic opioids remain the primary driver behind the ongoing opioid crises. (Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
A sheriff's deputy stands in front of a photo of fentanyl-laced pills during a 2021 announcement in Los Angeles of federal charges against suspected drug dealers. (Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Thirteen people suspected of selling fentanyl-laced drugs that caused at least a dozen fatal overdoses in Southern California have been arrested, federal authorities said Tuesday.

One of the men arrested, Dominick Kingdiamond Alvarado, 22, of Tarzana, is suspected of selling fake Percocet pills tainted with fentanyl to teenagers at a Santa Clarita shopping mall, causing the overdose deaths of a 17-year-old girl and an 18-year-old boy, prosecutors said.

Another man arrested, Heriberto Galvan 24, of North Hollywood, is suspected of selling fentanyl to a 19-year-old man from La Cañada Flintridge who was found dead in his car the next day, they said.

Martin Estrada, the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, announced the arrests of Alvarado, Galvan and 11 others at a Los Angeles news conference with regional directors of the Drug Enforcement Administration and FBI, along with local law enforcement brass.

"The cases announced today charge drug dealers who have caused the death or injury of others and thereby prioritized greed over human life," Estrada said.

Attorneys for Alvarado and Galvan, who were arrested last week, could not be reached.

Fentanyl, an extremely potent synthetic opioid, has been killing about 70,000 Americans a year, federal authorities say.

Mexican cartels and other suppliers put it in counterfeit painkillers, cocaine and other drugs that are often sold to young buyers who do not understand the high risk of death. Dealers often use social media to arrange the sales.

Over the last five years, the DEA has led an overdose task force that works with local law enforcement in Southern California to target dealers selling poisoned drugs that result in fatal fentanyl overdoses. With the latest cluster of cases, federal prosecutors have filed charges against 64 people suspected of drug dealing.

Under federal law, drug sales that result in death can carry a mandatory prison sentence of 20 years.

In another case made public Tuesday, a Jefferson Park man, Adrian Benavides-Schorgi, 22, was charged with selling counterfeit pills containing fentanyl that led to the life-threatening overdoses of two 15-year-old girls in Santa Monica who thought they were buying ecstasy, prosecutors said.

Terra Castillo Laughton, an attorney for Benavides-Schorgi, declined to comment.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.