(U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of California) — Monday, November 7, 2022
SAN JOSE – Matthew Sanchez was sentenced today to 75 months (6 years, 3 months) in federal prison for distributing fentanyl-laced pills that killed a Monterey County resident, announced United States Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds and Drug Enforcement Administration Acting Special Agent in Charge Bob P. Beris. The sentence was handed down by United States District Judge Edward J. Davila.
Sanchez, 27, of Monterey County, CA, was charged in a May 23, 2022, superseding information with a conspiracy to distribute alprazolam and fentanyl and with the distribution of fentanyl. He entered a plea agreement and pleaded guilty to both charges on June 6, 2022.
In his plea agreement, Sanchez admitted that from June 2018 through October 2019 he conspired with others to sell, and did sell, counterfeit pharmaceutical pills containing fentanyl. The fentanyl-laced pills were called “M30s” and were light blue in color with an imprinted “M” on one side and “30” on the other. Sanchez also conspired to sell and sold bottles of alprazolam (U.S. brand name: Xanax) packaged as “Farmapram.”
Sanchez described in his plea agreement that during the conspiracy, he bought “Farmapram” pills and M30 pills containing fentanyl from a co-conspirator supplier multiple times. At the peak of the conspiracy Sanchez bought a batch of about 30 bottles of Farmapram and 50 M30 pills containing fentanyl every two weeks from the co-conspirator. The co-conspirator often “fronted” the drugs to Sanchez, providing the drugs first and accepting payment later, after Sanchez had sold them.
Sanchez understood that the M30 pills were from Mexico and admitted that he knew they contained fentanyl. In his plea agreement, he asserted he informed buyers that the M30 pills contained fentanyl.
Sanchez further admitted in his plea agreement that between August and early September 2019, he sold M30 pills containing fentanyl to a Monterey County resident. Sanchez agreed that the fentanyl he sold to that victim caused the victim to overdose and to die from the fentanyl.
The victim, found in the victim’s home, left behind a spouse and a young son.
In a memorandum filed for the sentencing hearing, the government described that Sanchez learned of the victim’s death from a fentanyl overdose in the following days, yet he continued to sell M30s laced with fentanyl to other customers until he was arrested weeks later. The government argued that his continued sales, with full knowledge that his M30s had already killed one person, were “inexplicable and unspeakably horrible.”
Sanchez’s co-defendant Francisco Javier Schraidt Rodriguez, a former Mexican pharmacy employee, was also convicted of distributing the fentanyl-laced pills that killed the Monterey County victim and was earlier sentenced to 90 months (7½ years). A copy of that press release is available at https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndca/pr/former-mexican-pharmacy-employee-sentenced-more-7-years-selling-fentanyl-pills-killed.
In addition to the 75 month federal prison term, United States District Judge Edward J. Davila ordered Sanchez to serve three years of supervision following release from federal prison. Sanchez will surrender on February 8, 2023, to begin serving his sentence.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Christina Liu and Casey Boome, with the assistance of Mark DiCenzo, Linda Love, and Andy Ding. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by DEA, with assistance from the Customs and Border Protection, Office of Field Operations; the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations; the Pacific Grove Police Department; Monterey County Sheriff’s Office; and the Monterey Police Department.
This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
One Pill Can Kill: Avoid pills bought on the street because One Pill Can Kill. Fentanyl is a highly potent opioid that drug dealers dilute with cutting agents to make counterfeit prescription pills that appear to be Oxycodone, Percocet, Xanax, and other drugs. Fentanyl is used because it’s cheap. Small variations in the quantity or quality of fentanyl in a fake prescription pill can accidentally create a lethal dosage. Fentanyl has now become the leading cause of drug poisoning deaths in the United States. Fake prescription pills laced with fentanyl are usually shaped and colored to look like pills sold at pharmacies, like Percocet and Xanax. For example, fake prescription pills known as “M30s” imitate Oxycodone obtained from a pharmacy, but when sold on the street the pills routinely contain fentanyl. These particular pills are usually round tablets and often light blue in color, though they may be in different shapes and a rainbow of colors. They often have “M” and “30” imprinted on opposite sides of the pill. Do not take these or any other pills bought on the street – they are routinely fake and poisonous, and you won’t know until it’s too late.
Updated November 7, 2022