Deadly counterfeit Percocet pills laced with fentanyl are still circulating in Monterey County, leading to overdoses and deaths—most recently a 20-year-old Carmel Valley man died on May 9, four days after he was found unresponsive and was hospitalized.
Now a 19-year-old Marina man is facing a possible 20-year jail sentence and a $1-million fine for distribution and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl. He is suspected of selling counterfeit Percocet pills to the Carmel Valley man, as well as to a Pacific Grove teen who overdosed but survived.
Xavier Jimenez Robledo was arrested on June 16, after an investigation that began two months earlier when the Pacific Grove Police responded to a call about an unresponsive minor, according to a June press release from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Paramedics administered Naloxone, an antidote used in opioid overdoses, to the teen; the teen was revived and taken to the hospital.
In the boy’s bedroom, police found what appeared to be counterfeit Percocet pills, light blue with an “M” stamped on one side and “30” stamped on the other. The boy survived, and according to court records was admitted to a drug treatment program in Colorado, where he cooperated with federal agents investigating the case.
Then on May 5, the Carmel Valley man was found unresponsive and rushed to the hospital, only to die on May 9. It was discovered he used used similar fentanyl-laced pills.
Robledo was identified as a suspect through a number of leads, including the two victims’ Snapchat accounts that included communications arranging the purchase of pills, according to the DEA.
DEA and other state and local law enforcement working together as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, had the suspect under surveillance in the weeks leading up to his arrest, according to court documents.
“The drug overdose death alleged in this complaint is both a tragedy and a warning,” said U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson in the press release. “With every drug overdose death, our community is delivered another tragic reminder that drug trafficking is a serious crime with real victims.”
Last November, a 16-year-old Seaside girl named Perla Velasco-Cruz died after using a similar counterfeit pill with friends. In a tragic turn of events, the friends did not call for help for approximately two hours after Velasco-Cruz became unresponsive. Had they called immediately and had she been treated with Naloxone, it’s possible she might have lived, according to doctors.
In that case, a 17-year-old boy was suspected of having sold the pills to Velasco-Cruz and her friends. He was arrested on Feb. 9, soon after his 18th birthday, which complicated the case because he was a minor at the time of the incident and therefore tried in Monterey County Juvenile Court. Normally those proceedings are closed to the public. but one of his initial charges was manslaughter, which under state law made that portion of his hearings open to public view earlier this year.
Recently the entire case and its outcome became unavailable to the public, which indicates that the manslaughter charge may have been removed. The Monterey County District Attorney’s Office declined to answer questions about the case.
Since Velasco-Cruz’s death, local leaders from the medical, law enforcement and education sectors have been getting the word out to the public that “one pill can kill.” Despite their efforts, opioid drug use has continued and even increased since the Covid-19 began.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, people who abuse opioids are at increase risk should they contract the virus. The drugs slow breathing and can diminish lung capacity, which in turn lead to serious complications.