District attorneys' offices across the United States are beginning to send a strong message to dealers and users peddling drugs laced with fentanyl. Criminal charges of murder are on the rise.
In July, for example, the DA's office in Placer County, California convicted 21-year-old Nathaniel Cabacungan for second-degree murder of a 15-year-old girl. His conviction was a first of its kind in the Golden State. A month later, in another landmark case for California, Vicente David Romero was found guilty of second-degree murder for the fentanyl-related death of a 26-year-old woman.
Earlier this month, Max Leo Miller of Minnesota was convicted of third-degree murder following the 2021 fentanyl-related death of Travis Gustavson. Currently, Louisiana has several fentanyl cases pending with indictments for second-degree murder for the suppliers of the lethal drug.
America Family News spoke to Jaime Puerta, a resident of California and president of Victims of Illicit Drugs (VOID), who gladly welcomes the growing trend of murder convictions. For Puerta, fentanyl poisonings cut deep. He lost his 16-year-old son Daniel in 2020 after the teen consumed a counterfeit pill made of filler binder and fentanyl.
"I can tell you with certainty that my son was not trying to die; he was trying to handle a mental crisis," Puerta explains. "I'll stand behind every prosecutor willing to go after drug dealers delivering fake pills made of the same filler binder and fentanyl that killed my son."
Puerta recalls that in 1982, seven people in Chicago consumed Extra Strength Tylenol® that had been doctored.
"All seven of those people died," he laments. "Did they die because they had consumed too much Extra Strength Tylenol? Or did they die due to the fact that the Tylenol had been tainted with potassium cyanide?"
Puerta is calling for accountability in the wave of fentanyl poisoning deaths currently occurring in the United States.
"The grand majority of the people who are dying due to fentanyl poisoning are, like my son, ingesting a drug that they don't know has fentanyl in it," he explains. "[Those providing the drugs] know what they're peddling is fake, but they're not telling their customers the drugs that they're being given are fake pills or cocaine tainted with illicit fentanyl."
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), six out of 10 fake prescription pills laced with fentanyl now contain a potential deadly dose of the synthetic opioid. In 2022, DEA seized more than 58 million fake pills laced with fentanyl.
"There is a segment of society that is addicted to drugs and purposely buying fentanyl," he admits. "[But] there are countless others who belong to a certain group of friends and cave to peer pressure to try a pill or just want to self-medicate – and they're paying with their life as a result."
It's no accident, says Puerta, that the drugs are deadly.
"Cartels have made a conscious decision to fabricate manufactured, illicit counterfeit pills made to look like prescription oxycodone, oxycontin, Percocet, Xanax, Adderall, Vicodin, and more," he points out. "Knowing this, dealers continue to push out these fake pills with fentanyl, poisoning tens of thousands of people."
Those drug dealers, he adds, need to be prosecuted for second-degree murder.
"They're reaching a segment of society that is not addicted to drugs," he argues. "[These] are first-time drug users who either want to experiment with drugs … or want to self-medicate due to perceived or real emotional trauma."
The result is often deadly.
"We're talking about non-addicted adolescents and young people dying because they decided that they wanted to consume a pill or experiment with something they shouldn't be experimenting with," he tells AFN.
According to Puerta, "the whole illegal drug supply" in the U.S. has been tainted with illicit fentanyl.
"There is no space for experimentation …," he warns. "It's past time to convict [these] dealers of second-degree murder and start putting them away for a really long time."