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A drug dealer who knowingly sold fentanyl-laced pills to a 20-year-old Chula Vista man, causing his overdose death, was sentenced in San Diego federal court Tuesday to 190 months in prison.

Jonathan Michael Mefford, 24, admitted to selling fake oxycodone pills to Jacob Palet, who was found dead in his bedroom the following day on Oct. 30, 2018, according to court records.

The Chula Vista police investigation, which relied on text messages and witness interviews, found that Mefford knew the pills contained fentanyl and that they were potentially lethal, according to prosecutors. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times more potent than heroin and can be deadly in small doses. Hotspot concentrations of the drug have often been found in illicit tablets made of compressed powder that were not mixed or measured correctly, leading to deaths.

Mefford, also a Chula Vista resident, was pinpointed in a separate investigation as being a prolific local supplier of counterfeit oxycodone pills, with their signature “M30″ stamps and blue color, prosecutors said. A source in the police investigation provided to detectives communications on SnapChat in which Mefford pointed out the differences between fake and real “blues” and acknowledged selling the fentanyl version, prosecutors said.

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Even after Palet’s overdose death, Mefford continued to sell the drug, authorities said. Another customer overdosed but survived.

When Mefford was confronted by a mutual friend about Palet’s death, investigators say Mefford threatened him in a message: “He bought it himself you f—er. Your ass going to get smoked.”

Palet’s mother, Rita, said in a victim-impact statement that she was the one to find her son’s body — a traumatic experience that she relives every day, minute by minute. She said she struggles to understand Mefford’s actions.

“He knew the drugs he was selling were lethal, and he continued to sell,” she wrote in the statement. “That is beyond greed. Is there no remorse? A loss of life.”

The sentence U.S. District Judge Cathy Bencivengo handed down — 15 years and 10 months — was a couple months longer than what prosecutors had recommended.

Mefford pleaded guilty in July to distribution of fentanyl and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Mefford had told detectives in an interview that he sold fentanyl to fund trips to Kansas, where he had previously lived, to continue selling meth there, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office sentencing memorandum.

Mefford expressed remorse in a letter to the judge and said the fact that he played a role in his friend’s passing haunts him everyday.

Defense attorney Norma Aguilar wrote in a sentencing memorandum that Mefford was exposed to drug abuse at a young age, was abused in foster care and became addicted himself to drugs as a teen.

Source: This post first appeared on sandiegouniontribune.com

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