CEDAR PARK, Texas (KXAN) — The Cedar Park Police Department has arrested nearly a dozen people suspected of selling drugs laced with fentanyl.
During a Tuesday morning drug bust, the Cedar Park Police Department said it issued 13 federal indictments and has arrested10 so far.
“This is a regional investigation, and we’ve been working a lot with our regional partners throughout Central Texas — from San Antonio to Cedar Park — and across four states, as well,” said Cedar Park Police Commander Darlene Lewis.
Lewis told KXAN on Tuesday Cedar Park began investing resources in tracking down the accused two years ago when Cedar Park began noticing a spike in overdoses due to counterfeit pills.
“We had 23 overdoses and nine of those results in fatalities in the last two years,” said Lewis.
The 10 arrested so far are charged with conspiracy to distribute, and some are charged with possession with intent to distribute, Lewis said.
“For this investigation, we have seized over 100,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills that have been laced with fentanyl. The street value for these is over $1 million,” Lewis said.
The pills that have been confiscated by the CPPD will be sent to a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration crime lab to be examined.
CPPD said it used information gathered from 13 overdoses and nine fatalities to find out where the pills were coming from, which led its investigation to Arizona, Oregon, California and Texas.
“The majority of the people are coming from the Austin area, but we do have a couple of people in other states that we have arrested,” said Tyson Hodges, assistant special agent in charge at the Austin District DEA Office.
According to a DOJ press release, those arrested in the investigation included:
- Marcos Garcia, 18, of Somerton, AZ
- Oliver Garcia, 20, of Lockhart
- Christopher Brook, 23, of Austin
- Jaime Cabrales, 23, of Austin
- Matthew Juan, 19, of Austin
- Adi Martinez Marquez, 19, of Austin
- Andrew Ruben Ramirez, 23, of Austin
- Ezequiel Azmitia-Jimenez, 19, of Lockhart
- Michael Bauman, 18, of Austin
- Daemon Lye Garcia, 19, of San Marcos
- Ernest Ochoa, 18, of Austin
- Josue Nolasco-Campuzano, 20, of Live Oak
The DOJ Western District of Texas said that Marcos Garcia, Oliver Garcia, Brook, Cabrales, Juan, Marquez, Ramirez and Azmitia were charged by federal indictment with one count of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl. If convicted, each defendant faces up to life in prison. Bauman, Daemon Garcia, Ochoa and Nolasco are charged by federal criminal complaint of possessing with intent to distribute fentanyl.
“This operation demonstrates this office’s commitment to the disruption and prosecution of criminal organizations destroying communities through the distribution of deadly counterfeit prescriptions laced with fentanyl,” said U. S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff in a press release. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to confront this escalating problem.”
Hodges spoke with KXAN and said the alarming part of all of this is many of the victims thought they were getting a painkiller and unknowingly took pills laced with a deadly drug.
“A lot of these are young adults that are obtaining these pills that’s resulting in these fatalities where they are thinking that it’s just one pill, or they’re obtaining it from a friend or someone they know,” Lewis said.
Other agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, the United States Postal Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the DEA were also part of the investigation.
The DEA believes the drugs are coming through a Mexico. From here, investigators plan to identify those supply routes and start addressing them.
“I don’t believe that this investigation is complete. It’s not liked it’s coming to the end of a two-year investigation, but it’s not over with,” said Lewis. “I know that we can’t bring anyone’s life back, but we do hope that this brings some closure knowing that we’ve worked hard in this investigation to hold those responsible for those deaths.”
‘He made himself known’
Becky Stewart was looking forward to a Saturday with her son, Cameron, in mid-March. The two planned to drive down from Williamson County, stroll around Zilker Park in Austin and maybe visit a food truck.
Her son, Cameron, at 19-years-old was among one of the victims.
“The presence in the room, all 6’4″ skinny of him — he made himself known when he walked in,” Becky said.
Cameron grew up in Cedar Park and was Becky’s youngest son. He was bright, charismatic and entrepreneurial. He had decided to take a pause before going to college to explore starting a business.
He had struggled with addiction as well, but Becky and Cameron’s father, Dwayne, believed he was trying to turn his life around — visiting them often and attending church on Sundays.
After not returning their calls one morning, Becky and Dwayne drove to his apartment in Leander.
“I knew before I went to bed that night that something was really wrong,” Becky said.
An autopsy and toxicology report showed Cameron died of a fentanyl overdose. He had taken a laced Valium pill.
Cameron’s parents believe he may have bought a laced pill over Snapchat — an outlet investigators say dealers have used before.
Stewart said she’s feeling a mixed bag of emotions after hearing about the arrests in Cedar Park Tuesday.
“It makes me extremely happy that Cedar Park has pursued this, but it brings up the question: ‘was one of them the one that sold Cameron his pill?'” Becky said.
It’s unclear if one of the arrested suspects did sell Cameron his pill. Becky said knowing would provide her family some closure.
Becky has since committed to educating others about fentanyl overdoses and “poisionings.”
“It’s surprising how many people have never even heard of fentanyl with it now being the number one killer of 18 to 45 year olds,” Becky said.
Becky said she’s gone into schools across Central Texas educating students. Cameron’s organization, ‘A Change for Cam,’ is working on creating a panel of experts to speak to parents, too.
“I would say monitor your kids’ activity on social media. I know that’s not always comfortable; you want to avoid it, because you want to trust your kids. Looking back, yes, Cameron would have been frustrated with me, but it could have potentially helped redirect him and coach him,” Becky said.