Defendants Plead Guilty in Fentanyl Overdose Case in Vista

Defendants plead guilty to possessing and selling fentanyl in overdose case in Vista

San Diego police patrol car

Two people pleaded guilty in federal court Friday for their part in the fentanyl-related death of a 24-year-old woman nearly two years ago in Vista.

Cole Thomas Salazar, 32, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, and 40-year-old Valerie Lynn Addison pleaded guilty to two counts of possession with intent to distribute (fentanyl and methamphetamine), according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Both of the San Diego residents face prison time for their roles, according to a U.S. Attorney's Office news release. Their sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 16 before U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo.

Federal prosecutors said that Salazar admitted he supplied a fatal dose of fentanyl that resulted in the death of the woman -- identified in court documents as S.E.F.-- who was found inside her Vista apartment on Nov. 3, 2020.

According to his plea agreement, Salazar used an online classified ads service to offer controlled substances for sale.

After communicating online with the victim, "Salazar sold fentanyl to S.E.F. on November 2, 2020, and she subsequently died from ingesting the fentanyl," federal prosecutors said in the news release.

On Jan. 10, 2021, law enforcement officials arrested Salazar, who was found with packages of heroin and fentanyl, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

A search of Salazar's nearby hotel room "located numerous quantities of controlled substances including more fentanyl and dealer-related paraphernalia such as scales, baggies and pay-and-owe sheets," the office said.

U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman thanked local prosecutors and investigating agencies "for their excellent work" on this case and many others like it.

"We can't lose sight of the fact that powdered fentanyl" -- which caused the death in this case -- "is extremely dangerous," Grossman said. "To those drug dealers who would sell fentanyl in all its forms: Know that federal law enforcement will hold you accountable for any deaths that your sales cause."

Shelly S. Howe, DEA special agent in charge, said that agency's mission "is to hold dealers accountable and to save lives. In this case, that mission was accomplished by arresting Salazar and seizing additional fentanyl that could have killed others."

Chad Plantz, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations, said credit for the guilty pleas is shared among the DEA, the sheriff's department and the District Attorney's Office.

The investigation and arrest of Salazar and Addison was featured on the HBO show "The Crime of the Century," federal prosecutors said.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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