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Press Release

Former Camp Lejeune Marine Pleads Guilty to Distributing Oxycodone and Fentanyl Linked to Fellow Marine’s Death

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of North Carolina

RALEIGH – United States Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr. announced that today in federal court, Chief United States District Judge Terrence W. Boyle accepted a guilty plea by Marcos jamie villegas, 24, of St. Charles, Illinois, to distributing a quantity of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of oxycodone and fentanyl, and aiding and abetting.

According to the investigation, on April 14, 2017, United States Marine Corporal Mark M. Mambulao and VILLEGAS were visiting at a local residence in Richlands, North Carolina. During the party, VILLEGAS provided Mambulao with pills that he and fellow Marine Sergeant Anthony P. Tognietti had purchased over the dark web.  The pills had been advertised as oxycodone laced with fentanyl, a highly powerful opiate that can be lethal in even small doses.  In the early hours of April 15, 2017, VILLEGAS discovered Mambulao unresponsive. Mambulao was taken to Onslow Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and died shortly after his arrival. Mambulao’s autopsy revealed his cause of death as fentanyl overdose and low alcohol content.  Mambulao was just 20 years old at the time of his death.

Investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) revealed that just a few weeks later, similar pills were seized from VILLEGAS’s barracks room.  The pills were later sent off for testing and came back positive for fentanyl.  Examination of VILLEGAS’s cellular phone revealed text messages discussing purchases of drugs.  Further coordination by NCIS with the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration linked the pills purchased by VILLEGAS and Tognietti to a manufacturer and dark web distributor in Texas.  That man, Alaa Mohammed Allawi, 30, was later charged and pled guilty in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl resulting in death or serious bodily injury and using a gun during a drug crime. He also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money.  As part of the deal, Allawi agreed to be sentenced to 30 years in federal prison.

Tognietti was charged by a Criminal Information filed on March 27, 2019 for distributing a quantity of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of oxycodone and fentanyl, and aiding and abetting.  On April 17, 2019, he pled guilty to that charge and awaits sentencing in October 2019.  Both Tognietti and VILLEGAS face up to twenty years’ imprisonment.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the United States Postal Inspection Service conducted the investigation.  Assistant United States Attorney Laura S. Howard represented the government.

Updated October 2, 2019