SAN FRANCISCO – Gage Pascoe was sentenced to 68 months in federal prison for distributing pills laced with fentanyl that caused a Walnut Creek woman’s overdose death, announced United States Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds and Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Wade R. Shannon. The sentence was handed down by United States District Judge William Alsup.
Pascoe, 23, of Pittsburg, California, pleaded guilty on February 14, 2022, to the charge of distributing fentanyl. In his plea agreement, Pascoe admitted that on the night of June 16, 2020, a former high school classmate came to his house to buy oxycodone pills. He sold her thirteen M30 pills, which lab tests later showed were laced with deadly fentanyl. The next morning the victim was found dead in her bed, and the baggie containing the M30s that Pascoe sold to the victim was found in her bedroom. Pascoe agreed in his plea agreement that the victim ingested the M30s he sold her and as a result suffered an overdose of fentanyl.
The government filed a sentencing memorandum asserting that while Pascoe did not intentionally cause his high school classmate’s death, her death was the product of Pascoe’s reckless disregard for her safety. Pascoe told the victim he would buy the oxycodone pills from a street source he referred to as his “other connect.” The government pointed out that dealing in M30 oxycodone pills bought on the street is extremely dangerous. According to DEA, counterfeit M30 pills routinely contain fentanyl, and four out of every ten such pills contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl. A lethal dose can be miniscule, as little as two milligrams. Pascoe essentially “played Russian roulette,” the government asserted, but it was the victim who suffered the fatal consequences of Pascoe’s reckless, grossly negligent conduct.
In addition to the 68 month prison term, U.S. District Judge Alsup ordered Pascoe to serve five years of supervision following release from federal prison and to pay restitution to the family of the victim for funeral costs.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alexandra Shepard and Ross Weingarten prosecuted the case with the assistance of Andy Ding and Jasmine Sanders. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by DEA and the Walnut Creek Police Department.
One Pill Can Kill: Beware of pills bought on the street. Fentanyl, a Schedule II controlled substance, is a highly potent opiate that can be diluted with cutting agents to create counterfeit pills that purport to mimic the effects of Oxycodone, Percocet, and other drugs and can typically be obtained at a lower cost than the genuine drugs. However, very small variations in the amount or quality of fentanyl creates huge effects on the potency of the counterfeit pills and can easily have lethal consequences. Fentanyl has now become the leading cause of drug overdose deaths in the United States. Counterfeit, fentanyl-laced pills are commonly shaped and colored to resemble pills that are sold legitimately at pharmacies. For example, counterfeit pills known as M30s mimic Oxycodone and routinely contain fentanyl. These tablets are round and often light blue in color, though they come in many other colors, and have “M” and “30” imprinted on opposite sides of the pill.