Defendants Charged Separately In Fentanyl Death Overdose & Pill Trafficking Ring
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – January 8, 2019
SAN DIEGO – Today, federal prosecutors filed drug trafficking charges against four individuals following a successful undercover operation in which agents acquired over 10,000 potentially deadly fentanyl pills that were smuggled through San Diego Ports of Entry. In a separate matter, a local San Diego defendant was charged with distributing fentanyl that resulted in the July 18, 2018 death of a San Diego resident.
According to the pill ring trafficking complaint, in December 2018, federal undercover agents negotiated with a known drug trafficker based in Tijuana to purchase approximately 4,000 fentanyl pills for $24,000. Following that conversation, the trafficker arranged for defendants to smuggle fentanyl pills through the San Diego Ports of Entry. On January 7, 2019, defendant Dianna Dominguez arrived in a vehicle with defendants Felix Inzunza-Dominguez, Jr. and Norma Macias-Dominguez. Inzunza-Dominguez., Jr. eventually exited the vehicle with a bag and headed to the nearby Frye’s parking lot, where he delivered about 4,000 fentanyl pills to an undercover agent, expecting to receive $24,000. As alleged in the complaint, the bag also contained two condoms, believed to be the smugglers’ method of concealing the fentanyl as they entered the United States. Defendants Macias-Dominguez and Inzunza-Dominguez, Jr. had previously each delivered 1,000 fentanyl pills to an undercover agent, in exchange for $8,000 per transaction.
Following the above incident, the undercover agent told the trafficker in Mexico that he did not receive the fentanyl pills and requested another 2,000 fentanyl pills. According to the complaint, after that exchange, defendant Tanairi Ponce placed 2,000 fentanyl pills in her bra, crossed the border, and delivered 2,000 pills to the agent, at which point she was arrested.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, and the San Diego Sheriff’s Office assisted in the undercover investigation targeting the fentanyl smuggling ring.
Following their arraignment this afternoon before Judge Michael Berg, all four defendants entered not guilty pleas. The court scheduled their detention hearing on January 11, 2019 at 10:30 a.m.
In a separate action, defendant Christopher James Stracuzzi was arraigned today in federal court on the charge of distributing fentanyl resulting in death. The federal complaint was unsealed in federal court following his afternoon arraignment before Judge Michael Berg. The complaint alleges that on July 18, 2018, at approximately 8:43 p.m., the San Diego Police Department ("SDPD") received a 911 call in reference to an unconscious male who was laying on the floor in his apartment, unresponsive. Paramedics arrived on scene and unsuccessfully attempted resuscitation. The individual was pronounced deceased at 9:12 p.m.
The deceased’s roommate later advised investigators that Stracuzzi sold the deceased 12 tablets, which the roommate believed were oxycodone pills. They both took one and fell asleep. After learning from the Medical Examiner's Office that her roommate had died of a fentanyl overdose, she suspected the oxycodone (Percocet) tablets were counterfeit pills containing fentanyl. She gave agents the remaining 10 tablets, which the DEA Southwest Regional Laboratory analyzed and found to contain fentanyl.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, San Diego Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Health Care Services, along with the San Diego District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, are part of a team that investigates and prosecutes fatal overdose cases.
Stracuzzi entered a not guilty plea, following his arraignment this afternoon, before Judge Michael Berg and is scheduled for a detention hearing on January 11, 2019 at 10:30 a.m.
“When drug traffickers smuggle or distribute black market pills laced with fentanyl, they are inviting buyers to play Russian roulette with their lives,” said Adam L. Braverman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of California. “Stopping the importation and sale of these exceedingly dangerous pills remains one of the Department’s most important priorities. We won’t rest until we take every pill and every dealer off the street.”
“Tragic cases of overdose deaths caused by fentanyl will leave scars on families in our communities for decades to come,” said HSI San Diego SAC Dave Shaw. “HSI is committed to working with our partners to remove this scourge from our streets. We urge everyone to take the time to learn about these deadly drugs and take the steps necessary to protect their families and loved ones.”
“DEA continues to encounter an alarming amount of counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl in San Diego County – pills that look exactly like legitimate prescription pills,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Karen Flowers. “If you didn’t obtain the prescription pill from an authorized medical practitioner, you are playing Russian roulette. Fentanyl is deadly. Don’t wait to learn the lesson from the Medical Examiner.”
These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sherri Walker Hobson.
DEFENDANTS Case Number 19 MJ 0071
Dianna Dominguez (San Diego)
Felix Inzunza-Dominguez, Jr. (Tijuana)
Norma Macias-Dominguez (Tijuana)
Tanairi Ponce (Tijuana)
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Title 21 U.S.C. Section 841(a)(1) Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute
Maximum penalty: Life in custody, with a mandatory minimum penalty of ten years.
DEFENDANT Case Number 19 MJ 0049
Christopher James Stracuzzi (San Diego)
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Title 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a) & 841(b)(l)(C) Distribution of Fentanyl Resulting in Death
Title 18 U.S.C. § 2 Aiding and Abetting
Maximum penalty: Life in custody, with a mandatory minimum penalty of twenty years.
Drug Enforcement Administration
Homeland Security Investigations
San Diego Sheriff’s Office
San Diego Police Department
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Department of Health Care Services