Court report

A 22-year-old Mount Vernon man was sentenced Friday to eight years, four months in federal prison for supplying the counterfeit drugs that killed a 17-year-old Bellingham boy.

Jiovanni Nunez pleaded guilty in June in U.S. District Court in Seattle to one count of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, admitting he supplied the fake oxycodone pill that was laced with fentanyl that was sold to the boy, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.

“Far too many people are dying from these fentanyl tainted pills — especially the young and vulnerable,” U.S. Attorney Nicholas W. Brown in the release. “It is critical that we not only stem the flow of the drugs into our community, but also remind people that using these pills often leads to death and devastation, with families left to mourn.”

Nunez and his co-defendant, Rosaliana Lopez-Rodriguez, 23, also of Mount Vernon, were arrested in late 2019 after the boy died from the drugs sold to him by Lopez-Rodriguez, who had gotten them from Nunez.

After Nunez’s arrest, law enforcement officers serving a search warrant at his home recovered more than 900 fake oxycodone pills matching one that was found next to the body of the boy who died.

In court on Friday, the victim’s mother talked about her son as a bright light for many people. Her son’s death left “a big hole of grief we carry that nothing can fill,” according to the news release. Nunez, she said, “knew how deadly the pills were,” and continued “dealing lethal poison in our community.”

At least one other person overdosed from the drugs received from Nunez and Lopez-Rodriguez, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The pair had been distributing counterfeit oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl in both Skagit and Whatcom counties.

Lopez-Rodriguez pleaded guilty in January and was sentenced in August to seven years in prison.

— Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141, kwanielista@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kera_SVH, facebook.com/KeraReports

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