A Tucson woman accused of supplying the powerful fentanyl pills that caused three people to overdose at a Halloween party last year, including a 19-year-old man who died, has been indicted on federal charges, the DEA said Friday.
Jocelyn Lopez-Sanchez, 22, was indicted on May 1 by a federal grand jury and turned herself in to U.S. officials on Wednesday, said Doug Coleman, Drug Enforcement Administration Phoenix division special agent in charge.
Coleman said her indictment is part of a push by the DEA to prosecute street dealers whose distribution of drugs results in death.
Michael John Martinez Areinoff of the Federal Public Defender's Office in Tucson, who has been assigned the case, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The man who died was Aaron Francisco Chavez, who swallowed at least one of the sky blue pills smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico that were distributed at a Halloween party in Tucson last year. Nicknamed "Mexican oxy," the bills are part of a profitable new business for the Sinaloa cartel that has made the synthetic opioid responsible for the most fatal overdoses in the U.S.
Officials say the death of Chavez and many others illustrate how Arizona and other states bordering Mexico have become a hot spot in the nation's fentanyl crisis. Fentanyl deaths tripled in Arizona from 2015 through 2017.
The DEA did not identify Chavez, but his identity is known through earlier reporting by The Associated Press on the crisis involving fentanyl pills that are designed to look like prescription medicine. At the time of his death, Tucson police investigators said they believed that people at the party thought they were taking oxycodone, a much less powerful opioid.
Lopez-Sanchez was initially arrested on state charges in connection with the Nov. 1 overdoses.
The federal charge of supplying drugs resulting in the death of an individual carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum of life behind bars. Lopez-Sanchez also faces two counts related to the alleged importation of fentanyl from Mexico.
Stamped with "M'' on one side and "30" on the other to make them look like legitimate oxycodone, the pills started showing up in Arizona in recent years as the Sinaloa cartel's newest drug product.
The fentanyl that killed Chavez was among 1,000 pills sneaked through the border crossing last year in Nogales, Arizona, by a woman who was paid $200 to tote them and gave two to Chavez at the party, according to court documents. It's unknown if he took one or both.