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Thread: Three Defendants Indicted in One of Nation’s Largest-Ever Fentanyl Seizures

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  1. #1
    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    Three Defendants Indicted in One of Nation’s Largest-Ever Fentanyl Seizures

    Three Defendants Indicted in One of Nation’s Largest-Ever Fentanyl Seizures

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Jarad E. Hodes (619) 546-7432

    NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – June 19, 2017

    SAN DIEGO – A long-term investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has led to one of the nation’s largest seizures of the deadly synthetic opiate fentanyl and a federal indictment against three alleged traffickers.

    According to the indictment unsealed today, Jonathan Ibarra, Hector Fernando Garcia and Anna Baker are charged with possession of 44.14 kilograms of fentanyl with the intent to distribute. Most of the fentanyl was seized from a house in Lemon Grove.

    According to a search warrant affidavit, the defendants discussed the transportation of a then-unidentified controlled substance. On November 30, 2016, Ibarra received instructions to have a female courier, later identified as Baker, transport the narcotics in three separate trips on consecutive days.

    Based on this information, agents requested a traffic stop of Baker’s rented vehicle and seized about 15 kilograms of a substance later determined to be fentanyl. Law enforcement officers then obtained a search warrant for Baker’s residence, where they found about 30 additional kilograms of the same substance.

    Drug traffickers use the pure fentanyl powder to increase the potency of heroin or to manufacture counterfeit opioid painkillers that resemble oxycodone. Due to fentanyl’s extreme potency - up to 50 times stronger than heroin - deaths from fentanyl-laced heroin and counterfeit pills are epidemic in the United States. Considering that just 3 milligrams is enough to kill an adult male, the 44.14 kilogram seizure represents over 14 million lethal doses. The attached photo, prepared by the San Diego County Medical Examiner, shows the lethal dose of fentanyl on a penny.

    The defendants were arraigned on the indictment today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara L. Major.

    This case is also the result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) a partnership that brings together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, dismantle and prosecute high level members of drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations and enterprises.

    *The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.


    Jonathan Ibarra Age: 45 Lemon Grove, California
    Hector Fernando Garcia Age: 46 San Diego, California
    Anna Baker Age: 30 Lemon Grove, California


    Possession of Fentanyl with Intent to Distribute – Title 21, U.S.C., Section 841(a)(1)
    Maximum penalty: Life in prison and $10,000,000 fine


    United States Drug Enforcement Administration<acronym title="Google Page Ranking">pr</acronym>/three-defendants-indicted-one-nation-s-largest-ever-fentanyl-seizures

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  2. #2
    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    Fentanyl seizures, deaths raise alarm in San Diego

    Sandra Dibble

    A killer drug that has sent accidental death rates soaring in states east of the Mississippi is now raising alarm in San Diego County. With local fentanyl deaths on the rise, authorities are scrambling to confront a problem that has devastated scores of other U.S. communities.

    Recent weeks have brought jarring wake-up calls, such as the deaths of three friends found inside a Vista duplex — two slumped on a couch, the third nearby on the floor in a kneeling position, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office. One victim was a mother of three who owned a restaurant in Oceanside, another was her cousin, who was visiting from Austin, Texas; the third was a recent father doing well at his job as an apprentice pipe-fitter.

    The office determined that all three died of accidental overdoses involving the synthetic opioid, the latest victims in a rising trend in the county that has brought 118 fentanyl-related deaths since 2012 — with 23 of them this year.

    The victims overall have come from all areas of the county; the youngest was 19, the oldest 98; most were white, in their 30s, 40s and 50s, and male. And in most cases, they had a mixture of drugs in their system, according to Medical Examiner’s reports.

    Fentanyl is so powerful that a tiny amount can be lethal: a 2-milligram dose, about the weight of two grains of salt, is enough to kill a grown man.

    San Diego was also the setting this month for two record fentanyl seizures. One took place in Lemon Grove, and involved the daughter of a former longtime mayor of the small East County municipality— yielding enough fentanyl for 14 million doses. The other case involved the seizure of an unprecedented quantity at the San Ysidro Port of Entry hidden inside a vehicle entering from Mexico.

    “It’s tremendously concerning, to say the least,” Kevin McAleenan, acting commissioner for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said during a talk this month at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.

    A two-milligram dose of fentanyl, a quantity that is fatal for most adults. (DEA)

    The drug is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more powerful than morphine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many times it is blended with heroin or sold as oxycodone pills — and poses new dangers both to illicit drug users and the police officers, border inspectors and other first responders conducting seizures or dealing with overdoses.

    “Are we struggling to understand the full scope of it? Sure. These drug organizations… don’t tell us when they’re switching to partial fentanyl, but we see it coming, we see the dangerous trend,” said Mark Conover, deputy U.S. attorney in San Diego and head of a newly formed law enforcement working group that is looking at ways to address the problem. “In the last six months, it’s just exploded,” he said.

    Nationally, growing numbers of Americans are dying from drug overdoses. In 2015, the tally was 52,000, more than 33,000 of them from heroin, fentanyl and other opioids, often a combination of several drugs. The total for 2016 drug overdose fatalities has yet to be released, but is expected to reach close to 60,000.

    The crisis has hit hardest in the East and Midwest, including Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Kentucky, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Its most famous victim is Prince, the musician whose sudden death in April 2016 in Minnesota at the age of 57 was determined to be caused by an accidental fentanyl overdose.

    Fentanyl has been around since the late 1950s, and its most common legal use has been as a prescribed medication to reduce pain for terminal cancer patients. The recent spread is linked to clandestinely manufactured fentanyl that is often mixed in with other opioids such as heroin or pressed into pills and sold as oxycodone. It also is being sold as Xanax, a non-opioid anti-anxiety medication, whose users have no tolerance for it and could easily overdose, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

    The DEA lists China as the main source for fentanyl in the United States, and there are two major ways that it reaches consumers. It can be purchased directly through the “dark web” and delivered by mail, or manufactured in Mexico with precursors imported from China, and then smuggled into the United States.

    The DEA has linked clandestine shipments of fentanyl from Mexico to the Sinaloa cartel. “All the same smuggling routes they use for heroin, meth, marijuana, cocaine, they’re putting now into fentanyl,” said Amy Roderick, spokeswoman for the agency’s San Diego office.

    On June 19, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced one of the nation’s largest fentanyl seizures in Lemon Grove following an extensive DEA investigation.

    One of the three suspects indicted in San Diego federal court is Anna Baker, daughter of former Lemon Grove Mayor Mary Sessom. The two other suspects are Jonathan Ibarra and Hector Fernando Garcia. According to the affidavit, agents on Nov. 30 found more than 33 pounds of fentanyl in the rented vehicle that Baker was driving, and later found more than 66 pounds of the same substance at her residence.

    On June 10 at the San Ysidro port of entry, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials made a fentanyl seizure that set a record for the U.S.-Mexico border. According to a complaint filed in federal court, inspectors found more than 66 pounds of a “white and gray, powdery substance” that tested positive for fentanyl, and came wrapped in 24 packages concealed in false compartments. Also seized were more than 18 pounds of methamphetamine.

    The driver of the 2011 Renault Koleos was identified as Fabiola Magos Franco, a Mexican citizen with a tourist visa. According to the complaint, she said she was to be paid $1,000 for driving the vehicle into the United States.

    Seizures of fentanyl at the U.S.-Mexico border pale in comparison with cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine and marijuana. But the trend is a new one, and causing increasing alarm, especially given the potency of the drug: As recently as 2012, Customs and Border Protection registered no fentanyl seizures at all, the commissioner said.

    But in fiscal 2016, CBP reported seizures totaling 359 pounds at ports of entry on the Mexico border — virtually all of it in the San Diego sector. From October through May, fentanyl seizures totaled more than 250 pounds, with nearly 190 of those in the San Diego sector.

    Compared with other illicit drugs, “typically, fentanyl seizures are much smaller, and associated with other narcotics in a seizure,” said Pete Flores, head of the San Diego field office for Customs and Border Protection.

    The drug is so powerful that it poses risk to inspectors who might come upon shipments — as touching or inhaling even a tiny amount of fentanyl can be fatal. CBP has implemented additional safety procedures for its inspectors. If a smuggled package proves difficult to access, “we call hazmat teams or individuals who are especially equipped to break down compartments for us,” Flores said.

    San Diego has long been a major corridor for illicit drugs crossing from Mexico. CBP figures for 2016 showed that the sector accounted for 60 percent of the agency’s methamphetamine seizures, 54 percent of its cocaine seizures and 42 percent of its heroin seizures on the southwest border.

    With fentanyl giving rise to new concerns, federal, state and local law enforcement officers from around the county came together last month to form a fentanyl working group. Earlier this month, some 260 people attended its first training session.

    “Our first-respondent law enforcement officers need to be more aware and concerned,” said Conover, the deputy who is heading the working group. “The tiniest speck can be deadly.

    Miles from the border one morning last month, three people found dead at a duplex in Vista accidentally overdosed on fentanyl and other drugs, according the the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office.

    Jennifer Dawn Duffin, 38, was a mother of three who owned Jennie’s Cafe in Oceanside. Her cousin, Jessica Marie Conoscenti, 33, was visiting from Austin, Texas, according to the Medical Examiner’s report. The third victim was Ulises Mundo, a 28-year-old Oceanside resident.

    Mundo had been employed by an Oceanside-based fire protection company, an apprentice who installed fire-sprinkler systems. “He was here every day, he worked hard, he was climbing the ladder,” said Marie Richardson, the office administrator. He was also a new father “and very happy,” she said.

    Colleagues who learned of his overdose death were shocked and bereft. “I don’t want him to be labeled that way,” Richardson said. “I hate to have that stigma on him, it doesn’t fit.”
    Staff Writer Karen Kucher contributed to this report.
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  3. #3
    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    DEA Seizes Enough Fentanyl to Kill Illinois

    June 20, 2017

    This image of a deadly dose of fentanyl was provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California(CN) — The DEA said Monday that it seized nearly 100 pounds of fentanyl in Southern California: enough to kill 14 million people — the entire state of Illinois, or everyone in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago.

    The June 2 federal grand jury indictment in San Diego, unsealed Monday, charges three San Diego-area residents with possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute it. All three face up to life in prison and $10 million fines.

    Charged were Jonathan Ibarra, 45; Anna Baker, 30, both of Lemon Grove; and Hector Fernando Garcia, 46, of San Diego. Lemon Grove is an eastern suburb of San Diego.

    Fentanyl is one of the leading culprits in the nationwide epidemic of opioid deaths. Developed from Demerol, fentanyl and its derivatives can be 50 to hundreds of times more powerful than heroin. A lethal dose for a human can be as small as 3 milligrams — a single ounce could kill 9,457 people; a pound could kill more than 150,000.

    Fentanyl is a key ingredient in the lollipops given to terminally ill patients for “breakthrough pain,” because it is fast-acting and has short-term effects.

    Drug dealers have been adding it to heroin — or to sugar — and selling it on the street.

    According to the indictment and a statement from the U.S. attorney, the defendants discussed transporting an unidentified drug on Nov. 30, 2016, and Ibarra “received instructions” to have a courier, later identified as Baker, haul the drugs in three trips on consecutive days.

    Acting on this information, with a warrant, the Drug Enforcement Administration had Baker’s car stopped and found 15 kilos of fentanyl in it. They got a search warrant for her residence, and found another 30 kilograms there.

    “The combined amount – 44.14 kilograms – represents the largest fentanyl seizure sent to a DEA lab nationwide,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in the statement.

    The defendants were arraigned Monday before a U.S. magistrate in San Diego.

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  4. #4
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    • Former Lemon Grove mayor Mary Sessom
    • Image by Patch

    Daughter of ex-Lemon Grove mayor in jail
    Caught in historic fentanyl seizure

    By Don Bauder, June 20, 2017

    Anna Sessom Baker, daughter of former Lemon Grove mayor and council member Mary Sessom, is in jail today. Yesterday (June 20),she, along with Jonathan Ibarra and Hector Fernando Garcia, were arraigned and charged with possession of 44.14 kilograms of fentanyl, with the intent to distribute it.

    The United States Attorney's office says the seizure was one of the largest ever in the nation. Fentanyl is a fast-acting narcotic and sedative with a heroinlike effect, often used to boost the potency of heroin.

    According to search warrant information, on November 30 of last year Ibarra received instructions that a female courier, later identified as Baker, would transport the narcotic in three separate trips on consecutive days. However, agents stopped Baker's rented vehicle and found 15 kilograms of fentanyl. Agents went to her house and found 30 more kilograms.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Jarad E. Hodes confirmed today that Baker is Sessom's daughter. The matter had come up in court yesterday. Mary Sessom served as mayor of Lemon Grove from 1996 to 2016. Earlier, she had been a council member. In her last term, she was chair of the San Diego Association of Governments Public Safety Committee. Records of the State Bar indicate she resigned in 2015 without any record of public discipline.

    Her daughter Anna Sessom Baker is said to have run for Lemon Grove council, but I was not able to confirm that.

    On May 30, Mary Sessom wrote an essay for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, adding her voice to those wanting statewide surveillance technology transparency in California. "In my more than two decades in elected service, technology has rapidly advanced, but state laws have struggled to keep up," she said. "Elected officials serve the people first and foremost, and they must recognize that acquiring surveillance technology requires a delicate balance between two public safety interests. On the one hand, the public needs law enforcement to combat crime. On the other, the public needs their privacy, and their sensitive information to remain secure and free from unnecessary collection."

    Last edited by Newmexican; 06-30-2017 at 03:34 PM.
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