Federal agents have arrested a 22-year-old Riverside man accused of supplying a lethal dose of fentanyl to a young Temecula woman.
Brandon Michael McDowell was taken into custody without incident after a two-year investigation into the death of 20-year-old Alexandra Capaluto.
A federal grand jury on Wednesday returned an indictment on McDowell with one count of distributing fentanyl, which resulted in death, which carries a sentence of at least 20 years in prison without the possibility of parole, if convicted. If so, according to the US Attorney’s Office.
According to prosecutors, on December 22, 2019, Capaluto, a student at Arizona State University, came home for the holidays and contacted defendant via Snapchat to order oxycodone, a drug usually provided for chronic pain relief. medicine to be taken.
McDowell allegedly sold an undisclosed amount of “fake Oxycodone M30 pills” to the victim, according to a statement from the US Attorney’s Office.
“Investigators believe he crushed at least one of the pills and swallowed the drug shortly before succumbing to the potent opioid in pills,” the agency said.
Capeluto’s father, Matt Capeluto, has publicly stated that his daughter didn’t realize she was ingesting fentanyl-laced pills.
“This is another incredibly sad case that demonstrates the lethal danger of fentanyl that is now seen in a wide range of drugs sold on the street,” said US Attorney Tracy Wilkison for the Central District of California. “My office and our law enforcement partners will continue to investigate fatal overdose cases to identify and bring to justice each person involved in the smuggling of fentanyl.”
The Capaluto case has garnered wide publicity and prompted Sen. Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, to introduce Senate Bill 350 earlier this year.
The bill, which the committee failed to pass, would have mandated that, under state law, any person convicted of dealing with fentanyl or other potentially lethal drugs be issued a written warning that in the future it would be necessary to provide such drugs. Death resulting from an overdose may result in the party being prosecuted for murder.
The intention was to facilitate prosecutors’ efforts to file murder charges against the dealers.
However, some county prosecutors, including Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin, are pursuing second-degree murder charges against dealers selling lethal doses of fentanyl anyway. About a dozen individuals across the country have been charged with murder in connection with the fentanyl-traced plagues.
The McDowell case was investigated with US Drug Enforcement Administration agents, Riverside County Sheriff’s detectives, and personnel from the US Department of Homeland Security Investigations.
According to Sheriff Chad Bianco, Fentanyl is manufactured in China and smuggled across the Mexican border.
It is believed to be 80–100 times more potent than morphine and is a popular additive, added to any number of narcotics and pharmaceuticals.
Bianco and Hestrin announced earlier this year that they would take a tougher crackdown on fentanyl deaths, accusing them of murder whenever circumstances warrant and the evidence was anecdotal.
Hestrin told the board of supervisors over the summer that the county was on pace to document 500 fentanyl deaths this year. According to public safety officials, the number of deaths has doubled each year since 2015, and in that time, fentanyl-related overdose deaths have increased by 800% overall.
The prosecutor handling the McDowell case is a deputy district attorney for Riverside County, given a special assignment as assistant U.S. attorney.
Background information about the respondent was not available.