A California man was sentenced to 15 years in prison after he sold counterfeit drugs containing fentanyl to his 19-year-old friend, federal prosecutors said.
Olatunde James Temitope Akintonde contacted the 19-year-old, referred to by authorities as S.J.G., on Feb. 28, 2019 to arrange a sale “of what the victim believed to be oxycodone pills,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of California.
Akintonde was 20 at the time, court records said.
A defense memorandum filed on Akintonde’s behalf said that he and S.J.G., who both lived in El Cajon, were friends and that they had previously taken drugs together . Akintonde thought he was selling oxycodone or percocet pills and was not aware that the oxycodone pills were laced with fentanyl, the memo said.
On its own, oxycodone, an opioid, can be highly addictive and dangerous when abused. But the addition of fentanyl to any drug can make it much more dangerous and often lethal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Akintonde met up with S.J.G. that night and gave him two oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl. Afterward, he sent S.J.G. messages telling him to only take one pill, as he believed they were “strong,” the release said.
S.J.G. died in his home sometime late on the night of Feb. 28 or early on the morning of March 1.
Akintonde, who was 20 at the time, was later arrested and charged with distribution of fentanyl, the release said.
Akintonde’s defense memorandum stated that there was no evidence suggesting he knew the pills contained fentanyl. An undercover police officer attempted to get Akintonde to admit that the pills had fentanyl by contacting Akintonde through Instagram and trying to buy pills from him — however, Akintonde told the officer that he didn’t know if they did and only knew that they “hit,” or were strong, the memo said.
“This does not absolve Mr. Akintonde of his responsibility but this clearly was a tragic accident, not a willful distribution of fentanyl that caused the death of his good friend,” the memo said.
Akintonde, who has been in custody since Nov. 26, 2019, pleaded guilty to one count of distribution of fentanyl, a charge with a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, the release said. He was sentenced on Nov. 24, 2021.
“There is an epidemic of counterfeit fentanyl-laced pills in our community,” acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said in the release. “To be clear: If you are a drug dealer selling pills, and those pills result in death, you will be held accountable for that death. It is no defense to say you didn’t know the pills contained fentanyl.”
In a letter to S.J.G.’s family, Akintonde said that his friend’s death was “the most painful feeling” he had ever experienced.
“[S.J.G.] was a really good friend & I know his family doesn’t appreciate me saying that, but it’s the honest truth,” Akintonde wrote.
El Cajon is about 16 miles northeast of San Diego, California.
This story was originally published November 26, 2021 3:43 PM.