A Long Beach man, along with three other Southland men, was arrested on Tuesday by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents on federal charges of distributing narcotics and money laundering, officials announced.
The four men allegedly produced and distributed their own pills from a powerful synthetic opiate imported from China, officials said in a release. In addition, DEA agents uncovered large quantities of pill presses and different colored powders in a working lab in Baldwin Park. They will be tested in order to determine the chemical composition.
The defendants are Gary Resnick, 31, of Long Beach, Joseph Stanley, 30, of Huntington Park, Christopher Bowen, 30, of downtown Los Angeles and Dylan Simpson, 25, of Fountain Valley.
A criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday charges the defendants with participating in a ring that imported acetyl-fentanyl. The substance is significantly more potent than heroin and similar to the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Acetyl-fentanyl, sometimes called fake heroin, is not approved for use in the United States.
“So-called ‘designer drugs’ may seem to have a similar effect as traditional narcotics, but these back-alley laboratory concoctions are very dangerous,” said U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker in a statement. “They have caused many deaths in the United States, and this abuse led the DEA to put it on a list of the most dangerous and easily abused drugs in our country.”
The four defendants are also charged with conspiracy to launder money, money laundering, conspiracy to distribute narcotics and possession of fentanyl and methamphetamine with the intent to distribute, the release said.
Back in January, authorities seized narcotics including methamphetamine, Xanax, hydrocodone pills, acetyl-fentanyl and ecstasy, from a man who had purchased them from members of the drug trafficking organization, officials said.
“Fentanyl and its analogues pose a serious public health risk. Even small doses absorbed through the skin or accidently inhaled can be fatal,” said DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge David Downing, in a statement. “The DEA will continue to aggressively target individuals and organizations involved in the illicit manufacture and distribution of these toxic substances.”
The defendants made their first court appearance Tuesday afternoon in the United States District Court in Los Angeles, where they were ordered detained pending detention hearings scheduled for Thursday. Arraignment for this case is scheduled for April 4.
If convicted, each defendant would face a statutory maximum sentence of life in federal prison.