A former first responder who worked at a Long Beach hospital was sentenced today to over 29 years behind bars for selling fentanyl to two of his co-workers who thought they were buying cocaine, one of whom later died of an overdose after ingesting the powerful opioid.
Cruz Noel Quintero, 43, of Long Beach, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder, who scheduled a Sept. 6 restitution hearing in the case, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
At the conclusion of a six-day trial in September, a jury found Quintero guilty of one count of distributing fentanyl resulting in death, one count of possessing machine guns, two counts of possessing unregistered firearms, one count of maintaining a drug-involved premises, and one count of possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.
According to evidence presented in Los Angeles federal court, beginning no later than February 2018, Quintero—who was employed as an emergency medical technician at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center—shipped cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs across the country, and distributed them locally out of a Long Beach residence.
In May 2019, in the parking lot outside the hospital’s emergency room, Quintero sold a white powder he claimed was cocaine for $100 to a hospital coworker who was planning to go on a weekend trip to Las Vegas with her partner, a former nurse at the Long Beach hospital and volunteer firefighter.
The following morning, the couple sampled the powder—not knowing that it in fact was fentanyl—and both of them passed out. One of the victims, identified in court documents as S.F., later was pronounced dead.
Two toxicologists testified that the only drug they found in S.F.’s blood was fentanyl, and a medical examiner and a medical toxicologist testified that the victim died because of fentanyl toxicity.
After learning that Quintero sold the fatal dose, law enforcement searched two residences in Long Beach and discovered Quintero’s illicit drug-trafficking operation. Across both residences, they found 13 firearms that included two machine guns, two short-barreled assault rifles and nine other guns, some of which were loaded, authorities said.
One of the residences, which Quintero used as his base of operations, was littered with drug-trafficking paraphernalia, including over 10 pounds of cutting agents used to dilute the quality of the drugs he sold and a hydraulic press used to manufacture multi-pound bricks of cocaine.
According to trial testimony, Quintero also shipped multi-pound quantities of cocaine and quantities of methamphetamine to drug traffickers in Minnesota, which prompted frequent complaints about the poor quality of his product.
Quintero has been in custody since his arrest shortly after the fatal overdose in May 2019.
Snyder sentenced Quintero to a total of 352 months in federal prison—292 months for the fentanyl death count, 120 months for the firearms counts and 240 months for the maintaining a drug premises count—all of which are to run concurrent to each other.
Finally, she sentenced Quintero to 60 months in prison for possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, a term that will run consecutive to the other counts, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.