Man admits distributing fentanyl that led to 5 overdoses in Alpine

SAN DIEGO — A Chula Vista man pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to distributing a powerful narcotic that led to a spate of overdoses late last year.

Joel Rodriguez, 29, admitted in a San Diego courtroom to conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

In his plea agreement, Rodriguez conceded that he obtained fentanyl from Mexico and delivered it to an accomplice for sale in San Diego. The drug distribution led to five non-fatal overdoses in Alpine in December.

The victims, who believed that they were using cocaine, ended up in hospitals, court documents state. Two of them had to be revived with naloxone, a drug that reverses the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system caused by opioids.

Rodriguez also admitted that he drove a vehicle containing 55 pounds of cocaine from San Diego County to the Riverside area last May to deliver the bulk cocaine to another person for further distribution. During a Dec. 12 search of Rodriguez’s home, investigators found more cocaine and fentanyl, according to prosecutors.

“I am sending the strongest warning possible to anyone who is struggling with drug addiction,” U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman said. “We have seen a dramatic surge in deaths and international trafficking activity related to fentanyl, which is 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin and so dangerous that, in its purest form, even a tiny amount touching the skin can be deadly.

Rodriguez’s sentencing is scheduled for May 21.