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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A Pacific Beach resident who pleaded guilty to federal drug charges for selling fentanyl powder that caused a man’s overdose death was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison.

Maya Kol, 42, admitted buying fentanyl that he initially believed was cocaine, which he later sold to several people despite trying the substance and becoming ill himself, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

On Sept. 7, 2018, Kol delivered a half-gram of the powder to victims identified only as J.E., J.H. and L.S. and told them it was cocaine, prosecutors said. Later that day, L.S. contacted Kol, asking for help. When Kol arrived at an apartment shared by L.S. and J.H., all three victims were unresponsive.

J.E., who was 47 years old, died and J.H. was hospitalized that day, while L.S. was admitted to the hospital the following day for lingering symptoms.

Prosecutors say Kol flushed his remaining fentanyl stash down a toilet in his home to hide evidence, but authorities who conducted a search of the residence did find more than $5,000 in cash, as well as items indicative of drug sales.

Kol’s defense attorney, who sought a 10-year term, argued in court documents that Kol “had no idea” the drugs contained fentanyl or that fentanyl was why he became sick and only realized later “with horror” that it must have been the drugs that affected him and killed J.E.

J.E.’s death was one of three overdose deaths that occurred in Pacific Beach over the 2018 Labor Day weekend, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which said the person who sold Kol the fentanyl was among those who died.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, fentanyl-related deaths “are rapidly climbing to unprecedented levels,” and the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office has predicted a 50% increase in such deaths from 2020 to 2021.

“Many people are dying because of dealers like Kol, who know the extreme danger of what they are doing but do it anyway,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “Dealers do not care about their customers. They care about money. As this case tragically shows,  illegal drugs laced with fentanyl are deadly.”

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