Alleged drug dealer charged with manslaughter in Lafayette fentanyl overdose

·3 min read

Jan. 25—A Longmont man has been charged with manslaughter after police say he knowingly sold counterfeit opioid pills laced with fentanyl to the boyfriend of a woman who died the next day of an overdose in Lafayette.

Sammy Valdez, 21, is charged with manslaughter, four counts of distribution of a controlled substance and one count of possession with intent to sell.

Manslaughter can be charged in Colorado when a person "recklessly causes the death of another person."

Valdez was initially arrested in December, but the affidavit in his case was sealed until Tuesday morning due to ongoing investigation.

"Deaths caused by fentanyl poisoning are a priority for our office," Boulder County District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Shannon Carbone said in a statement. "Throughout the nation, and here in Colorado, we have seen a spike in the number of people dying of fentanyl poisoning. (Boulder County District Attorney Michael) Dougherty is pushing for legislation that would provide more treatment options for those struggling with drug addiction, greater resources for law enforcement investigations, and stiffer penalties for distributors who cause a death by fentanyl poisoning.

"Although some individuals knowingly use fentanyl, there are people dying from fentanyl poisoning because they have no idea that fentanyl is in a pill. Recently, in working closely with law enforcement, our office charged Mr. Valdez with manslaughter and related offenses."

According to the affidavit, Lafayette police were called to a home in Lafayette on March 19, 2020, after a man woke up to find his girlfriend was not breathing and not responding. Paramedics responded, but the woman was declared dead on scene.

The woman's boyfriend told police he had bought oxycodone pills from Valdez, his normal dealer, and that both he and his girlfriend took one before going to sleep.

In examining the pills, police noted that they appeared to be counterfeit oxycodone pills. The pills were sent to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and tested positive for fentanyl.

The Boulder County Drug Task Force began an investigation into Valdez, and attempted to arrange for an undercover officer to buy pills and cocaine from Valdez on several occasions.

According to the affidavit, the undercover officer was only able to buy cocaine from Valdez at the initial meeting in April 2020. The officer then bought cocaine from Valdez on two more occasions in October 2020 before police applied for a search warrant of Valdez's apartment in Longmont.

On Oct. 23, police executed the warrant and Valdez was detained by police while en route to an arranged buy with the undercover officer. Police found cocaine in the apartment and on Valdez.

When questioned by police about the counterfeit pills, Valdez said he did not know he was selling counterfeit pills until February 2020, at which time he told his cousin, the alleged supplier, he would no longer buy them because he knew they were associated with overdose deaths.

But according to the affidavit, evidence recovered on Valdez's phone indicated Valdez knew he was selling counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl.

In a Snapchat message Valdez wrote, "$900 for fakes 1000 of em tho." He also wrote, "Obliviously I got reals for the reg... But these 30mg press fetty." Police said the term "press fetty" referred to pressed fentanyl, while 30mg refers to oxycodone pills.

Police said Valdez sent those messages the day the woman in Lafayette died.

"Based on the timeline provided by Sammy and the conversations found on Sammy's Snapchat, and text messages it is apparent that Sammy was aware he was selling pills that contained fentanyl," a detective wrote in the affidavit. "Sammy completed the sale of fentanyl laced pills on March 18, 2020, which eventually led to the overdose death of (the victim). Sammy was well aware of the risks associated with the consumption of these pills and by knowingly completing the sale of fentanyl laced pills and indicating that they were legitimate pills he acted in a reckless manner which contributed to the overdose death."

Valdez is free on a $25,000 personal recognizance bond and is scheduled for an arraignment on March 11.