• Arrest made after buyer of street drugs dies

    By: KIRO 7 News Staff

    Updated:

    MOUNT VERNON, Wash. - A Mount Vernon man was arrested Thursday on charges of controlled substance homicide after a man who thought he was buying Percocet instead received pills laced with the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl and subsequently died.

    Rosemary Kaholokula, Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor for Skagit County, filed criminal charges against John Mendieta, who's expected to make his first court appearance Friday.

    Prosecutors say the arrest was the result of a nearly six-month investigation by the Mount Vernon Police Department after the 27-year-old man died on May 11.

    Search warrants of phones and video from several locations led to Mendieta’s arrest, according to prosecutors.

    Kaholokula warned that pills bought illegally are not always what they seem.

    In June, KIRO 7 Reporter Graham Johnson spoke with Washington State Patrol Crime Lab forensic scientist Mark Strongman, who works to figure out what's really in pills seized by police.

    "You just really can't tell from the look. You think you can and then you're surprised," Strongman said.

    "We're starting to see an increase in mimic pharmaceuticals. So, they'll be stamped and look like a pharmaceutical grade oxycodone, but when it's actually tested, it's coming out as fentanyl or heroin," said Mary Kellar of the State Patrol.

    "Counterfeit opioids are of major concern to the DEA, especially fentanyl," said Keith Weis, the special agent in charge of the DEA's Seattle division.

    Weis said fentanyl often comes from China to clandestine laboratories in Mexico, where pills are pressed and then smuggled into the U.S. to be sold cheaply.

    Read Johnson’s full story, "Inside the crime lab looking for pills laced with fentanyl," at this link.


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