A Paso Robles man has been arrested on federal charges of selling counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl to a 19-year-old Atascadero resident who suffered a fatal overdose from the synthetic opioid, the Justice Department announced Friday.

          Timothy Clark Wolfe, 24, was taken into custody Thursday by special agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

          A federal grand jury on July 19 charged Wolfe in a two-count indictment that accuses him of distributing fentanyl resulting in death and possession with the intent to distribute alprazolam (often sold under the brand name Xanax).

         Wolfe pleaded not guilty to the charges in the indictment, and a September 20 trial date was scheduled. A federal magistrate judge ordered Wolfe released on $150,000 bond.

          The indictment alleges that, on March 8, 2020, Wolfe sold the victim the fentanyl-laced pills, “the use of which resulted in the death and serious bodily injury of E.V.”

          During a search of Wolfe’s residence the following day after the death of E.V., Atascadero Police discovered the alprazolam, which the indictment alleges he intended to distribute.

         The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office charged Wolfe in relation to the overdose death on May 20, 2020. The District Attorney’s Office will dismiss their state charges in light of the federal prosecution. 

          If convicted of the charges, Wolfe is facing up to life in prison, according to officials.

          The DEA’s Los Angeles Field Office is investigating this matter.

The Atascadero Police Department and the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office provided substantial assistance.

          Assistant United States Attorneys Julia Hu of the Major Frauds Section and Jena MacCabe of the General Crimes Section are prosecuting this case.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 108,642 people died as the result of a drug overdose in the United States during the one-year period ending February 2022.

Synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and its analogs, are the primary driver of the increase in drug overdose deaths. Synthetic opioids are involved in 67% of all drug overdose deaths and 89% of opioid-involved drug overdose deaths.

According to the DEA, criminal drug networks in Mexico are mass-producing illicit fentanyl and fake pills pressed with fentanyl in clandestine, unregulated labs.

These fake pills are designed to look like real prescription pills, typically replicating prescription opioid medications such as oxycodone (common brand names include Oxycontin and Percocet) and hydrocodone (Vicodin); sedatives such as alprazolam; and stimulants (Adderall).

The DEA warns that pills purchased outside of a licensed pharmacy are illegal, dangerous and potentially lethal.

For more information, please visit www.dea.gov/onepill.

By Raul

Raul Hernandez is a former journalist. He has worked as a newspaper reporter for more than 30 years at the El Paso Herald-Post, El Paso Times, Press Enterprise in Riverside, California and the Ventura County Star in California. He was a court reporter for more than 20 years.