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Paso Robles dealer pleads guilty to selling fatal dose of fentanyl to local man 

A Paso Robles man faces up to 20 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to a federal charge of selling counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl to an Atascadero resident, who then died of an overdose.

Timothy Wolfe, 26, signed a guilty plea agreement with federal prosecutors on May 24 surrendering to one count of knowingly distributing fentanyl.

click to enlarge FATAL DOSE On May 24, Paso Robles resident Timothy Wolfe pleaded guilty to a federal fentanyl charge. It resolves a 2020 case centered on the death of 19-year-old Emilio Velci, who ingested a counterfeit Percocet pill laced with fentanyl he bought from Wolfe. - FILE PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • File Photo By Steve E. Miller
  • FATAL DOSE On May 24, Paso Robles resident Timothy Wolfe pleaded guilty to a federal fentanyl charge. It resolves a 2020 case centered on the death of 19-year-old Emilio Velci, who ingested a counterfeit Percocet pill laced with fentanyl he bought from Wolfe.

According to the agreement, in March 2020, Wolfe sold three blue pills that he represented as Percocet to 19-year-old Emilio Velci outside of a Paso Robles restaurant for $75.

Three nights later, Velci took just one of those pills, passed out while watching a movie with his brothers, and was found dead the next morning.

"Both of [Velci's] brothers and his roommate all checked on [him] before bed and confirmed that he was still breathing," the plea agreement states. "The next morning, around 7 a.m., [his] brothers and other roommate woke up and found that [he] had died. [Velci] died as a result of fentanyl intoxication caused by the pill that [Wolfe] sold."

Velci's mother, Cammie Velci, told New Times in 2020 that her son had been struggling with wisdom teeth pain in the months leading up to his death, and that he believed he was buying a painkiller.

Wolfe's sentencing hearing is scheduled for Aug. 7. His plea agreement says he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. He's currently free on $150,000 bail.

The federal plea agreement hits as the SLO County District Attorney's Office this month filed second-degree murder charges against a Templeton woman who also allegedly sold a fatal dose of fentanyl to a local victim last year.

The DA's Office initially pursued a murder charge against Wolfe, too, in May 2020, but handed the case over to federal prosecutors in 2022, "in hopes that they might be able to have a more meaningful punishment for the reckless and deadly actions of Mr. Wolfe," according to District Attorney Dan Dow.

In a statement to New Times, Dow said that federal law is more stringent and punitive than state law. Even second-degree murder under state law, Dow asserted, would likely be less punitive than what the federal system can levy against Wolfe.

"The District Attorney's Office can only prosecute violations of California law, which does not provide such a strong sentence as federal law, even when we charge murder," Dow said. "California law provides a maximum punishment of 15-years-to-life for second degree murder. With the vast number of new laws in California that lessen punishment and allow for early release from prison, it would be impossible to predict how few years one might serve before being released, even if convicted of second-degree murder."

Dow said he hopes the recent prosecutions serve as a stern warning to fentanyl dealers in the region.

"I hope every person providing or selling fentanyl in San Luis Obispo County notices that we are searching for them," he said, "and, when we find them, we will prosecute them vigorously so that they will no longer be able to profit from poisoning and killing our friends and neighbors." Δ

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