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Paso Robles man arrested on federal charges for counterfeit pills sale 

Federal powers recently intervened in San Luis Obispo County's opioid overdose problem.

click to enlarge SPOTTING FAKES One of the federal charges against Paso Robles resident Timothy Clark Wolfe accuses him of selling alprazolam (pictured), which is often sold under the brand name Xanax. - PHOTO COURTESY OF U.S. DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION
  • Photo Courtesy Of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
  • SPOTTING FAKES One of the federal charges against Paso Robles resident Timothy Clark Wolfe accuses him of selling alprazolam (pictured), which is often sold under the brand name Xanax.

On July 28, special agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration arrested 24-year-old Paso Robles resident Timothy Clark Wolfe for selling counterfeit prescription pills containing deadly fentanyl to a 19-year-old from Atascadero two years ago. The teenager fatally overdosed from the synthetic opioid.

Wolfe was arraigned on federal charges on July 29 in downtown Los Angeles' U.S. District Court where he pleaded not guilty in the indictment. His trial is set for Sept. 20, and the federal magistrate judge ordered his release on a $150,000 bond.

Wolfe is facing a two-count federal grand jury indictment, which states that on March 8, 2020, he knowingly and intentionally distributed fentanyl, which caused the death of the 19-year-old. Then, on the following day, he possessed the controlled substance alprazolam (often sold under the brand name Xanax) with the intent to distribute it. Wolfe also faced an earlier charge from the SLO County District Attorney's Office.

In May 2020, the DA's Office charged him on three counts—two were the same as the federal grand jury, and one for murder "with malice." But the DA's Office plans to dismiss its state-level charges in light of the federal ones.

Thom Mrozek, the director of media relations at the U.S. Attorney's Office, told New Times that it took two years to place federal charges because the department wanted to do a thorough investigation. The DEA's Los Angeles Field Office is investigating the case, and the Atascadero Police Department provided assistance in addition to the county DA's Office.

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the charge for distributing fentanyl resulting in death carries a minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison. Distributing alprazolam can warrant a maximum statutory penalty of five years in federal prison.

SLO County already has a growing number of deaths caused by opioid overdoses. Previous New Times reporting found that the county's opioid overdose death rate was 55 percent higher than California's in 2020.

"According to the DEA, criminal drug networks in Mexico are mass-producing illicit fentanyl and fake pills pressed with fentanyl in clandestine, unregulated labs," a DOJ press release stated. "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." Δ

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