Chula Vista resident receives 15-year prison sentence following multi-agency fentanyl death investigation
SAN DIEGO – On Tuesday, a federal investigation into the death of a 20-year-old man resulted in a 190-month prison sentence for a Chula Vista resident.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents assigned to a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) task force assisted in the investigation, which led to the lengthy prison sentence of 24-year-old Jonathan Mefford.
Mefford was sentenced for selling fentanyl-laced pills that caused the death of a 20-year-old Chula Vista man, identified in court records as J.P., in October 2018, and for distributing multi-pound level quantities of methamphetamine from San Diego to Kansas.
Mefford previously admitted that he sold the pills to J.P. on Oct. 29, 2018, and that he knew these pills contained fentanyl. Mefford additionally admitted that J.P.’s overdose and death was caused by the fentanyl-laced pills that J.P. purchased from Mefford. Finally, Mefford admitted that he transported multi-pound level quantities of methamphetamine from San Diego to Kansas. Once in Kansas, Mefford distributed the methamphetamine to various individuals.
Detectives from the Chula Vista Narcotics Enforcement Team in concert with special agents from the DEA and HSI led the investigation into J.P.’s death and quickly identified Mefford as the source of the fatal pills. According to the sentencing memorandum, Mefford offered counterfeit prescription pills for sale through social media platforms and sold up to 500 pills. The sale of those pills not only led to the death of J.P., but another overdose where the victim fortunately survived. Notably, Mefford continued selling counterfeit pills for months following both overdoses.
“The epidemic of counterfeit fentanyl-laced pills continues to claim lives in our community,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “To be clear: If you are a drug dealer selling pills, and those pills result in death, you will be held accountable for that death.” Grossman praised the prosecution team as well as the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Narcotics Task Force Team 10 and officials from the Chula Vista Narcotics Enforcement Team for their excellent work on this case.”
“Today’s sentencing of Jonathan Mefford serves as a warning to anyone selling fentanyl-laced pills that there will be severe consequences if the pills you sell cause a death,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Shelly S. Howe. “One pill can kill. One pill can devastate a family. And one pill that causes a death can send you to prison for 15 years. DEA has resources available about the One Pill Can Kill campaign at dea.gov/onepill.”
“This case serves as a great example of why the Chula Vista Police Department works with our partners at the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, by bringing law enforcement agencies together, to hold drug dealers accountable and help keep dangerous drugs like fentanyl out of our community,” said Chula Vista Police Department Chief Roxana Kennedy. “This investigation sends a strong message to drug dealers operating in Chula Vista and provides some measure of justice for the victim and his family.”
This case is the result of ongoing efforts by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office and the DEA to investigate and prosecute the distribution of dangerous illegal drugs — fentanyl in particular — that result in overdose deaths. DEA created Narcotics Task Force Team 10 as a response to the increase in overdose deaths in San Diego County. Agents from Team 10 contributed to the investigation into J.P.’s death
HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.
Learn more about HSI’s mission to combat international drug trafficking @HSISanDiego.