LOS ANGELES — A Riverside man who sold a powerful synthetic opioid very similar to fentanyl to a friend – who then suffered a fatal overdose from the drug – was sentenced today to 312 months in federal prison.
Adam Scott Caward, 33, received the 26-year sentence from United States District Judge John A. Kronstadt after admitting that he sold and possessed acetyl fentanyl.
Caward pleaded guilty on November 30 to distribution of acetyl fentanyl resulting in death, and possession with the intent to distribute acetyl fentanyl.
The federal investigation into Caward began in June 2017, when U.S. Customs and Border Protection intercepted a package sent to Caward from China. The shipment contained a compound known as 4-FIBF, which is another analogue of fentanyl – meaning that the narcotic is chemically similar to fentanyl and designed to cause an effect similar to the powerful synthetic opioid.
A subsequent investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Drug Enforcement Administration, in cooperation with the Riverside Police Department, led to the discovery of controlled substances at Caward’s Riverside home in July. The investigation linked Caward to other fentanyl analogues and synthetic opioids that he possessed nine months earlier at his then-residence in Chino Hills.
According to court documents, Caward exchanged a series of text messages with a friend on November 7 and 8, 2016, which culminated in Caward selling his friend a purple powder containing acetyl fentanyl. Within hours of purchasing the narcotic from Caward, the friend died of acute acetyl fentanyl intoxication.
On November 16, 2016, the Riverside Police Department executed a state court search warrant on Caward’s Chino Hills residence, where they found a number of controlled substances, including fentanyl analogues. Among the drugs that Caward possessed was approximately 19.5 grams of the same purple powder containing acetyl fentanyl that was sold to the friend.
One week prior to his death, the friend had purchased acetyl fentanyl from Caward and suffered an overdose while driving, which resulted in a serious car accident that injured the friend and several people in another vehicle, according to prosecutors.
The investigation determined that Caward continued to use the dark web to contact Chinese suppliers and order more fentanyl analogues after the death of his friend.
During today’s sentencing hearing, prosecutors noted that the 2016 overdose death was not the first fatality linked to narcotics sold by Caward. In August 2015, Caward sold a fentanyl analogue to another man, who died of a drug overdose, prosecutors argued.
“Caward had no regard for human life and his conduct caused misery and death,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “Synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl from China, are extremely dangerous and this sentence should send a message to drug dealers that we will seek to hold them responsible for the deaths caused by their criminal behavior.”
Because the narcotics involved in the distribution offense resulted in death, Caward faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Khaldoun Shobaki of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section.