Lake Oswego man sentenced to federal prison for distributing fentanyl from China leading to overdose death
PORTLAND, Ore. — Joseph Richard Caruso, 34, a prolific darknet narcotics vendor residing in Lake Oswego, Oregon, was sentenced today to 87 months in federal prison and three years’ supervised release for illegally distributing fentanyl that was linked to a 2017 fatal overdose in Wisconsin.
“A highly-coordinated effort by four law enforcement agencies led to Mr. Caruso’s arrest less than two days after his most recent inbound fentanyl package was discovered. It’s this sort of nimble and decisive law enforcement work that’s required to keep synthetic opioids off of our streets and prevent additional overdoses,” said Billy J. Williams, U.S. attorney for the District of Oregon. “I applaud the tremendous work of everyone involved in this case.”
According to court documents, on November 19, 2017, a U.S. Postal Inspection Service inspector discovered a suspicious package addressed to Caruso at the U.S. Postal Service Portland Air Cargo Center. The package was transported to the Portland Police Bureau’s Drugs and Vice Division for further examination in a safe environment. Wearing a ventilated hood for protection, a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agent assigned to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Interdiction Taskforce opened the heat-sealed package and found a clear Ziploc baggie containing a fine powdery substance. A test conducted the following day at the Oregon State Police Laboratory confirmed the substance was cyclopropyl fentanyl, a powerful opioid and Schedule I controlled substance.
Investigators removed the cyclopropyl fentanyl from the package and replaced it with an inert powder similar in appearance. On November 21, 2017, they conducted a controlled delivery of the package with the inert powder to Caruso’s residence in Lake Oswego. Shortly thereafter, Caruso was observed retrieving the package from his apartment postal box. HSI agents and other task force officers confronted Caruso and placed him under arrest.
On April 3, 2019, Caruso pleaded guilty to one count of distributing a controlled substance resulting in death. At sentencing, he was ordered to forfeit more than $764,000 and a 2013 Audi A4 sedan.
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Interdiction Taskforce, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Portland Police Bureau Drugs and Vice Division. It was prosecuted by Scott M. Kerin and Julia E. Jarrett, assistant U.S. attorneys for the District of Oregon.
The Oregon HIDTA program was established by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in June of 1999. In 2015 the program expanded into Idaho and was renamed the Oregon-Idaho HIDTA. The Oregon-Idaho HIDTA consists of 14 counties and the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. Counties in the HIDTA include Oregon’s Clackamas, Deschutes, Douglas, Jackson, Lane, Linn, Malheur, Marion, Multnomah, Umatilla and Washington counties, and Idaho’s Ada, Bannock and Canyon counties.
Drug abuse affects communities across the nation, and opioid abuse continues to be particularly devastating. The CDC reports that from 1999 to 2016, more than 630,000 people have died from drug overdoses. In 2016, 66% of drug overdose deaths involved an opioid. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of injury or death in the United States. In Oregon, the total number of deaths related to drug use increased 11 percent between from 2013 to 2017, with 546 known drug related deaths in 2017.
If you or someone you know suffers from addiction, please call the Lines for Life substance abuse helpline at 1-800-923-4357 or visit www.linesforlife.org. Phone support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also text “RecoveryNow” to 839863 between 8am and 11pm Pacific Time daily.