LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Federal authorities Thursday announced 11 criminal cases against alleged drug dealers who sold or provided narcotics to users who suffered fatal overdoses from opioids such as fentanyl.

A photograph showing seized fake pills is displayed during a Thursday press conference in downtown Los Angeles announcing a series of criminal cases against alleged drug dealers who sold or provided narcotics to users who suffered fatal overdoses. (Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

As a result of the operation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration, each of the 12 defendants is charged with distribution of narcotics resulting in death. If convicted, each defendant would face at least a 20-year mandatory minimum prison sentence and a potential maximum sentence of life without parole in federal prison.

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“These charges are the first steps in bringing justice to the families of victims who often died without knowing they were ingesting some of the world’s most powerful opioids,” said Acting United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison. “The conduct alleged in these cases demonstrates the grave threat people face now that fentanyl is widespread and is commonly hidden in a variety of illicit narcotics. The danger posed by opioids is real – both for unwitting users who risk death and for the dealers who face decades in prison for spreading deadly poison in our communities.”

The cases are a result of investigations by the DEA’s Overdose Justice Task Force, which was created to address opioid-related deaths in the greater Los Angeles area.

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Defendants include:

  • William Vaughn Fulton, 39, of Torrance, who is accused of distributing fentanyl that caused two deaths on consecutive days in Redondo Beach hotel rooms. He is also charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and being a felon in possession of ammunition.
  • Alexander Declan Bell Wilson, 20, of Rolling Hills, is accused of distributing pills containing fentanyl that led to the death of a 15-year-old boy on May 15 of last year.
  • Sean Robert McLaughlin, 47, of Aliso Viejo, the former security manager at the American Junkie nightclub in Newport Beach, is accused of distributing furanyl fentanyl, an analogue to fentanyl that has a nearly identical chemical makeup. According to the indictment, McLaughlin provided a powdered drug to nightclub guests in November 2016 that resulted in three overdoses, one of which was fatal. McLaughlin is also charged with possessing hydrocodone, cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy for distribution on the same night as the overdoses as well as distributing cocaine in September 2016.
  • Jason Amin Soheili, 26, of Laguna Hills, is charged with mailing fentanyl to a man participating in a drug rehabilitation program in Fillmore, Utah, who died after taking the drugs on February 21.
  • Michael Boukhanian, 42, of Northridge, is accused of selling counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl on August 27 of last year to a Woodland Hills man who died soon after receiving them.
  • Tobin Oliver Wood, 49, of Costa Mesa, has been charged with distributing fentanyl that caused the overdose death of a 32-year-old San Clemente man, who died back in October 2018.
  • Calvin Chi, 28, of Hacienda Heights, is accused of selling oxymorphone to a 29-year-old woman who overdosed and died about a half mile from Chi’s San Gabriel Valley home in October 2018. Chi is also charged with possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine.
  • Edwin Lopez, 21, of Riverside, has been accused of selling counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl to a 20-year-old Fontana man who suffered a fatal overdose in May of last year.
  • Saied Ziafathy Nobar, 57, of the Rancho Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, and his nephew, Amir Ziafathy, 33, of Granada Hills, are facing charges of distributing fentanyl that resulted in an overdose death in December 2019. The pair allegedly sold the victim two counterfeit oxycodone pills that contained fentanyl.
  • Marcos Isaac Rodriguez, a.k.a. “Kumar,” 27, who resided in Costa Mesa, but recently relocated to Escondido, is charged with distribution of fentanyl resulting in death and distribution of fentanyl. According to the indictment, Rodriguez allegedly sold a 33-year-old Costa Mesa man counterfeit oxycodone pills that contained fentanyl which led to his December 2019 overdose death.
  • Bradley Shepley, 35, of Westlake Village, is charged with distribution of heroin resulting in death and with participating in a heroin trafficking conspiracy in relation to the overdose of a 26-year-old man who died in his Oak Park home in November 2017.

The Task Force is said to be investigating other incidents and additional criminal cases in federal court.

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More information about the charges can be found on the U.S. Attorney’s Office — Central District of California website.