PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A federal grand jury in Multnomah County indicted a Vancouver man Thursday for his role in the overdose death of a Portland teenager.
Manuel Antonio Souza Espinoza, 24, was indicted on charges of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute fentanyl, resulting in death; possession with intent to distribute fentanyl; and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
According to the indictment, Souza Espinoza knew he was distributing counterfeit pills that were laced with fentanyl and these pills resulted in the death of a minor.
“Our community is flooded with counterfeit prescription pills that can take an innocent victim’s life in the blink of an eye. Sadly, taking a pill to get high does not have the same stigma or barrier to entry for many unwitting victims, leading to tragic results,” said Scott Erik Asphaug, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.
In a criminal complaint related to the case, a High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas task force officer who’s also a Portland Police Bureau officer said he located Souza Espinoza as part of an ongoing drug investigation following the death of a Portland teenager who died after ingesting a counterfeit M30 oxycodone pill made with fentanyl.
On March 31, 2022, law enforcement officers arrested someone with 137 counterfeit M30 manufactured with fentanyl. These pills are meant to resemble real 30mg oxycodone hydrochloride pills.
The suspect in custody agreed to cooperate with law enforcement in exchange for considering changes to any charges or sentencing he might face. He told police he received his counterfeit M30 pills from someone named “Manny Espinoza.” Police later determined this person to be Manuel Antonio Souza Espinoza.
The cooperating suspect told police he’d been buying the pills from Souza Espinoza for the past couple months and said he usually purchased 1,000 pills at a time. He said he knew the pills were made with fentanyl and said he knew that Souza Espinoza is a large drug dealer who had been receiving and selling significant amounts of drugs in the Portland area.
Souza Espinoza at one time told the cooperating suspect that he had contact with people in Mexico who manufacture counterfeit pills.
At the time of his arrest, the cooperating suspect was in the process of setting up a drug deal with Souza Espinoza. Police asked the cooperating suspect to go through with setting up the deal.
He and Souza Espinoza agreed to meet near Cascade Station. At the time of the arranged deal, police pulled over the vehicle Expinoza was driving in and took him into custody.
In the vehicle, law enforcement found a loaded Glock .40 caliber handgun in the center console, another loaded Glock .40 caliber handgun in a fanny pack in the back seat that belonged to a passenger, and approximately 1,000 counterfeit blue M30 pills in a plastic bag under the front passenger seat.
Souza Espinoza pleaded not guilty to his charges.
Investigators say they have not made any promises to adjust the charges or sentence of the cooperating suspect.
“All overdose cases are tragic, but this one involving a person so young was heartbreaking, and our sympathies are extended to his loved ones,” said Portland Police Bureau Chief Chuck Lovell. “Any time an arrest like this is made, our city gets a little bit safer.”