The alleged leader of a fentanyl dealing ring that sold drugs to middle and high school students, resulting in three fatal overdoses and seven other overdoses in a single Texas school district, was arrested on Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas announced.
Jason Xavier Villanueva, 22, was charged with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl.
A DEA officer described Villanueva in a criminal complaint as the ‘bulk source and distributor of ‘M30′ pills containing fentanyl.’
Two alleged associates of Villanueva, 21-year-old Luis Eduardo Navarrete and 29-year-old Magaly Mejia Cano, were arrested earlier month.
The investigation began last year after a spate of overdoses in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District, which is located about 20 miles north of Dallas.
‘These defendants trafficked illegally produced pills that looked exactly like actual prescription drugs. Most were round blue tablets inscribed M-30,’ U.S. Attorney Leigha Simonton said at a press conference on Wednesday. ‘But instead of containing oxycodone, they contained fentanyl.’
Drug dealers have increasingly been lacing counterfeit pills with fentanyl, a dangerous opioid up to 100 times stronger than morphine.
Since last September, 10 overdoses have taken place among students ranging in age from 14 to 17 years old in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school district. Three of the overdoses were fatal.
‘Those that survived suffered temporary paralysis, intubation, and other medical traumas that will remain with them for a long time,’ Simonton said.
Villanueva and the other alleged drug dealers are accused of selling counterfeit pills to juveniles, who then distributed them to students at RL Tuner High School, as well as Dewitt Perry and Dan F. Long Middle Schools.
Eight juveniles with ‘moderate to significant involvement’ in the drug dealing ring were also identified by investigators.
The criminal complaint alleges that Villanueva used social media under the name, ‘hoodhxavi2,’ to coordinate the fentanyl deals.
Several images were posted on that social media account showing counterfeit fentanyl pills and firearms, according to the complaint.
‘Fentanyl is killing our kids. We are angry about it. We are heartbroken about it. And we are determined to do all we can about it,’ Simonton said on Wednesday.
‘Make no mistake: Unless it comes from a licensed medical provider, that pill your child thinks is Percocet, or OxyContin, or Xanax, or Adderall, may actually be fentanyl.’
Republican lawmakers have pushed the Biden administration to do more to fight surging drug overdoses throughout the U.S.
‘The DEA seized enough fentanyl last year to kill every American citizen, but Joe Biden still won’t mention the Mexican drug cartels or their Chinese suppliers,’ Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, tweeted on Wednesday afternoon.
A record 106,699 Americans suffered fatal drug overdoses in 2021, a 16% increase over 2020, according to the CDC.
Fentanyl and the precursors used to manufacture it typically originate in China and make their way into the United States via the border, which is suffering a historic crisis in illegal crossings that began to surge after Biden’s election. The powerful opioid goes by several street names, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency, including Apace, China Girl, China Town, China White, Dance Fever, Goodfellas, Great Bear, He-Man, Poison, and Tango & Cash.