Jason Xavier Villanueva, 22, was arrested and indicted in February for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute fentanyl and distribution of fentanyl to a person under 21 years of age.
“Over and over, Mr. Villanueva put poison into the hands of teenagers who could not possibly comprehend the inherent risks. Not even the news of multiple teenage deaths deterred this defendant,” said U.S. Attorney Leigha Simonton in a press statement. “The Justice Department will not rest until every person who peddled pills to these children, directly or indirectly, is behind bars. We have seen these kids’ faces – vibrant in life, heartrending in death – and we will not forget.”
From September 2022 through early February 2023, 10 overdoses were reported for nine juveniles — three of them fatal. Investigators say that Villanueva supplied Luis Eduardo Navarrete, 21, and Magaly Mejia Cano, 29, with fentanyl pills marked M30. Those two then distributed the pills out of a Carrollton house near R.L. Turner High School to a network of teen and adult drug dealers. Navarrete and Cano were also arrested in February; Cano pled guilty to the charges against her in May.
Stephen Paul Brinson, another person connected to the fentanyl that affected students ranging in age from 13 to 17 in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD, also entered a guilty plea in May. Donovan Jude Andrews, 20, was arrested in March for selling fentanyl to students at R.L. Turner High School and Hebron High School. In May, Robert Alexander Gaitan, 20, and Rafael Soliz Jr., 22, were arrested and charged with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance in connection with the same case.
The amount of fentanyl pills Villanueva put onto the streets is startling. Tuesday’s press release noted that, “In plea papers, Mr. Villanueva admitted he distributed more than 200,000 fentanyl pills to north Texas customers over the course of five or six months, at a rate of about 40,000 pills per month.”
"Not even the news of multiple teenage deaths deterred this defendant.” – U.S. Attorney Leigha Simonton
These illicitly produced pills are made to resemble popular prescription opioids such as OxyContin and are often marketed on social media apps, sometimes for as little as $10 per pill. Although fentanyl is reported to be as much as 100 times more potent than morphine, it is cheap to produce, which is why many drug dealers lace their pills with it. A 16-year-old Plano Senior High student, Sienna Vaughn, died in February after taking what her mother said Sienna believed was a single Percocet.
According to a report from NPR, there were more than 109,000 deaths from fentanyl overdoses in 2022. Texas saw the biggest leap in deaths connected to fentanyl from the previous year.
In March, and again in April, students at Carrollton schools had to be revived with doses of Narcan, an opioid overdose-reversing nasal spray, by school staff after suffering from suspected overdoses. In April, the Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD introduced a new fentanyl awareness campaign after receiving criticism from parents for what they said was a lack of communication regarding the fentanyl problem in its schools. In the video, Lilia Astudillo describes how her family’s life has been ripped apart by the January overdose death of her 14-year-old son Jose Alberto Perez.
Villanueva’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 4. He faces up to 40 years in federal prison.