Written by Gabriel Dillard
A federal grand jury Thursday indicted Fresno resident Darnell Pearson, 40, with distributing fentanyl resulting in overdose deaths in the Tower District as well as Madera.
On Jan. 7, Fresno police responded to an overdose report of three people with faint or no pulse in the 900 block of Van Ness Avenue. They were transported to the hospital, and one of them died on Jan. 10, according to court records. The other two were later released from the hospital.
It was reported that they snorted a substance they believed was cocaine, but which turned out to be the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl.
Pearson is also charged with distributing fentanyl to a victim in Madera who died on Jan. 7.
Pearson was booked into Fresno County Jail on Jan. 12, according to jail records, and was being held on a hold from the U.S. Marshals Service.
“Fentanyl is extremely dangerous and is a serious public health threat in our area and the nation as a whole,” stated U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott. “Even trace amounts of this drug can be lethal, and it poses serious risks to those who come into contact with it, including first responders. We will continue to work with our state and federal partners to target those who distribute this poison in our communities.”
If convicted, Pearson faces a minimum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison, a maximum of life in prison and a $1 million fine on each of two counts. The actual sentence would be made at the discretion of the court.
The case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, the Fresno Police Department and the Madera Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Laurel Montoya and Jeffrey A. Spivak are prosecuting the case.