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Fentanyl-laced counterfeit Oxycodone Hydrochloride pills in evidence. Photo: Whatcom County Sheriff's Office (August 12, 2020)

3 arrested after man dies after taking fentanyl-laced pills

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office said today, August 12th, they arrested 3 people for suspicion of manslaughter in the first degree after investigations linked them to the death of a 31-year-old Ferndale man back in March.

According today’s new release, the 31-year-old man was found dead at his residence in the 1000 block of Slater Road on March 9th. An autopsy confirmed death was due to an accidental overdose of counterfeit fentanyl-laced prescription pills.

Detectives with the Whatcom Gang and Drug Task Force (WGDTF) conducted an investigation which linked 3 people to the delivery of the counterfeit pills on the evening of March 8th according to today’s announcement.

The 3 identified in the news release were:

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  • Brezeddric A. Jamerson (age 51) of Bellingham
  • Sheila R. Johnson (age 54) of Ferndale
  • Kim M. Ribble (age 55) of Bellingham

On August 11th, detectives located Jamerson and Johnson in a Ferndale hotel where they were arrested without incident. Detectives located approximately 100 of the counterfeit fentanyl-laced pills and over $2000 in their hotel room. Jamerson admitted ownership of the pills.

On August 12th, detectives arrested Ribble at her residence.

All 3 were booked into Whatcom County Jail charged with suspicion of manslaughter in the first degree and controlled substance homicide and Jamerson faces an additional charge of suspicion of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

According to Whatcom County Jail records, Jamerson was being held pending $200,000 bail, Johnson and Ribble are being held without bail.

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Fentanyl is a highly potent opioid that can be approximately fifty times stronger than heroin. The inconsistent mixture of fentanyl and cutting agents in a counterfeit pill can greatly increase the odds of a fatal overdose, even if only a portion of the pill is ingested. Approximately five to seven salt-granule sized grains of fentanyl can lead to a fatal overdose in an adult. Several fatal overdoses have been tied to fentanyl-laced pills in Whatcom County over the past year. These pills are small, round blue pills with an “M-30” imprint on them. These pills are similar in appearance to pharmaceutical-grade Oxycodone Hydrochloride 30 mg tablets. A common street term for the fentanyl-laced pills is “blues.”

Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office news release (August 12, 2020)

Back on September 30, 2019, Nathan Allen Cultee Jr was booked into the Whatcom County Jail on suspicion of homicide and Tiffany Lynn Rowe-Cultee was booked the next day on suspicion of homicide and criminal accomplice after they were linked to the death of a woman who also died after ingesting fentanyl-laced pills. Tony Lee Williams of Bellingham was later charged in federal court with 2 drug crimes after investigators linked the pills to him.

Today from Seattle, US Attorney Brian Moran said in a press release that 12 members of a drug trafficking group alleged to have distributed fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine throughout the Puget Sound region were arrested today following a year-long investigation and two grand jury indictments. Juan Hernandez-Hernandez, age 54, of Bellingham, was identified as 1 of the 12. The group is suspected of trafficking activities from Mexico, through California and Oregon, and into the north Puget Sound region. They will make appearances in US District Court for the Western District of Washington today and tomorrow.

During the course of this investigation agents seized more than 20,000 pills pressed to look like oxycodone, but actually tainted with fentanyl. I have had heartbreaking conversations with the parents of young people who died from fentanyl overdoses linked to counterfeit pills. We are making it a priority to get these deadly drugs off the streets.

US Attorney Brian Moran – August 12, 2020

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