SAN FRANCISCO – Emil Arriola Melendez was sentenced in federal court today to 46 months in prison for the distribution of fentanyl, announced United States Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Wade R. Shannon. Senior United States District Judge Maxine M. Chesney handed down the sentence.
Melendez, 33, of South San Francisco, pleaded guilty on March 18, 2022, to distributing fentanyl. In his plea agreement, Melendez admitted that in September and November 2021 he exchanged numerous text messages with an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a drug buyer. Melendez arranged through the messages to sell fentanyl and heroin to the undercover officer. On September 22, 2021, near Geary and Hyde Streets in San Francisco’s Tenderloin area, Melendez met and sold the undercover officer 110 grams of fentanyl for $3,000. Melendez further admitted that on October 27, 2021, he again met with the undercover officer near Geary and Hyde Streets and sold the officer 227 grams (approximately eight ounces) of fentanyl and 56 grams (approximately two ounces) of heroin. Melendez charged the officer $7,800.
In its sentencing memo, the government described that the investigation of Melendez began when three individuals in Trinity County in the rural north of California (population: 12,541) died from fentanyl overdoses in a single weekend in August 2021. The dealer who sold fentanyl to the decedents before their overdoses were arrested. That dealer identified Melendez as a source of fentanyl supply and said that he would drive to meet and buy fentanyl from Melendez in the San Francisco Bay Area and then return with the fentanyl to Trinity and Shasta Counties. This information led to the undercover officer being introduced to Melendez and Melendez’s sales to the officer.
During the search of Melendez’s home at the time of his arrest, law enforcement located a privately made firearm (a PMF, or “ghost gun”). As part of the sentence, the firearm was forfeited.
In addition to the 46 month federal prison term, Senior US District Judge Maxine M. Chesney ordered Melendez to serve three years of supervised release following his release from prison. Melendez was in custody at his sentencing hearing and begins serving his sentence immediately.
Assistant US Attorney Joseph Tartakovsky prosecuted the case with the assistance of Mark DiCenzo. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by DEA, the US Bureau of Land Management, the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office, the Shasta Interagency Narcotics Task Force, and the North State Major Investigation Team.
Fentanyl, a Schedule II controlled substance, is a highly potent opioid that can be diluted with cutting agents to create counterfeit pills that purport to mimic the effects of Oxycodone and can typically be obtained at a lower cost than genuine Oxycodone. Counterfeit fentanyl-laced pills are commonly shaped and colored to resemble Oxycodone pills sold legitimately in the marketplace. Counterfeit pills known as M30s are round tablets that are often light blue, but can vary in color, and have “M” and “30” imprinted on opposite sides of the pill. Small variations in the amount or quality of fentanyl can have significant effects on the potency of the counterfeit pills, drastically raising the danger of overdoses. Fentanyl recently became the leading cause of drug overdose deaths throughout the United States.