KIRO 7 News reported on the arrest of a Mount Vernon, Washington man charged with controlled substance homicide. John Mendieta allegedly sold counterfeit Percocet pills laced with fentanyl to a 27-year-old man who died on May 11, 2018. According to KHQ Q6, the Skagit County Prosecuting Attorney's Office identified Ronald Schweigert as that victim. Data retrieved from phones paired with videos collected from several locations led police to arrest Mendieta. Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor for Skagit County Rosemary Kaholokula warned the public that pills purchased from anyplace other than a legitimate pharmacy are not always what they appear to be.
A review of the new reports shows that Schweigert was just one of four fatal overdoses in Mount Vernon caused by counterfeit Percocet pills made with fentanyl in less than 45 days. Garrett Arendse and Rebecca Doyle both died in April after ingesting fake Percocets allegedly sold to them by Justin O’Brien Miller. Arendse was only 18-years-old at the time of his death. In an interview with detectives in May, Doyle’s fiancé admitted to having purchased pills from Miller starting around 2016, and he believed 90 percent of the pills he had purchased in the last month were fentanyl pills.
On the same day that Schweigert died, Ida C. Sylvester was found unresponsive in her home, according to the Skagit Valley Herald. Emergency services were unable to revive the woman. Friends of the woman the night reported that she traveled to Burlington to purchase Percocet pills from Milagros Encarnacion and Michelle C. Martinez the night before she died. Both women received a controlled substance homicide charge, along with other counts.
Washington is just one of the 45 states in which PSM has documented counterfeit pills with fentanyl being found. It is also one of the 29 states in which PSM has documented deaths caused by those pills. You can read more about other counterfeit medicine incidents in Washington - including the almost 60 medical practices that were warned to not purchase medicines from fake drug rings - by reading PSM’s 2018 Washington Infosheet.