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Home / drug overdose

Felon who sold deadly dose of fentanyl sentenced

A felon who sold a fatal dose of fentanyl to a 36-year- old Calimesa man was sentenced Monday to 11 years in state prison.

Gregory Robert Oviatt, 35, of Redlands, pleaded guilty last month to voluntary manslaughter under a plea agreement with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office. In exchange for his admission, prosecutors dropped a second-degree murder charge against him.

During a hearing at the Banning Justice Center, Superior Court Judge Mark Singerton certified the terms of the negotiated plea and imposed the maximum sentence for the offense.

Oviatt was arrested in March following a sheriff’s investigation into the death of Eric Lopez.

Oviatt is among two dozen people who, since February 2021, have been charged countywide in connection with fentanyl-related fatalities.

According to sheriff’s Sgt. Ryan Marcuse, Oviatt was linked to Lopez’s death following a nearly two-month-long investigation.

Marcuse said on the morning of Jan. 27, deputies and paramedics were sent to a residence in the 10000 block of Desert Lawn Drive, near Brookside Avenue, in response to reports of a possible drug-related cardiac arrest.

Lopez was found dead at the location, Marcuse said, adding that an autopsy revealed “fentanyl poisoning” as the cause of the fatality, prompting an investigation that ultimately pointed to Oviatt as the dealer who supplied an undisclosed quantity of the synthetic opioid to the victim.

The defendant was arrested without incident at his Oak Valley Road residence on March 20.

According to court records, he has prior convictions for grand theft, possession of controlled substances and hit-and-run resulting in property damage.

According to sheriff’s officials, there have been 415 fentanyl-related deaths to date this year. In 2021, there were just over 400 — a 200-fold increase from 2016.

Statistics published in May by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed there were roughly 108,000 fatal drug overdoses in 2021, and fentanyl poisoning accounted for over 80,000 of them.

The substance is manufactured in overseas labs and according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, it’s smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border by cartels. Fentanyl is 80-100 times more potent than morphine and can be mixed into any number of street narcotics and prescription drugs, without a user knowing what he or she is consuming. Ingestion of only two milligrams can be fatal.

On Oct. 20, the county initiated a public awareness campaign, “The Faces of Fentanyl,” emphasizing the perils of using it. The campaign web portal, www.FacesOfFentanyl.net, offers resources, including substance abuse counseling options, that are available to residents countywide.

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