SLO County Woman Charged with Distributing Fentanyl that Resulted in Victim’s Death Last Year

The U.S. Department of Justice seal is displayed on a podium following a news conference (courtesy)

A San Luis Obispo County woman was arraigned Wednesday, 17th of January, 2024 on a federal grand jury indictment alleging, among other crimes, that she knowingly distributed fentanyl, the use of which resulted in a victim’s fatal overdose in May 2023.

Jessica Leigh Alalia, 30, a.k.a. “Jessica Mitchell,” of Paso Robles, was arrested on Tuesday, 16th of January and was arraigned this afternoon at United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles on an eight-count indictment.

Also arraigned Wednesday in federal court was her boyfriend, Damian Naudh Lagunas-Garcia, 37, of Paso Robles, who was arrested on Sunday, 14th of January, 2024.

Alalia and Lagunas-Garcia pleaded not guilty to all charges and a March 12 trial was scheduled in this case. Both defendants are in federal custody and each of them has a detention hearing scheduled for January 22.

Alalia is charged with one count of distribution of fentanyl resulting in death. Both defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and fentanyl, one count of knowingly maintaining a drug-involved premises, two counts of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, two counts of possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, and one count of possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes.

According to an indictment returned on January 11, Alalia knowingly and intentionally distributed fentanyl on May 6, 2023, the use of which resulted in the death of the victim, identified in court documents as “R.S.”

The indictment further alleges that from January 2023 to August 2023, Alalia and Lagunas-Garcia conspired with each other to distribute methamphetamine and fentanyl. The defendants allegedly used their Paso Robles house to store, pack, and facilitate the distribution of narcotics. They coordinated with each other by using coded language in text messages – using the letter “F” for fentanyl, for example – to discuss their trafficking and sales of fentanyl and methamphetamine to drug customers, according to the indictment.

Alalia and Lagunas-Garcia allegedly also used a storage unit in Templeton to store, pack and distribute the narcotics, and possessed multiple firearms inside their home to protect their drug proceeds and narcotics.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

If convicted of all charges, Alalia and Lagunas-Garcia each would face a statutory maximum sentence of life in federal prison. Alalia also would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for the count of distribution of fentanyl resulting in death. Lagunas-Garcia would face a mandatory minimum of 10 years in federal prison for the drug conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine counts.

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Overdose Justice Task Force and the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office investigated this matter. The Overdose Justice Task Force is a project designed to investigate fatal fentanyl poisonings and identify the individuals who provided the fentanyl that directly caused the deaths. Under the Overdose Justice program for the DEA’s Los Angeles Field Division, DEA agents have established collaborative relationships with local law enforcement agencies across the seven counties that make up the Central District of California. Local authorities are almost always the first to respond to an overdose death, and DEA agents have provided training to dozens of local agencies to help them analyze evidence to determine if there are circumstances that might lead to a federal criminal prosecution.

Assistant United States Attorneys Daniel H. Weiner and Alexandra Michael, both of the General Crimes Section, are prosecuting this case.


Written by DOJ

Press releases written by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ)

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