After going on the lam for two years with his wife and co-conspirator in Mexico, getting caught, and pleading guilty in federal court last July to conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, a San Francisco man was sentenced Friday to 200 months (16 and a half years) in jail.
Fentanyl-related deaths in San Francisco more than doubled between 2018 and 2019 according to new data collected from the medical examiner’s office by the Chronicle last week. The ultra-potent opioid, sometimes in combination with heroin and sometimes not, was blamed in 234 deaths last year, up from 90 the year before — and 290 total overdose deaths were attributed to heroin, fentanyl or a combination. That marks a 160 percent uptick in just a year's time, further bearing out the trend in greater fentanyl distribution and use that was already being documented in the middle of last year. Wide variability in the potency of fentanyl on SF streets was also blamed back in June for 10 separate deaths.
43-year-old Kia Zolfaghari pleaded guilty back in July in a case that dates back several years, saying that he worked to press and sell counterfeit oxycodone pills that were actually just fentanyl between May 2014 until June 2016. As KPIX reports, Zolfaghari primarily sold his goods online, and worked with several other individuals to distribute the drugs. He admitted to owning a pill press that he used to stamp the counterfeit pills to look like genuine oxycodone, and said that he sold at least 13,000 pills. Zolfaghari further admitted to laundering the money he was paid, asking to be paid in bitcoin and then using unlicensed bitcoin brokers to exchange the digital coins for cash. He was originally arrested on June 10, 2016 and was found in possession of a Smith & Wesson handgun and 500 fentanyl pills.
But after making bail, Zolfaghari and his wife and co-defendant, Candelaria "Candy" Dagandan Vazquez, jumped bail and fled to Mexico in April 2017. The pair were later found in February 2019, and Vazquez had already been sentenced to 151 months in prison at that point. Another co-conspirator, 37-year-old King Edward Harris II of Oxnard, was sentenced to five years back in 2017.
As the Wall Street Journal reported back in 2016, when authorities raided Zolfaghari and Vazquez's Outer Sunset apartment, they found a Walter White action figure posed next to their pill press.
Senior U.S. District Judge Susan Illston handed down Zolfaghari's sentence.
Per the U.S. attorney's office last July:
In his plea agreement, Zolfaghari also described the roles of two of his co-conspirators in the drug trafficking conspiracy. For example, Zolfaghari acknowledged that one of his co-conspirators assisted him in the operation by packaging and mailing pills as well as cleaning up after he manufactured the pills. Additionally, Zolfaghari explained that another co-conspirator assisted him by maintaining a post office box for the delivery of fentanyl powder that he used to make pills and by delivering the powder that arrived in that post office box. Zolfaghari admitted that over the course of the conspiracy he made over $400,000 through his sales, and sold at least 13,000 fentanyl pills.
Zolfaghari's sentencing was originally scheduled for November, and he faced a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $10,000,000 fine.
Facebook photos of Kia and Candy via the Wall Street Journal