Man arrested for dealing drugs sentenced to 12.5 years in prison for his role in fatal overdose

Prison Sentence

Anthony Souza of Ocean Beach was sentenced in federal court to 12.5 years for conspiracy to distribute 400 grams and more of fentanyl.

Souza’s distribution of fentanyl resulted in the fatal overdose of 28-year-old Chad Stevens, also of Ocean Beach. According to his plea agreement, Souza admitted that he provided four fake pills laced with fentanyl, commonly referred to as “blues,” to Stevens, on November 21, 2019. These pills caused Stevens to have a near-fatal overdose. Then approximately six months later, Souza again sold fake pills to Stevens – this time with fatal results. According to admissions in his plea agreement, Souza continued to sell “blues” despite  Stevens’ death, and on June 24, 2020, law enforcement conducted a search warrant of Souza’s residence. During the search, law enforcement seized $2,460 in U.S. currency, 115 grams of cocaine, and 183 fake pills, and arrested Souza’s co-defendant, Alyson Marie Vaccacio. Vaccacio pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute 40 grams and more of fentanyl and 500 grams and more of cocaine, and her sentencing date is December 5, 2022.

Before pronouncing the sentence, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel said: “Drugs are often described as a poison, and, as we all know, poison kills, and that’s what drugs do. They kill dreams, aspirations, goals, humanity, and empathy. Drugs kill the ability to experience true joy and to make sound decisions. Drugs break up marriages. They break up families. And in this case, you have what can only be described as heartbreaking circumstances…”  “The word needs to get out. The message needs to be clear that individuals who partake in the distribution of drugs — and, particularly, this deadly drug, fentanyl … will receive a sentence in excess of 10 years. There has to be that message that is delivered loud and clear.”

“Removing fake pills from our communities and those who distribute them are our top priorities,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Shelly S. Howe. “San Diego is a safer place with Mr. Souza behind bars. We will continue to pursue those who are selling fake pills and contributing to the unprecedented number of overdoses and poisonings.”

“The days of recreational drug use need to be over,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “We know from the DEA’s analysis of seized pills that more than 40 percent of counterfeit pills contain a deadly amount of fentanyl. We can’t say it enough. With fentanyl, there is no such thing as a ‘safe’ recreational drug.”

“As law enforcement officers, there is nothing more painful than investigating a death that could have been prevented. While we all can do our part in removing these illegal and lethal drugs from the streets, the public can only benefit if we also do our part in educating to prevent additional overdose deaths,” said HSI San Diego Special Agent in Charge Chad Plantz. “I am extremely proud of our HSI agents, working with our law enforcement partners, for the results of this investigation that will undoubtedly make our neighborhoods safer.”

Special Agents and Task Force Officers with the DEA Overdose Response Team led the investigation into Stevens’ death.  This case is the result of ongoing efforts by the DEA, U.S. Attorney’s Office, HSI, the FBI, the San Diego Police Department, the California Department of Health Care Services, and La Mesa Police Department to investigate and prosecute the distribution of dangerous illegal drugs—fentanyl in particular—that result in overdose deaths. The DEA created the Overdose Response Team as a response to the increase in overdose deaths in San Diego County.