An Ocean Beach resident was sentenced last week to more than 15 years in prison for providing fentanyl-laced pills that led to the death of a 30-year-old man, federal authorities said.
Alexander Michael Randise, 29, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court last year to a fentanyl distribution charge, stemming from the death of Tyber Joseph Lustig in 2021. The case is the latest example of ongoing efforts by prosecutors and law enforcement to target distributors of illegal drugs — fentanyl in particular — that have led to fatal overdoses.
Lustig was born in Long Beach and grew up in Pennsylvania, according to an obituary published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He died in San Diego on Dec. 12, 2021.
Randise provided the pills a day earlier that led to Lustig’s overdose, prosecutors said. In a plea agreement, Randise admitted he provided four counterfeit M-30 pills laced with fentanyl, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
Counterfeit pills often look like legitimate prescription medications, including OxyContin, Percocet and Xanax, but contain other drugs like fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine, federal officials have said.
According to prosecutors, Randise had been selling the counterfeit pills to Lustig and others for at least a year before Lustig died. During one of those transactions, Randise told Lustig to “be careful” because the pills were “strong.”
On Jan. 5, 2022, law enforcement officials searched two of Randise’s residences in Ocean Beach and seized about 680 counterfeit pills, 2.33 grams of cocaine, MDMA — the main chemical in the club drug Ecstasy, cash and a loaded 9mm non-serialized handgun, also known as a ghost gun.
“Another young person is gone too soon and another family is shattered because of fentanyl,” Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Shelly Howe said in a statement. “Fentanyl dealers are a top priority for the DEA and our law enforcement partners, and we will continue to attack this crisis at every level.”
Special agents and officers with the DEA’s Overdose Response Team led the investigation into Lustig’s death. The team was created in 2018 after authorities began to see a marked increase in overdose deaths in San Diego County.
According to a report from the local Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force, there was an 869 percent increase in unintentional fentanyl-related deaths in the past five years, jumping from 84 deaths in 2017 to 814 in 2021. Officials reported that half of the unintentional methamphetamine deaths reported in 2021 also involved fentanyl.
The DEA said last year that six out of 10 fake prescription pills it tested contained a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl, up from four out of 10 discovered in testing in 2021.
It was unclear how many pills were analyzed.