Assistant U. S. Attorney Adam Gordon (619) 546-6720
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY—September 23, 2022
SAN DIEGO – Anthony Souza of Ocean Beach was sentenced in federal court today to 150 months 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 counterfeit M-30 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 counterfeit “blues” to Stevens – this time with fatal results.
According to admissions in his plea agreement, Souza continued to sell “blues” despite the 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 counterfeit “blues,” 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, empathy. Drugs kill the ability to experience true joy, 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, that parents have had to bury not just one but two children as a result of fentanyl. And sometimes drugs kill people instantly. Most of the time, we have seen cases where drugs kill you a little bit at a time, where they destroy everything good about your life, eventually shorten your life, either by way of your health or resulting in violence. But in this instance, we have the death of Chad Stevens that occurred, essentially, in an instant. And so, ultimately, every drug dealer is responsible for death, either a slow-motion death, over the course of time, or the instant death of Chad Stevens.”
He later added: “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.”
“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.” Grossman thanked the prosecution team and investigating agencies for their excellent work on this case.
“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.”
“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 Chad Plantz, special agent in charge for HSI San Diego. “I am extremely proud of our HSI agents, working with our law enforcement partners, for the results of this investigation that will undoubtably make our neighborhoods safer.”
Special Agents and Task Force Officers with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Overdose Response Team (formerly known as Team 10) led the investigation into Steven’s death. This case is the result of ongoing efforts by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the San Diego Police Department, and the California Department of Health Care Services to investigate and prosecute the distribution of dangerous illegal drugs—fentanyl in particular—that result in overdose deaths. The Drug Enforcement Administration created the Overdose Response Team as a response to the increase in overdose deaths in San Diego County.
DEFENDANT Case Number 21-CR-1537 GPC
Anthony Souza Age: 46 San Diego, CA
Alyson Marie Vaccacio Age: 32 San Diego, CA
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Conspiracy to Distribute 400 Grams and More of Fentanyl – Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a) and (b)(1)(C)
Maximum Penalty: Life in prison, with mandatory minimum of 10 years
Conspiracy to Distribute 40 Grams and More of Fentanyl – Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a) and (b)(1)(C)
Maximum Penalty: Forty years in prison, with five-year mandatory minimum.
Drug Enforcement Administration
Homeland Security Investigations
Federal Bureau of Investigation
San Diego Police Department
California Department of Health Care Services