Local man pleads guilty in fentanyl overdose case featured on HBO documentary

By U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Originally posted on

SAN DIEGO – A local drug dealer pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and methamphetamine, June 17, in federal court, after admitting he supplied a fatal dose of fentanyl resulting in the death of a 24-year-old woman found inside her Vista apartment on Nov. 3, 2020.

According to his plea agreement, Cole Thomas Salazar, 32, used an online classified advertisement service to offer controlled substances for sale. After communicating online with the victim – identified in court documents by the initials S.E.F. – Salazar sold fentanyl to S.E.F. on Nov. 2, 2020. Subsequently, she died from ingesting the fentanyl. The plea agreement stipulates for Salazar that the commission of the offense of distribution of fentanyl resulting in death and/or serious bodily injury applies.

The investigation and arrest of Salazar and his co-defendant, Valerie Lynn Addison, 40, was featured on the HBO show “The Crime of the Century.” Addison also pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and methamphetamine.

On Jan. 10, 2021, law enforcement officials arrested Salazar, who possessed packages of heroin and fentanyl when he was taken into custody. A search of his nearby hotel room resulted in the discovery of numerous quantities of controlled substances, including more fentanyl and dealer-related paraphernalia such as scales, baggies, and pay and owe sheets.

“These guilty pleas are the result of joint efforts between Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s office, working tirelessly to identify criminals who profit from selling lethal drugs in the San Diego community,” said Chad Plantz, special agent in charge of HSI San Diego. “HSI will continue to assist the DEA and our state and local partners to bring drug dealers to justice, while also aggressively pursuing drug cartels who smuggle dangerous drugs into the U.S.”

“We speak often about how counterfeit pills that contain fentanyl endanger our community members,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “We can’t lose sight of the fact that powdered fentanyl – which caused the death in this case – is extremely dangerous. To those drug dealers who would sell fentanyl in all its forms: Know that federal law enforcement will hold you accountable for any deaths that your sales cause.” Grossman thanked the prosecution team and investigating agencies for their excellent work on this case and unfortunately, many others like it.

“The investigators on the DEA Overdose Response Team work tirelessly to identify and arrest people who cause fentanyl overdose deaths, such as Cole Salazar,” said Shelly S. Howe, DEA special agent in charge. “Our mission is to hold dealers accountable and to save lives. In this case, that mission was accomplished by arresting Salazar and seizing additional fentanyl that could have killed others.”

Salazar and Addison are scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 16 before U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo.

This case is the result of ongoing efforts by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, and the DEA 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. Investigators from the DEA Overdose Response Team led the investigation into S.E.F’s death.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.