Riverside Man Arrested on Federal Charges Alleging He Sold Fentanyl-Laced Pills that Led to Student’s Fatal Overdose

By Department of Justice

Originally posted on

RIVERSIDE, California – Authorities this morning arrested a Riverside man who allegedly sold counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl that caused the fatal overdose of a college student who was visiting her family for the holidays two years ago.

Brandon Michael McDowell, 22, was arrested at his residence without incident, and he is scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon in United States District Court in Riverside.

McDowell was named in a grand jury indictment filed Wednesday that charges him with one count of distributing fentanyl resulting in death. The fentanyl-distribution charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a maximum possible sentence of life without parole.

McDowell allegedly distributed fentanyl in the form of counterfeit oxycodone M30 pills on December 22, 2019. The 19-year-old victim in this case, who is identified in the indictment as “A.C.,” died after ingesting the drug at her Temecula home. Investigators believe she crushed at least one of the pills and snorted the drug shortly before succumbing to the powerful opioid in the pills.

The investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Homeland Security Investigations and the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office found evidence that the victim ordered the pills from McDowell on Snapchat.

“This is another incredibly sad case that demonstrates the deadly threat of fentanyl that is now seen in a wide array of drugs sold on the street,” said United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison. “My office and our law enforcement partners will continue to investigate fatal overdose cases to identify and bring to justice every individual involved in the trafficking of fentanyl.”

Assistant United States Attorney John Balla and Special Assistant United States Attorney Stephen Merrill of the Riverside Branch Office are prosecuting this case. SAUSA Merrill is a Riverside County deputy district attorney assigned by his office to work with the Justice Department.

“The Riverside County DA’s Office is grateful for the hard work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in this collaborative effort with our federal partners to get justice for the victim in this case,” said Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.