A Newport Beach man has been arrested for the distribution of fentanyl that led to the death of 18-year old Orange Coast College student and The Harbour resident Amonie Palmer on Feb. 9, 2021, Coast Report has confirmed.
Costa Mesa Police Department Public Affairs Manager Roxi Fyad confirmed in an email that the victim, referred to as “A.P.” in the federal indictment, is Palmer.
According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, 25-year-old Calvin Joseph Klein sold fentanyl-laced oxycodone pills to Palmer in Feb. 2021. On Feb. 9, 2021, Palmer was found unconscious in her apartment at The Harbour before being declared dead a short time later.
Klein was arrested on April 14 in a one-count indictment. He was arraigned on April 15 and entered a plea of not guilty. The trial is set to begin on June 7. According to court documents obtained by Coast Report, Klein has been released on a bail of $50,000 and will be represented by Irvine attorney Ronald Cordova.
It is not immediately clear if Klein was an OCC student or resident at The Harbour. This is the first arrest resulting from the events of Feb. 9 at The Harbour, OCC’s on-campus housing. A second student, 33-year old Robert Stell, was found dead in his apartment at The Harbour less than 12 hours after Palmer. Both deaths were suspected to be opioid-related, though campus and local officials couldn’t confirm the involvement of fentanyl in either case at the time.
The defendant was arrested along with six other drug dealers who sold fentanyl-laced drugs that caused fatal overdoses in Orange County. The arrests were made as a result of investigations by the Drug Enforcement Agency Overdose Justice Task Force operating in the greater Los Angeles area.
The seven defendants have been federally charged with distribution of fentanyl resulting in death. If found guilty, the defendants will face punishments ranging from a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison to the possibility of a life sentence without parole.
“The opioid crisis has resulted in the widespread distribution of fentanyl and a horrific trail of misery resulting from the untimely death of tens of thousands of Americans each year,” United States Attorney Tracy Wilkison said in the April 22 press release. “These cases highlight two important lessons, with the first being that many street drugs are contaminated with an extremely powerful opioid that often leads to death. The second is that narcotics dealers face severe consequences in federal court when the distribution of their products results in a fatal overdose.”
Palmer and Stell’s deaths represent a larger trend of opioid-related deaths in Orange County, especially involving fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 80-100 times stronger than morphine. In the first quarter of 2021, unplanned deaths in Orange County from prescription, ethanol toxicity or illicit drugs increased by 76% compared to the same quarter of the previous year. The same quarterly report cited a 157% increase in fentanyl-related deaths from the first quarter of 2020 in Orange County.
“Fentanyl does not discriminate and it’s affecting every community, ethnicity and generation throughout our country,” DEA Los Angeles Special Agent in Charge Bill Bodner said in the press release. “As we tackle the fentanyl crisis locally, we are intent on bringing justice to victims and their families, while putting drug dealers on notice that even selling one pill can have harsh federal penalties.”
This is an on-going story. Follow Coast Report for updates on this case.
If any OCC students are struggling with substance abuse issues, visit the OCC Student Health Center webpage on substance abuse for resources available.
If you are worried about yourself or a loved one overdosing on fentanyl- APLA Health offers free fentanyl testing strips to test drugs for the presence of fentanyl at six locations in the Los Angeles area. TACO is another nonprofit organization in the Los Angeles area that provides free fentanyl testing strips to anyone interested.
On OCC campus, all OCC Public Safety officers carry Narcan, a life-saving drug that temporarily halts opioid overdoses. If someone on OCC campus or at The Harbour appears to be overdosing on opioids, call OCC Public Safety any time of the day or night at 717-432-5017. The Solace Foundation in Costa Mesa offers free Narcan to any community members. Narcan is also available over-the-counter without a prescription. If you are living with someone who uses opioids or drugs like cocaine commonly laced with fentanyl, consider keeping Narcan on hand. It is easy to administer, with no medical effects if the victim is not overdosing on opioids.
If you suspect someone is overdosing, call 911 even if you administer Narcan. Narcan will eventually wear off and the individual will begin overdosing again. If you or someone else who witnesses an overdose are hesitant to contact 911, be aware California law provides people who call 911 in the case of medical emergencies protection from being criminally charged with minor drug or paraphernalia possession.