SANTA CRUZ COUNTY (BCN) — A Watsonville man has been arrested for allegedly possessing fake Xanax pills that he gave to one of two Santa Cruz County men that died for ingesting such drugs, sheriff’s officials announced.
Daniel Meehan, 22, is suspected of manufacturing and selling a controlled substance, possession of an illegal assault weapon and marijuana sales and cultivation, sheriff’s Lt. Kelly Kent said.
On Friday, detectives served a search warrant at Meehan’s home in the 700 block of Calabasas Road just outside of Watsonville, where they found 10 of the phony pills, a quarter-pound of cocaine, four firearms including an illegal assault rifle, a butane honey oil lab and marijuana plants, Kent said.
When he found out the pills were dangerous, Meehan set the pills on fire in an attempt to dispose them, Kent said.
He also placed the pills in a container for a liter of water and filled it with soda believing they would disintegrate, but that method didn’t work, according to Kent.
The 22-year-old allegedly threw some of the pills out of a car, but they were later recovered by investigators near his home in the area of White Road, Kent said.
Meehan posted $50,000 bail Friday and is scheduled to make his initial court appearance on Nov. 19, District Attorney Jeff Rosell said.
While at the home detectives found two-and-a-half of the counterfeit pills in the purse of 29-year-old Watsonville resident Ryan Peterson, who was cited for possessing a controlled substance and released, according to Kent.
A third person at the home, 23-year-old Ryan Heinrichs of Watsonville, was arrested on suspicion of possessing of brass knuckles and posted $5,000 bail Friday, Kent said.
The sheriff’s office first learned about the counterfeit pills after two 19-year-old Watsonville men were hospitalized for swallowing what they thought was Xanax during a party on Oct. 24, said sheriff’s Detective
Daniel Robbins of the narcotics unit. One of men was able to recover but the other man was placed on life support and died six days later, Robbins said.
On Oct. 27, a 29-year-old Aptos man took pills that he believed to be Xanax, but was found deceased inside his residence the next day, according to Robbins.
The pills were found to contain fentanyl, a strong opiate that can be lethal if taken in high doses, Kent said.
Meehan allegedly supplied the pills to the 29-year-old man, who he was acquainted with, Kent said.
“Prescription pill addiction and deaths are becoming all too common,” Sheriff Jim Hart said, adding the problem was an “epidemic in our community.”
Hart encouraged the public to bring their unwanted prescription medication to the sheriff’s office, which safely disposes of the pills without asking any questions.
The fake Xanax pills are being sold on the streets and not through prescriptions made by doctors, Hart said.
There were no signs that Meehan manufactured the fake pills and the sheriff’s office is still figuring out where they were made, Robbins said.
Detectives do not believe there are any outstanding suspects, according to Robbins.
The sheriff’s office is working with the Drug Enforcement Administration and Food and Drug Administration on the investigation into the case, Robbins said.