A Paso Robles man was in federal court on Friday to be arraigned on charges that he sold counterfeit pills containing fentanyl to a local teen who later died.
Timothy Clark Wolfe, 24, pleaded not guilty. A trial date is set for September 20.
A previous charge of second-degree murder filed by the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney has been dropped so federal prosecutors can take over the case.
SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow says the case being taken over in federal court highlights an ongoing nationwide effort to reduce the number of fentanyl-related deaths.
"We are very happy to partner with our federal partners with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Attorney's Office to say, 'If you sell a deadly, dangerous drug on our streets, we are going to pursue you to the maximum extent possible to protect the community,'" Dow told KSBY Friday.
Meantime, local addiction recovery center Aspire Counseling Services says they have seen an increase in clients who say they purchased laced substances off the street.
"It has been a constant uptick actually," said Executive Director Thomas Buckley. "A few years ago, fentanyl was not as big of a problem and now it is probably the number one drug they seek services for."
"It seems like every month we get somebody that has a near-death experience with fentanyl," added Intern Counselor Jacob Blair.
The San Luis Obispo County DA's Office released images of fentanyl that resemble commonly purchased prescription drugs like Oxycodone and Adderall.
Since it can be difficult to determine the difference between which substances are real and which could be laced with fentanyl, Dow says to assume the latter.
"If you are buying it off the street, there is a high chance, over 90% chance, that it is a fake drug, and it is probably laced with something that can kill you," he said.
If convicted, Wolfe faces a minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. He also faces a federal charge of possession with the intent to distribute alprazolam.
Aspire Counseling Services says that as they have seen an increase in fentanyl use, they have also found themselves distributing more Narcan to their clients. They have the emergency overdose nasal spray readily available to anyone who needs it.