MIL-OSI Security: Oceanside Drug Dealer Sentenced to 78 Months in Fatal Fentanyl Overdose of U.S. Marine

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Source: Office of United States Attorneys

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – June 11, 2024

SAN DIEGO—Jesse Sanders of Oceanside was sentenced in federal court to 6.5 years in prison for selling the fentanyl powder that resulted in the fatal overdose of a 29-year-old active-duty U.S. Marine.

According to the plea agreement, Sanders admitted that she arranged a meeting with the Marine and delivered a small plastic bag of fentanyl to the victim on January 2, 2022. At approximately 3 p.m. that day, military police and emergency medical services responded to an emergency call after the victim’s wife found him unresponsive in his parked vehicle onboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. A small plastic bag with a white, powdery substance was discovered in the front console of the vehicle.

According to the government’s sentencing argument, Sanders was addicted to fentanyl, knew how deadly the drug was, and knew the dangers it posed to users; she sold the deadly fentanyl to the victim with a warning to have naloxone on hand – a medicine that can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose – because the powder she was selling was strong. Within hours, the victim was found unresponsive and died from fentanyl toxicity.

Sanders has a history of narcotics-related criminality resulting from her substance abuse and drug addiction, according to the government’s sentencing memorandum. At the time she sold the deadly fentanyl powder to the victim, she was on summary probation from a San Diego Superior Court conviction and still has an additional pending felony case for robbery.

The victim received an Afghanistan Campaign Medal, a NATO International Security Assistance Force Medal, a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and multiple Sea Service Deployment Ribbons, certificates of commendation, and letters of appreciation. He was a trained combat marksmanship coach and martial arts instructor.

He was described by family as “patient, caring, and hilarious” and “lit up any room he walked into.” Two weeks prior to his death, the victim and his wife celebrated their 10-year wedding anniversary.

“Fentanyl is so powerful, so toxic, so addictive, that it can snare even the toughest among us,” said U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath. “Today’s outcome cannot bring back this Marine, but it reflects the consequence for peddlers dealing this poison: prison.”

“The illicit distribution and use of fentanyl in the United States poses a critical threat to our local communities, our nation’s service members, and ultimately our national security,” said Special Agent in Charge Todd Battaglia of the NCIS Marine West Field Office. “The sentencing of Ms. Sanders for her role in the tragic death of a U.S. Marine should serve as a warning to criminals that NCIS and our partners will continue to work aggressively to bring to justice those who knowingly distribute lethal narcotics to service members.”

Special Agents with the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s Major Case Response Team led the investigation as part of ongoing efforts by the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate and prosecute the distribution of illegal drugs—fentanyl in particular—that result in overdose deaths. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service and military commanders recognize the crucial role that drug use prevention plays in avoiding disastrous consequences for servicemembers and their families.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Wang and Special Asst. U.S. Attorney Arne Bussler.

DEFENDANT                                   Case Number: 23-cr-00270-BAS

Jesse Sanders                                      Age: 24                                   San Diego, CA

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Distribution of Fentanyl – Title 18, United States Code, Section 841(a)(1)

Maximum penalty: Twenty years in prison

INVESTIGATING AGENCY

U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service

MIL Security OSI