An 18-year-old believed by the authorities to be a “top source” of fentanyl among local juveniles pleaded guilty to federal drug charges in court on Thursday.
Julio Gonzales Jr., also known as “J-Money,” is the eighth defendant to face charges related to the string of overdoses among teenagers in Carrollton and Flower Mound last year.
As previously covered by The Dallas Express, federal drug charges of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance were brought against Roberta Alexander Gaitan, Rafael Soliz, Jr., Jason Xavier Villanueva, Donovan Jude Andrews, Stephan Paul Brinson, Magaly Mejia Cano, and Luis Eduardo Navarrete.
Of the 14 fentanyl overdoses connected to the suspected drug trafficking operation, four resulted in death. Fentanyl can be fatal at just a small dose of 2 mg.
Gonzales’ recent guilty plea on one count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute fentanyl could see him serving up to 40 years in federal prison.
A news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas explained that Gonzalez was brought to the attention of investigators when named as a drug supplier by a 16-year-old suspected dealer. The 16-year-old allegedly sold counterfeit opioid pills containing fentanyl to a 14-year-oldin December 2022.
Federal prosecutors filed formal charges against Gonzales in July of this year and indicted him a month later.
Gonzales allegedly told investigators upon his arrest that he had received and sold approximately 120,000 fentanyl-laced pills in drug deals involving both adults and minors.
A search of Gonzales’ home by federal law enforcement resulted in the discovery of “thousands of fentanyl-laced M-30 pills stuffed in the microwave, a partial kilogram of cocaine tucked in a plastic food storage container, bulk U.S. currency hidden in the closet, and numerous firearms, including a pistol equipped with an illegal Glock switch, littered throughout the home,” according to the news release.
Texas’ ongoing fentanyl poisoning crisis has reached a point where public officials have been rallying to pass measures and hold events to build awareness among the public, such as the Soles 4 Souls Fentanyl Awareness Walk in San Antonio organized last week, covered by The Dallas Express.
In Texas, 44.5% of all drug deaths last year were from fentanyl, with the share growing to 45.7% by August 25 of this year.
Drug crime in Dallas continues to keep the city’s crime rate high.
There were 8,308 drug offenses logged this year as of October 20, according to data from the City’s crime analytics dashboard, marking a more than 5% increase year over year.
Dallas police have been struggling to curb crime amid a serious officer shortage.
The number of offenses logged overall by the City to date is on par with that seen last year over the same period, 88,531 and 88,534, respectively. This is despite the Dallas Police Department working to implement its data-driven Violent Crime Reduction Plan, which divides the city into football field-sized grids and allocates police resources based on violent crime rates in the grids, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.
DPD currently maintains a force of fewer than 3,200 officers, whereas a City analysis recommends a force of 4,000 based on Dallas’ population size.
Downtown Dallas has been especially affected by the officer shortage, logging significantly lower crime rates than Fort Worth’s downtown area, which is reportedly patrolled by a dedicated neighborhood police unit and private security guards. Drug violations in Downtown Dallas and Fort Worth’s city center occurred at a ratio of 41 to 1 in April, according to a study by the Metroplex Civic & Business Association.