A 22-year-old Santa Ana man was sentenced Monday to 17 1/2 years in federal prison for his part in a conspiracy to distribute the powerful narcotic painkiller Fentanyl and counterfeit opioids through the dark web and the U.S. mail.
The sentence given to Wyatt Pasek, who pleaded guilty Nov. 5, was more than a decade longer than the prison terms handed to his co-defendants, Isaiah Suarez, 23, of Newport Beach, and Duc Cao, 21, of Orange.
Federal prosecutors had recommended about 19 1/2 years behind bars. Pasek's attorney, Jason Hannan of the U.S. Public Defender's Office, argued to U.S. District Judge James Selna that it was "unwarranted and unjustified" that his client would receive a stiffer sentence than the co- defendants.
Cao was sentenced in May to 87 months behind bars and Suarez was sentenced in June to 37 months in prison.
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"We're talking about a difference of 11 years," Hannan said, adding that the co-defendants were "involved in all aspects of the conspiracy."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Sagel, however, pointed out that Pasek has a much more significant past criminal history, including three other drug- related convictions. Suarez, he added, was also less involved in the drug dealing, since he lived at one of the drug labs and pressed pills.
"Most importantly, Pasek was reaping all of the rewards," Sagel said, adding that the defendant raked in about 85 percent of the profits.
The other two defendants, Sagel said, also qualified for a program that allows for reduced sentences that Pasek was not eligible to receive. When Hannan argued that many other entities contribute to an opioid crisis, including the drug manufacturers, Selna pressed the attorney to acknowledge that Pasek was the "last link in the chain."
Sagel said Pasek was "every link in this chain" as he was involved with obtaining the ingredients for the drugs and helping to make them before selling them on the dark web.
Pasek and Cao "ordered chemicals and equipment on the internet from China and elsewhere for the manufacturing and distribution of the counterfeit Oxycodone pills, which included: the fentanyl and fentanyl analogues; a pill press, pill press molds; and mylar and zip-lock bags," according to the government's sentencing memorandum. Pasek rented an apartment in Newport Beach for the pill-making efforts from October 2017 through April of last year.
"I take full responsibility for everything," Pasek said. But he insisted Cao was "more involved than I was" in the drug dealing.
"He was ordering as well as packaging and supplying," Pasek said. "He would tell me when he ordered (drugs) and he would show up at my door" detailing what chores needed to be done.
"I'm very sorry," he said, adding, "I can't imagine how much damage I've done."
In a letter to Selna, Pasek said he was a "high school graduate; local to Newport Beach, and an aspiring business mogul."
He said that while he has been in jail he has "invested a lot into bettering myself," including learning "intermediate Italian ... as well as accounting and economics."
Selna told Pasek, "It's clear to me you've got a lot of potential," but, he added, "It still doesn't erase the conduct here."
Authorities seized 2,076 grams of Fentanyl when the defendants were arrested. They also seized 3,815 grams of Cyclopropyl Fentanyl, 2,032 grams of Methoxyacetyl Fentanyl, 64 grams of Carfentanil and 247 grams of Alprazolam. Pasek paid $26,800 in cash for a luxury watch from a Newport jeweler in May of 2017, prosecutors said.
He bought about $150,583 in gold using bitcoin from the drug dealing, prosecutors added. He also met more than 32 times with another person to exchange about $407,600 in bitcoin for cash between April of 2017 through November of that year, prosecutors said.