A San Diego federal jury on Tuesday convicted a man of selling fentanyl-laced pills that caused the death of an active-duty Marine.
In April and May 2020, Nameer Mohammad Atta, 22, sold pills to a Marine identified in court documents only as 26-year-old C.M.R.
Atta told the lance corporal that the pills were Percocet, a prescription opioid. But they were really counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl, prosecutors said in court documents and a Justice Department news release Wednesday.
In May 2020, military police officers at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar found the lance corporal in his barracks room in the midst of an overdose, according to court documents. The officers and emergency responders tried to revive the Marine, but he died that evening.
A medical examination found fentanyl in C.M.R.’s system. The Marine had a history of health issues for which he had previously been prescribed opioids, prosecutors said in court documents, but he had never been prescribed fentanyl.
In April 2021, a grand jury in the Southern District of California indicted Atta for distributing fentanyl that resulted in someone’s death.
The trial lasted from Monday to Tuesday. The jury deliberated for a little more than two hours before delivering a guilty verdict on Tuesday afternoon.
“This verdict again demonstrates the resolve of this office to hold to account those whose callous actions result in overdose deaths,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California Randy Grossman said in the Justice Department release. “Fentanyl kills indiscriminately and, tragically, here it took the life of a Marine. We will continue to seek justice on behalf of victims.”
When an overdose is involved, a drug-dealing conviction can carry a higher sentence. As a result, Atta faces a maximum of life in federal prison and a minimum of 20 years, according to the Justice Department release.
Atta is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 10, 2023, by U.S. District Court Judge Todd W. Robinson.
Ezekiel Cortez, a lawyer for Atta, did not respond within several hours to a Marine Corps Times request for comment.
A similar case ended in May in a guilty plea: A California man admitted to having sold the fentanyl-laced oxycodone pills that caused a Camp Pendleton, California, Marine to overdose in 2020.
Deaths from fentanyl, an extremely potent synthetic opioid, have been on the rise since the mid-2010s. Fentanyl appears to be the main driver of the uptick in drug overdoses in recent years, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the Marine’s date of death.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.