BIG STONE GAP, Va. (WRIC) — Three California fentanyl dealers entered guilty pleas last week to shipping thousands of doses across the country to rural southwestern Virginia, where their product led directly to the overdoses of two teenagers.

In an affidavit filed before the arrest of Alexander Ortiz, Efrain Perez and Destiny Perez, investigators wrote that they started their investigation after a local teenager — identified only as “cooperating source 1” — was rushed to the hospital with acute respiratory failure in November 2021.

They remained on a ventilator for six days, but eventually recovered and told medical staff that they had taken fentanyl pills the night of the overdose.

Those pills were eventually traced to a trio of local dealers who had, according to the teen, sold them two pills for $80.

Paul Perkins, Austin Lane and Cheyenne Carico all admitted to their roles in the fentanyl ring when interviewed by police. Carico was the one who sold the two pills to the first teen, and Austin Lane told investigators that another friend — identified as CS2 — had taken pills the same night in November, CS2’s 18th birthday, and stopped breathing.

Though they were eventually revived, Carico rushed to warn the first teen of the danger, texting them too late to stop them from taking the pills themselves.

Packages mailed to Perkins’ address and intercepted by postal inspectors. (Exhibits from court filings)

Perkins, himself an opioid addict, was the one who lead investigators to Ortiz and the Perezes.

He told investigators that he purchased the pills over Snapchat and Instagram from a supplier known to him as “galexy710,” and would take 30-50 pills and sell the remainder — up to 1000 per shipment — to pay for his addiction.

Perkins eventually pleaded guilty to his role in distributing the fentanyl, but could not tell investigators the true identity of his dealer. He testified that he would send cash to an address provided by “galexy710” and receive pills in return, sometimes sending extra money by Cash App.

Ortiz was eventually identified as the owner of the “galexy710” Instagram account, but he was not the sender of the packages intercepted by postal inspectors. Instead, bank records revealed that Efrain Perez had purchased the postage used to send the pills to Perkins.

Finally, Destiny Perez was added to the state’s indictment in October 2022. Though federal agents discovered over a dozen firearms at Ortiz’s home in California, as well as $60,000 in cash, gun charges were dropped as part of a plea deal.

The three pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute more than 400 grams of fentanyl. Ortiz will face a minimum of 15 years in federal prison, while the Perezes will face a minimum of 10 years each.