SANTA ANA—On November 2, James Dorion Rodriguez, of Van Nuys, was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for selling fentanyl to a 22-year-old man who suffered a fatal overdose and found deceased in his car.

Rodriguez, 29, pleaded guilty in December 2019 to one count of distribution of fentanyl resulting in death. He was sentenced by United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney.

According to MyNewsLA, Rodriguez apologized for his actions in a letter to Carney.

“I’d like to start off by saying sorry to the family of Romelo Rice,” Rodriguez wrote. “Romelo was one of my best friends.”

Rodriguez said he planned to get his high school degree and study for a drug counseling certification. He would like to work with kids to help them avoid the problems he has had. “I feel that it’s right for me to be punished for what I did,” he wrote. “I promise to make something good out of my God-given life.”

In a press release, the United States District Attorney’s office states on March 18, 2018, Rodriguez accidently sold the victim fentanyl instead of cocaine. Hours later, the victim was found dead in his car in a nearby parking lot in Sherman Oaks.

Rodriguez was taken into custody by LAPD and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents. Investigators executed a search warrant of Rodriguez’s car in September 2018 and found drug paraphernalia.

The arrest of Rodriguez was the first case brought under the Tactical Diversion Squad, which is part of the Southern California Drug Task Force. It is operated under the Los Angeles High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program.

The Tactical Diversion Squad combines DEA resources with federal, state, and local law enforcement to investigate opioid deaths and prosecute the responsible drug dealers.