PORTLAND, Ore. — Prosecutors announced Wednesday that a Gresham man will face federal charges for allegedly supplying the fentanyl pills that caused the death of a Portland teenager in June.
Duane Robert Hill, 38, is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute fentanyl and possessing with intent to distribute fentanyl.
An investigation into the 17-year-old's death began June 16, according to federal prosecutors. Investigators found one and a half blue "M-30" pills on the victim's desk, alongside small amounts of "an unknown crystal substance and a white powder residue."
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Oregon, lab reports later confirmed that the pills were counterfeit Oxycodone pills laced with the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl. The teenager is believed to have died from a fentanyl overdose.
An investigation into how the teen got the pills eventually led to Hill, identifying him as a third-level supplier.
"It was determined that Hill had been distributing fentanyl pills in quantities ranging from 10 to 100 pills in and around Portland for nearly a year," federal prosecutors said. "Hill sold the counterfeit pills for between $4 and $5 apiece."
Within a week of the teenager's death, investigators allegedly set up a purchase with Hill, getting more than three dozen of the counterfeit M-30 pills.
On Wednesday, law enforcement served a search warrant on Hill's home in Gresham. As the Portland Police Bureau's tactical team busted into the residence, Hill allegedly tried to flush pills down the toilet.
Hill was taken into custody, and prosecutors said that more than 200 M-30 pills were found inside his home, along with a 9mm handgun, a scale, drug packaging materials and $4,480 in cash. Some of the pills recovered from Hill's toilet were multi-colored, suggesting the recent influx of "rainbow fentanyl" or "skittles."
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Within hours of his arrest, Hill made his first appearance in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Youlee Yim You. He will be detained until his next court appearance.
Fentanyl overdose deaths have skyrocketed in Oregon since 2019. According to numbers from the Oregon Health Authority, there were a total of 71 deaths recorded in all of 2019. Preliminary numbers from 2021 saw the total spike to 509. Of those deaths, 12 were among people under the age of 18.
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