Seattle: A prolific drug trafficker, who sold deadly fentanyl-tainted pills, was sentenced this week in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 66 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Raoul V. Normandia, Jr., 30, was arrested April 24, 2020, near his Federal Way, Washington, residence. At his sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik said Normandia, “was a drug dealer…. He was making a large amount of money selling drugs…. It was a pattern of criminal activity that he chose to do.”
“Fentanyl-tainted pills are flooding Western Washington and resulting in record high overdose rates and deaths,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. “Fatal fentanyl overdoses are up 82% in the first six months of 2021 as compared to 2020. We must do all we can to stop the distribution of these pills. They are made to look like oxycodone but are far more powerful and deadly.”
The investigation in this case began April 18, 2020, when a Navy sailor was found dead in his workspace aboard a Navy ship. In his pocket were two counterfeit pills that were laced with fentanyl. The Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) were able to identify former Navy sailor Ivan Armenta, 21, as the sailor who provided the pills to the sailor who died. Armenta had distributed the pills to three other sailors as well: Two became ill and one was revived by Narcan. Armenta was sentenced to 4 years in prison last month.
The investigation into the source of the pills revealed Chase Friedrich, 29, had supplied the pills to Armenta. He was arrested April 21, 2020, at his Des Moines, Washington, apartment. A search of Friedrich’s apartment revealed cocaine, a handgun, and a bag of approximately 100 counterfeit pills. Friedrich pleaded guilty in May 2021, and today he was sentenced to 3 years in prison and 3 years of supervised release.
Investigators determined that Raoul Normandia had supplied the pills to Friedrich. Law enforcement arrested Normandia in his car a few blocks from his Federal Way residence. In his vehicle was cocaine. During a court‑authorized search of Normandia’s residence, law enforcement recovered cocaine, MDMA, firearms (including an assault rifle), ammunition, body armor, narcotics, and various signs of the drug trade, including scales, baggies, heat sealers, Moneygram receipts, and twenty cell phones.
Normandia pleaded guilty in April 2021 to conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, possession of MDMA and cocaine with intent to distribute, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
In asking for a 7-year prison sentence, prosecutors wrote to the court, “Counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl… pose a unique and substantial danger of overdose. The fact that these pills are manufactured to look like a Precocet increases the likelihood that they will be taken not only by those who intend to take fentanyl, but also by individuals who believe they are taking nothing more potent than an oxycodone. This danger is particularly acute in light of the fact that fentanyl cannot be detected by smell or taste, and someone cannot tell if there is fentanyl in a pill merely by looking at it.”
Judge Lasnik noted that it is the families of the sailor who died, and of the defendants, who suffer from the conduct. “There is so much tragedy in this case…. There’s four families that are rendered to their knees by these actions,” the Judge said. Judge Lasnik said he reduced Normandia’s sentence, in part, because Normandia has been in custody throughout the pandemic — suffering with the illness and through long-term lockdowns in the Bureau of Prisons.
The case was investigated by NCIS and the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office as a part of the West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team (WestNET) and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Lyndsie Schmalz.