Couple featured in HBO show plead guilty to drug charges linked to fatal fentanyl overdose

A couple who appeared in the HBO documentary Crime of the Century about the opioid epidemic have pleaded guilty to their role in the fentanyl-overdose of a 24-year-old San Diego woman.

Cole Thomas Salazar, 32, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, and 40-year-old Valerie Lynn Addison pleaded guilty to two counts of possession with intent to distribute, according to a statement from the US Attorney’s Office.

Salazar offered the drugs for sale through an online classified ads website, and sold fentanyl to the victim, who has not been named, in November 2020. She died after ingesting the drug, the US Attorney’s Office said.

Salazar was arrested in January 2021, and law enforcement found heroin, fentanyl and drug paraphernalia such as scales, baggies, and pay and owe sheets in his hotel room and on his person.

The investigation and arrest of Salazar and Addison was featured on the two-part HBO documentary The Crime of the Century, in which director Alex Gibney investigated how Purdue Pharma worked with the Food and Drug Administration to approve OxyContin for widespread use across the United States.

“We speak often about how counterfeit pills that contain fentanyl endanger our community members,” said US Attorney Randy Grossman said in a statement.

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A scene from the two-part HBO documentary Crime of the Century about the opioid epidemic.

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A scene from the two-part HBO documentary Crime of the Century about the opioid epidemic.


“We can’t lose sight of the fact that powdered fentanyl – which caused the death in this case – is extremely dangerous.”

Salazar and Addison face a maximum prison term of 20 years, and are due to be sentenced on 16 September.

More than 100,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in the 12 months to April 2021, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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