Portland man pleads guilty to distributing fentanyl that killed teenager



(The Center Square) – A Portland resident pleaded guilty in federal court last week for distributing fentanyl that resulted in the overdose death of a Portland teenager.

Tanner Welsh, 20, pleaded guilty to a count of distributing fentanyl to a person under the age of 21, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon.

Police officers from the Portland Police Bureau responded to a fatal overdose of a 17-year-old teenager on November 10, 2022.

Investigators found many small blue pills near the teenager’s body they thought were counterfeit Oxycodone pills containing fentanyl. A later autopsy found the teenager died from fentanyl poisoning.

The investigation revealed the teenager had been texting with Welsh shortly before overdosing. The texts came in response to an online ad posted by Welsh where he was selling drugs. The investigation later revealed that Welsh traveled to the teenager’s house to hand deliver the fentanyl pills.

In January this year, special agents from Homeland Security Investigations found Welsh and arrested him after he admitted selling fentanyl and Xanax pills to the now-dead teenager.

A month later, a federal grand jury in Portland indicted him on one count of possessing with intent to distribute fentanyl. Then, on November 30, he was charged by superseding criminal information with distributing fentanyl to a person under the age of 21.

Selling fentanyl to someone under 21 years old carries a prison sentence of up to 40 years, a $2 million fine, and six years of supervised release. Welsh will receive his sentence on March 13, 2024, from U.S. District Court Judge Adrienne Nelson.

Welsh will pay full restitution to a family member of the deceased victim as a part of his plea deal.

This comes as industrial levels of fentanyl are in Oregon, as The Center Square previously reported.

In one May 2023 weekend alone, Portland, Oregon, saw eight drug overdose deaths. Six of those deaths were most likely fentanyl-related, according to The Associated Press. Plus, overdose deaths involving fentanyl more than doubled in Oregon, from 226 in 2020 to 508 in 2021, the report said.

Fentanyl’s increased presence in Oregon comes as the state liberalized its drug laws via referendum in 2020. That year, Oregon voters passed Measure 110, decriminalizing possession of small amounts of hard drugs. This included heroin, meth, cocaine, and fentanyl.

Drug overdose deaths in Oregon have increased since the law took effect, as has homelessness, according to Stateline.

Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 49, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Sometimes, drug dealers lace other drugs with fentanyl, putting even those who do not plan to consume the drug at risk.

“It’s crazy out there,” Rick Treleaven, the chief executive officer at BestCare Treatment Services, told Oregon Public Broadcasting in May. “This is a very dangerous time to be a drug addict in Oregon.”

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