Riverside DA files murder charge against 21-year-old accused of selling fentanyl-laced drugs to victim who died of overdose

Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin announces that his office has filed a second-degree murder charge against Joseph Costanza, a 21-year-old accused of selling fentanyl-laced drugs to a victim who overdosed and died. Photo provided by the Riverside County District Attorney’s office.

Riverside District Attorney Mike Hestrin announced that his office has filed a second-degree murder charge against a man accused of selling fentanyl-laced drugs to a victim who overdosed and died.

Joseph Michael Costanza, a 21-year-old Eastvale resident, has been charged with one count of murder, one count of sales of a controlled substance, fentanyl, to a minor with an enhancement of drug sales to a minor at least four years younger and an allegation of causing great bodily injury, and two counts of possession of a controlled substance for sales.

The victim, 18-year-old Angel Vazquez, was found unresponsive at a home in Eastvale on October 4, 2020. He was transported to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead about an hour later.

The 16-year-old victim listed as the victim in count two overdosed but survived and was found in the same home on the same day.

“There is no safe way to use or to sell fentanyl,” Hestrin said. “Simply put, it is lethal. Those who sell fentanyl should know that and, if they choose to sell it anyway and someone dies, the dealer should be prosecuted for murder.”

If convicted as currently charged, Costanza could face up to 17 years in prison for the drug-related counts and 15 years to life for the second-degree murder count.

The second-degree murder count has been filed as a “Watson murder,” meaning a defendant has specific knowledge that their actions were dangerous to human life, and those actions led to a person’s death.

Fentanyl is known to be an extremely dangerous and potent manmade opioid that is very lethal and potentially deadly in even very small amounts. It is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. It only takes about two milligrams of fentanyl to potentially be lethal for most people.

In this case, it is alleged that the defendant was aware of the danger but continued to sell the drugs, known as M30 pills. The investigation by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department revealed that in July 2020, a woman overdosed and died at Costanza’s Eastvale home and there were several other non-fatal overdose incidents at the home.

According to the DA, the sheriff’s Southwest Corridor Task Force served a search warrant at Costanza’s home on February 11 and seized evidence related to the selling of illegal drugs, as well as M30 pills found in Costanza’s bedroom.


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