A former first responder who worked at a Long Beach hospital was sentenced today to 352 months in federal prison for selling fentanyl to two of his co-workers who thought they were buying cocaine, one of whom later died of an overdose after ingesting the powerful opioid.
Cruz Noel Quintero, 43, of Long Beach, was sentenced by United States District Judge Christina A. Snyder, who scheduled a September 6 restitution hearing in this case.
At the conclusion of a six-day trial in September 2022, a jury found Quintero guilty of one count of distributing fentanyl resulting in death, one count of possessing machine guns, two counts of possessing unregistered firearms, one count of maintaining a drug-involved premises, and one count of possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.
According to evidence presented at trial, beginning no later than February 2018, Quintero – who was employed as an emergency medical technician at a Long Beach hospital – shipped cocaine, methamphetamine, and other drugs across the country, and he distributed them locally out of a Long Beach residence.
In May 2019, in the parking lot outside the hospital’s emergency room, Quintero sold a white powder he claimed was cocaine for $100 to a hospital coworker who was planning to go on a weekend trip to Las Vegas with her partner, a former nurse at the Long Beach hospital and volunteer firefighter. The following morning, the couple sampled the white powder – not knowing that it in fact was fentanyl – and both of them passed out. One of the victims – identified in court documents as “S.F.” – later was pronounced dead.
Two toxicologists testified that the only drug they found in S.F.’s blood was fentanyl, and two doctors – a medical examiner and a medical toxicologist – testified that the victim died because of fentanyl toxicity.
After learning that Quintero sold the fatal dose, law enforcement searched two residences in Long Beach and discovered Quintero’s illicit drug-trafficking operation. Across both residences, they found 13 firearms that included two machine guns, two short-barreled assault rifles, and nine other guns, some of which were loaded. One of the residences, which Quintero used as his base of operations, was littered with drug-trafficking paraphernalia, including over ten pounds of cutting agents used to dilute the quality of the drugs he sold and a hydraulic press used to manufacture kilogram bricks of cocaine.
According to trial testimony, Quintero also shipped kilogram-quantities of cocaine and pound-quantities of methamphetamine to drug traffickers in Minnesota, which prompted frequent complaints about the poor quality of his product.
Quintero has been in custody since his arrest shortly after the fatal overdose in May 2019.
“Quintero operated a reckless and callous drug trafficking business that repeatedly endangered people’s lives and ultimately killed [the victim],” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum. “For at least a year, [Quintero] shipped kilos of cocaine and pounds of methamphetamine out of state, and sold poor-quality, adulterated drugs to unsuspecting buyers, all while guarding his drug-distribution outpost in Long Beach with machine guns and short-barreled rifles.”
Judge Snyder sentenced Quintero to 292 months in prison for the fentanyl death count, 120 months in prison for the firearms counts, 240 months in federal prison for the maintaining a drug premises count – all of which are to run concurrent to each other. Finally, she sentenced Quintero to 60 months in prison for possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, a term which will run consecutive to the other counts.
Homeland Security Investigations; the Drug Enforcement Administration in Los Angeles and Minneapolis; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the Long Beach Police Department investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorneys Suria M. Bahadue of the Criminal Appeals Section and David C. Lachman of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section prosecuted this case.