The latest efforts of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station offer an example to parents of children’s dangerous purchasing power on social media and an example of how local deputies are trying to hold drug dealers accused of selling to minors more accountable.
Deputies with the station’s Juvenile Intervention Team, or J-Team, acting on information from students as young as 13, found a service using Instagram and Telegram that created delivery options for marijuana, THC vapes and psilocybin edibles being sold to students.
“We conducted an investigation related to some incidents that have been occurring within the schools in the community regarding minors being in possession of narcotics, vapes, THC pens, marijuana, other illicit drugs, and we were able to locate a social media page that was advertising these products to minors and other people within the community and surrounding communities,” said Sgt. Diego Andrade, who leads the J-Team, which focuses on investigating the illegal drug use and overdoses in the SCV.
“There has been a rise in narcotic-related arrests and overdoses at the various local high schools in the Santa Clarita Valley,” according to a sworn statement by deputies in court documents obtained by The Signal.
After investigating now-defunct Instagram accounts like @Trapstarvin, which also spawned copycat accounts as a “plug” — street verbiage meaning an account for supplying drugs, according to investigators — detectives served a search warrant Oct. 24 where the brothers lived in Canyon Country and at a smoke shop in Newhall where the suspects worked and sometimes met the customers, according to court records.
Andrade said the case has not yet been presented to the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office. However, instead of a simple possession of narcotics charge, or possession of a drug with intent to distribute, detectives are planning to ask the DA’s office to pursue the more serious felony charge of cruelty to a child likely to produce great bodily injury, based on evidence gathered on the suspects’ social media accounts, he said.
“That charge stems from … them distributing to minors and the danger that it brings to them selling these types of products to minors,” he said. “It’s a felony charge.”
Detectives do not suspect that the owner of the tobacco shop, who was the father of the suspects, was aware of the activity taking place in the shop.
He has not been charged with any crimes, Andrade said, but he added that the situation was part of an ongoing investigation.
J-Team investigators have seen cases where the extremely high amount of THC concentrate in black market marijuana products has put children in the hospital, which can be caused by an extremely high dosage, an adverse reaction or a tainted product, Andrade said.
“A lot of the products often look like they’re sealed … but they can be altered where (a drug dealer) can add stuff to it,” he said.
Part of the concern deputies are seeing, which has also been discussed by addiction experts, is the seemingly exponential increase in products being laced, particularly with fentanyl, which, in addition to being very deadly, is relatively cheap to produce and purchase, extremely powerful and highly addictive.
That combination has made it very popular for drug dealers, according to statements from Cary Quashen, founder of Action Drug Rehabilitation, who works locally to treat addiction and substance abuse.
“So we always try to tell the communities to be careful what they’re taking,” he said. “You could think you’re taking a Tylenol or something and it can have fentanyl or it can have something else that’s dangerous.”