DOJ: Marion man faces up to 40 years in prison after pleading guilty to fentanyl distribution

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ABINGDON, Va. (WJHL) — A Marion, Virginia, man pleaded guilty early in November to distributing fentanyl, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The release said that Dakota Shadoe Tunnell, 21, pleaded guilty to one count of possessing fentanyl with the intent to distribute 40 grams or more.

Tunnell caught law enforcement’s attention in early 2021, “when a flood of illegal pills” surfaced throughout Smyth County, according to the release.

The pills were described as resembling pharmaceutical oxycodone-hydrochloride pills but differed in size, shape and color. These are called “pressed” or “M30” pills, the DOJ reports.

An investigation determined that Tunnell had been purchasing 300-500 pills at a time from his supplier and selling them in the Marion, Virginia area. The release said uncover law enforcement conducted a controlled purchase of about 100 pills from Tunnell for $1,700.

“The sale of fentanyl has grown dramatically in Southwest Virginia,” said U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh. “People need to be aware of the dangers associated with these illegal ‘pressed pills’ because one pill can kill. The illicit use of fentanyl results in death or serious bodily injury more than any other controlled substance, and we will vigorously prosecute those who disseminate it.”

Tunnell is awaiting his sentencing on Jan. 25, 2022, and faces a minimum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum statutory penalty of up to 40 years in prison.

A federal district judge will determine his sentencing, the release said.

The Smyth County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the case.

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