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Santa Barbara County jail inmate convicted of smuggling in drugs which led to overdose death

Photo by Tim Hufner/Unsplash

Man facing mandatory 20 year federal prison sentence, but it could potentially be longer.

A Santa Barbara County jail inmate is facing at least 20 additional years behind bars after being convicted of supplying fentanyl leading to the fatal overdose of another inmate.

Federal prosecutors say in October 2022, Kaelen Wendel smuggled fentanyl into Santa Barbara County’s North Branch Jail in candy containers.

They say he exchanged some of the drugs with a fellow inmate, in exchange for items from the jail commissary. That inmate then sold the drugs to two additional inmates, who both overdosed. Jail deputies were able to save one of the inmates using Narcan, but the other failed to respond and died.

Wendel was convicted of one count of distribution of fentanyl causing death. It includes a 20 year mandatory prison sentence.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.