LOS ANGELES – Four months after the birth of his daughter, Ray Mascolo seemed to be thriving – relishing his role as a father, starting a new business and now a year of sobriety.
“He had really taken his life back and he was really living his dream and on the right track – he would never risk anything once he had this baby,” said his mother Kyara.
But in November 2020, the 37-year-old relapsed – ordering cocaine and oxycodone from a drug delivery service. Her body was found the next morning… her Versace chihuahua by her side.
His death came as a complete shock to his devastated family, who wanted answers. At that time, they weren’t familiar with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, nor do they believe Ray did it. But it turns out that’s all he consumed that fateful night.
“Once we got his toxicology, there was no cocaine in his system, no oxycodone — it was purely, completely fentanyl. It was enough to kill five people,” Kyara said. In the days and months that followed, she became a de facto expert on the deadly drug, which is flooding Southern California at an alarming rate, killing people who unknowingly use it.
“Most often when we see a death associated with fentanyl, the person didn’t know they were ingesting fentanyl – they didn’t knowingly take the drug,” said Bill Bodner, special agent in charge of the division of DEA land in Los Angeles. “I wouldn’t even really characterize them as drug overdose deaths, I would call them drug-caused deaths or drug-poisoning deaths because they don’t know what’s in those pills, or what’s in that powder – they think it’s something else and they’re deceived.”
The DEA estimates that 4 out of 10 fentanyl pills seized in the United States contain a potentially lethal dose. The drug is easy and cheap to produce, and it’s incredibly potent – 50 times more potent than heroin.
And now it’s available on all smartphones, whether users realize it or not.
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“The drug retail market, a big part of it, has migrated online and it’s become people with delivery services, it’s become social media apps advertising drugs for sale – online marketplaces advertising drugs for sale, and this has unfortunately put us in a situation where everywhere now there is an open-air drug marketplace, thanks to the smartphone and these apps and even payment methods like Venmo,” Agent Bodner said.
The Mascolo family’s grief and search for answers uncovered a vast, state-of-the-art drug operation inspired by popular food delivery services. The Instagram page of alleged mastermind Mirela “Mimi” Todorova, 33, depicts a jet-setting lifestyle filled with beach vacations and parties, and she apparently raised a pet jaguar named Princess in Mexico. She now faces federal charges of distributing the fentanyl that ultimately killed Ray.
Mirela Mimi Todorova (FOX 11)
Court documents show clients warned her – before and after Ray’s death – that the drugs she was dispensing contained fentanyl, but she maintained the pills were “real and safe”.
Kather Sei, an actor who appeared on Lucifer and SWAT – is also charged in the case…accused of delivering the deadly drugs.
Prosecutors say the case speaks to a much larger issue emerging in the opioid epidemic.
“I think it goes without saying that whenever things are marketed as one thing and end up being something else, customers just aren’t aware of what they’re taking, and depending on what what is this other thing that they are not aware of, it can have deadly consequences like in this case, said prosecutor Patrick Castañeda, assistant prosecutor for the United States Attorney.
Bodner says the significant difference between drug-related deaths today compared to a decade ago is that novice and experimental drug addicts are being killed. It’s like playing Russian roulette with a loaded gun.
For the Mascolo family, life will never be the same again. Their goal now is to save other families from experiencing their unimaginable grief.
“Our son didn’t deserve to die, and our granddaughter who we’re helping to raise didn’t deserve to lose her father,” Kyara said as she held Versace, who they’re also raising. “All we can do is spread the word to save other people’s lives.”
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