Before Anthony Moaf, 25, was found dead last month in an Alexandria jail cell of what authorities said was “an apparent medical emergency,” he ran a veritable pill factory in his parents’ basement, making counterfeit oxycodone tablets using metonitazene, a synthetic opioid “shown to be 100-fold more potent than morphine,” according to a criminal complaint filed against him.
“Anthony was a caring and a loving brother, son and friend,” his mother, Jacqueline Moaf, said in an email. “Anthony psychologically dealt with a lot of guilt before his passing, particularly surrounding the charges that he was facing.” Authorities had accused him of selling Beitz the pills that killed her last September.
An overdose victim and her accused dealer: Their stories are part of a national crisis, and their families are left to ponder how two lives might have been different.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported early this year that from May 2020 to April 2021, fatal drug overdoses in the United States — a vast majority of them involving opioids — rose 28.5 percent to 100,306, compared with 78,056 in the preceding 12 months. And the CDC warned that a new drug variety known as benzimidazole opioids has “begun appearing in cities across the country … adding a new threat to public health.”
Among those newly emerging illicit substances is metonitazene, the synthetic opioid that an investigator said Moaf used to make phony oxycodone pills. Although fentanyl is far more notorious, metonitazene has been causing a growing number of overdose deaths in recent years, according to the report.
The criminal complaint against Moaf was unsealed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria on May 16, the day he was arrested, and dismissed later that week after he died in the city jail. It includes a transcript of what authorities said were texts between Moaf and Beitz on Sept. 24, in the hours before he sold her the pills.
As authorities tell it, their exchange began this way:
“Are you feeling bad?” Moaf asked her.
“I have these if you want,” he wrote, attaching a photo of more than two dozen blue pills. “But don’t abuse them be safe.”
Beitz, the second of three siblings, grew up in Waldorf, Md., and focused on culinary arts at a vocational high school. “She loved bartending; she loved being a server,” especially in bustling Old Town Alexandria, William Beitz, 55, said. “Kelly was always working. I don’t think there was ever a time when she didn’t have two jobs, and she made a good living.”
She was a year out of high school, in 2013, when her opioid habit became apparent to her father. At the time, William Beitz’s job with the Defense Intelligence Agency often required him to be away from home, so he quit and went to work in real estate to stay close to his troubled daughter.
“Kelly was really hurting,” he recalled. “But once they’re adults, you can’t make them do anything.” He described the eight years before her overdose as “a long, long struggle with a lot of ups and downs. Counseling, rehab — and cold turkey, which is brutal. … She tried desperately.”
He said: “Guilt is what I feel. Every day. Guilt. Because as a dad, it’s your job, you know? Protecting your daughter. I had one job. And me just not knowing what the hell to do.” He paused. “I can’t even explain the depth of the pain.”
When Kelly Beitz and Colin Fitzpatrick, now 46, began dating four years ago, they were bartenders at Chadwicks, a pub in Old Town. Their age difference didn’t matter to them, but her addiction “was a real issue,” Fitzpatrick recalled. “I don’t do drugs. And I told Kelly: ‘This has never been my thing. I’m not interested in dealing with it’ ” — which seemed to motivate her to strive to get well.
As she fought for recovery, she told Fitzpatrick in a 2019 letter: “I thank you from the bottom of my heart and soul. I love you. I thank you for not giving up on me.”
“She was always trying,” Fitzpatrick said. “She never gave up.”
Beitz had long been plagued by anxiety, and she used a doctor-prescribed sedative, clonazepam, marketed as Klonopin. “It didn’t help her enough,” Fitzpatrick said, so she bought black-market opioids to calm herself further. He said her struggles worsened during the pandemic, when she couldn’t see her therapist in person and their sessions were reduced to brief, twice-monthly video meetings.
A few days before she died, Fitzpatrick said, she resolved to start fresh with a new therapist to whom she had been referred, which she hoped would put her on the road to sobriety. She planned to call the therapist on Monday, Sept. 27, to make an appointment.
She bought the pills on Friday, Sept. 24, according to the complaint. “I think she was just trying to get through the weekend,” Fitzpatrick said. Beitz lived in a rented basement bedroom in Alexandria, and one of her two jobs was at an Old Town social club, the Fraternal Order of Eagles, where she and Fitzpatrick were bartenders. After she didn’t show up for work at noon Saturday, and he couldn’t reach her by phone, he called the police and asked for a welfare check. Officers found her face down in her room. She had been dead for hours.
On her desk were five blue pills resembling 30 mg oxycodone, stamped “M” and “30,” like the real thing, according to the criminal complaint against Moaf. The text messages indicate she had purchased eight. The pills contained metonitazene, lab tests showed. An autopsy found that Beitz died of “accidental acute metonitazene and clonazepam intoxication,” although the clonazepam in her system was “at low therapeutic levels.” Even without that prescription sedative, the complaint says, the amount of metonitazene she ingested was lethal.
Months would pass before Moaf was arrested.
The youngest of three siblings, Moaf, who earned a GED in 2013, lived in the basement of his parents’ house in Herndon, Va., and worked full time at a Public Storage facility, according to his mother. “Anthony enjoyed and loved all things technology,” she wrote. “He had aspirations to eventually apply what he was good at through employment in a career in information technology.”
But he also had his share of trouble.
In 2017, he was sentenced to jail after pleading guilty to grand larceny and impersonating a police officer, court records show. Then, one Sunday in January 2018, he barricaded himself in the family home with a gun, threatening to kill anyone who tried to enter, authorities said. The 10-hour standoff, in which no one was hurt, involved numerous officers, a police robot and gas grenades, and ended with Moaf’s arrest on a charge of reckless handling of a firearm. He pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a gun and got a seven-month jail term.
“His family believes that Anthony had a lot of life left to live and the potential to love and help others deeply,” Jacqueline Moaf, 61, who works at a data center, said in the email.
On Oct. 13, less than three weeks after Beitz’s death, Moaf drove to Inova Fair Oaks Hospital with an unconscious woman in his car, the criminal complaint says. After a doctor pronounced her dead, Moaf left the hospital without giving his name or waiting for Fairfax County police to arrive. It turned out that the woman had fatally overdosed on a combination of ketamine, a psychedelic; flubromazepam, an illicit synthetic drug; and cocaine. The complaint says detectives went to the Herndon house that day after identifying Moaf through “vehicle information obtained by hospital staff.”
In statements that authorities described as often vague and contradictory, Moaf told them that the woman, who has not been publicly identified, had spent the night with him in the basement, had used drugs and was unconscious when he woke up Oct. 13. In a search of the basement, the complaint says, investigators found a pill press, a pill mixer, pharmaceutical binding and diluting agents, packing material, a label printer and numerous pills, including ketamine and 536 tablets that tested positive for metonitazene. Moaf was not charged in the woman’s death.
Nor was he arrested immediately after the October search. A Fairfax police spokesman said the case “went federal,” meaning it was turned over to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force for the Washington region. The task force investigation eventually linked Moaf to Beitz’s fatal overdose, the complaint says, and he was arrested May 16 on a federal charge of “distributing metonitazene … resulting in serious bodily injury or death.” Authorities said they were still investigating, with the goal of building a bigger case, when Moaf died May 18 in the Alexandria jail.
The Virginia medical examiner’s office has yet to officially rule on the cause and manner of his death.
“Anthony wanted nothing more than to have the weight of any legal consequences lifted from his conscience,” his mother wrote, without addressing the criminal complaint’s description of his basement pill-making.
The key evidence against him were the texts with Beitz before police found her body.
“How many you want?” Moaf asked that Friday night before he drove to her place.
She said eight, for $25 apiece.
“You have cash right?”
Then early Saturday morning, he messaged her again.
“How are they? … Hey kell. … How are they?”
The transcript shows no reply.
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