Graphic above: Information on fentanyl from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini is issuing an urgent public safety alert Friday evening to residents about a possible heightened risk of overdose for drug users due to fentanyl-laced cocaine.
District Attorney Sini and the Riverhead Town Police Department also on Friday announced the arrest of an alleged drug dealer who may be connected with a fatal overdose this week in Riverhead. Two other non-fatal overdoses in Riverhead have also been linked to potential fentanyl-laced cocaine overdoses this week.
Fentanyl is a highly toxic synthetic opioid more frequently cut into heroin to increase its potency, but law enforcement officers believe drug dealers may have begun cutting it into cocaine due to a cocaine shortage here.
“My office is investigating whether the presence of a deadly mixture of fentanyl-laced cocaine is responsible for causing overdoses in Suffolk County,” District Attorney Sini said. “We are issuing a ‘buyer beware’ notice for the holiday weekend and the upcoming weeks. If you use cocaine, you are playing Russian roulette with your life.”
District Attorney Sini is issuing an urgent public safety message that law enforcement has received intelligence that cocaine laced with potentially fatal levels of fentanyl may be on the market in Suffolk County.
The White House’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) New York/New Jersey program issued a report today that law enforcement in Troy, New York, is investigating 19 overdoses, three of which were fatal, in less than 48 hours involving fentanyl-laced cocaine. Additional overdoses in the surrounding areas are also being investigated for any links to the fentanyl-laced cocaine in Troy.
“These reports have led to a heightened concern that this deadly drug cocktail could be on the streets in Suffolk County,” District Attorney Sini said. “The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a shortage of the supply of cocaine in our area. As a result, dealers are becoming desperate and greedy for profits, so we believe they may be deceiving their customers and selling them fentanyl, which is cheaper and more readily available.”
District Attorney Sini announced that the District Attorney’s Office and the Suffolk County Police Department arrested 15 individuals on Thursday for their alleged involvement in a multi-million dollar drug trafficking operation.
The evidence in that case revealed that the defendants were allegedly marking up the price of cocaine because of the supply shortage due to the pandemic.
“Preliminary statistics show a 16 percent increase in fatal and non-fatal overdoses year-to-date as compared to 2019 in Suffolk County, so we are already seeing an increase,” District Attorney Sini said. “We do not want to lose even more lives to this poison.”
On May 20, at approximately 3:08 a.m., members of the Riverhead Town Police Department responded to a 911 call regarding a female who is suspected to have suffered a non-fatal opioid overdose. The woman was transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center for treatment.
Later that same day at approximately 10:13 p.m., members of the Riverhead Police Department responded to another 911 call regarding two males suffering apparent drug overdoses at a different residence in Riverhead.
Upon arrival at the scene, officers administered Narcan on one of the victims, who was then determined to be deceased at the scene by first responders. The second man was transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center for treatment. A preliminary investigation revealed evidence that all three overdoses were connected to cocaine use, and the District Attorney’s Office is investigating whether the cocaine was laced with fentanyl.
Following an investigation by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s East End Drug Task Force in connection to the fatal overdose, Riverhead Town Police arrested Tarell Holloway, 32, of Riverhead on Friday.
Holloway is charged with Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, a class B felony; Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, a class B felony; Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Fourth Degree, a class C felony. He is scheduled to be arraigned at Suffolk County District Court on Saturday, May 23.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Dana Gremaux, of the Narcotics Bureau.