Federal authorities have arrested a man in Cincinnati in connection with a rash of drug overdoses last week in Mount Sterling and Montgomery County.
Robert Lee Shields was charged with conspiring to knowingly and intentionally distribute the powerful painkiller fentanyl, according to a complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Lexington. Federal documents did not list the age or address for Shields, nor the place where he is being held. Fentanyl is 40 to 50 times stronger than street-level heroin.
Shields made an initial appearance Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert E. Wier in Lexington. He appeared with Lexington lawyer Pat Nash. A detention hearing and a preliminary hearing are scheduled for Wednesday in Lexington before Wier.
Shields admitted to investigators that he had supplied fentanyl on multiple occasions to others in Mount Sterling, according to an affidavit filed by Jared Sullivan, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency.
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Mount Sterling police notified Sullivan last week that there had been 10 to 12 overdoses in Montgomery County on Aug. 24 and 25. Most of the overdose victims were resuscitated, but one victim died. The overdoses came in the wake of 50 heroin overdoses in Cincinnati, but it’s unclear whether some of the overdoses in southern Ohio were traced to Shields.
Investigators learned from surviving victims and witnesses that Tracy Myers, also known as Tracy Smallwood, had delivered “heroin” to several victims before the overdoses, the affidavit says. Myers confessed that she had delivered heroin to several victims, including the man who died, the affidavit said.
Based on her statements, investigators suspected that Wesley Hamm also was involved in the conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. Myers was arrested on state drug-trafficking charges and was being held in the Montgomery County Regional Jail, and Hamm was arrested on outstanding unrelated warrants, the affidavit said.
Myers told Sullivan that she supplied Hamm with money, which he then took to Cincinnati to buy heroin. Myers said she was aware that heroin was commonly mixed with fentanyl and that fentanyl was being sold as heroin. But Myers said she was unaware whether the heroin she sold to victims contained fentanyl.
Hamm told investigators that he bought fentanyl from a man known as “Sosa” in Cincinnati on Aug. 24, then took the drug back to Mount Sterling. “Sosa” is known to investigators as Shields.
Hamm told Shields that he sought fentanyl because “regular heroin hurts his body,” the affidavit said. At the time, Shields confirmed that his product was fentanyl.
Hamm agreed to make recorded telephone calls to Shields. During the calls, Shields made comments indicating that he had previously met Hamm and the meeting involved drug trafficking. During the Aug. 25 and 26 calls, Shields agreed to sell Hamm 5 grams of “the same stuff” in Cincinnati on Aug. 26.
In Cincinnati, Hamm was positioned along Queen City Avenue and was asked to identify Shields when he drove by. Hamm identified the driver of a black Chrysler Pacifica as “Sosa,” and investigators followed him to have the car stopped by a marked police car.
Shields eventually parked the car in a school parking lot and began walking away from the car. Investigators approached and arrested him, the affidavit said. Shields dropped a cellphone that was seized by investigators, and its number was the same as that given to them by Hamm.