Crime

Deadly heroin mixture flowed from Detroit to Central Kentucky. Last of ring sentenced.

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The last of five men accused in a conspiracy to bring in heroin from Detroit and distribute it in Central Kentucky, reportedly causing multiple overdoses, has been sentenced to more than 24 years in prison.

Lamar “Juice” Thornton, 26, of Detroit was sentenced Thursday to 24 years and four months in federal prison for his alleged role in the conspiracy, according to a release by the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky. The cases revealed details about how drugs were moved from Michigan to Lexington for sale in the region.

In February, a jury convicted Thornton of supplying 1.872 kilograms of heroin and 315 grams of carfentanil, according to the release.

Carfentanil, which is used to tranquilize elephants and other large animals, is about 100 times more powerful than fentanyl and about 10,000 times more potent than morphine, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Thornton would routinely travel from his home in Detroit to Lexington and would stay in hotels while in town selling heroin, according to a federal affidavit.

When the investigation began in January 2017, two “cooperating defendants” who had previously bought heroin from Thornton told investigators that they had noticed changes in the heroin’s color and smell, according to the affidavit. One of the unnamed cooperating witnesses, who had been accused of getting heroin from Thornton to distribute in Central Kentucky, told investigators that he or she had “died” from using the drug and had to be revived with Narcan.

The investigation began after a number of overdoses — at least one of which was fatal — were reported in Jessamine County over a few days, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit from DEA Special Agent Jared Sullivan said he believed the “heroin” that was being distributed likely contained fentanyl or carfentanil. Lab results later confirmed that the heroin was mixed with carfentanil.

The others accused in the conspiracy were Jeffrey James Ruggiero, Jerrod Doolin, Darmon Vonta Shaw and Thomas Dennis Lehman. They have all since pleaded guilty to charges related to the case.

Doolin pleaded guilty to counts of conspiracy to distribute heroin and carfentanil and distribution of a controlled substance (heroin) and an analog of fentanyl (carfentanil) resulting in serious physical injury, according to court records. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release.

Doolin was pulled over during the investigation of the string of overdoses, and investigators found about 50 grams of heroin and a dose of Narcan in the trunk of his car, according to court records. He told investigators that he had purchased 70 grams from a source and that the amount in the trunk was what was left.

Other records said that Thornton had sold 70 grams of heroin to a person, who was later found with the remaining 50 grams of the drug Thornton sold.

During the series of overdoses reported in Jessamine County between Jan. 8 and Jan. 19, 2017, a man named Nathaniel Brezeale was involved in a Nicholasville crash, according to court records. Brezeale had overdosed and was revived with 3 milligrams of Narcan.

When Brezeale was interviewed by investigators, he said he’d bought a tenth of a gram of heroin from Ruggiero for $25, according to court records. He also told investigators that Doolin was at the Garrard County residence where Ruggiero sold him the “heroin.”

Ruggerio pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin and carfentanil. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison, followed by four years of supervised release, according to court records.

One of the other defendants in the case, Shaw, was in the car with Thornton when he was pulled over in Detroit on Jan. 19, 2017. Shaw contacted Thorton’s girlfriend and advised her to tell her father to clean out his house, according to court records. He also reportedly contacted an unknown person to tell him to destroy potential evidence.

Shaw pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin and carfentanil, and was sentenced to nine years in prison, followed by four years of supervised release, according to court records.

Between September 2016 and January 2017, Thornton and Shaw distributed at least 672 grams of heroin and 31.643 grams of carfentanil to Lehman, according to court records.

When Thornton and Shaw first started selling heroin to Lehman, Lehman agreed to distribute it in Fayette County, according to court records.

Shaw sold carfentanil to Lehman on Jan. 8, 2017, and later that day, Lexington police were dispatched to Danielle Lane, where they found Lehman unresponsive, according to court records. Lehman’s car was searched and police found heroin and methamphetamine, as well as digital scales, needles, Ziploc bags and other drug paraphernalia.

Lehman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin and carfentanil and possession with the intent to distribute heroin, carfentanil and methamphetamine, according to court records. He was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison, followed by five years supervised release, according to court records.

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