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ROCKFORD, IL – JULY 14: Firefighters help an overdose victim on July 14, 2017 in Rockford, Illinois. The woman was found on the floor of the hotel room where she lived after taking an overdose of prescription medication and alcohol. Rockford, a city of about 150,000 located in northern Illinois, averages about 2 overdose deaths per week, most which are heroin related. Nationwide, an estimated 60,000 people in the U.S. died from drug overdoses in 2016, more than gunshots or traffic accidents. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

legalization | 11.28.2019

Judge forces fentanyl dealer to pay for teenage victim’s funeral

Ohio, where the teenager overdosed, has been one of the states hardest hit by the opioid crisis.

There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in your work. But when the work you do is fueling one of the deadliest crises in the country, it’s best not to smile for the camera the way this Cincinnati opioid dealer did.

In a video obtained by the Cincinnati Inquirer, Ohio resident Michael Chandler is seen driving up to the windows of five vehicles in a row in broad daylight to deliver the goods. “This shit’s like McDonald’s,” he is heard saying in the video shot on his own phone.

Business seemed to be booming for Chandler until his product caused the overdose of a teenage customer. That’s when U.S. District Judge Michael R. Barrett dealt a healthy dose of justice to this proud dealer. After pleading guilty to drug distribution, the 29-year-old was sentenced to nearly two decades in prison and ordered to pay $9,000 to the family of the teenager to cover the funeral costs.

According to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics, as of April 2017, there were more than 65,000 overdose-related deaths across the country. Fentanyl, an opioid which is sometimes referred to as the synthetic version of heroin,  accounted for 20,100 deaths, surpassing all other opioid-related fatalities in 2015.

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WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 31: Terri Zaccone (2nd R) of New Port Richey, Florida, is comforted by sister Tina Rhatigan (R), as she holds a picture of her son Thomas DeVito who has passed away from accidentially carfentanil, a new form of fentanyl, overdose at the age of 29, during a candlelight vigil at the Ellipse August 31, 2017 in Washington, DC. FED UP! Coalition hosted its annual International Overdose Awareness Day event calling for an end to the nation’s opioid addiction crisis. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Ohio has been one of the states hardest hit by the opiod crisis. In 2016, the state reported 4,050 unintentional overdose deaths, an increase of 1,000 deaths from the previous year. Eight-six percent of these fatalities were caused by all opioids and fifty-eight percent were caused by “fentanyl and related drugs” specifically.

“It has been a rapidly evolving problem,” Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Dr. Tom P. Gilson told HERB, “we are still very much grappling with an approximately 30 percent increase in caseloads in many areas of this agency.”

The 17-year-old victim in Chandler’s case was identified in court documents as “J.H.” from Campbell County, Kentucky. After his death in April, the Kentucky Drug Task Force identified the dealer as a man who went by the name of ‘Goldie.’ (It turns out this was Chandler’s nickname.)

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 23: Bags of heroin, some laced with fentanyl, are displayed before a press conference regarding a major drug bust, at the office of the New York Attorney General, September 23, 2016 in New York City. New York State Attorney General Eric Scheiderman’s office announced Friday that authorities in New York state have made a record drug bust, seizing 33 kilograms of heroin and 2 kilograms of fentanyl. According to the attorney general’s office, it is the largest seizure in the 46 year history of New York’s Organized Crime Task Force. Twenty-five peopole living in New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Arizona and New Jersey have been indicted in connection with the case. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

As part of their investigation, law enforcement recruited a friend of the victim, referred to as ‘C.S.I.’ in court documents, for an undercover operation. Local WCPO reported the friend then purchased drugs from ‘Goldie.’

The operation included multiple encounters between them, including one instance on May 16 when the friend entered ‘Goldie’s’ home wearing a wire and recorded conversations between the dealer and other men involved in the distribution of fentanyl.

The drug acquired by C.S.I. was handed over to the Hamilton County Coroner, who identified it as fentanyl. Police then tracked Chandler’s car across three communities where he conducted his shady business. After three days, they were granted a warrant to search Chandler’s place where they discovered cocaine, firearms and more than 600 grams of fentanyl.

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