SUFFOLK COUNTY, NY — Cocaine laced with potentially fatal levels of fentanyl could be on the market in Suffolk County, District Attorney Tim Sini said Friday in an urgent public safety alert about the "deadly drug cocktail."
Sini spoke out to warn residents about the possible heightened risk of overdose for drug users due to the fentanyl-laced cocaine after receiving intelligence that the "poison" might be available locally.
Sini and the Riverhead Town Police Department Friday also announced the arrest of an alleged drug dealer who may be connected with a fatal overdose this week in Riverhead, the DA said.
“My office is investigating whether the presence of a deadly mixture of fentanyl-laced cocaine is responsible for causing overdoses in Suffolk County,” 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.”
The White House’s high intensity frug trafficking areas/New York/New Jersey program issued a report Friday stating that law enforcement in Troy, NY, is investigating 19 overdoses, three of which were fatal, in less than 48 hours involving fentanyl-laced cocaine, Sini said.
Additional overdoses in the surrounding areas are also being investigated for any links to the fentanyl-laced cocaine in Troy, he said.
“These reports have led to a heightened concern that this deadly drug cocktail could be on the streets in Suffolk County,” 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.”
On Thursday, Sini announced that the district attorney’s office and the Suffolk County Police Department arrested and charged 15 individuals for their alleged involvement in a multi-million dollar drug trafficking ring. The evidence in that case revealed that the individuals were marking up the price of cocaine because of the supply shortage due to the pandemic, Sini said.
“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,” Sini said. “We do not want to lose even more lives to this poison.”
On May 20 at 3:08 a.m., Riverhead police responded to a 911 call regarding a female who was suspected to have suffered a non-fatal opioid overdose, Sini said. The female was transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center for treatment, Sini said.
Later that day at 10:13 p.m., Riverhead police responded to another 911 call regarding two males suffering apparent drug overdoses at a different residence in Riverhead, Sini said.
Sini said officers administered Narcan on one male, who died at the scene, according to first responders; the second male was transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center for treatment.
All three overdoses were connected to cocaine use, and an investigation is taking place to determine whether that cocaine was laced with fentanyl, Sini said.
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, Sini said.
Holloway was charged with third degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, a class B felony; third degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a class B felony; and fourth degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a class C felony, Sini said.
He is scheduled to be arraigned at Suffolk County District Court on Saturday. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Dana Gremaux of the narcotics bureau.
Prevention advocates agree the pandemic has sparked an uptick in overdoses.
"We are seeing the same anecdotal evidence of an upswing in overdoses," Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, president and chief executive officer of the Family and Children's Association in Mineola, said. "Fear, anxiety, depression combined with canceled treatment appointments and a disrupted drug supply have created a perfect storm. There are lots of folks struggling under the weight of a substance use pandemic that’s been overshadowed by COVID-19 and while we’ve been focused on an emergent problem, addiction has only deepened. Street prices have increased, supply has shifted and desperate drug users staving off withdrawal symptoms are taking chances and mixing substances they wouldn’t have before. Many are funding their way to online support groups, but too many are suffering alone.”