Bernard Lewis, 46, pleaded guilty in April to third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, according to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown. On May 2, Queens Supreme Court Justice Suzanne Melendez ordered Lewis to serve four years in prison and three years’ post-release supervision.
“The investigation into this case commenced with the near-fatal overdoses of two individuals who bought from [Lewis],” Brown said in a May 3 statement. “In a recorded phone conversation, the defendant was told he was selling drugs that contained fentanyl, and that the drugs were killing people.”
Fentanyl — a prescription anesthetic that’s up to 50 times more potent than heroin — is contributing to the ongoing opioid crisis gripping Queens and the entire United States. Some dealers are cutting heroin with fentanyl to create a more powerful, but also a much more lethal, substance when consumed.
This has led to a significant spike in drug-related fatalities across the country and in Queens — where, Brown reported earlier this year, suspected fatal drug overdoses were three times higher than the murder rate in 2017.
“Many users are not aware that the drugs they are using is laced with fentanyl and therefore much deadlier than just heroin alone,” Brown added.
Members of the NYPD Queens Narcotics Squad linked Lewis to drug sales in Astoria and Jackson Heights through a long-term investigation that involved the use of court-authorized wiretaps. Between April 6 and June 17, 2017, prosecutors said, Lewis had phone conversations with six individuals who asked to purchase drugs from him.
Lewis or one of his associates then handled the transaction, exchanging drugs for cash. In each instances, prosecutors said, the buyers were arrested; the drugs seized from them were found to contain fentanyl.
On May 11, 2017, detectives picked up a phone conversation between Lewis and a Rikers Island inmate, who had contacted him using a Department of Corrections telephone. During the call, Lewis was informed that the inmate’s bail was “too high” because the drugs he had been dealing were found to contain fentanyl, “and that fentanyl was killing people.”
Cops executed a search warrant of Lewis’ home on July 19, 2017, and found a large rock of fentanyl, a box with numerous empty glassine envelopes and other drug paraphernalia, and $2,900 in cash.