Three Queens residents distributed fentanyl-laced heroin across the borough that resulted in two fatal overdoses in Forest Hills, prosecutors announced on Tuesday.
David Wickham, 35, Katelyn Trampler, 27, and Crystal Roberts, 28, faced a federal judge on Aug. 7 for arraignment on a 10-count indictment charging them variously with narcotics distribution, money laundering and weapons possession.
According to U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue, the three suspects allegedly peddled heroin and fentanyl out of a home on Tioga Drive in St. Albans where they resided between January 2017 and February of this year. They allegedly wired money to associates in Panama to expand the drug ring while also laundering the proceeds from their illegal drug sales.
Law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation said that Wickham allegedly sold fentanyl on or about July 30, 2017, which was later used by a man and woman in Forest Hills, both of whom wound up dying of overdoses. Later in the year, on Dec. 13, additional heroin and fentanyl that Wickham allegedly distributed nearly killed another user, who had to be revived with Narcan (naloxoxe).
“As alleged, Wickham’s distribution of dangerous opioids resulted in the deaths of a man and a woman, and the near-death of a second man,” Donoghue said. “The defendants sought to profit from other people’s addictions and put their own greed ahead of the public’s health and safety.”
Federal agents and the NYPD were able to bust the narcotics ring in February 2018 as a result of a lengthy investigation. Authorities recovered the defendants’ cellphones and found, on Roberts’ phone, videos which allegedly confirmed her participation in the ring — and demonstrated the suspects’ alleged disregard for life.
In one conversation that took place on Feb. 20, after speaking with a customer, Roberts and Wickham observed that the individual would “end up dying.”
“I’m saying before he tries to kill himself, he’s going to give me some bread,” Roberts was quoted as saying in the conversation. “I don’t have time for that. You can kill yourself if you want to, I don’t want you to, but this is the game we play, and you’re going to have to give me some bread cause you took too much and your man’s took too much.”
The use of fentanyl-laced heroin has contributed to the ongoing opioid crisis in the United States. Fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller, is known to be 50 times more potent then heroin; when combined with heroin, fentanyl makes the substance far more powerful — and deadly.
Fentanyl overdose deaths rose 135 percent, and heroin overdose deaths jumped by 28 percent, between 2014 and 2015, according to federal prosecutors.
Wickham and Trampler were arrested by federal agents on Feb. 27 and March 1, respectively; during Wickham’s arrest, police recovered from him a Cobra Enterprises FS380 semi-automatic pistol. Both suspects have been held in federal custody since their arrest.
If convicted, Wickham could spend between 20 years to life in federal prison, while Roberts faces up to 20 years behind bars and Trampler could serve up to 40 years’ imprisonment.
“The NYPD’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis took a step forward today with this indictment,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill said on Aug. 7. “Our detectives, along with the professionals at Homeland Security Investigations and the Eastern District of New York, will stop at nothing to keep New Yorkers safe by identifying, aggressively investigating and arresting anyone who traffics in illegal narcotics and the violence so often associated with such criminal behavior.”