DA issues ‘urgent public safety alert’ after series of overdoses linked to fentanyl-laced cocaine

A series of overdoses possibly linked to fentanyl-laced cocaine in Riverhead Town resulted in at least one fatality, one arrest and an “urgent public safety alert” from Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini.

On May 20, Riverhead Town police responded to a 911 call for two males suffering apparent drug overdoses at a Riverhead residence. Responding officers administered Narcan on one of the victims, who died at the scene. The second man was transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center for treatment. Police responded to those overdoses shortly after 10 p.m.

Earlier that same day, just after 3 a.m., police responded to another 911 call for a female who was suspected to have suffered a non-fatal opioid overdose. She was transported to PBMC for treament.

Police said a preliminary investigation revealed evidence that all three overdoses were connected to cocaine use and the DA’s office is investigating whether the cocaine was laced with fentanyl.

The investigation led to the arrest of Tarell Holloway, 32, of Riverhead. He is charged with three felonies: third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, fourth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. He was arraigned Saturday. Details on the arraignment were not immediately available.

Mr. Halloway has a history of arrests, according to prior reports.

Riverhead police last week also announced the arrest of a Lake Grove couple for their connection to the fatal overdose of a Riverhead man last month.

Mr. Sini issued a warning that people “are playing Russian roulette” with their lives.

“My Office is investigating whether the presence of a deadly mixture of fentanyl-laced cocaine is responsible for causing overdoses in Suffolk County,” the DA said in a statemtn. “We are issuing a ‘buyer beware’ notice for the holiday weekend and the upcoming weeks.”

Additional cocaine laced with fentanyl may remain on the market in Suffolk County, the DA said.

The White House’s High Intensity Drug Trafficing Areas New York’New Jersey program issued a report Friday that law enforcement in Troy, N.Y. is investigating 19 overdoses, three of which were fatal, in less than 48 hours involving fentanyl-laced cocaine. Additional overdoses in the surrounding areas are also being investigated for any links to the cases in Troy.

“These reports have led to a heightened concern that this deadly drug cocktail could be on the streets in Suffolk County,” Mr. 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.”

The DA’s office and Suffolk County police arrested 15 people on Thursday for their alleged involvement in a multi-million dollar drug trafficking operation. The evidence revealed the defendants were allegedly marking up the price of cocaine because of supply shortage from the pandemic.

Mr. Sini said preliminary statistics show a 16% increase in fatal and non-fatal overdoses year-to-date compared to 2019 in the county.

“We do not want to lose even more lives to this poison,” he said.