For admittedly selling heroin that caused three overdoses in Wooster, a Cleveland man is likely to be sentenced to 17 years in a federal prison.
Demetrius L. Frizzell, 30, on Thursday pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin and one count of attempted witness tampering, both felonies.
In March, Frizzell was indicted in U.S. District Court on six counts: two counts of distribution of heroin, one count of possession with intent to distribute heroin, one count of obstruction of justice and two counts of witness tampering.
He is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 29. The plea agreement included a jointly recommended sentence of 17 years in prison.
The charges stem from incidents occurring in late 2016.
Wooster Police learned about a heroin overdose victim who on Nov. 3 was brought to an emergency room unresponsive and appeared dead, according to a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He was revived after emergency room staff administered 12 doses of Narcan.
Frizzell also sold heroin on Oct. 29 and Nov. 2 that resulted in overdoses, in which users were revived with Narcan, according to the release.
On Oct. 29, a 46-year-old man was dropped off at Wooster Community Hospital by a friend, said Wooster Capt. Scott Rotolo. After the man was revived, he reportedly told law enforcement that the last thing he remembered was taking heroin at the Beall Avenue McDonald’s.
During this investigation, the man also reported to police he obtained heroin from a man who was staying at his residence on the 700 block of North Grant Street.
Frizzell was arrested and charged with corrupting another with drugs. While in custody, Frizzell called overdose victims and instructed them to change their statements to police, according to court documents.
Investigators traced the sale of heroin in all three cases to Frizzell, said Medway Drug Enforcement Agency Director Donald Hall, noting, as with all criminal investigations, his agents and task force members work cases backward, reaching as high up the food chain as possible.
In this case, the trail led to Frizzell, who Hall categorized as a “mid- to upper-level dealer for our area.”? The investigations, Hall said, require extensive man hours and close cooperation with federal partners, who can contribute additional resources and are able to levy federal charges, which carry stiffer prison sentences.
Considering the lives affected by and lost to drugs, Hall, who has a passion for his work, said it is well worth the effort.
Opiates and methamphetamine, he said, are responsible up 85-90 percent of the agency’s caseload. Heroin, most often seen containing additives like carfentanil and fentanyl, started to surge in the area about three years ago.
As a result, Hall said, Medway was the first agency in Wayne County to equip officers with Narcan. Now most all carry. And, despite the growing number of overdoses and deaths, use continues.
Subsequently, Narcan is used more frequently, also helping to treat law enforcement and medical personnel after secondary contact — by skin or air — to the drugs.
And, despite some debate about law enforcement use of it, Hall said, “At the end of the day, it’s human life and you do what you can to help that person out.”
“It can be frustrating when you deal with the same person several times in one week,” he said, “but that’s not an excuse to stop carrying Narcan.”
If anything, it serves as a greater motivator to ramp up efforts and reach as high up that supplier food chain as possible. And it’s not just heroin, said Hall, noting he, his agents and task force members are equally committed to responding to any drug of abuse.
And, the higher up they can get, he said, the more effective they are, at least in the short term, in mitigating the effects of drugs on the community. Frizzell, he said, is “a good person to have off the streets.”?To that end, Medway “will continue to collaborate and work closely with our federal partners to hold people accountable for their actions who are involved in trafficking drugs in our communities,” he said.
It’s a position shared by those federal partners, who recognize the impact of drug use and abuse.
“Heroin has caused devastation throughout Ohio and no corner of the state is immune,” said Acting U.S. Attorney David A. Sierleja. “Aggressive enforcement, combined with increased treatment, prevention and education, is our best chance to turn around this epidemic.”
Overdoses and overdose deaths related to heroin have become an epidemic across the country and Ohio has been hit particularly hard by this problem, said DEA Special Agent in Charge Timothy Plancon, noting, “Identifying and bringing to justice those individuals that distribute illegal drugs that result in an overdose, is one of DEA’s top priorities.”
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Medway Drug Enforcement Agency, the Wooster Police Department and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Teresa Riley.
“Of equal significance, we hope to send a message to our local drug dealers that law enforcement will not tolerate them poisoning our community,” Rotolo said though the department’s Facebook page. “Over the course of several years all of us have worked tirelessly to hold drug traffickers accountable and we appreciate the assistance of our federal partners.”
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.