Northeast Ohio dealers, suppliers facing prosecution for opiate-related deaths

Christine Martin, a 31-year-old Mentor resident, was found unresponsive in her cell Dec. 22 at Lake County Jail after heroin was brought into the facility.  Officials administered a drug to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, and she survived. But Martin’s problems are far from over.

On Aug. 18, she was sentenced in Lake County Common Pleas Court to the maximum seven years in prison for participating in a plan to buy and smuggle drugs into the jail.

Fellow inmate Kristi Jean Ellis, a 25-year-old Mentor woman, overdosed the same day as Martin and died from the same batch.  Martin, who was originally behind bars for petty theft, recently pleaded guilty to one count each of illegal conveyance of drugs of abuse onto the grounds of a detention facility, attempted corrupting another with drugs and trafficking in heroin.

Her two co-defendants also pleaded guilty to similar charges.

Michael Beachler, 24, of Parma, is serving 30 months in prison for supplying the drugs that led to Ellis’ death.  Jessica Sari, 22, of Willoughby, will be sentenced Sept. 22 for hiding heroin in her body cavity after returning to the jail from a medical furlough.

Lake County Prosecutor Charles Coulson said prosecutors will recommend the maximum 11-year sentence for Sari.  Those cases are among the latest examples of Northeast Ohio prosecutors holding heroin dealers and suppliers responsible for their clients’ overdose deaths.

On Aug. 29, Painesville resident Alphonso Ligon, 49, is scheduled to go on trial in Geauga County Common Pleas Court for involuntary manslaughter.  Ligon is accused of selling heroin to Paul Carlozzi, a 36-year-old Chardon man. Carlozzi was found dead in his apartment on April 12, 2015.

Prosecutors in Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga counties first began charging dealers with manslaughter and other stiff offenses in 2014, and continue to do so on a case-by-case basis.  “It’s out of control,” Coulson said of opiate abuse. “You’ve got to go after the dealers. It doesn’t do any good to go after the addicts. The tougher you are, the less likely the dealers will want to come into your jurisdiction. You don’t solve the problem, but you do move it.”

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