A Winton Terrace man is accused of selling the fentanyl-laced cocaine that killed two friends in Norwood.
Antwan Reliford, 28, was arrested Nov. 7 on a bus in Louisville after officials said he fled Ohio.
In August, three men and a woman bought half a gram of what they thought was cocaine from Reliford, officials said. All four overdosed in Norwood, and two of the men died. Officials would not release their names.
Hamilton County's heroin task force investigated the overdoses along with Norwood police and federal law enforcement.
Reliford is expected to face federal charges including drug distribution resulting in death. A grand jury will hear the case later this month, officials said. Officials discussed his arrest Thursday at a news conference.
Reliford recently "gave a full admission to selling" the purported cocaine to the group of friends, said task force commander Lt. Tom Fallon. He said Reliford likely didn't know the cocaine had been laced with fentanyl.
Reliford's criminal record includes only one drug conviction, for marijuana possession. Last year, he pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge and was ordered to pay $210.
In 2015, he was involved in an incident that led to an Amber Alert. Police said Reliford took his 1-year-old daughter at gunpoint from a home in the West End neighborhood. He was arrested an hour later, and the girl was returned to her mother.
A grand jury decided not to indict him on a kidnapping charge.
In 2009, he was sentenced to two years in prison for helping rob a man in a vehicle, then dragging the man after pushing him out of the vehicle.
Reliford is the latest accused drug dealer to be charged with in connection with overdose deaths.
The heroin task force has been investigating overdose deaths since 2015, seeking to trace the drugs back to the suppliers.
Kenneth Gentry, who sold a lethal mixture of heroin laced with fentanyl that killed a 38-year-old man, pleaded guilty in 2015 to manslaughter and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Gentry was the first person in Hamilton County to receive a prison sentence for selling drugs to someone who died from an overdose.
Hamilton County's coroner first warned of fentanyl being mixed with cocaine in 2017. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opiate that has been blamed for most overdose deaths in southwest Ohio in recent years.
"This epidemic is still in this community. It's still killing people," said County Commissioner Denise Driehaus. "We need to make sure that people understand the danger they put themselves into when they take drugs."
Published by Cincinnati.com