New Haven men plead guilty to drug charges stemming from city-wide health emergency

WTNH/Josh Scheinblum

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Two New Haven men have pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute, and distribution of, a controlled substances.

The guilty pleas come just over a month after 17 people overdosed in the Elm City after using narcotics, court documents show. Three of those victims died. The overdoses led to city officials declaring a public health emergency.

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A Drug Enforcement Agency and New Haven Police investigation revealed that nearly all the victim believed they were taking cocaine. Lab testing revealed that the cocaine was laced with fentanyl, a substance 50 times stronger than heroin.

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57-year-old Frank Pina and 48-year-old Steven Whaley were arrested back on June 27. Investigators say Pina allegedly supplied the drugs both directly and through various middlemen to several of the individuals who overdosed on June 23. Whaley was identified as an associate of Pina’s who sometimes served as a middleman, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

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Pina and Whaley are scheduled to be sentenced on October 31 and November 1st respectively. Both face a maximum of 20 years in prison.

A third man, 55-year-old Jerome Clay, Sr. was also arrested. News 8 has not yet received an update regarding his case.