Four men were arrested and charged in connection with the overdose death of Michael K. Williams, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday afternoon.
The Brooklyn-born actor known for his roles in shows including The Wire and Boardwalk Empire, was found dead in his South Williamsburg apartment last September.
Hector Robles, 57, Luis Cruz, 56, and Carlos Macci, 70, were charged with conspiracy in connection with the intent to sell fentanyl and heroin, which carries a minimum of five years in prison. Irvin Cartagena, 39, whom prosecutors said was arrested in Puerto Rico Tuesday, was charged with conspiracy in addition to being charged with causing Williams’ death which has a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.
“Deadly opioids like fentanyl and heroin don’t care about who you are or what you’ve accomplished. They just feed addiction and lead to tragedy,” said Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, in a statement announcing the arrests. “We will continue to hold accountable the dealers who push this poison, exploit addiction, and cause senseless death.”
Prosecutors described a locus of heroin sales centering around the apartment of Luis Cruz on South 3rd Street in Williamsburg. Prosecutors said an NYPD paid informant purchased heroin at the apartment twice during the summer leading up to Williams overdose death, and both times found it contained fentanyl.
On Sept. 5, a day before Williams was found dead in his apartment, surveillance camera footage captured what prosecutors said was the fatal drug deal outside outside 224 South 3rd Street. The footage showed Cartagena, who had prior weapons and drug charges, retrieving what appeared to be a small plastic bag behind a row of trash cans, prosecutors said.
Williams drove back to his apartment shortly after the encounter and never left, officials said. The medical examiner later determined Williams’s death was caused by the combination of fentanyl, parafluorofentanyl, heroin and cocaine, prosecutors said. He was found wearing the same track suit he’d had on the day before.
Two days later, confidential informants returned to the apartment to buy more heroin which still contained fentanyl when tested by the NYPD, prosecutors said.
Attorneys for the four men couldn’t be reached immediately.
Maritza Perez, Director of the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, warned against thinking that ramping up prosecutions could lead the nation out of the current overdose crisis. The number of overdoses across the country have hit historic highs, despite more hefty punishments levied against people accused of supplying the fatal doses — a practice that began under President Trump in 2018 and has continued under President Joe Biden.
“The only thing that is really going to save lives is us investing in public health alternatives, such as overdose prevention centers, fentanyl test strips, and even safe supply – as our neighbors in Canada are already experimenting with to curb overdose deaths,” she said.