Two alleged drug dealers have been arrested in connection with the ongoing investigation into a spate of fatal overdoses on the East End, Suffolk County authorities said Thursday.
Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said Lavain Creighton, 51, of Greenport, sold what police believe was fentanyl-laced cocaine on Aug. 13 to two victims who later died. Sini said authorities were able to link Creighton with the fatal overdose victims through text messages and geographical location data.
Sini said Justin Smith, 46, of Smithtown, was Creighton’s alleged supplier, though he said Smith’s role in any of the fatal overdoses was still under investigation.
Authorities have said that six people have died as a result of overdoses of what police believe was the powerful opioid fentanyl in cocaine on the North Fork and on Shelter Island between Aug. 5 and 13.
Sini said authorities "moved swiftly" to arrest Smith and Creighton and extinguish a "public health threat." Sini said investigators are examining whether Creighton may be linked to two other overdose deaths and urged anyone who purchased drugs from the two defendants in recent weeks to contact police.
"Our message is clear," said Sini. "If you are selling drugs in Suffolk County and you kill someone, we will hold you accountable for the death and destruction you have caused."
Sini, as well as State Sens. Todd Kamisky (D-Long Beach), Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) and Assemb. Judy Griffin (D-Rockville Centre) and Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead), who have co-sponsored state legislation calling for a "death by dealer" statute, renewed calls Thursday for a vote on the proposal that would allow prosecutors to press murder charges against a drug dealer accused of selling to a fatal overdose victim.
In 2020, there were approximately 400 fatal opioid overdoses in Suffolk County, Sini said.
Police have identified Swainson Brown, 40, of Shelter Island, as one of the overdose victims. The others were only identified as a 34-year-old Greenport woman, a 25-year-old Southold man, a 30-year-old Southold man, a 27-year-old Greenport man and a 32-year-old East Marion man.
Southampton Town police are examining an Aug. 8 likely overdose death to see if there were any ties to the other deaths, Southampton Town Police Chief Steven Skrynecki said Thursday. A 64-year-old man died and a white powdery substance was found nearby, the chief said.
Creighton was charged with six counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance and ordered held without bail at his arraignment Thursday.
Smith was charged with third- and seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and two counts of second-degree criminally using drug paraphernalia and his bail was set at $500,000 bond or $200,000 cash.
Smith’s defense attorney, Anthony Scheller, pleaded not guilty on behalf of his client.
"My client adamantly denies any connection with" the East End overdoses, and he noted there was no allegation of fentanyl being found in his home.
Creighton’s attorney, Lane Bubka of Riverhead, said his client also pleaded not guilty and called the evidence presented by prosecutors "very circumstantial at best."
"There is no direct evidence that my client actually sold them drugs," said Bubka.
On Wednesday, authorities including the DA's East End Drug Task Force and Heroin Task Force and the police department’s Emergency Services Unit executed a search warrant at Smith’s home and found cocaine, two digital scales, packaging materials, a drug ledger, almost $3,000 in cash and five cellphones, Sini said.
Sini said on Aug. 13 at 12:30 p.m., Southold Town police responded to a reported drug overdose on Rocky Point Road in East Marion. The overdose victim’s phone contained "numerous text messages" between the victim and Creighton that were "consistent with narcotics sales" on 13 different days between July 9 and Aug. 12., Sini said.
The DA also said a surveillance camera captured the victim’s car "driving in the direction" of Creighton’s residence at 9:21 p.m. on Aug. 12.
In the second instance, Sini said Shelter Island Police responded to a fatal overdose on Aug. 13 at 10:16 p.m. and the victim in that case had placed several calls to Creighton between 8:58 p.m. and 10:11 p.m. on Aug. 12.
Sini also said the victim took a ferry from Shelter Island to Greenport at 9:18 p.m. and at 9:35 p.m. made two calls to Creighton.
With Cecilia Dowd and Vera Chinese