Two East End men who prosecutors said discussed in text messages that the potent mix of heroin and fentanyl they sold caused overdoses have been indicted on manslaughter charges in the fatal overdose of a Riverhead man last year.
John Brophy, 49, of Riverhead, who prosecutors said sold a mix of heroin and fentanyl to Lawrence Yaccarino, 50, also provided a “full, detailed confession that mirrored the evidence in this case,” Assistant District Attorney Tanya Rickoff said Monday morning in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead.
LaShawn Lawrence, 35, of Greenport, was identified by prosecutors as Brophy’s supplier.
Brophy and Lawrence pleaded not guilty Monday to charges including second-degree manslaughter. Brophy is also charged with multiple felonies, including three counts each of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, as well as fourth-degree conspiracy.
Lawrence is also charged with fourth-degree conspiracy.
A third man, Bryan Hale, 52, of Flanders, allowed Brophy to sell the drugs out of the auto repair shop he operated in Riverhead, prosecutors said. Hale pleaded not guilty to charges of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, fourth-degree conspiracy and first-degree criminal nuisance.
Yaccarino overdosed Sept. 19 on a mix of fentanyl and heroin and died at Peconic Bay Medical Center, authorities said.
At a news conference after the arraignment, District Attorney Timothy Sini said the indictments mark the third time Suffolk County charged alleged drug dealers linked to a fatal overdose with manslaughter.
James Fava was the first person in Suffolk and in the state to be convicted of manslaughter in connection with a fatal drug overdose. He was sentenced last year to four to six years in prison.
And Roxy Headley Jr., 32, of Mastic Beach, was sentenced last year to 11 to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to selling heroin and fentanyl that caused a fatal overdose.
“Lawrence Yaccarino is no longer with us,” said Sini. “The defendants killed him. Period.”
Prosecutors said Brophy and Lawrence discussed in text messages — which the police said they obtained from Brophy’s phone — the deadly potency of the fentanyl they were selling. Brophy said, “People r dropping,” and said he thought it was from “fent,” which Sini said meant fentanyl. Brophy added: “I don’t want anything to do with that.”
Lawrence replied, according to the texts, “My people ain’t playing like that.”
Brophy wrote back and said he twice had to deliver the overdose antidote Narcan to someone.
Brophy, according to prosecutors, sold drugs out of Hale’s auto repair shop on Lincoln Street in Riverhead.
Investigators from the East End Drug Task Force executed a search warrant Oct. 5 at Hale’s shop and on Brophy’s vehicle. Brophy was found in possession of a quantity of the heroin-fentanyl mixture, and Hale was found in possession of Oxycodone, authorities said.
Sini said investigators also tied heroin sold by Brophy to an overdose on Sept. 14, when a motorist crashed into another car on Main Street in Greenport and had to be revived by Southold police officers using Narcan.
Brophy also used Narcan himself on a client who had ODd, Sini said.
“Think about that for a moment,” Sini said. “You’re selling a product. Your customer dies in front of you because your product is so potent. You have to administer Narcan on that person, and then you’re so depraved that you continue to sell that product.”
Colin Astarita, an attorney for Brophy, said there is no evidence to support that his client sold drugs. Astarita said Brophy is a drug addict.
“As sad as it is, this is a new issue that we’re dealing with, and it’s a scourge nationwide, the opioid epidemic,” Asrarita said.
Prosecutors bringing “such high-level charges” against people who “themselves are addicts … you’re going after the wrong people,” Astarita said. Take these resources that you’re spending here and go after the high-level dealers or to help these people that are addicts.”
Walter Zornes of Hampton Bays, an attorney for Hale, said his client “absolutely and inexplicably denies any sales. He did not sell to anyone. My client is saying he was not selling any drugs to anyone. He was not handling any drugs. He owned a garage.”
Defense attorney Carl Irace of East Hampton, said it will be difficult for prosecutors to connect his client, Lawrence, to Yaccarino’s death.
“It’s a tough link in a criminal case to try to link my client to an unfortunate and tragic death,” Irace said.
Sini said Brophy and Hale sold a mix of heroin and fentanyl that was packaged in “a unique purple wax envelope.” Later, they switched to red packaging, Sini said.
Suffolk County Court Judge Anthony Senft Jr. ordered Brophy held on a $250,000 bond or $125,000 cash bail. Lawrence was being held on $400,000 bond or $200,000 cash, and Hale on $200,000 bond or $100,000 cash.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the name of the court where the arraignments took place.