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Drug dealer connected to 17 overdoses in New Haven gets 7 years in prison

Cocaine in pocket

NEW HAVEN — A Connecticut man who sold fentanyl-laced cocaine that killed three people and sent 14 others to the hospital after he overdosed on the same drugs has been sentenced to seven years in prison.

A federal judge in Hartford imposed the punishment Tuesday on Frank Pina. The 57-year-old New Haven resident pleaded guilty in August to possession and distribution of a substance containing cocaine.

Pina was among three men arrested on drug charges in connection with the 17 overdoses that occurred in New Haven in June. Authorities said the victims thought they were buying cocaine, but the drugs were laced with the powerful opioid fentanyl.

“These patients, who we have interviewed, some who thought they were taking cocaine, were naive to opiates,” Dr. Gail D’Onofrio, of Yale-New Haven Hospital, said on June 24, the day after the overdoses. That hospital treated most of the patients. “These overdoses were probably a synthetic opiate called Fentanyl. But we don’t know that for sure.”

Fentanyl is known to be up to 100 times more potent than heroin.

Prosecutors say Pina sold the drugs only days after overdosing himself.

Pina had argued that he shouldn’t be sent to prison for more than four years.

Three other men were arrested in connection to the overdoses: Steven Whaley, a former New Haven school custodian, Jerome Clay Sr., and Emeth Soloman.