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3 arrested in New Haven drug overdose case that killed 3, sparked health emergency

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NEW HAVEN -- Three individuals were arrested by federal officials Tuesday in connection with the drug overdoses that caused the deaths of three people and hospitalized over a dozen more on June 23.

The U.S. Attorney's office for the District of Connecticut announced the arrests, which occurred Monday. The suspects include Frank Pina, 57, Jerome Clay Sr., 55, and Steven Whaley, 48. Pina and Clay were charged with possession with intent to distribute and distribution of controlled substances, and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. Whaley is charged with intent to distribute and distribution of controlled substances.

The three suspects remain detained after a hearing on Tuesday.

New Haven police confirmed Monday that 17 people in the city were poisoned by fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, last week. An additional three died. Four of the 17 remained hospitalized as of Monday.

Those who survived the overdoses confirmed that they thought they were trying to buy cocaine, not heroin, and most had never taken opiates and were not ready for the impact such drugs can have. It was quickly believed that the victims had taken opiates and not cocaine because they were revived by naloxone, an emergency anti-opiod antidote which wouldn't work on cocaine.

Pina, Clay and Whaley allegedly supplied drugs to at least 12 of the victims, and at least two of the victims who died.

According to the affidavit, Pina was also treated for a suspected drug overdose after trying his own product. He was reportedly admitted to Yale New Haven Hospital on June 19 and released on June 22.

"Without the combined effort of federal and local law enforcement, emergency medical personnel and city officials, a terrible public health crisis could have been much worse," said U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly. "We promised that we would act swiftly and that is exactly what our DEA agents, New Haven Police officers and federal prosecutors have done."

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