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New Haven man pleads guilty in connection with New Haven overdoses

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NEW HAVEN — A New Haven man pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the overdoses, within 24 hours, of more than a dozen people in June. Three people who overdosed died after taking cocaine that had been laced with fentanyl.

Officials said Emeth Soloman, 43, of New Haven, plead guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute, and distribution of, cocaine. Soloman faces up to 20 years in prison and will be sentenced in January 2017.

New Haven police said  three people died and 14 others  in the city were poisoned by fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, on June 23.

Officials said Soloman had purchased fentanyl-laced cocaine from his supplier, Frank Pina. Pina and two others were arrested in June.  Prosecutors said Soloman used some of the cocaine and sold the rest to his niece for her consumption.  Soloman’s niece was one of those who overdosed and died.

Authorities said when they questioned Soloman about the death of his niece, he lied about Pina’s drug trafficking activities and his involvement in his niece’s overdose death.  They said the false statements during an crisis immediately following the overdoses, “significantly impeded law enforcement’s investigation and efforts to ensure that the lethal cocaine/fentanyl mixture was removed from circulation on the streets of New Haven.”

Frank Pina, 57,  and  Steven Whaley 48, pleaded guilty in August in federal court in Hartford to possession and distribution of controlled substances.

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. Emergency crews determined 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.

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