A 22-year-old Ohio man accused of selling heroin laced with an elephant tranquilizer that led to 28 overdoses in West Virginia on a single day has been sentenced to more than 18 years in federal prison.
"Heroin is like driving intoxicated,'' U.S. District Judge Robert Chambers said. "You may not mean harm to anybody, but you have to serve a sentence commensurate with the harm you did.''
Bruce Lamar Griggs of Akron faced up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine at his sentencing Monday.
Laboratory tests of the victims' blood and urine showed heroin mixed with fentanyl and carfentanil — considered cheaper synthetic opioid alternatives that heroin dealers use to stretch their supplies.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration issued a warning in March 2015 that fentanyl, a powerful prescription painkiller, was a threat to public health and safety. And last September, the DEA warned the public and law enforcement nationwide about the health and safety risks of handling carfentanil, which is considered 10,000 times stronger than morphine. It is used as an elephant tranquilizer and is not approved for human consumption, according to the DEA.
Chambers said no deaths were caused by Griggs' sales. "You're lucky. If that happened, you'd be facing far worse'' penalties, he said.
West Virginia has the nation's highest drug overdose death rate by far, with 41.5 deaths per 100,000 people in 2015, the latest year available, compared with a national average of 16.3.