A former Bridgeport man has been arrested in the first prosecution in the distribution of carfentanil, a drug 10,000 times more potent than morphine.
Charles Thelusma, 43, has been arrested on a federal criminal complaint charging him with possession with intent to distribute, and distribution of, heroin, carfentanil and U-47700.
Carfentanil is an opioid that is 100 times more potent than fentanyl, which is itself 50 times more potent than heroin. It is typically used as a tranquilizing agent for elephants and other large mammals. U-47700 is a synthetic opioid that is approximately seven times stronger than morphine.
Officials last year said there was no clear indication the opioid was in Connecticut.
But the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner confirmed a man in Norwalk died on April 17 from an overdose involving carfentanil and other fentanyl analogues. The ME’s office said the man’s death, ruled accidental because it was an overdose, was caused by acute intoxication due to combined effects of carfentanil, fentanyl, acetyl fentanyl, butyryl fentanyl, heroin, Etizolam, methadone and alprazolam, an anxiety medication.
The man also had a synthetic opioid called U-47700 in his system.
According to federal prosecutors, on two occasions in March and May 2017, law enforcement coordinated a controlled purchases of heroin from Thelusma.
In both instances, an individual working for Thelusma completed the drug transactions at predetermined locations in Bridgeport. On May 24, 2017, law enforcement conducted a controlled purchase of three bundles heroin (30 dose bags) from Thelusma in exchange for $200, prosecutors said.
Thelusma directed the purchaser to a hotel in Elmsford, N.Y., to complete the transaction. Laboratory analysis of the drugs purchased on May 24 confirmed the presence of heroin, carfentanil and U47700.
Thelusma was arrested Wednesday at the hotel in Elmsford, where he had been residing. He appeared yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel in Bridgeport and was ordered detained. The charge carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.
‘The scourge of opioid abuse’
“This is the first federal prosecution involving carfentanil in Connecticut,” said U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly said in a release. “We will continue to devote numerous federal resources to battle the scourge of opioid abuse and distribution, and our commitment becomes stronger as these illegal drugs become more sinister and deadly. This investigation is ongoing.”
“Those suffering from opioid addiction need access to treatment and recovery,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Ferguson. “But those responsible for the distribution of heroin and deadly synthetic opioids like carfentanil and U-47700 need to be held accountable for their actions. This investigation demonstrates the strength of collaborative law enforcement in Connecticut and our strong partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to aggressively seek and bring to justice anyone who distributes these poisons.”
“I would like to commend my officers for their excellent work on following up with this investigation in regards to this very dangerous drug,” said Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik. “I also thank the DEA and U.S. Attorney’s Office for their valuable assistance and partnership in working on this case which lead to the arrest.”