FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – For the first time in Broward County a suspect is being criminally charged with providing a fatal dose of fentanyl to a victim.
On Thursday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida announced that Jean Jameson is accused of giving a fatal dose of the drug fentanyl to a man who overdosed and died last fall at a home in Fort Lauderdale.
The news came with a serious message from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“We are targeting fentanyl dealers,” said Daniel Escobar, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Miami’s Field Division. “We want them to know that we are coming after you.”
Escobar said a Task Force of DEA agents along with officers from Fort Lauderdale Police, the Broward Sheriff’s Office and other local agencies are working on Operation Phantom Chase.
That’s a wide-ranging effort set up in 2017 to crack down on fentanyl and heroin trafficking and overdose deaths, which is plaguing Broward County and all of South Florida.
Broward’s Medical Examiner’s Office told CBS 4 News that accidental overdose deaths — mainly attributed to the powerful synthetic painkiller fentanyl — have numbered around 650 per year the past few years.
A member of the Task Force said they had 6 fentanyl-related overdose cases in Fort Lauderdale last week alone.
In the Jameson case, Escobar said the drugs provided to the victim at a sober home in Fort Lauderdale came from Jameson.
“At the scene our officers were able to gather evidence specifically some drugs — some capsules — that had the fentanyl — and through investigative efforts they were able to tie it back to the specific target and the subject of the investigation,” Escobar said.
Jameson’s attorney, Jim Lewis, does not argue that his client and the victim had contact about drugs. But Lewis says Jameson did not provide the fatal dose.
“They had a connection,” Lewis said. “They were in communication and there were drugs changing hands. The issue is on this particular day that caused this death did the young man receive the drugs from my client or someone else? We believe that it was from someone else.”
If convicted of the charges, Jameson faces significant punishment. He could face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and could possibly spend the rest of his life locked up.
Experts say the synthetic drug fentanyl is 100 times more potent than heroin and that dealers know this when they lace other drugs with it to try and boost a user’s high.
“What you’ll find is a lot of users are taking a drug that maybe they’ve taken in the past and did fine with and they’re overdosing because with the fentanyl added to it, you’re increasing the potency of it and it pushes them over the edge into an overdose,” said Broward Health Medical Center Dr. Jason Mansour.
The Task Force is hard at work. They investigate every overdose death in Broward County looking to possibly make a criminal case.
Escobar said they’ve initiated more than 100 cases, many for distributing fentanyl and heroin, since the task force’s inception.
He says the work of this Task Force and the charges against Jameson should send a message to the community.
“The epidemic is growing in South Florida,” Escobar said. “We’re trying to stop the problem before it gets out of control.”