A defendant was sentenced today in the first federally indicted carfentanil prosecution in the country.
Phillip Watkins, 34, of Cincinnati, was sentenced in U.S. District Court today to 300 months in prison for conspiring to distribute heroin laced with carfentanil and attempting to murder a witness he believed was going to testify against him if he went to trial on the drug charge.
United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Benjamin C. Glassman, DEA Detroit Division Special Agent in Charge Timothy J. Plancon, Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot K. Isaac, Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil, Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, other members of the Hamilton County Heroin Task Force including the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification in Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s Office, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, and police departments in Norwood, Blue Ash and Sharonville and Springfield Township announced the sentence imposed today U.S. District Judge Susan J. Dlott.
Court documents say Watkins conspired with others in August 2016 to sell heroin laced with carfentanil, an animal tranquilizer 10,000 times more powerful than morphine, from a residence in the Elmwood Place neighborhood of Cincinnati and that users suffered both fatal and non-fatal overdoses of the potent drugs he sold.
Task force officers arrested Watkins in September 2016 and a federal grand jury indicted him that same month.
While in custody awaiting trial on those drug charges, Watkins learned of a potential witness against him in that case. Watkins arranged to have that witness killed to prevent their testimony. Law enforcement uncovered the plot and stopped it before the murder could take place. A grand jury indicted Watkins for witness tampering in March 2017.
“There is no deadlier poison than carfentanil. In dealing that drug, Watkins showed a disregard for human life, which he then confirmed by plotting to have the witness against him killed,” U.S. Attorney Glassman said. “His 300-month sentence is a fitting punishment and will keep the community safe. I commend all of the law enforcement agencies participating in the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition Task Force. Their incredibly nimble work made this case possible. Enforcement efforts like these are a big part of turning the tide against synthetic opioids in Ohio.”