The opioid addiction crisis continues to take lives in Massachusetts, including here in western Massachusetts.
Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni, along with medical experts from Baystate Health, held a news conference Wednesday morning to discuss a spike in opioid overdoses.
The numbers tell the story. Each day in Massachusetts, an average of five people die from opioid overdoses.
Gulluni and Dr. Gerald Beltran from Baystate Health discussed a recent increase in both fatal and non-fatal opioid overdoses.
"Through a swift and focused response by law enforcement further harm and personal devastation was surely avoided. The proactive actions by the Baystate’s trauma team, alerting law enforcement to the tragic rise in overdoses, provided vital real time developments into an in-progress crisis leading to these arrests," Gulluni said.
Investigators were called to Baystate Medical Center on March 16 while investigating the death of 28-year-old David Simonoko of Ludlow. Authorities allege that Simonoko suffered symptoms consistent with an overdose at the home of 22-year-old Bradley Hoffmeier of Ludlow.
Hoffmeier is still being sought, while three other people have been arrested, accused in selling and distributing opiates which caused three overdose deaths over a 10 day period this month.
The D.A.'s office said that during that starting March 15, Beltran contacted State Police about a report from the hospital's trauma team indicating a higher than normal volume of people suffering from drug overdoses.
Eight people came into Baystate's emergency department over a 24 to 48 hour span showing signs of an overdose. Seven of those people were revived using Narcan.
Additionally, authorities said that normally .4 to 1 miligram of Narcan would normally be administered to those suffering from an overdose. However, some of the patients coming into Baystate were receiving up to 36 milligrams of Narcan to be revived.
An investigation was immediately launched by Ludlow Police, Agawam Police, and troopers assigned to the D.A.'s office and through that investigation, according to the D.A.'s office, detectives learned that several recent overdose deaths stemmed from the same group of friends and acquaintances, mainly in the Ludlow area.
While investigating Simonoko's death, intelligence was reportedly gathered regarding 23-year-old Christopher Fitzpatrick of Ludlow as someone suspected selling and distributing the deadly opiates.
"Authorities were able to link two other overdose deaths to individuals linked to Fitzpatrick: Mr. Michael Lecca, 38, of Ludlow and Mr. Michael Iellamo, 26, of Agawam. Mr. Lecca was found deceased on March 10 and Mr. Iellamo on March 6," said James Leydon, spokesperson for the Hampden County D.A.'s office.
Daniel Moffat, 28, of Ludlow has been arrested and charged with distribution of heroin. Lecca reportedly overdosed at Moffat's house and it's alleged that Moffat gave that fatal opiate dose to Lecca.
Moffat is suspected of receiving his heroin from Fitzpatrick.
It's also alleged that Fitzpatrick distributed heroin to Iellamo, who tested post-mortem for fentanyl.
On March 22, people arrested 34-year-old Frank Jimenez of Springfield on a charge of distribution of heroin (second offense). Authorities suspect that he provided Fitzpatrick with the opiate that killed Lecca and Iellamo.
"Of note, communications exchanged between these parties suspected of the distribution of heroin suggest they were aware of the extreme potency of the heroin that was being distributed," Leydon noted in a statement.
Jimenez was arraigned on a charge of distribution of Class A drugs. He is being held on $100,000 cash bail and is due back in court in April 23.
Moffat has been arraigned on charges including possession to distribute a Class A drug, distribution of a Class A drug, and intimidation of a witness. He is being held on $25,000 cash bail and is due back in court April 19.
Fitzpatrick was arraigned on charges of possession with intent to distribute a Class A drug and distribution of Class A drugs. He is held on $10,000 cash bail and is set to appear again in court on April 11.
Gulluni noted that additional charges against some of the suspects are likely as the investigation continues.
Western Mass News will continue to follow this story and will have more information as it becomes available.
Western Mass News, along with the Hampden Co. Sheriff's Office, have launched a campaign to call attention to the opioid crisis and where someone can turn for help. For more information on resources and help available, CLICK HERE.
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