Landmark charges come down for Florida drug dealer in fentanyl death

Hillsborough County detectives, working with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa, arrested and charged a Tampa drug dealer with the federal charge of distribution of fentanyl resulting in death.

The landmark charges were announced Monday against 22-year-old Corey Damond Smith, who was arrested in late May after a man overdosed and died using drugs that Smith sold him, according to a Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office news release. He faces a mandatory penalty of life in federal prison and is being held without bond.

This is the first case in the county where an individual has been arrested and federally indicted for the distribution of fentanyl resulting in the death of a person, the sheriff's office says.

In November 2017, deputies responded to an unresponsive individual who overdosed on opioids. Emergency responders tried to save the man with several doses of Narcan, a drug used for the complete or partial reversal of opioid overdose, but they were unable to revive him.

During the investigation, detectives found that the drugs were sold to him by Smith.

Smith portrayed the purchase as heroin, but the autopsy revealed the man's cause of death as intoxication by fentanyl, detectives reported.

While investigating Smith, 33-year-old Jeffrey Rodriguez and 27-year-old Donald Calvin Hatch Jr. also became known to authorities.

After a federal indictment, the U.S. Attorney brought charges against Rodriquez for conspiring to distribute heroin and fentanyl related to seven opioid overdoses. He was also charged with five counts of distribution of heroin and fentanyl and faces a mandatory penalty of life in prison.

Hatch was also arrested by detectives on a federal criminal complaint. He was purported to be responsible for distributing heroin and fentanyl as a middleman for Rodriguez.

Hatch pleaded guilty on June 6 and faces a maximum penalty of 30 years imprisonment. His sentencing is pending, detectives said.

In the wake of the troubling trend of opioid-related deaths and non-fatal overdoses, the sheriff's office formed the Heroin Working Group in 2017. The group was comprised of undercover detectives, intelligence personnel, crime analysts and violent crimes detectives.

The team's purpose, the sheriff's office says, was to help "diminish the effects of heroin and opioids in Hillsborough County through crime data analysis, investigation and undercover work."

Since its inception, the group says it has been effectively identifying hot spot overdose area and targeting those selling heroin, and more specifically, heroin laced with fentanyl.

Follow Samantha Putterman on Twitter @samputterman