A Mechanicsville man has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for distributing a drug that police say caused a fatal overdose.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office released a press release on Tuesday stating a district judge in Greenbelt also sentenced Matthew Joseph Lusby, 46, to three years of supervised release for the distribution of fentanyl.
The St. Mary’s sheriff’s office worked with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration during the investigation.
The release said that Lusby gave the drug to the victim on May 18, 2018, and the victim was found unresponsive in his home the following day next to hypodermic needles and a small bag of powder, which tested positive for fentanyl. The victim was later pronounced dead.
A medical examiner determined the cause of death was fentanyl and morphine intoxication, according to the release, and phone records showed the victim had a 10-minute conversation with Lusby the day before he died. That is when law enforcement started investigating Lusby’s heroin and fentanyl distribution in Southern Maryland.
U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur said in the release that fentanyl kills thousands of people in Maryland each year.
St. Mary’s Sheriff Tim Cameron (R) said Wednesday that he receives weekly data reports of the amount of drug overdoses that happen in the county.
“We’ve had 89 non-fatal overdoses, seven fatal overdoses and deployed 24 Narcans,” he said about this year’s data from the sheriff’s office. Narcan is a drug used by first responders and others to counteract the effects of a narcotic overdose.
He added that there were three cases of non-fatal overdoses and three cases of fatal overdoses directly linked to fentanyl so far this year.
There were 28 fatal overdoses in 2018, according to Jason Babcock, a spokesperson for the sheriff's office.
“Seventy-one percent of all overdoses contain fentanyl,” Cameron said about the 2018 stats.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office’s release stated Lusby’s plea agreement details a confidential informant who worked with law enforcement purchased heroin from Lusby on Aug. 16, 2018, in Lusby’s home.
After police received a search warrant Sept. 6, 2018, for Lusby’s residence on Gold Lane, they recovered 14 grams of heroin mixed with fentanyl, 30.9 grams of pure fentanyl, drug packaging materials, four digital scales, several needles and a credit card in Lusby’s name with heroin and fentanyl residue, according to the release.
Cameron said this case reached the federal level because of the involvement of the DEA’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas task force. “That’s why it will go that route,” he said.
The sheriff also mentioned the "depraved heart" murder charge, which allows defendants to be charged with second-degree murder if a victim dies from a drug overdose. Although Lusby avoided a murder charge, the sheriff said, “you’ll probably see a number of rulings on it.”
None of six cases related to homicide indictments from drug overdose investigations over the last two years in St. Mary's resulted in a conviction on a so-called "depraved heart" murder charge. Four of the cases were resolved through pleas or convictions for drug offenses or a lesser homicide offense of involuntary manslaughter, and an appeals court’s ruling on an Eastern Shore case has overshadowed the pursuit of manslaughter convictions in drug overdose investigations. In the final case, all charges were dismissed last summer.