Prosecutors targeting drug dealers in deadly overdoses

Franklin County courtroom (WBNS-10TV)

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said he's targeting hardcore drug dealers who are fueling Ohio's deadly opiate epidemic.

He has a message for dealers who are selling dangerous drugs, especially heroin laced with fentanyl.

"They're going to get caught, they're going to be prosecuted, and the dealers are going to go to prison," said O'Brien.

Advertisement - Story continues below

The prosecutor credited Franklin County's H.O.P.E Task Force, led by Franklin County Sheriff Chief Deputy Rick Minerd, for leading the way investigating drug overdose deaths as crimes.

O'Brien said law enforcement began retracing victims' final hours, reviewing their cell phones, and interviewing survivors, until the investigation led detectives back to the source of the drugs.

The enforcement action ook on a face in July 2016, when Rayshon Alexander was sentenced to 15 years in prison for selling deadly doses of carfentanil, an animal tranquilizer.

O'Brien said Alexander even warned his clients the drugs were dangerous. Ten people overdosed and two died.

"He had told them as he sold them the drugs be careful because people are falling out on this," said O'Brien.

Since 2016, the Franklin County prosecutor has indicted 33 drug dealers on felony charges of corrupting another with drugs. Twenty-nine drug dealers have been indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter.

O'Brien said it doesn't matter if the people who bought the drugs were willing participants, the dealers should be held accountable.

"No one forced them to take the drugs, but they're selling the drugs, they're bad drugs, and it's causing somebody's death," said O'Brien.

The prosecutor said he's an advocate of diversion and treatment for low-level offenders who need help battling addiction, but said drug dealers who are looking to make a buck off someone's addiction need to be taken off the streets.

Ashley Bickel is the most recent person in Franklin County facing felony charges of involuntary manslaughter after police said a man overdosed on fentanyl at a Groveport home in late January.

Police said the man was found floating face up and clothes in an upstairs bathtub. Investigators also discovered home surveillance video that revealed Bickel and an unidentified man inside the home.

Police said they believe the 'mystery man' also played a role in the overdose death. Central Ohio Crime Stoppers is now offering a cash reward for any information that could lead to his arrest.