ASTORIA — A local man is facing prison time for selling drugs laced with the deadly painkiller fentanyl, following a monthslong investigation sparked by two non-fatal overdoses he was tied to, according to the Queens District Attorney's office.
Bernard Lewis, 45, of Astoria, was arraigned Friday on a slew of charges including third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, six counts of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, one count of fourth-degree conspiracy and four counts of second-degree reckless endangerment, officials said.
His arrest was the result of a long-term investigation in Astoria and Jackson Heights, in which investigators used wiretaps to listen in on phone calls of Lewis arranging to sell drugs to six people between April 6 and June 17, according to prosecutors.
The buyers were arrested after each sale, and the seized drugs were chemically analyzed and found to contain fentanyl — an opioid painkiller that's 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin.
Drugs laced with fentanyl have been attributed to a spike in fatal overdoses this year, and officials say its use led to nearly four times as many heroin overdoses as homicides in New York City in 2016.
"This is creating a deadly cocktail for people who may be using such a mixture unknowingly," Queens DA Richard Brown said in a statement announcing the charges against Lewis.
"He is being charged with the crime of reckless endangerment, among other charges, for knowingly selling drugs laced with Fentanyl in order to send a strong message to the community and drug traffickers alike that we are taking the City’s skyrocketing fentanyl-related overdose epidemic with the utmost seriousness," Brown added.
Police searched Lewis' Astoria home on July 19, where they found one large rock of fentanyl, two large plastic bags containing more than 750 glassine envelopes filled with the drug, two blenders containing fentanyl residue and $2,900 in cash, along with other paraphernalia, the DA said.
Lewis' wife, 44-year-old Catrice S. Brown, was also arrested on charges of criminal drug possession amd using drug paraphernalia, as well as marijuana possession after a search of her car yielded several containers of marijuana and a marijuana cigarette, according to officials.
Lewis is being held without bail, while bail for his wife was set at $50,000, prosecutors said.
Attorneys for Lewis and Brown did not immediately return calls seeking comment Monday.
Lewis faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted, according to the Queens DA. He is due back in court on Aug. 4.