Two Men Charged with Distributing Synthetic Drugs That Caused Overdoses at Wesleyan University
Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, Michael J. Ferguson, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration for New England, and Middletown Police Chief William McKenna, today announced that a federal grand jury in New Haven has returned an indictment charging ERIC LONERGAN, 22, of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and ZACHARY KRAMER, 21 of Bethesda, Maryland, with distributing controlled substances that caused multiple Wesleyan University students to overdose during the past school year.
The five-count indictment was returned yesterday, and LONERGAN and KRAMER are scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah A. L. Merriam in New Haven at noon today.
“Our hope is that this prosecution puts to bed the misperception that synthetic drugs are harmless party drugs,” said U.S. Attorney Daly. “As the allegations in this indictment clearly show, these drugs are highly dangerous. Many of the Wesleyan students who overdosed were seriously ill and one student nearly died. The growth and evolution of synthetic drugs is a serious public health concern. As is clear today, together with the DEA and our local partners, we will prosecute these cases. We thank the DEA, the Middlesex State’s Attorney’s Office and the Middletown Police Department for their collaboration and diligent work in this ongoing investigation.”
“The distribution and use of synthetic drugs is a potentially deadly game,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Ferguson. “The truth of the matter is that when someone uses a synthetic drug, they are playing Russian roulette with their life. There is no way for a user to know what deadly combination of drugs is in that capsule. The DEA New England Field Division and our law enforcement partners are committed to investigating individuals and groups that traffic synthetic drugs.”
“I am very proud of the Middletown Police Department members and all public safety officials who have worked on the WESU Molly incident,” said Middletown Police Chief McKenna. “We received incredible assistance from outside agencies, including the Middlesex County State’s Attorney’s office, the State of Connecticut Forensics Crime Laboratory, medical providers and WESU officials during the course of the investigation. The health of many students was jeopardized, causing a major public safety concern to our community. We are now fortunate to partner up with, and give continued assistance to, the U.S. Attorney’s office, DEA and other federal agencies in their continued efforts to achieve the results that are being reported today. The citizens of Middletown and the State of Connecticut are very fortunate to have the combined efforts of local, state and federal agencies working in collaboration to achieve law enforcement’s ultimate goal of providing the safety and security that they deserve.”
According to the allegations set forth in the indictment, LONERGAN and KRAMER were students at Wesleyan in Middletown, Connecticut. Beginning in approximately November 2013, LONERGAN began purchasing and redistributing MDMA, also known as “Molly,” a Schedule I controlled substance, to students on or in the vicinity of the Wesleyan campus. Charging approximately $20 per .1 gram of Molly or $200 per gram, LONERGAN regularly sold Molly from his dorm room between 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. during most nights. LONERGAN also counseled students on how to ingest Molly and other psychedelic drugs. At one point in 2014, after the administration at Wesleyan sent out a campus-wide communication warning of the dangers of ingesting controlled substances like Molly, LONERGAN responded by distributing a pamphlet instructing students on the use of psychedelic drugs. Also in 2014, KRAMER began purchasing Molly from LONERGAN and distributing it to students at Wesleyan.
The indictment alleges that in September 2014, LONERGAN agreed to provide Molly to students who were planning a “rolling” party at Wesleyan, which is a party where guests ingest Molly. LONERGAN provided several grams of what he represented to be Molly to an individual who then distributed it to students in .1 gram capsules. On September 13, 2014, several Wesleyan students overdosed on the substance provided by LONERGAN and some were transported to the hospital. The students either swallowed the capsule or opened the capsules and snorted the powder. Many of them had strong adverse reactions, complaining of extreme lethargy or an irrational fear of everything and everyone around them. Some of these students did not recover for at least three days. One student snorted only .05 grams of the substance and within 10 minutes, passed out. After she was revived and taken to her room, she remained bedridden for two days before finally being transported to the hospital.
According to the indictment, after the September 2014 overdoses, LONERGAN sent electronic communications to several of the students, assuring them that the substance he had sold them was safe and that he had tested it himself to make certain it was Molly. He also sent some of these students a link to a video purporting to show him performing a test on the substance that yielded a positive result for MDMA. In February 2015, one of the students, who had earlier overdosed, provided a capsule that she had purchased from LONERGAN in September 2014 to the Middletown Police. A lab test on that capsule revealed that it did not contain MDMA, but rather AB Fubinaca, which is a synthetic cannabinoid and a Schedule I controlled substance, and 6-MAPB, which is an analogue of MDMA.
The indictment further alleges that in early 2015, KRAMER, who had taken over for LONERGAN as the primary supplier of Molly at Wesleyan, provided Molly to some of his friends for redistribution to students on campus. On February 21, 2015, 11 individuals, including 10 Wesleyan students, overdosed on a substance they believed was Molly, and many were transported to the hospital. These students reported similar symptoms as those who overdosed in September 2014. Two of the students were in critical condition, and one of those students had to be revived after his heart stopped. All of these students obtained the purported Molly through individual distributers who were supplied directly by KRAMER. After the events of February 21, law enforcement officers seized the substance identified as Molly from one of KRAMER’s distributers and sent it to a toxicology laboratory for testing. Laboratory analysis confirmed that the powdered substance contained AB Fubinaca.
The indictment charges both LONERGAN and KRAMER with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute MDMA and AB Fubinaca, and one count of attempted distribution of MDMA and distribution of AB Fubinaca. Each of these charges carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years and a fine of up to $1 million. The indictment also charges LONERGAN and KRAMER with distribution of MDMA within 1000 feet of a private college, a charge that carries a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of one year, a maximum term of imprisonment of 40 years, and a fine of up to $2 million.
U.S. Attorney Daly stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This matter is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Middletown Police Department, with the assistance of the State of Connecticut’s Forensic Science Laboratory.
U.S. Attorney Daly acknowledged the support and assistance of the Middlesex State’s Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting several state cases stemming from these overdose events.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert M. Spector, with the assistance of Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Eugene Calistro.