A federal jury in Central Islip today returned a guilty verdict against James Tunstall for distributing heroin, which resulted in the fatal overdose of 24-year-old Sergio Niko Alvarez on October 29, 2018 in Jericho, New York. The verdict followed a five-day trial before United States District Judge Joan M. Azrack.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Frank A. Tarentino III, Special Agent-in-Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, New York Division (DEA), announced the verdict.
“Tunstall, an admitted drug dealer, is held responsible by today’s verdict for selling heroin that killed a young man on Long Island, an all-too-frequent occurrence in this district and our country due to the proliferation of illegal drugs and the callous disregard for life displayed by the defendant and others,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “I commend the prosecutors from my Office, the Special Agents of the DEA, and the members of the Long Island Heroin Task Force for their outstanding working on this case. We will continue our comprehensive efforts to fight against this terrible opioid epidemic.”
U.S. Attorney Peace extended special thanks to the Nassau County Police Department for its partnership throughout the investigation and prosecution.
“This conviction is a sobering reminder of the devastation and senseless loss of life inflicted by drug traffickers,” stated DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Tarentino. “DEA and our task forces are committed to bringing to justice those responsible for fueling drug overdose and poisonings and defeating the drug cartel's lethal criminal empires.”
As proven at trial, Tunstall was a drug dealer who regularly sold cocaine and heroin to customers in Nassau County. The defendant met the victim at an outpatient rehabilitation facility in Mineola, and even sold him cocaine in the bathroom of the facility. Tunstall’s co-defendant, Jay Tenem, a drug addict who also met the defendant in a rehabilitation program, delivered the fatal dose of heroin from Tunstall to the victim on October 28, 2018, in exchange for heroin of his own to use. Tenem collected the victim’s payment for the heroin, and brought the cash back to Tunstall. The victim was found dead of heroin intoxication the next morning in his bedroom, by his mother. The evidence included text messages between the defendant and the victim, and between Tenem and the victim. In those messages, the defendant negotiated prices for the drugs with the victim, and told him “I don’t do this for fun.”
Tenem pleaded guilty in February 2019 to distributing the heroin that caused Alvarez’s death and is awaiting sentencing.
Tunstall pleaded guilty in July 2021 to conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine, and was sentenced by the Court in December 2022 to 20 years’ imprisonment. When sentenced in this case, for causing Alvarez’s death, Tunstall faces up to life in prison.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Justina Geraci and Samantha Alessi are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Paralegal Specialist Michael Compitello.
JAMES T. TUNSTALL (also known as “Math”)
Freeport and Westbury, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CR-675 (JMA)