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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Pennsylvania

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Hazleton Resident Charged With Drug Distribution Resulting In Death

SCRANTON - The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that a Grand Jury in Scranton indicted a Luzerne County man on August 9, charging him with drug distribution resulting in death.  

According to United States Attorney Peter Smith, between July 5, 2016 and July 7, 2016, Luis Antonio Zayas, age 46, of Hazleton, possessed and distributed fentanyl, a controlled substance, resulting in the death of another. 

Zayas is also charged with possession and distribution of a controlled substance to a pregnant individual.  The distribution of the controlled substance allegedly occurred within 1,000 feet of a daycare center with an outdoor playground.

The Indictment was unsealed August 10, following Zayas’ arrest and initial appearance before United States Magistrate Judge Joseph F. Saporito.  A detention hearing is scheduled for August 18, 2016.

The charges stem from a joint investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Pennsylvania State Police.  Prosecution is assigned to Assistant United States Attorney Michelle Olshefski.

U.S. Attorney Smith said, “This is not just another drug case.  It is a tragic result of the public health menace presented by the plague of extremely dangerous and enhanced drugs, coupled with the consequences of untreated addiction and the increasing presence of deadly components, such as fentanyl, in the substances.  The harm to users, their loved ones and communities is devastating.  For that reason the charges, are, and will continue to be, the most serious ones available to this office.”

This case was brought as part of a district wide initiative to combat the nationwide epidemic regarding the use and distribution of heroin.  Led by the United States Attorney’s Office, the heroin initiative targets heroin traffickers operating in the Middle District of Pennsylvania and is part of a coordinated effort among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

For information on overdose death statistics for Pennsylvania, see the attached 2015 Pennsylvania State Coroners Association Report on Overdose Death Statistics. 

A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. 

In this case, the maximum penalty under the federal statute for drug distribution resulting in death is life imprisonment.  Because the distribution is alleged to have occurred within 1,000 feet of a protected area, the maximum penalties for the charges are doubled.  As such, the maximum penalty for possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance is 40 years imprisonment and a $2,000,000 fine.  Distribution of a controlled substance to a pregnant individual carries a mandatory 12 months incarceration.

Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant’s educational, vocational and medical needs.  For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.


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Drug Trafficking
Updated August 11, 2016