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Press Release

Luzerne County Man Pleads Guilty To Drug Distribution Resulting In Death Of Pregnant Woman And Unborn Fetus

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Pennsylvania

SCRANTON - The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced today that Luis Antonio Zayas, age 47, of Hazleton, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty on April 10, 2017, before United States District Judge Malachy E. Mannion, to drug distribution resulting in death.


According to United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, Zayas pleaded guilty to knowingly and intentionally possessing with intent to distribute and distributing fentanyl, a Schedule I controlled substance, resulting in the death of another. Zayas was indicted by a grand jury in Scranton in August 2016.


Zayas admitted in court that he sold what he believed to be heroin to the victim on July 6, 2016. In reality, the drug was 100 percent fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid painkiller. The victim, who was 33 weeks pregnant at the time, overdosed and died. Toxicology results showed that both the mother and unborn fetus died from lethal levels of fentanyl in their systems. Zayas arranged the drug deal with the victim via text messages and proclaimed at one point that he had “damm good shit…….good enough to get way higher than intended lol.”


The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration in Scranton, and the Pennsylvania State Police. Assistant United States Attorney Michelle Olshefski is prosecuting the case.


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 to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who commit heroin related offenses.


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.


The drug delivery charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years and a maximum of life. 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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Updated April 11, 2017

Drug Trafficking