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Press Release

Charges Announced In Connection With April 2023 Mass Poisoning In Kalamazoo County

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Michigan

          GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten today announced multiple drug charges against James Smith, aka “Yola,” of Kalamazoo County in connection with an April 2023 mass poisoning event in Kalamazoo County. That event resulted in at least 6 deaths linked to fentanyl.

          “What Kalamazoo experienced in April 2023 is a snapshot of the crisis we confront across America: more deaths than ever, driven by fentanyl, and snatching the lives of even first-time users with no idea they’re consuming this deadly poison,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten.  “While we’ll never prosecute our way out of this crisis, today marks an important first step toward justice. This investigation is ongoing, and I encourage anyone with information to come forward. Now is the time.”

          This past Tuesday, June 4, 2024, a federal grand jury returned a multi-count indictment, which is attached to this press release. The indictment charges Smith with 8 counts.

  • Count 1 charges Smith with Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances Resulting in Death. In particular, the indictment alleges that Mr. Smith conspired to distribute fentanyl and cocaine, and that the use of the fentanyl resulted in the death of D.M., one of the individuals who died during the April 2023 mass poisoning event in Kalamazoo County. This crime carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a maximum of life.
  • Counts 3-9 charge Smith with Distribution of Cocaine, each count representing a separate distribution event that allegedly occurred between August 10, 2023, and February 6, 2024. These crimes carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

          In addition, Count 2 charges Patrick Martin with Use of a Communication Facility to Commit a Drug Felony. In particular, the indictment alleges that on April 12, 2023, in Kalamazoo County, Patrick Martin used a cell phone to facilitate Count 1, that is the drug distribution that resulted in the death of D.M. This crime carries a maximum sentence of 4 years in federal prison.

          Smith was arrested yesterday, Wednesday, June 5, 2024, and had his initial appearance in federal court in Grand Rapids that same day. Mr. Smith is currently being detained and his arraignment, detention hearing, and initial pretrial conference is scheduled for Monday, June 10, 2024, at 11:30 a.m. Mr. Martin will have his arraignment and initial pretrial conference on Thursday, June 13, 2024 at 11 a.m.

          This investigation is ongoing and anyone with information related to the April 2023 mass poisoning event in Kalamazoo County is encouraged to contact the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety through the Kalamazoo Valley Enforcement Team (KVET) at 269-337-8880.  You may also submit an anonymous tip through the Kalamazoo Silent Observer tip line at 269-343-2100, the “P3Tips” app, or online at

          “We are pleased that we were able to work with our federal partners in this investigation and that we were able to bring forward charges and make an arrest for those who were responsible for that tragic day in our community,” said Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Chief David Boysen. “The actions of a few had life changing results for many. This investigation and arrest re-affirm my unwavering commitment to protecting our community from the dangers of drug trafficking.  We hope that this arrest will result in more information being brought forward to assist with this ongoing investigation.”

          “Fatal drug poisonings caused by deadly drugs like fentanyl are a significant threat across the United States,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Orville O. Greene. “Today’s enforcement actions demonstrate our resolve to bring those responsible for this erosion and destruction of our communities to justice. This investigation is a clear demonstration of the strength of partnerships throughout the region and our commitment to protecting west Michigan from the scourge of illicit drugs.”

          According to the Centers for Disease Control (see here and here), in 2023 at least 107,543 people died from drug poisoning across the United States, which is near the all-time high of 111,029 deaths in 2022. In Michigan, at least 2,931 people died from drug poisoning in 2023. Approximately 75% of the 2023 drug poisoning deaths across the United States were due to fentanyl.

          The following services are available for people experiencing addiction, or their friends and loved ones:

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Helpline, 1-800-662-4357,
  • Cope Network (providing free Naloxone and other harm reduction services in Barry, Berrien, Branch, Cass, Calhoun, St. Joseph, and Van Buren Counties), 269-580-8290,
  • The Grand Rapids Red Project (providing free Naloxone and other harm reduction services in Kent and Muskegon Counties), 616-456-9063 (Kent County), 231-563-6865 (Muskegon County),
  • The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has a webpage that identifies county-by-county services.

          This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Portage Department of Public Safety, the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, and the Michigan State Police.

          The charges in an indictment are merely accusations, and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.


Updated June 6, 2024

Drug Trafficking