A local man accused of selling heroin during a period when as many as seven such overdoses in Bartholomew County occurred in one weekend has pleaded guilty.
Christopher P. Rees, 23, 328 Hope Ave., could receive up to 12 years in prison when sentenced by Judge James Worton at 2:45 p.m. April 4 in Bartholomew Superior Court 1.
Rees has accepted a plea bargain dated Nov. 10, agreeing to plead guilty to dealing in a narcotic drug as a Level 4 felony. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to dismiss two similar charges filed as Level 5 felonies, which are lower-level crimes.
Rather than seek up to a $10,000 fine, the agreement requires Rees to pay $540 in restitution for the drug money used by Bartholomew County’s Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team members last September.
The case against Rees centers on two controlled drug purchases that took place early last fall, according to a probable-cause affidavit in the case.
On Sept. 26, Rees told a drug buyer to meet him near the outdoor basketball courts at Foundation for Youth, 405 Hope Ave., investigators wrote. When the buyer arrived, the defendant called the person’s cellphone and instructed the buyer to cross the street and go to Rees’ home, the affidavit stated.
The purchase of heroin in exchange for $240 was done under the surveillance of a local narcotics officer, the written statement said. A similar purchase that took place the next day at the back door of Rees’ home was also recorded, investigators wrote.
Later on Sept. 27, officers searched the Hope Avenue home and found a small black lock box inside Rees’ bedroom, the affidavit stated. Inside the box was five grams of tainted heroin, digital scales and $1,100 in cash, investigators wrote.
Serial numbers from the confiscated money matched bills that narcotics officers had provided to make the two heroin buys, the affidavit stated.
When officers were called to nine overdose incidents in Bartholomew County the weekend of Sept. 17 and 18, seven involving heroin, investigators identified the Hope Avenue address as one of the main sources of tainted heroin, police said after Rees was arrested.
No one died in the string of overdoses, which included one methamphetamine overdose and another related to LSD. Eight of the nine overdoses occurred in Columbus, Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department deputies said.
Court records do not state whether investigators believe Rees realized the heroin was tainted when he sold it. But when the defendant asked the court to reduce his $500,000 bond on Nov. 2, prosecutors argued against the request, stating Rees was a risk to the community.
The bond was lowered to $175,000 surety or $17,500 cash, according to court records.
Worton could impose a stricter sentence on Rees since the crimes took place across the street from the Foundation For Youth, which provides programming for young people in the community.
At the time of the arrests, police in southern Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio said an regional epidemic of overdoses may have been caused by mixing heroin with fentanyl, a powerful anesthetic used in cancer treatment, or as an elephant tranquilizer.