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Agents arrest 5 charged with supplying heroin linked to several Iowa overdose deaths

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Investigators have arrested a man suspected of being a major heroin supplier and four associates in the Iowa City area whose drugs have allegedly been linked to several overdose deaths, court documents show.

Detectives arrested Jason "Snipes" Dawson in Iowa City on Thursday after an 18-month investigation allegedly linked him and his associates to repeated sales of heroin to users and other suppliers.

Four associates of Dawson were also arrested Thursday, and one more is wanted. Those arrested are temporarily in federal custody pending detention hearings scheduled for next week. They made initial court appearances on a complaint charging them with conspiracy to distribute heroin but have not yet entered pleas.

A 26-page complaint unsealed Thursday shows that investigators link the case to three overdose deaths in Iowa City, one in North Liberty and one in West Des Moines. It describes Dawson as the leader of the conspiracy, saying he goes by the street name "Snipes" because he looks like the actor Wesley Snipes.

Dawson's public defender, Terence McAtee, declined to comment.

The complaint says the investigation dates back to December 2013, when a man found with more than 2 grams of heroin at an Iowa City Hy-Vee store told police he got them from a dealer named "Snipes." In the following months, several people caught with heroin reported that "Snipes" also was their supplier and was responsible for significant quantities of the drug circulating in the region, the complaint says.

Investigators later worked with informants and went undercover themselves to purchase heroin directly from Dawson and his associates at various locations in Iowa City, including his east side apartment, the complaint says. During one exchange, Dawson allegedly supplied a business card that said he owned a landscaping business called "Finishing Touches."

Those who died are identified in the complaint only by their initials. The deaths occurred between February 2014 and February 2015.

The Johnson County Drug Task Force, which includes the Iowa City police and other agencies, led the investigation.

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