Man found guilty of charges related to 2017 overdoses
Published 6:34 am Tuesday, October 16, 2018
LEXINGTON — A Danville man has been convicted on federal charges for distributing drugs that caused multiple overdose deaths in Danville in early 2017.
After a three-day trial, a jury found Carl Wayne “KB” Bartleson Jr., 46, of 32 E. Madison Ave., Danville, guilty on all counts, including one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin and fentanyl and four counts of distribution of heroin and fentanyl. Bartleson’s trial was held in U.S. District Court in Lexington.
Bartleson was arrested in Danville in early 2017, following a lengthy investigation by the Boyle County Sheriff’s Office related to several drug overdoses and deaths.
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On Feb. 21, 2017, three people fatally overdosed in Boyle County from the use of controlled substances, including fentanyl. Several others overdosed, but survived. All the overdoses occurred within a five-day period.
The spike in overdoses led the Boyle County Sheriff’s Office to work with the Drug Enforcement Administration to determine the source of the drugs. The joint investigation led to the arrest and indictment of Bartleson, who was accused of being a local supplier of heroin, fentanyl and acrylfentanyl, a dangerous analog of fentanyl that is even more potent.
Boyle County Sheriff Derek Robbins said his department began an intense investigation once they believed the sudden increase in overdoses in Boyle, as well in Lincoln and Garrard counties, were connected. Over the course of several weeks, local drug investigators used $8,000 from the BCSO drug account to make drug buys and they “arrested as many people that we could,” Robbins said. “The common denominator was him (Bartleson).”
Two other people were arrested at the same time as Bartleson, Robbins said, but Bartleson was the “ringleader.”
“Our goal was to track it up the food chain as far as we could … The stuff he was selling was too hot.”
Robbins said of arresting Bartleson, “there’s no doubt in my mind it saved other people’s lives. … He was selling poison.”
Robbins said he was pleased that Bartleson’s case was sent to federal court for prosecution because federal penalties for drug trafficking are much stiffer than state penalties.
Sentencing has been set for Feb. 14, 2019, in Lexington, before Chief U.S. District Judge Karen K. Caldwell. Bartleson faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. The sentence will be imposed by the court after its consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal sentencing statutes.
“The opioid epidemic is devastating our community and we remain committed to using every tool available to combat this blight,” said Robert M. Duncan Jr., United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, in a news release. “We will continue to prosecute those who callously and indiscriminately peddle this poison and we commend the collaboration and commitment of our law enforcement partners. Their work in this case led to the conviction of a dangerous drug trafficker, and helped make our community safer.”
Assistant U.S. attorneys Todd Bradbury and Francisco Villalobos prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.
The Advocate-Messenger first reported on Feb. 23, 2017, that officials believed three overdose deaths on Feb. 21 were drug related. Robbins said at the time, “The people that have died have a history. But it’s not fair to make assumptions that’s what it was.”
Robbins and Danville Police Chief Tony Gray said if the cause of their deaths was determined to be from drug use, then there could be a bad batch of drugs in the area.
“Bad batches” typically contain more than just heroin; they may be laced with more powerful drugs such as fentanyl or carfentanil.
“It’s unpredictable. It could be 10 (deaths), it could be none for the next six months,” Robbins said at the time. “That’s what makes it so hard to combat, that you don’t know. You don’t know what you’re taking, you don’t know who’s selling it. It’s tough.”