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Boyle man sentenced for dealing drugs tied to 2017 overdose deaths

A Boyle County man has been sentenced to 27 years on federal drug charges related to the death of three people who overdosed in 2017.

Carl Wayne Bartleson Jr., 46, of Danville was sentenced Thursday to serve 324 months in prison on each of five charges, following his conviction in October 2018 on one count of conspiring to distribute heroin and fentanyl and four counts of distributing those same drugs. Chief U.S. District Judge Karen K. Caldwell imposed the sentence to run concurrently (at the same time).

Bartleson will be required to serve at least 85 percent or nearly 22 years of the 27-year sentence. Upon his release, he would be under the supervision of the United States Probation Office for six years.

“This is yet another example of the tragic impact that heroin, fentanyl and other powerful opioids are having on our community,” said Robert M. Duncan, Jr., United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky. “We have made the prosecution of overdoses a core priority in our office’s effort to combat this epidemic. This case confirms that law enforcement partnerships are critical to enforcing the law and protecting our community. It should also remind those who choose to distribute this poison in our community that we are committed to this fight and they risk serious and long-term consequences for their conduct.”

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.

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 a sudden increase in overdoses in Boyle, as well as in Lincoln and Garrard counties, were connected. Over the course of several weeks, local drug investigators used money from the BCSO drug account to make drug buys and arrested as many people as they could, according to Robbins. Bartleson was “the common denominator,” he said.

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.”

The Advocate-Messenger first reported on Feb. 23, 2017, that officials believed three overdose deaths on Feb. 21 were connected. 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.

“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.”