4 charged in fentanyl overdose death of USF student

Four fentanyl dealers have been indicted in connection with the death of a University of South Florida student, the Department of Justice said Thursday.

Miguel Cintron, 35, Marquise Trant, 35, David Chudhabuddhi, 37, and Darrius Gustafon, 20 are charged with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl resulting in death.

"Last week, a federal grand jury returned a nine-count indictment charging the four individuals," U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg said during a news conference. "One pill can kill. Drug traffickers know that and, in my experience, they will not stop unless they are arrested and prosecuted."

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According to the DOJ, the four men distributed a lethal amount of fentanyl that led to the death of an 18-year-old student attending USF on February 16. 

Handberg said the student thought he'd purchased the painkiller Percocet, but had actually been given drugs that contained fentanyl that had been manufactured by the dealer and pressed into pills that resembled Percocet. The dose the teenager took was deadly.

"This was an isolated issue for USF. This is not something that happens on our campus as a matter of regular business," said USF Public Safety Chief Chris Daniel.

Following the student's death, the four men continued to sell fentanyl to undercover deputies and detectives within the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

"What we discovered was a highly sophisticated drug ring with a capability to supply numerous amounts of fentanyl in Hillsborough County," said HCSO Col. Chris Rule.

While executing a search warrant at Cintron's home, detectives found guns, several rounds of ammunition, more than seven kilograms of cocaine, one kilogram of black tar heroin, 1,200 pressed pills containing fentanyl and more than $200,000 in cash.

"These men had enough fentanyl to kill 1,500 people here in Hillsborough County," Rule said.

"[Drug dealers] don't care. But what our message is, is that we care," added Handberg, responding to a question about why drug dealers and traffickers use fentanyl when they know how deadly it can be. "They're using fentanyl as a way to allow them to expand the drugs they have. So they'll take a kilo of cocaine, they'll cut it, but they want to keep the potency high, so they'll add fentanyl... Fentanyl is unforgiving in a way that I've never seen in my over 21 years of being a federal prosecutor."

If convicted, the four men face a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years to life in federal prison.

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