CLEVELAND -- Two people have been arrested in connection to a particularly lethal mix of heroin that is blamed for at least one death and four nonfatal overdoses earlier this week.
Ralph Torres, 65, and Rafael Torres II, 43, both of Cleveland, face drug trafficking charges.
The heroin packets that they were selling are believed to have caused the death and overdoses on Cleveland's near West Side Monday and Tuesday.
Cuyahoga County Sheriff Frank Bova said the heroin these suspects were selling is especially dangerous.
"This heroin was cut with large amounts of fentanyl and is being referred to as 'Chine White,' " he said. "Fentanyl is an extremely potent prescription medication that is 80 times more powerful than pure heroin. People have already died, and the heroin being sold by these suspects and their organization is still being sold on our streets."
The prosecutor's office is reviewing the case for presentation to the grand jury.
"The rules of engagement have change," said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty. "These dealers are selling drugs they know can and have killed. We will give heroin dealers who sell a lethal dose a homicide charge, from manslaughter to murder -- whatever we can make."
Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Gilson on Wednesday declared the fentanyl-boosted heroin to be a public health threat. In a statement he noted that a spate of overdoses and deaths recently in the Pittsburgh area and Lorain County have been linked to this deadly combination.
"We want to let people know about this threat, and we want them to let us know any information they may have related to these two suspected drug traffickers or their organization," Bova said. "Anything that will link them to other traffickers, overdoses or overdose deaths will help. Please contact Crime Stoppers immediately at (216) 252-7463. Tipsters can remain anonymous. People are dying, and we have to stop this."
"As I've said in the past, Cuyahoga County will do everything we can to bring heroin dealers to justice and hold them accountable for their actions," said Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald. "Heroin abuse has become one of the most serious threats to public health both here in Cuyahoga County and across the United States today, and I applaud the men and women of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department for their work to quickly identify and apprehend these suspects."