NEW YORK—Four men believed to be members of a drug distribution crew have been charged in the overdose death of actor Michael K. Williams five months ago, authorities said Wednesday.
All four were arrested Tuesday and were in custody based on criminal complaints in Manhattan federal court, including one defendant who was arrested in Puerto Rico, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Damian Williams and New York City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell.
Three defendants were scheduled to make initial appearances in Manhattan federal court to face narcotics conspiracy charges alleging the distribution of fentanyl-laced heroin that resulted in the death of Williams, who gained fame playing Omar Little on “The Wire.”
New York City’s medical examiner earlier ruled that Williams, 54, died of acute drug intoxication Sept. 6. He was found dead by family members in his penthouse apartment. At that time, the medical examiner’s office ruled Williams’ death an accident.
The U.S. attorney said the crimes and charges resulted from a “public health crisis.”
“And it has to stop. Deadly opioids like fentanyl and heroin don’t care about who you are or what you’ve accomplished. They just feed addiction and lead to tragedy,” the prosecutor said.
Sewell said police detectives in Brooklyn “lived this case, never relenting in their investigation until they could bring a measure of justice to Michael K. Williams and his family.”
According to court papers, Williams’ death resulted from drugs sold by a drug trafficking organization that has operated since at least August 2020 in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood.
Authorities said members of the organization sold the actor heroin laced with fentanyl Sept. 5.
The court papers contained photographs, including one in which defendant Irvin Cartagena can be seen executing the hand-to-hand transaction, authorities said. They added that the screenshots were taken from surveillance video.
It was not immediately clear who would represent Cartagena, 39, of Brooklyn, in court.
Authorities said that the men continued to sell fentanyl-laced heroin in broad daylight amid apartment buildings in Brooklyn and Manhattan even after knowing that Williams had died from one of their products.
By Larry Neumeister