A former employee of the Los Angeles Angels was taken into custody in connection with the fentanyl overdose death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas said on Friday.
Eric Prescott Kay, 45, a former communications director for the Angels, was charged with conspiracy to distribute a mixture containing detectable amounts of fentanyl in connection with Skaggs’s death. He was arrested in Fort Worth, Texas, and made his first court appearance on Friday. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted.
Skaggs was found dead on July 1, 2019, in his hotel room in Dallas, Texas, at the age of 27.
The Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office in August 2019 determined that Skaggs died of an accidental overdose from a combination of drugs and alcohol. The medical examiner found that Skaggs had ethanol, fentanyl, and oxycodone in his system at the time of his death, according to a criminal complaint (pdf).
The criminal complaint noted that were it not for the fentanyl, Skaggs would not have died. Investigators found in Skaggs’s hotel room a number of pills, including a single blue pill that looked like a 30-milligram oxycodone tablet, with the markings M/30. An analysis of the pill showed it had been laced with fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that’s 50 times more potent than heroin.
Skaggs’s family said at the time that they were “shocked to learn” that the situation surrounding Skaggs’s death may involve an employee of the Angels.
The Angels organization issued a statement Friday upon the announcement of Kay’s arrest, saying that the organization’s management was not aware or informed about any person dealing opioids to any player, nor that Skaggs was using opioids. The Angels organization added that it will continue to work with authorities to complete their investigation.
Statement regarding the recent developments in the Tyler Skaggs investigation: pic.twitter.com/fI0b3i3pba
— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) August 7, 2020
Kay initially denied knowing whether Skaggs used drugs, and that the last time he had seen Skaggs was at a hotel check-in on June 30, 2019.
According to the criminal complaint, text messages between Skaggs and Kay, as well as hotel key card records and other evidence, suggested that the two had met later in the evening of June 30, near midnight, presumably for Kay to deliver pills to Skaggs.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) through their investigation determined that Kay had allegedly been dealing the blue M/30 pills to Skaggs and others at the stadium where they worked.
U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox said in a statement that suppressing the spread of fentanyl continues to be “a priority for the Department of Justice.”
“Tyler Skaggs’s overdose—coming, as it did, in the midst of an ascendant baseball career—should be a wakeup call: No one is immune from this deadly drug, whether sold as a powder or hidden inside an innocuous-looking tablet,” Cox said.
DEA Special Agent in Charge Eduardo A. Chávez said that the Dallas DEA mourns for the Skaggs family and all families who have had loved ones killed by a drug overdose.
“Fentanyl does not discriminate in its potential deadly consequences,” he said in a statement. “With the prevalence of fentanyl in many of the counterfeit prescription drugs sold on the streets, every pill taken could be your last … As with Mr. Kay’s arrest, we will continue to identify and investigate those who distribute these drugs to ensure they face justice.”
President Donald Trump announced at a press conference on Friday that his administration has “invested an additional $100 million to fight the opioid crisis in rural America.”