A Wilmington man who was suspected of supplying a brand of heroin in Wilmington tied to an April spike in overdoses has been sentenced to more than 10 years in prison. The drug has since been found not to be heroin, but a more lethal form of an opioid, Fentanyl.
Vidal Leonard Becton, 42, pleaded guilty Wednesday in New Hanover County Superior Court to attempting to sell heroin, selling Fentanyl, maintaining a vehicle for a controlled substance and possession of a firearm by a felon, according to a news release from District Attorney Ben David.
Superior Court Judge W. Allen Cobb sentenced Becton as a habitual felon and ordered him to serve 127-165 months in the N.C. Department of Corrections.
A New Hanover County Sheriff’s deputy stopped Becton in a Mercedes on Chestnut Street for an outstanding warrant on Nov. 21, 2014. The deputy reportedly found 90 bags of heroin, a 9 mm handgun and $870 in cash in the car. While out on bond for the charges, Becton reportedly sold 10 bags of heroin to an undercover officer for $130 on May 1.
“During the transaction, Becton warned the person to be careful because it had not been cut, and that the buyer shouldn’t use more than half a bag at a time because of the purity,” David said. “The substance sold was not heroin but was in fact Fentanyl.”
Fentanyl — a synthetic opioid — is commonly laced with heroin, according to a nationwide treat and public safety alert issued March 18 by the Drug Enforcement Administration about the drug. It is the most potent opioid available for use in medical treatment — 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin — and is potentially lethal in low doses.
At the time, Wilmington detectives were investigating a rash of overdoses associated with two brands of heroin. Narcotics detectives suspected Becton sold one of the brands of heroin tied to a spike in overdoses this spring, according to Wilmington Police Department Spokeswoman Linda Rawley.
According to overdose records provided by the police department, officers responded to 10 heroin overdose calls April 11-12, which equaled the total number of overdoses reported in all of 2014. Police suspected there may have been additional unreported incidents, Rawley said. A total of 19 overdose cases were reported between January and May.
Undercover officers arranged a second purchase from Becton — of what he believed to be heroin — and arrested him on May 6, David said. Detectives seized $800 from his car but did not find any narcotics.
After his arrest, detectives searched Becton’s home on East Plaza Drive in the Houston Moore community and seized opiate drugs and a military ballistic vest, Rawley said.
“This case shows the lunacy of heroin consumption. Nothing dramatizes the addictive quality of heroin than the fact that people will continue to use and even seek out a brand of heroin that is literally killing people,” Assistant District Attorney Timothy Severo said. “Our office will continue to seek lengthy sentences for defendants who trade human lives for profit.”