A convicted fentanyl dealer and member of a New York City drug ring blamed for the overdose death of actor Michael K Williams has been sentenced to five years in federal prison.
According to an article by the Associated Press, Luis Cruz was one member of a four-man team convicted of selling fentanyl-laced heroin to Williams, who played Omar Little on HBO’s The Wire as well as other roles throughout his career. Williams overdosed in his Brooklyn apartment in September of 2021 after consuming the fentanyl-laced heroin. He was 54 years old at the time.
“It was a terrible mistake in judgment,” Cruz wrote in a letter to the judge, mentioning that he had been an electrician before his conviction and he had been selling drugs to support his own addiction and make extra money for bills.
The AP said Cruz pleaded guilty in April to a reduced charge of narcotics conspiracy. Prosecutors said Cruz continued selling the drugs after Williams died and a search of his apartment yielded over 500 bags of heroin and other paraphernalia.
Cruz was not the one that sold the drugs to Williams, who died just four hours after purchasing them. 40-year-old Irvin Cartagena, another member of the crew, was previously sentenced to ten years in prison in August for selling the drugs to Williams. Another member, 71-year old Carlos Macci, was sentenced to two and a half years for taking part in the operation. All the involved parties continued to sell drugs after Williams died, and the crew was aware that another person died before Williams as well, according to the Associated Press article.
“I am very sorry for my actions,” Cartagena said before receiving his sentence. “When we sold the drugs, we never intended for anyone to lose their life.”
The fourth member of the group that sold Williams the tainted drugs is still awaiting sentencing. It’s difficult to determine if any of the members of the crew were effectively in charge or in a leadership position as they all made arguments that they were trapped in a cycle of addiction.
In fact, the AP said that Cartagena, who physically handed the drugs to Williams, told the judge he was paid exclusively in heroin for his dealing services. He fled to Puerto Rico shortly after Williams death where he was arrested in 2022.
“In a tragic instant, Mr. Cartagena was the one who handed the small packet of drugs to Mr. Williams — it easily could have been any of the other men who were there or in the vicinity selling the same drugs,” wrote Sean Maher, Cartagena’s lawyer in a letter to the judge. “Sentencing Mr. Cartagena to double digits of prison time will not bring back the beautiful life that was lost.”
Friends, colleagues and fans were all devastated to hear about William’s tragic overdose back in 2021. Williams played an openly-gay stick-up man on The Wire who robbed low level drug dealers while whistling an eerie rendition of “The Farmer in the Dell,” but Williams also struggled with addiction off the air in his personal life.
In fact, at Macci’s sentencing, a letter was submitted to the judge by David Simon, co-creator of The Wire, asking the judge for leniency on Marci’s behalf saying that Williams himself would not want Macci serving the 20 year or more sentence recommended by federal sentencing guidelines. Simon said Williams had confided his struggles with addiction to a line producer on the show and also allowed a different crew member to serve as a constant source of encouragement to keep him off drugs.
“We watched, relieved and delighted, as Michael Williams restored himself,” said Simon. “I miss my friend, but I know that Michael would look upon the undone and desolate life of Mr. Macci and know two things with certainty: First, that it was Michael who bears the fuller responsibility for what happened. And second, no possible good can come from incarcerating a 71-year-old soul, largely illiterate, who has himself struggled with a lifetime of addiction…”
Cruz was remanded to federal custody after sentencing but it was not immediately clear where he would serve out his prison sentence. Cruz’s lawyer, Deborah Colson, said in an email to the Associated Press that Cruz “accepted responsibility and provided a genuine, heartfelt apology.”