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September 08, 2017  
Contact: Public Information Officer
Number: (313) 234-4310

Cincinnati Man pleads guilty to dealing heroin laced with carfentanil and attempting to murder a witness

SEP 08 (CINCINNATI) – Phillip Watkins, 32, of Cincinnati, pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute heroin laced with carfentanil.  Carfentanil is a controlled substance 10,000 times more powerful than morphine, and caused serious physical harm to people who bought the drugs. Watkins also pleaded guilty to attempting to murder a witness he believed was going to testify against him if he went to trial on the drug charge.

Benjamin C. Glassman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Timothy J. Plancon, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Detroit Division; Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac; Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil; Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, and other members of the Hamilton County Heroin Task Force announced the pleas today.

Watkins appeared before U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott on September 7th, and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin containing carfentanil, and one count of tampering with a witness. Under terms of the plea agreement, Watkins faces a total sentence of at least 20 years and up to 25 years in prison. Judge Dlott will review the terms of the plea agreement and schedule a sentencing hearing.

Court documents say Watkins conspired with others in August 2016 to sell heroin laced with carfentanil, from a residence in the Elmwood Place neighborhood of Cincinnati. Individuals that used the carfentanil he sold to them suffered both fatal and non-fatal overdoses of the potent drug.

Task force officers arrested Watkins on September 15th, 2016.  A federal grand jury indicted him on September 21, 2016, charging him with drug trafficking conspiracy. While in custody awaiting trial on those charges, Watkins learned of a potential witness against him in that trial.  Watkins arranged to have that witness killed to prevent the testimony.  Law enforcement uncovered the plot and stopped it before the murder could take place. A grand jury indicted Watkins for witness tampering in March of 2017.

“This is the first federal carfentanil trafficking case in the country,” Glassman said. “Thanks to the diligent work of federal, state and local law enforcement, a peddler of deadly poison who was willing to murder those who would provide evidence against him is now off the street.”


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