Long Island Man Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison for Distributing Heroin that Caused the Fatal Overdose of Victim in Jericho
CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. – Earlier today, at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, James Tunstall, also known as “Math,” was sentenced by the Honorable Joan M. Azrack, United States District Judge, to 30 years’ imprisonment, for distributing heroin, the use of which resulted in the fatal overdose of 24-year-old Sergio Niko Alvarez on October 29, 2018 in Jericho, New York. Tunstall was found guilty in a week-long jury trial in February 2023.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Frank A. Tarentino III, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, New York Division; and Patrick J. Ryder, Commissioner, Nassau County Police Department, announced the sentencing.
“As proven at trial, the defendant feigned addiction to misuse a rehab program to get out of jail, where he met vulnerable individuals he could sell drugs to, including the victim,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “It is our hope that today’s sentence serves both as a deterrent to those peddling dangerous narcotics in our communities and as a measure of comfort to the victim’s family, that callous disregard for human life will never be accepted.”
United States Attorney Peace extended his appreciation to the members of the Long Island Heroin Task Force for their outstanding working on this case.
“DEA’s New York Division works tirelessly to safeguard our communities from drug traffickers peddling their poison that has taken too many lives,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Tarentino. “This sentencing exemplifies law enforcement’s focus of bringing those responsible for overdoses and poisonings to justice, and sends a message of support to the families of loved ones lost that we will not rest until justice is done.”
“The arrest and sentencing of defendant James Tunstall is a clear example of numerous law enforcement agencies working together to bring closure to this case,” said NCPD Commissioner Ryder. “Defendant Tunstall continuously dealt illegal drugs to Nassau County residents which contaminated our communities. This also resulted in the fatal overdose of a 24-year-old male and the defendant is now held accountable. Nassau County continues our zero-tolerance approach for the distribution of illegal drugs and this case should send a strong message to all that may contemplate the distribution of these drugs.”
As proven at trial earlier this year and set forth in the government’s sentencing letters and other public documents, Tunstall was a drug dealer who regularly sold cocaine and heroin to customers in Nassau County. Despite repeated state arrests for drug trafficking, the defendant regularly feigned opioid addiction and was therefore court-mandated to participate in rehabilitation programs in lieu of incarceration. As proven in court, Tunstall amassed new drug customers at these rehabilitation centers, including the victim, who he met at an outpatient rehabilitation facility in Mineola. Tunstall later sold cocaine to the victim at that same facility. In an effort to keep his drug customers out of jail, Tunstall also provided these individuals with his own clean urine for use in order to pass their drug tests.
Tunstall’s co-defendant, Jay Tenem, who Tunstall also met as part of a drug rehabilitation program, delivered the fatal dose of heroin from Tunstall to the victim on October 28, 2018. Tenem also brought the victim’s cash payment back to Tunstall, in exchange for heroin of Tenem’s own to use. The next morning, the victim was found dead, by his mother, of heroin intoxication. Tunstall was arrested for the victim’s death while on release pending sentence in yet another state drug trafficking case. Tenem was also arrested, and pleaded guilty.
Tunstall pleaded guilty in July 2021 to participating in a conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine, and was sentenced by the Court in December 2022 to 20 years’ imprisonment. The sentence imposed upon him today in connection with Alvarez’s death will be served concurrently with that sentence.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Justina Geraci and Samantha Alessi are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Paralegal Specialist Michael Compitello.
JAMES T. TUNSTALL (also known as “Math”)
Freeport and Westbury, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CR-675 (JMA)