Three New Yorkers die from fentanyl-laced cocaine ordered from same delivery man

Three New Yorkers die from fentanyl-laced cocaine ordered from same delivery man
Kaylen Rainey (L) delievered the drugs to the victims - Amanda Scher, Julia Ghahramani, and Ross Mtangi (L-R) (Ross Mtangi/Facebook, Headway website and Dignity Memorial)

MANHATTAN, NEW YORK CITY: Exposing the dangers of cocaine laced with fentanyl, Wall Street Journal on October 23 highlighted three professionals who died in March 2021 after receiving cocaine orders from a delivery service. The three victims were Ross Mtangi, a 40-year-old Credit Suisse Group AG trading executive, Julia Ghahramani, a 26-year-old Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP lawyer, and Amanda Scher, a 38-year-old social worker.

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According to Wall Street Journal, the three individuals texted the DoorDash-style cocaine delivery service. Fentanyl, a legal opioid prescribed to people with severe pain, was mixed into the cocaine delivered by the service. Following this, Mtangi, Ghahramani, and Scher died on March 18, 2021. Suspects Billy Ortega, Kaylen Rainey, and William Drayton were each charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute fentanyl and cocaine on February 1, 2022, NY Post reported and further stated that the 35-year-old Ortega acted as a dispatcher for the operation and sent Rainey at three different Manhattan addresses to make the deals.

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Commenting on the arrest at that time, US Attorney Damian Williams said, “As alleged, the defendants operated an on-demand delivery service for the distribution of highly addictive and dangerous drugs. The cocaine distributed by defendants Ortega and Rainey on behalf of their delivery service was laced with the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl, and as alleged, caused the deaths of three victims on a single day. Thanks to the tireless efforts of law enforcement, the defendants’ deadly delivery service is out of business.”  

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Who is Kaylen Rainey?

Prosecutors allege that Ortega, who was a stay-at-home dad, was selling drugs out of his house in rural New Jersey and used a courier, Rainey, to deliver the drugs. Rainey was living in a Manhattan apartment registered to Ortega's family, receiving text message instructions for deliveries from Ortega, as per Wall Street Journal. Investigators recovered text messages between the customers and the drug dispatcher. Ghahramani sent a text to Ortega, "Can u come thru?" To which he replied, “I’ll send them right now if you want.” Ghahramani said, “That would be great thank you really appreciate it.” “No worries we family,” Ortega responded. After a few minutes, Rainey arrived at Ghahramani’s apartment. Hours later, she received two texts from Ortega’s number, followed by seven calls that night and the next morning. She was found dead when one of Ghahramani’s friends went to her apartment later that day, March 18, 2021, and found her with her phone in her hand. Rainey was caught on CCTV footage in the elevator of Ghahramani’s apartment before ringing the bell and allegedly delivering the drugs. However, Rainey, along with Ortega pleaded not guilty to causing the three deaths and distributing drugs. And Drayton acted as a dispatcher for the cocaine operation but was not believed to be involved in the three deaths.

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Deaths related to cocaine

New York City health department data show that out of 980 deaths related to cocaine use in 2020, 81 percent included fentanyl, according to Independent. On the other hand, US deaths attributed to drug overdoses topped 100,000 last year for the first time, the CDC reported on May 11, 2022. The CDC said there were an estimated 107,622 drug overdose deaths in 2021, a 15 percent increase over the previous record of 93,655 set in 2020. Drug overdose deaths rose 30 percent from 2019 to 2020. Deaths from fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, rose to 71,238 in 2021 from 57,834 in 2020. According to DailyMail, in 2021, the US Department of Justice filed about 2,700 cases involving crimes related to the distribution of fentanyl and similar synthetic drugs.

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