SEATTLE - Bags full of cash were just some of the haul from the biggest fentanyl dealer on Seattle's Capitol Hill. A judge sentenced 34-year-old Gregory Lynn Smith to 12 years in prison.
Smith was the last of a trio sentenced to federal prison for trafficking in a host of illegal drugs, including synthetic fentanyl.
And one overdose death helped get all three of them off the streets.
Inside Purr Nightclub on the edge of Seattle's Capitol Hill, 29-year-old James D. Wilson overdosed on a supply of fentanyl supplied by Gregory Lynn Smith. That was in March of 2017.
Ten days later, Wilson overdosed again. By the time medics found him, he could not be revived. The King County Medical Examiner concluded Wilson died after taking acryl fentanyl, the deadliest form of the synthetic drug because it is resistant to life-saving naloxone.
"What's so disturbing about fentanyl is folks don't know that's what they're buying," says Annette Hayes, the U.S. attorney for Western Washington.
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Her office prosecuted the government's case against Smith. She says often those taking fentanyl think they are ingesting something else.
"Often they're processed in the pills that look like prescription drugs," says Hayes. "Or they're mixed in with heroin and folks think they're shooting what they know. And, in fact, they're shooting something that is absolutely deadly."
Hates says the federal investigators were able to trace the fentanyl that caused Wilson's death to Smith.
In fact, Kyle McClure, a friend of Wilson who also helped peddle Smith's drugs, was working at Purr Nightclub the first night Wilson overdosed. McClure sent the Capitol Hill drug dealer a text saying he felt remorse about Wilson's death.
"How or why would u feel responsibl(e)?" wrote Smith. "(B)ro that's like someone breaking into your home tripping on a knife and bleeding to death and u blaming the homeowner." As for Wilson and another friend who overdosed at Purr the same night, Smith concluded they were "skummy junk like people."
For some time now, Homeland Security has been tracing the drugs that Smith and others are selling on streets all over this country. What they found is that the deadliest of the drugs comes from China.
In August, 2017 federal agents moved in on Smith. His home on Des Moines Memorial Drive South was filled with a stash of drugs sent from China through the U.S. mail. The feds found bags of hard cold cash, more than $770,000, plus tens of thousands of dollars more in cryptocurrency. In all, investigators linked Smith to 70 different deliveries of drugs.
Yet, when it came time for sentencing, Smith sent the judge a picture of him with his daughter and pleaded for leniency. "I'm so ashamed in myself," Smith wrote. "I have deep sorrow for my daughter and for my wife."
Annette Hayes says the judge didn't buy it.
"What the judge heard about the sentencing hearing today was the very callous way this defendant responded to learning about that," said Hayes. "I mean, it's just a fact if you're a drug dealer people are going to die. But to hear about a specific death and respond the way this defendant did, it's disturbing and something we all need to pay attention to."
It turns out his victim, James Wilson, was a very good friend of a former KIRO employee. He describes Wilson as "just the sweetest guy. He brought so much happiness to our friend group."
Wilson wasn't even 30 when he died.
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