Fentanyl kills: 43 overdose cases linked to robberies at Manhattan nightclubs and bars

NYC authorities hunt for Jayqwan Hamilton, Robert Demaio, and Jacob Barroso, for deadly overdose epidemic.

NYPD released names and photos of three men they are seeking as suspects in the rash of fentanyl poisonings in and around bars that have left several people dead and/or robbed since 2021.

Those sought were identified as Jayqwan Hamilton, Robert Demaio, and Jacob Barroso. Information about the suspects has been confusing so far, as several cases have apparent connections. Last week six gang members were indicted by a grand jury, some for the deaths and others for identity theft, grand larceny, and conspiracy. But none have been arrested so far, ABC News noted.

At least 43 overdose cases, seven of them fatal, are linked to two separate patterns of robberies at nightclubs in and around Manhattan dating back to September 2021. After several months of investigation, the separate deaths of Julio Ramirez (25) and John Umberger (33) in mid-2022 were recently ruled homicides.

Fentanyl is the most significant threat to our public health and safety.”

Frank Tarentino, DEA Special Agent.

A Medical Examiner’s Office spokesman said both were victims of homicides caused by “drug-facilitated robberies” and died shortly after overdosing at bars they visited in Midtown West from “acute intoxication” from a mixture of fentanyl, cocaine, ethanol, and other narcotics.

Robbers withdrew money from both victims’ accounts and stole their cell phones. Another suspect, Andre Butts (28), had been indicted last June for using Ramirez’s credit card to purchase two pairs of Nike shoes for $544.38 just hours after her death.

Another grand jury is also impaneled to investigate the death of Kathryn Marie Gallagher (35), a fashion designer discovered unconscious in her Lower East Side home last July. Her death was ruled a homicide last week.

Likewise, last month, Michelle Edoo (29), one of five workers who overdosed on fentanyl at an upscale mall in New Jersey, died.

In a similar case, it was announced this week that nine Hispanics, and four family members, were arrested on suspicion of running a fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cocaine trafficking ring that included manufacturing and selling pills.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that combines drugs such as cocaine or heroin to produce a stronger effect.

In January, local authorities announced that in 2022 in NYC, there was a record seizure of fentanyl pills equivalent to 72 million fatal doses. “Fentanyl saturates the supply of illegal drugs in New York City and is a factor in approximately 80% of overdose deaths. Even casual or occasional use of illegal drugs could be fatal. With an explosion of counterfeit pills containing fentanyl, a single tablet purchased online or on social media could be deadly,” Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan warned then in a statement.

“Fentanyl is the most significant threat to our public health and safety,” DEA Special Agent Frank Tarentino said then. “It is poison ... This is just the tip of the iceberg. Every day we have more seizures. In New York City, there’s a drug overdose every three hours. Nationally it’s every five minutes, 295 a day.”

In 2022, New York City authorities launched a controversial campaign on public transportation with “tips” for using fentanyl “safely,” which some called counterproductive and irresponsible.