U.S. Attorney's Office
Southern District of New York
(212) 637-2600
June 18, 2015

Peekskill Man Charged in White Plains Federal Court with Distribution of Heroin and Fentanyl Causing the Death of an Individual

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Diego Rodriguez, the Assistant Director-In-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and George N. Longworth, the Commissioner of the Westchester County Department of Public Safety, on behalf of the Westchester County Northern Narcotics Initiative, announced the filing of a Superseding Indictment charging LAKUAN RHYNE, 23, of Peekskill, New York, with distributing heroin and fentanyl, the use of which caused the overdose death of an individual. The Superseding Indictment also charges RHYNE and 11 other defendants with conspiring to distribute heroin, crack cocaine, and powder cocaine in and around Westchester County from at least 2014 up to and including January 2015.

All of the 12 defendants were charged in the original Indictment, filed in January 2015, and have previously been taken into custody. The Superseding Indictment adds the charge against RHYNE for distributing narcotics that caused the death of an individual. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Nelson S. Román.

U.S. Attorney Bharara stated: “Overdose deaths from heroin and fentanyl have become an epidemic in many communities north of New York City. Another young person from one of those communities died, the tragic victim of heroin and fentanyl allegedly peddled by the defendant Lakuan Rhyne. The charge brought against that defendant in the Superseding Indictment serves as a reminder that the sale of such poison cannot be tolerated, and that behind every overdose death, law enforcement is looking for the drug dealer responsible.”

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Rodriguez stated: “Drug distribution puts profits above life. In this case, it is alleged Lakuan Rhyne and his associates distributed or conspired to distribute heroin, crack cocaine, and powder cocaine out of cars, residences, and on the streets of Westchester County, New York. It is also alleged that Ryne’s distribution of heroin laced with fentanyl led to the death of Thomas Coogan. Although we cannot always protect people from themselves, we can hold people accountable for their actions. We will continue to work with our partners to investigate these offenses in order to protect our communities.”

Commissioner Longworth stated: “The Westchester County Department of Public Safety remains committed to working with federal and local law enforcement to combat the distribution and sale of heroin in our county. I am grateful to the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the valuable partnership they have forged with Westchester’s law enforcement community.”

According to the allegations in the Superseding Indictment and other information in the public record:

The defendants were members of drug trafficking conspiracies operating in the area of Westchester County, New York. LAKUAN RHYNE, a/k/a “Rico,” was a leader of the drug distribution rings. From at least early 2014 through January 2015, RHYNE and his associates conspired to distribute significant quantities of heroin, crack cocaine, and powder cocaine in and around Westchester County. RHYNE and his associates sold their drugs out of cars, residences, and on the streets. At least some of the heroin distributed by RHYNE was laced with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is significantly stronger than both ordinary heroin and morphine.

On January 26, 2014, RHYNE sold some of his fentanyl-laced heroin to Thomas Coogan, a 23-year-old resident of Buchanan, New York. Later that day, after using the heroin supplied by RHYNE, Coogan died. The Westchester County Medical Examiner’s report indicates that Coogan died of “acute mixed drug intoxication (heroin, fentanyl, and alprazolam).” If convicted of the offense of distributing narcotics the use of which resulted in Coogan’s death, as charged in Count Four of the Superseding Indictment, RHYNE faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison, and a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The four-count Superseding Indictment also charges RHYNE and varying combinations of his associates with conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute (i) one kilogram or more of heroin, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 846, 841(a)(1), and 841(b)(1)(A) (Count One); (ii) 280 grams or more of crack cocaine, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 846, 841(a)(1), and 841(b)(1)(A) (Count Two); and (iii) 500 grams or more of cocaine, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 846, 841(a)(1), and 841(b)(1)(B) (Count Three).

Charts containing the names, ages, residences, charges, and maximum penalties for the defendants are set forth below. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.

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Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI, the Westchester County Northern Narcotics Initiative, which comprises officers of the Westchester County Department of Public Safety and the police departments of Peekskill, Croton-on-Hudson, Buchanan, Bedford, Yorktown, Mount Kisco, and Ossining, New York, as well as the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force. He also thanked the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office for its participation.

The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s White Plains Division. Assistant U.S. Attorney George Turner is in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Superseding Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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