Twelve-Year Prison Sentence, New Indictment Cap Active Week at BCPO for Drug-Induced Death Homicide Prosecutions
MOUNT HOLLY (March 29, 2018)(CNBNewsnet)-- Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina announced that a Camden City drug dealer was sentenced today to 12 years in New Jersey state prison on homicide and other charges for causing the death of a Burlington Township man who bought heroin from him in April 2017 and fatally overdosed on the drug.
Jose LaPorte, 25, (center) must serve more than 10 years of the term before becoming eligible for parole.
Prosecutor Coffina, who handled the sentencing hearing personally, argued for a 15-year term, telling the Hon. Jeanne T. Covert, P.J.Cr., that it is necessary to “increase the cost of doing business for . . . drug dealers,” and “send a message that there will be severe consequences for carelessly dealing poison that is causing so many to die.”
LaPorte was found guilty in January by a jury on charges of Strict Liability for Drug- Induced Death (First Degree), Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance (Third Degree), two counts of Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance with Intent to Distribute (Third Degree), and Distribution of a Controlled Dangerous Substance (Third Degree).
The minimum sentence LaPorte could have received was 10 years. Judge Covert indicated when handing down the 12-year term that her decision took into consideration that LaPorte did not have any previous criminal history.
The investigation revealed that Sung Han, 35, fatally overdosed in the early morning hours of April 12, 2017, in his Burlington Township home. The investigation further determined that Han had purchased the heroin from LaPorte.
Also today, a Burlington County Grand Jury indicted a Lawnside man on Strict Liability for Drug-Induced Death (First Degree) for causing the death of a Marlton man to whom he sold heroin in September 2017. Jimmy Flakes, 40, (above left) was also indicted on three third degree charges involving distribution and possession of heroin.
Earlier this week, a Sicklerville drug dealer admitted in Superior Court to providing fentanyl-laced heroin to a Marlton man who fatally overdosed in November 2015. Under the terms of an agreement with the Prosecutor’s Office, Leonard Hicks, 37, (above right) pled guilty to Strict Liability for Drug-Induced Death (First Degree) in exchange for a 10-year sentence in New Jersey state prison.
Prosecutor Coffina, who is approaching his one-year anniversary of becoming Burlington County’s top law enforcement officer, pledged when sworn in to use the resources of his Office to help combat the opioid epidemic.
In addition to educating the public about the opioid scourge and launching a program in Evesham for addicts to come to the police department, turn in their drugs and receive treatment, Prosecutor Coffina has made prosecuting dealers whose customers overdose a priority.
“These three Drug-Induced Death homicide cases that advanced this week underscore the commitment of our Office to raise the stakes for those preying upon people struggling with addiction to this poison,” Prosecutor Coffina said. “Law enforcement agencies across the county are now commonly approaching overdose cases as crime scenes and working aggressively to develop evidence to bring the dealers to justice.”
The case against Jose LaPorte was investigated by the Burlington Township Police Department and the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office High-Tech Crimes Unit, with assistance from the Willingboro Township Police Department. The lead investigator was Burlington Township Police Detective Anthony Fontana.
The case against Flakes is being prosecuted by Burlington County Assistant Prosecutor Jeremy M. Lackey. It was investigated by the Evesham Township Police Department, with assistance from the Lawnside Police Department in Camden County. The lead investigator was Evesham Township Police Detective Christopher A. DeFrancesco.
The case against Hicks is also being prosecuted by AP Lackey. The investigation was conducted by detectives from the Evesham Township Police Department and Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office. The lead investigator was Evesham Township Police Detective Justin Graff, who has since been promoted to lieutenant.