The leader of a drug-trafficking organization pleaded guilty Tuesday in Manhattan federal court to conspiring to distribute heroin, cocaine and fentanyl, including the drugs that caused the 2018 death of Colin Kroll, the co-founder of the video-hosting service Vine and the trivia game application HQ Trivia.
Ariel Tavarez ran an on-demand delivery service known as “Mike’s Candyshop” that sold addictive and dangerous drugs to customers throughout New York City, Manhattan U.S. attorney Audrey Strauss said. She said Mr. Tavarez sometimes secretly laced drugs with deadly synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl.
“Thanks to the tireless efforts of law enforcement, Mike’s Candyshop is permanently closed,” Ms. Strauss said.
Mr. Kroll, the 34-year-old startup chief executive, was discovered dead in his Manhattan apartment in 2018, and the New York City medical examiner’s office later ruled the cause of death to be an accidental overdose by fentanyl-laced heroin.
An investigation showed that Mr. Kroll had ordered narcotics by text messaging the Candyshop delivery service several times from his cellphone, including the day before his death. Customers texted their delivery orders for heroin and cocaine to what was known as the Candyshop Number, which sold only to customers who had referrals, according to prosecutors.
Mr. Tavarez, 39, of New York City, faces a sentence of 20 years to life in prison when he returns to court in November. He also agreed to forfeit more than $1.2 million.
“Mr. Tavarez has accepted responsibility for his participation in the case and the events that led to Mr. Kroll’s death,” said Mr. Tavarez’s attorney, Barry Zone. “He extends his deepest sympathy and apologies to Mr. Kroll’s family, and regrets immensely his poor decision to engage in the illegal drug business.”
Five other men who were charged with participating in the Mike’s Candyshop narcotics-trafficking conspiracy previously pleaded guilty. Gregoris Martinez was sentenced last month to six years in prison. Four others are scheduled to be sentenced later this year. All five men were prosecuted for their roles as drug couriers.
To read more from The Wall Street Journal, click here.