Fentanyl Ringleader Linked to Juvenile ODs Gets 20 Years

Luis Eduardo Navarrete | Image by Carrollton Police Department
Luis Eduardo Navarrete | Image by Carrollton Police Department

The leader of a fentanyl ring responsible for a string of juvenile overdoses in North Texas, some of which were fatal, was handed a 20-year sentence on Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade sentenced 22-year-old Luis Eduardo Navarrete to two decades in federal prison. The defendant pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a Schedule II controlled substance and distribution of a controlled substance to a person under 21 years of age last September, roughly seven months after he was formally charged.

September 1, 2023, was also when a new law was enacted that classified fentanyl-related deaths as “poisonings,” allowing prosecutors to pursue murder charges against the dealers of fatal doses.

Navarrete and his ring of 11 co-conspirators have been linked to selling fentanyl-laced M30 pills. Having bonded out of Dallas County jail following a domestic altercation, Navarrete ran the enterprise while under house arrest at his residence in the 1800 block of Highland Drive in Carrollton.

At least 14 overdoses of children, four of which were fatal, were linked to the drugs peddled by the ring between December 2022 and February 2023. The children were students attending R.L. Turner High School, Dewitt Perry Middle School, and Dan Long Middle School in Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD.

According to a news release from the U.S. District Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas, cell phone records show that Navarrete was aware of the overdose deaths but continued distributing the fentanyl-laced pills anyway. Two different juvenile dealers sent messages to inform him of the fatal overdoses, one involving a 14-year-old on January 26, 2023, and another a 17-year-old on February 1, 2023.

“Od bro… wtf happening,” a message from a dealer to Navarrete regarding the latter’s death read. “Don’t tell me it was u that sold em like 18 30s … that’s another youngin dead bro.”

The mother of one of the victims testified during Navarrete’s sentencing hearing.

“He was the soul of our home,” she told the court in Spanish, per the news release. “I would like for everyone who’s present to know that these people who sell fentanyl, they destroy families. … On behalf of all those children who have passed away due to fentanyl, this has to stop.”

Fentanyl continues to wreak havoc across Texas. Attorney General Ken Paxton released a public service announcement earlier this month warning about the ongoing epidemic, noting that the state has seen a 75% increase in drug overdose deaths over the past five years.

While the City of Dallas does not appear to maintain public-facing overdose death data, its crime analytics dashboard indicates that drug crimes have been on the rise this year amid the Dallas Police Department’s ongoing staffing shortage.

There have been 4,370 offenses committed as of May 23, marking a 9.6% increase over the 3,987 offenses logged during the same period in 2023.

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, DPD only fields around 3,000 officers despite a City analysis recommending that roughly 4,000 are necessary to reduce police response times and properly maintain public safety.

Budgeting only $654 million for DPD this year, members of the Dallas City Council chose to spend considerably less taxpayer money on law enforcement than other high-crime jurisdictions, like Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City.

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