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  • Writer's pictureDennis McCaslin

Little Rock drug dealer sent to federal prison for 30 years after 2021 fentanyl sale caused death

A Little Rock man who distributed the fentanyl that resulted in a person’s overdose death has been sentenced to 30 years in prison. Jemel Foster, 32, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Billy Roy Wilson, who considered Foster’s convictions of four federal drug and firearm crimes, including distribution of fentanyl that resulted in death.

Foster was also convicted in his July 2022 trial of possessing fentanyl with intent to distribute it, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.

Judge Wilson sentenced Foster to 300 months for distribution of fentanyl resulting in death, the maximum sentenced allowed by law of 240 months and 120 months, respectively, for possession of fentanyl with intent to deliver and being a felon in possession of a firearm, and 60 months for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime. The 60-month sentence is to run consecutively to the 300- month sentence, for a total of 360 months in prison. There is no parole in the federal system.

“Today’s lengthy sentence emphasizes the reality that drug crime is violent crime,” stated United States Attorney Jonathan D. Ross. “A young woman has needlessly lost her life because of the violence that accompanies drug crime. Illegal fentanyl distribution is a scourge in our community that needs to be stopped, and this sentence should make clear that there are severe consequences for anyone who chooses to illegally sell fentanyl. We are thankful this defendant will no longer be able to peddle this deadly substance in our community.”

On July 6, 2021, a grand jury charged Foster in a superseding indictment with the four counts he took to trial, all of which related to two January evenings in 2021.

The evidence at trial revealed that on the evening of January 11, 2021, a woman purchased fentanyl from Foster around 7:22 p.m. in the parking lot of a Little Rock Walgreens store. According to testimony from the medical examiner who conducted her autopsy, the woman died from a fatal dose of fentanyl around midnight that evening at her mother’s nearby home. After discovering her body the next morning, the woman’s family contacted the Little Rock Police Department, and eventually the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). At trial, the DEA agents involved in the case explained how they were able to identify Foster as the source of the fatal fentanyl from data in the victim’s phone.

The DEA, believing Foster would not be aware the woman had died, used the victim’s phone to contact Foster on January 12, 2021, and ask if he had any more fentanyl for sale. Foster agreed to meet at the same Walgreen’s parking lot the person he believed would be the woman who purchased fentanyl from him the night before. When Foster arrived at the parking lot, the DEA arrested him and located eight bags of fentanyl in his pants, totaling approximately four grams, and a firearm in his vehicle. The bags of fentanyl found on Foster’s person matched exactly two bags of fentanyl that were found on the victim’s body during her autopsy.

At trial, the medical examiner testified that there is no safe dosage of illicit fentanyl, and tiny amounts of the substance can kill a person nearly immediately. The medical examiner and state toxicologist testified that it was their opinion that fentanyl caused the victim’s death.

“Fentanyl is the deadliest drug threat we are facing today, killing Americans at record rates,” said DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jarad Harper. “Last year alone, nearly 108,000 lives were lost to a drug poisoning, with fentanyl driving this record increase. Drug traffickers are mixing fentanyl in other illicit drugs in an effort to drive addiction and create repeat buyers. This investigation highlights the efforts of DEA, our law enforcement partners, and the United States Attorney’s Office who work tirelessly every day to bring dangerous drug dealers to justice.”

In addition to his sentence of imprisonment, Foster was sentenced to three years of supervised release on each count to run concurrently. The investigation was conducted by DEA, with assistance from the Little Rock Police Department and Arkansas State Police. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Chris Givens and Benecia Moore.

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