Cincinnati man pleads guilty in first federal carfentanil trafficking case

Posted at 1:05 PM, Sep 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-08 16:21:41-04

CINCINNATI -- A man pleaded guilty in the first federal carfentanil trafficking case in the country, according to U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman.

Phillip Watkins, 32, pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiring to distribute heroin containing carfentanil and attempting to murder a witness he believed would testify against him, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Carfentanil, a powerful opioid used to tranquilize large animals, is about 10,000 times more potent than morphine. It is not intended for human use.

Watkins conspired with others in August 2016 to sell heroin laced with carfentanil from a residence in Elmwood Place, court documents say. Users suffered both fatal and non-fatal overdoses from the drugs he sold.

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Task force officers arrested Watkins Sept. 15, 2016. A federal grand jury indicted him on Sept. 21, charging him with drug trafficking conspiracy and other crimes.

While awaiting trial, Watkins arranged to have a witness killed to prevent testimony, but police stopped the plot. A grand jury indicted Watkins for witness tampering in March 2017.

Watkins faces 20 to 25 years in prison; U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott will schedule a sentence hearing.

The Hamilton County Heroin Task Force, Deputy Criminal Chiefs Michael Hunter and Emily Glatfelter and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Timothy Oakley and Megan Gaffney represented the U.S. in these cases.