When Steven Radeos died on Jan. 27 from an apparent heroin overdose, his girlfriend turned over his cellphone to Braintree police officers investigating his death.
Going through his text messages, investigators learned that Radeos had been communicating with Quincy resident Kevin Sanderson, who allegedly sold him heroin on Jan. 25 with a warning about its potency: “Be careful and don’t think your superman with this. . . ”
Sanderson is among four people accused of operating a heroin distribution ring out of a Hyde Park apartment and allegedly run by Fernando, whose last name is unknown to authorities, and goes by the alias Cesar Gonzalez. . The federal charges, unsealed Tuesday in US District Court, come as Massachusetts faces an uptick in heroin overdoses.
Gonzalez, Sanderson, Weslley Hernandez, and Osvaldo Ortiz-Ventara face a criminal complaint for conspiracy to distribute heroin.
There is a possibility, however, that more serious charges could be brought if prosecutors can connect Radeos’ death to the heroin that the men allegedly sold, a legal expert said.
“The challenge is tying the drugs that caused the death into the organization,” said Michael J. Sullivan, a former US attorney and Plymouth district attorney.
Under federal law, those found responsible for selling heroin that causes a death must spend at least 20 years in prison.
The autopsy on Radeos has not been completed. However, heroin found next to his body was determined to contain fentanyl, a man-made opioid, and an animal painkiller, according to an affidavit written by Braintree police Detective Brian A. Cohoon and filed in court.
Four other people — Steven Juarbettores, Josue Torres Gonzalez, Lorenzo Antonio Nunez, and Raul Romero — were arrested Tuesday after authorities searched the Hyde Park apartment tied to Cesar Gonzalez’s alleged drug distribution operation.
Those four men face charges of possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine and were ordered held without bail by Magistrate Judge Marianne B. Bowler pending a detention hearing set for Thursday. The men did not enter pleas.
Bowler also ordered Cesar Gonzalez and Ortiz-Ventara, who also appeared in court Tuesday, held without bail until Thursday’s detention hearing. Hernandez has not been arrested, and Sanderson is scheduled to appear in federal court at a later date, said Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz.
Hernandez was picked up by Braintree police on May 7 on a charge of driving on a suspended license. During an interview with police, Hernandez allegedly said he’d been selling heroin for Cesar Gonzalez for about two years and would pick up heroin every day from the Hyde Park apartment and deliver it to customers.
Cesar Gonzalez and Ortiz-Ventara did not enter pleas during their court appearance and their lawyers declined to comment.
According to court documents, Sanderson agreed to cooperate with authorities investigating Radeos’ death after being approached by Braintree detectives at the car dealership where he worked.
Sanderson told investigators he purchased heroin for Radeos from a supplier that he only knew by the name “Fernando,” Cohoon, of the Braintree police, wrote. That man was later found to be using the name “Cesar Gonzalez,” the affidavit said.
Sanderson also identified Hernandez and Ortiz-Ventara as Cesar Gonzalez’s couriers, Cohoon wrote.
Since Feb. 8, Sanderson has allegedly purchased heroin from Cesar Gonzalez more than 20 times in transactions that were monitored by officers or recorded, Cohoon wrote.
On April 30, Cesar Gonzalez sent Hernandez to deliver a sample of heroin to Sanderson, Cohoon wrote.
Sanderson then delivered the sample to Cohoon, and placed a recorded call to Cesar Gonzalez in which he asked whether the drugs had been cut with anything.
“A while back, one of my buddies got some of the stuff when I met you one time and he ended up OD-ing. He couldn’t handle it, and just wondering, making sure there is no fentanyl or anything in it,” Sanderson was recorded saying to Cesar Gonzalez.
According to the affidavit, Cesar Gonzalez denied putting anything in the drugs and allegedly said, “Maybe it was too much quality for him you know.”
Radeos’ brother, Donald Radeos, said Tuesday that he wishes the best for everybody who struggles with addiction.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families,” he said.
More coverage of the heroin crisis:
• His son lost to heroin, a father’s unstoppable need to know
• Long hunts for help add to addicts’ struggles
• Fentanyl heightens a heroin crisis in R.I.
• After overdose, a new struggle begins for Taunton man
• Drugs-for-guns traffic troubles police in Mass., Vt.
Laura Crimaldi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the last name of Fernando, the man who goes by the alias Cesar Gonzalez.