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Francesca Sinacori with her late son, Eric.
Francesca Sinacori with her late son, Eric.Sinacori family/Sinacori family

The mother of a University of Massachusetts Amherst student who died from an overdose is suing the school and a school police officer for using him as a confidential informant instead of telling her that he was a heroin addict.

Francesca Sinacori filed the lawsuit Oct. 3 in Hampshire Superior Court. Named as defendants were the university and a UMass police officer identified only as "John Doe."

She is also suing Jesse Carrillo, who is facing manslaughter charges for allegedly selling a fatal dose of heroin to her son, Eric, on Oct. 4, 2013.

University officials declined to comment, except to note that policies in place when Eric Sinacori was a student have changed. The Globe detailed the case in a 2014 story that identified Eric Sinacori by his middle name, Logan.

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In the suit, Francesca Sinacori claims that under the student code of conduct in force in 2013, UMass was required to notify parents if their child was caught by school authorities with illegal drugs. However, the suit claims, university police had a practice of keeping information about a student's drug use secret from administrators if the student worked as a confidential informant.

Eric Sinacori twice sold illegal drugs to undercover law enforcement officials in 2012. The second time, police searched his dormitory room and discovered a hypodermic needle, illegal drugs, and $700 in cash. An unidentified officer told Sinacori he would postpone prosecution if the student wore a wire and bought drugs from another student with cash supplied by police.

Sinacori did as requested, and police quickly arrested two students he bought drugs from, effectively outing him as a police informant, the suit says. Months later, Sinacori got a text from an acquaintance, calling him "a really selfish [expletive.] Jail is a risk you have to be comfortable with when you're in the business, dude.''

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The lawsuit says that while the UMass Police Department's rules required any addict who became an informant to be "carefully supervised and controlled,'' the officer never alerted university administrators about Sinacori's drug use. .

Instead, the officer returned the $700 to Sinacori in the spring of 2013. In subsequent text messages to friends, Sinacori wrote that he would soon have to tell his parents he was a heroin addict, and that when he returned to school in the fall of 2013, as a junior, he expected to be living in a "shootup den" because of his addiction.

One month after school resumed, Carrillo allegedly purchased heroin in New York City that had been marked "Tropicana" and alerted Sinacori he was returning to Amherst, telling him in a text message: "I know you're hurting but you will very soon be in the loving comforting arms of Miss H.''

Around midnight, Carrillo allegedly sold nine bags of heroin to Sinacori, who immediately used three of them. "How much Tropicana did you drink?" Carillo wrote in a text message 20 minutes later.

Sinacori never responded. He was found dead in his dorm room by his father and stepmother on Oct 4, 2013.

In the court papers, Francesca Sinacori asserts that Officer Doe acted negligently and "proximately caused the decedent's fatal drug addiction to go untreated'' while the school broke its promise to alert her, as required by the student disciplinary code.

Carrillo, 28, has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

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Francesca Sinacori declined to comment Thursday.

Through spokesman Edward Blaguszewski, UMass declined to comment in detail.

"Upon learning about Mr. Sinacori's connection to the UMass Police Department's confidential informant program, the university suspended the program,'' a statement said. "The university determined that the Police Department and Student Affairs can employ other approaches as it continues to combat illegal drug use, possession and sale, and protect members of the campus community."


John R. Ellement
can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.