Federal law enforcement makes first Connecticut arrest for deadly opioid carfentanil

This story was originally published in the New Haven Register and was written by Anna Bisaro. 

BRIDGEPORT >> Federal authorities announced their first Connecticut arrest related to the possession of carfentanil, an opioid 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl.

Charles Thelusma, 43, formerly of Bridgeport, is in federal custody following his arrest on June 13. U.S. Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel in Bridgeport ordered that Thelusma remain detained Wednesday, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Federal prosecutors did not confirm if Thelusma was in any way involved in a recent fatal overdose involving carfentanil in Norwalk on April 17. The overdose on April 17 in Norwalk was the first known instance of a victim dying from Carfentanil in the state — a drug that is often used as an elephant tranquilizer.

Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik was included in the U.S. Attorney’s Office release on the arrest of Thelusma, thanking federal law enforcement as well as his own department for their work in helping to arrest Thelusma.

“I would like to commend my officers for their excellent work on following up with this investigation in regards to this very dangerous drug,” Kulhawik said in the release. “I also thank the DEA and U.S. Attorney’s Office for their valuable assistance and partnership in working on this case which lead to the arrest.”

The U.S. attorney’s office has been working to quickly arrest those suspected of distributing drugs to victims of overdoses since the beginning of 2016. The first defendant to be convicted and sentenced in the District of Connecticut after a fatal overdose was Bradley Commerford who was sentenced to more than six years in prison in August.

“This is the first federal prosecution involving carfentanil in Connecticut,” U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly said in a press release Thursday. “We will continue to devote numerous federal resources to battle the scourge of opioid abuse and distribution, and our commitment becomes stronger as these illegal drugs become more sinister and deadly. This investigation is ongoing.”

According to the release from Daly’s office, Thelusma was also charged with possession with intent to distribute and distribution of heroin and U47700, another synthetic opioid that is approximately seven times more potent than morphine.

Law enforcement conducted two controlled purchases of heroin, carfentanil and U47700 from Thelusma in May prior to his arrest, the release said.

“Those suffering from opioid addiction need access to treatment and recovery,” Drug Enforcement Agency Special Agent in Charge Michael Ferguson said in the release. “But those responsible for the distribution of heroin and deadly synthetic opioids like carfentanil and U-47700 need to be held accountable for their actions. This investigation demonstrates the strength of collaborative law enforcement in Connecticut and our strong partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to aggressively seek and bring to justice anyone who distributes these poisons.”

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