Federal charges filed in string of Alaska prison overdoses

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Following a string of overdoses within an Alaska correctional facility, a woman was charged in federal court Tuesday for distribution of a controlled substance.

The official filing follows multiple drug smuggling cases this year, which have landed inmates, citizens, corrections officers as well as an Anchorage attorney in hot water.

Dorothy Elizabeth Lantz now faces federal charges surrounding the Oct. 30 and Oct. 31 overdoses of at least four women at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River, all of whom reportedly overdosed within 24 hours of each other. One of the women overdosed twice: once on Oct. 31, and then again that same day, following her release from an area hospital.

According to court documents primarily authored by Drug Enforcement Agency Special Agent Christine Truong, the four also weren't the only ones to get their hands on the "very, very potent" form of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid. Fentanyl is known to have a high risk of dependency and is considered more deadly than heroin since it is so strong.

No less than seven inmates are listed as part of Truong's investigation.

The Dept. of Corrections' recently-implemented Professional Conduct Unit, along with Truong, conducted multiple investigations immediately after the incident. They found that, while all four of the women who overdosed were revived, hospitalized and survived, a number of other inmates also got their hands on smuggled fentanyl apparently brought in by Lantz. At the time of the first overdose, Lantz had been at HMCC for less than a week.

Lantz had maintained she was clean at the time of the interviews with the DOC, and initially told investigators that it was someone else who'd brought the drug into the prison.

The other inmates, for the most part, either declined to or could not identify Lantz as the distributor of the fentanyl. One of them "said it was someone 'new,'" according to the report, and the others primarily "did not identify the inmate who provided the fentanyl."

One of the inmates who overdosed – and only said that it was one of the "newer inmates" who gave her the opioid – was found in possession of both methadone pills and fentanyl powder. She'd told investigators she had taken "like '1/20th of a Tic Tac'" of the substance and that in 15 years, she'd never overdosed.

Still, she "did not tell investigators the name of the inmate who brought in the fentanyl, but said that it was one of the newer inmates."

A different inmate denied getting any fentanyl from Lantz, but another specifically named Lantz as the one who was distributing the drug.

Court documents show that investigators "told Lantz that they had information that (she) was the person who brought fentanyl into HMCC." She admitted she'd brought the drug into the facility, had given some of it to certain inmates, and then reportedly flushed the remainder of her stash down a prison toilet.

“I didn't want to give it to anybody," Lantz said, according to charging documents, adding that she brought the drugs in solely for "personal use" but ended up trading at least some of it for commissary items.

If you or someone you know needs help because of a potential overdose, you should call 911 immediately. You can learn more about opioid addiction and treatment here, at the Dept. of Health and Social Services website.

An earlier version of this story stated an Alaska district attorney was involved in one of the smuggling cases. This statement has been edited to reflect that it was an Anchorage defense attorney who was involved, not anyone who is affiliated with the Alaska Dept. of Law, Dept. of Justice or the U.S. Attorney’s Office.



 
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