By Karla Ward
When a narcotics detective with the Nicholasville Police Department heard about a surge in heroin overdoses in Jessamine County this week, he got busy.
The detective, also a task force officer with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, notified Nicholasville Emergency Medical Services Tuesday that if there were more suspected heroin overdoses, he wanted to be notified. Within two hours, he got a call about a crash involving a suspected overdose.
Court records show that the police work that followed resulted in a federal charge Thursday against a suspected drug dealer. Jeffrey James Ruggiero was charged in U.S. District Court in Lexington with possession of heroin with intent to distribute. His first court appearance was scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday.
According to an affidavit, the chain of events began when emergency workers arrived on Southbrook Drive in Nicholasville at 7:02 p.m. Tuesday and found a driver, Nathaniel Brezeale, “in obvious distress with agonal breathing and eyes closed.”
Suspecting an overdose, they administered 3 milligrams of Naloxone, and the man revived.
Brezeale’s girlfriend told investigators “that he had a substance abuse problem” and that before the accident, they had been to a double-wide mobile home in Garrard County, where Brezeale went inside alone and stayed for about 10 minutes.
While driving back to Nicholasville, Brezeale began to act strangely, so she asked him to pull over. When he did, the vehicle’s front wheels went over a curb. Passersby called emergency crews.
Two DEA task force officers went to St. Joseph Jessamine and interviewed Brezeale, who told them that he had called Ruggiero that night and asked about buying heroin. He had bought from Ruggiero before, he said.
When Brezeale got to the mobile home, he told investigators, he paid $25 for a tenth of a gram of heroin, which he said Ruggiero took from a larger plastic bag of heroin. Ruggiero placed the heroin onto a piece of paper, and Brezeale snorted it before he left.
A DEA special agent went to Lancaster, found the mobile home and began surveillance about 9:40 p.m., according to the affidavit.
About five minutes later, a Chevrolet Impala left the mobile home heading toward Nicholasville, and the special agent followed. He called Nicholasville police and asked for help. Officers clocked the Impala going 64 mph in a 55 mph zone.
The Impala was stopped, but the driver wouldn’t cooperate. However, “a Nicholasville K-9 was presented to the vehicle and a positive alert was noted. A subsequent search of the vehicle resulted in a quantity of suspected heroin being seized,” the affidavit states.
After that, a search warrant was obtained for the mobile home on Carlotta Drive.
Just before midnight Tuesday, about five hours after Brezeale’s accident, officers from the DEA in Lexington, the Nicholasville police detective bureau and Kentucky State Police went to the mobile home and detained Ruggiero while they searched the home and outbuildings.
Police seized about 1 gram of suspected heroin, plus prescription medication, several sets of digital scales and packaging material, and Ruggiero admitted that he had sold heroin to Nathaniel Brezeale earlier in the day, according to the affidavit.
Emergency crews responded to nine overdoses in Jessamine County in a 24-hour period Monday and Tuesday.