UPPER SADDLE RIVER, N.J. -- An Upper Saddle River man charged in the fatal drug overdose of a 19-year-old Ramsey man died in federal custody.
Darius Ghahary, 48, was found dead in a cell at a federal transfer center in Oklahoma City on Friday, three days after a grand jury in North Dakota named him in a sweeping pair of indictments targeting Chinese manufacturers of fentanyl and other opiates, authorities confirmed.
It was the first case of its kind brought by federal authorities, who noted that more than 20,000 Americans died last year from fentanyl-related overdoses -- including musical icon Prince.
The federal grand jury indictments refer to "DL": Daniel Lajterman, a Ramsey High School graduate who played football with Ghahary’s son before enrolling at Bergen Community College.
Emergency service workers who found Lajterman's lifeless body in his Roandis Court bedroom on Feb. 23, 2014 initially believed that he’d died of a heroin overdose.
A substance that authorities said Ghahary created using the lethal synthetic opiate fentanyl killed him, prosecutors said at the time.
Ghahary -- who had ties to Chinese and Canadian fentanyl traffickers -- arrived at the Oklahoma facility last Tuesday, the day the indictments were returned, on his way to North Dakota, authorities there said.
They hadn't yet revealed a cause of death as of Monday.
Ghahary's co-defendants in the indictments include Jian Zhang, 38, who federal authorities connected to the deaths of four people in the U.S. by fentanyl -- including Lajterman.
Also charged is Xiaobing Yan, 40, who the indictments say operated at least two chemical plants in China and sold fentanyl online.
Also named were two Florida residents and five Canadian citizens.
Ghahary also was awaiting the outcome of the Lajterman case, in which he was charged with strict liability for a drug-induced death .
Prosecutors said they had an unindicted co-conspirator prepared to testify in Hackensack against Ghahary and two co-defendants.
They accused Ghahary of operating a drug mill with others from his home that produced, imported and distributed Oxycodone, Fentanyl, Methylone, Alprazolam (Xanax) and 25C-NBOMe, a hallucenogenic drug with LSD-like effects.
In addition to selling the fatal mix to Lajterman, Ghahary had his daughter destroy electronic evidence, an indictment returned by a grand jury in Hackensack charged.
Detectives seized what they called “large quantities” of Fentanyl, Oxycodone and other drugs in powder and pill form — including Xanax, Adderall, Hydromorphone, synthetic THC, steroids and Molly (MDMA) — during raids at Ghahary’s house and several storage facilities in February 2014.
“In addition, large quantities of packaging materials and cutting/mixing agents were found,” then-Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said. “It is believed that [Ghahary] used these controlled dangerous substances and associated cutting agents to concoct his own mixture of drugs which he purported to be heroin.”
Molinelli’s detectives and Ramsey police originally arrested Ghahary – aka “Dash” – at his home on charges of maintaining a drug manufacturing facility and distributing heroin. Bail at the time was $250,000.
As the investigation progressed, they added much more severe counts: strict liability for a drug-induced death and manslaughter, as well as hindering apprehension and tampering with evidence. Bail was boosted to $750,000 before a reduction later to $500,000.
A judge eventuallyallowed Ghahary to be released to house arrest at his parents’ home — where detectives arrested him months later for running up a $1,700 tab by failing to pay the $10 daily fee for his monitoring bracelet.
Then came the federal charges.
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