A New York City drug dealer was sentenced Friday (Aug. 18) to 10 years in prison for providing The Wire actor Michael K. Williams with fentanyl-laced heroin, causing his death.
Irvin Cartagena, 40, of Aibonito, Puerto Rico, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams. Cartagena had pleaded guilty in April to conspiring to distribute drugs.
Williams overdosed in his Brooklyn penthouse apartment in September 2021. He died hours after authorities said he bought the heroin from Cartagena on a sidewalk in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood in a deal recorded by a security camera.
Williams famously portrayed Omar Little, the rogue robber of drug dealers, in HBO’s The Wire, which ran from 2002 to 2008. In addition to his work on the critically acclaimed drama, Williams also starred in films and other TV series such as Boardwalk Empire.
Cartagena faced a mandatory minimum of five years in prison and could have faced up to 40 years behind bars.
“I am very sorry for my actions,” he said before the sentence was announced. “When we sold the drugs, we never intended for anyone to lose their life.”
Abrams noted that those who knew Cartagena said that he was “helpful and humble and hard working” when he was not using drugs himself.
“I’m hopeful that with treatment, … it will help you move forward on a more productive and law-abiding path,” the judge said.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams noted that those who participated in the sale of drugs to Williams already knew that someone else had died from drugs they were peddling.
Prosecutors said Cartagena and others continued to sell fentanyl-laced heroin in Manhattan and Brooklyn even after Williams died, although Cartagena eventually fled to Puerto Rico, where he was arrested in February 2022.
In a defense submission prior to sentencing, Cartagena’s lawyer, Sean Maher, said his client was paid for his street sales in heroin to support his own use.
“In a tragic instant, Mr. Cartagena was the one who handed the small packet of drugs to Mr. Williams — it easily could have been any of the other men who were there or in the vicinity selling the same drugs,” Maher wrote. “Sentencing Mr. Cartagena to double digits of prison time will not bring back the beautiful life that was lost.”
Prosecutors in a presentence submission had requested a sentence of at least 12 years while the court’s Probation Department had recommended a 20-year term after citing Cartagena’s 14 prior convictions for drug-related crimes, including burglary, robbery and prison escape.
Abrams, though, said the recommendations were “simply too high.”
“This sentence, while severe, is sufficient but not greater than necessary,” she said.