Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and James P. O’Neill, the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), announced the arrest and unsealing of a Complaint charging KASHAWN LYONS with distributing the fentanyl that resulted in the death of Matthew Azimi, a public school teacher in the Bronx.  The Complaint also alleges that LYONS and a co-defendant, TERRICK WHITAKER, distributed heroin and fentanyl together between February and March 2018 in the Bronx.  LYONS was arrested yesterday by the NYPD, and will be presented later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry B. Pitman in Manhattan federal court.  TERRICK WHITAKER remains at large.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As alleged, Kashawn Lyons and Terrick Whitaker peddled potentially lethal heroin and fentanyl near the grounds of a Bronx public school.  Additionally, Lyons allegedly sold a dose that was in fact lethal and resulted in the overdose death of a teacher at the school.  Working with the NYPD we will continue to combat the epidemic of lethal opioids that is killing people from all walks of life.”

On November 30, 2017, Matthew Azimi, a 36-year-old teacher, was found dead inside a faculty bathroom at a special education public school in the Bronx (the “School”) where Mr. Azimi was a teacher.  The NYPD responded to the School and began investigating Azimi’s death.  An autopsy conducted following Mr. Azimi’s death revealed that he died from a lethal dose of fentanyl.  NYPD officers recovered a syringe and a pink glassine bag with no stamp or other distinctive marking next to Mr. Azimi’s body.  The NYPD also recovered Mr. Azimi’s cellphone.

As detailed in the Complaint, the NYPD was able to trace the last three completed calls that Mr. Azimi made before he overdosed on November 30, 2017, to a cellphone used by LYONS.  Through surveillance, the NYPD learned that LYONS continued to sell heroin and fentanyl in the vicinity of the School.  In February 2018, the NYPD made undercover buys of heroin and fentanyl from LYONS and WHITAKER, who was dealing drugs with LYONS, in close proximity to the School.  The heroin and fentanyl purchased from LYONS and WHTIAKER were packaged in the same unique pink glassine bags as the one found next to Mr. Azimi’s body.

LYONS, 31, of the Broxn was charged with distribution and possession with intent to distribute heroin and fentanyl, and with conspiring to distribute heroin and fentanyl with WHITAKER.  LYONS faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison based upon his distribution of the fentanyl that killed Mr. Azimi.

WHITAKER, 31, of the Bronx, was charged with distribution and possession with intent to distribute heroin and fentanyl, and with conspiring to distribute heroin and fentanyl with LYONS, each of which carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The statutory maximum and minimum sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for information purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants would be determined by the judge.

Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the NYPD in this case.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit.  Assistant United States Attorney Jacob Warren is in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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