As Harford County nears 400 heroin and opioid overdoses this year, an Aberdeen man has been charged under a new state law that tacks up to 10 years onto any conviction for distributing a mixture of heroin and fentanyl or fentanyl alone.
It is also the first time a heroin dealer has been charged at the state level with reckless endangerment in connection with a fatal overdose, Capt. Lee Dunbar, commander of the Harford County Task Force, said Tuesday.
“We’re going to try to be doing that moving forward — reckless endangerment and second-degree murder,” Dunbar said.
This case involves a death from an overdose last month in the bathroom of an Aberdeen fast food restaurant, according to court records.
William J. Wiles, who will turn 55 on Sunday, of the 200 block of Bush Chapel Road in Aberdeen, is charged with distributing narcotics, distribution of a heroin/fentanyl mix, reckless endangerment and possession of drug paraphernalia. He allegedly sold a 33-year-old man the heroin/fentanyl mix that caused him to fatally overdose in the bathroom, police said.
As of Monday, Harford had recorded 394 heroin-opioid overdoses, 77 of which have been fatal, according to the Harford County Sheriff’s Office.
“We want to send a very clear message that the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with the Narcotics Task Force, that we take these overdose deaths very seriously,” Dunbar said. “We’re trying to send a message that if you make a choice to sell heroin or a heroin-fentanyl mix, we will investigate it to the fullest extent and prosecute to the fullest extent.”
The Task Force’s goal is to charge dealers with the deaths of the addicts they are supplying the drugs to, Dunbar said.
Maryland has been gradually adding laws that give the task force more options, such as the heroin-fentanyl distribution charge, which adds up to 10 years consecutively to any other sentence, he said.
“Unfortunately, the numbers here in our county and surrounding jurisdictions and the country, it’s still a growing problem that’s not going to get better until we se the number go in the opposite direction, or at least leveling off,” Dunbar said. “We’re not even seeing that.”
On Oct. 20 at about 10:15 a.m., Aberdeen Police were notified of a cardiac arrest in the men’s bathroom in a fast food restaurant in the City of Aberdeen, according to charging documents.
Brendan Maloney Cobb, 33, was found unresponsive, lying on the ground, pants around his ankles; he was pronounced dead at 10:32 a.m. An uncapped syringe and suspected heroin were found in the bathroom, according to documents outlining the charges against Wiles.
On the back of the toilet was a piece of paper containing an off-white powder substance, which DFC Christopher Maddox, who responded from the Harford County Narcotics Task Force, knew to be heroin. Suspected heroin was also in the plunger cap, which Maddox suspected Cobb used to prepare the heroin before injecting it, according to charging documents.
Maddox examined Cobb’s text messages and found a conversation between Cobb and another man about whether he would be able to get any drugs for Cobb that morning. Cobb needed to know, he wrote, so he could let his boss know he’d be a little late for work, according to charging documents.
Maddox determined the phone number belonged to Wiles, who lives in the 200 block of Bush Chapel Road in Aberdeen, not far from where Cobb died.
Often when they have bought drugs, police said, addicts “will almost always use the drug as soon as they purchase it,” which is done to help the addict “feel normal,” according to the charging documents.
Cobb was a regular at the fast food restaurant; employees said they saw him in the store multiple times a week, charging documents state.
When Maddox contacted Cobb’s wife, she confirmed Wiles was his alleged dealer, according to court records.
On Nov. 2, during a search of Wiles’ home, detectives found several digital scales with a white powder residue on them, as well as several hundred dollars in cash, “consistent with denominations used during drug distribution,” according to court documents.
During an interview, neither Wiles nor his son, who has the same name as his father, would admit to selling drugs to Cobb, according to charging documents.
Cobb’s cause of death was listed as fentanyl and despropionyl fentanyl intoxication, according to the charging documents.
“Fentanyl is an extremely toxic drug that is responsible for a majority of the overdose deaths in Harford County,” Maddox, who is deputized with the Drug Enforcement Administration, wrote in the charging documents.
Wiles is being held without bail at the Harford County Detention Center. No attorney for him is listed in online court records.