How a 2-time Michigan opioid dealer convinced a judge to show some mercy

How a 2-time Michigan opioid dealer convinced a judge to show some mercy

LaVar Carter was more than a pill pusher. He was a college-educated opioid dealer who got his break the first time he broke the law.

Then he broke the law again — for the same crime, paying peddling pills — yet escaped the stiff sentence the feds sought.

In U.S. District Court this week, Carter, 45, of Southfield, was sentenced to seven years in prison for distributing more than 90,000 highly addictive prescription pain pills on the street — a crime he was convicted of nearly a decade ago. During that time, he cooperated with the government and received a 20-month prison sentence, compared to the 6½ years he was facing.

Then eight years later, he got caught up in another opioid scheme.

Prosecutors wanted the dealer locked up for 11 years

He was released on bond, yet continued to trade illegal pills, said prosecutors, who pushed for the maximum 11-year prison sentence for Carter, calling him an “educated 44-year-old man” who repeatedly thumbed his nose. the law

“Through his own repeated behavior, Carter has made himself completely demoralized despite his prior federal prison sentence,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Ross wrote in a sentencing memo, in which he pushed for Carter to be sentenced to 110-137 months. “(That range of phrases) is most appropriate for a revisionist like Carter who has demonstrated his contempt for this Court, its mandate, and society’s most basic expectations.”

With her children in the courtroom, Carter and her lawyer asked the judge for mercy.

Carter requested a three-year sentence, citing in part his long-standing battle with alcoholism: He was drinking a fifth of alcohol a day when he committed the crimes, his attorney argued in court records.

Carter also mentions a troubled and dysfunctional childhood. His mother was in prison until he was 9 and struggled with a lifelong addiction to drugs. Her father was a chronic alcoholic who had no involvement in her life. He spent his formative years moving from one grandparent’s house to another. He started drinking at 13 and smoking pot at 16. A drunken driving conviction followed, though he would eventually marry and give birth to five children—who begged the judge to show mercy to their father.

Carter’s children described him as a loving and supportive father who took them to sporting events, attended their volleyball games, taught them how to fish and encouraged them to do good things in life. As one boy said in a letter to the judge: “… every time I tell him ‘I want to be like you when I grow up,’ he replies, ‘No, boy, you want to be better than me.’ “

The Probation Department recommended a sentence range of 151-188 months for Carter, about 12 to 15½ years.

In the end, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman gave Carter seven years — three years less than what prosecutors had sought and about half the probation department’s recommendation, though more than double what Carter had hoped for.

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Feds: Carter feeding addiction help

According to court documents, Carter was a patient recruiter who used family members and people he met at soup kitchens to obtain information to fill prescriptions for opioids wound up on the street. Over the course of a year, he distributed 90,000 doses of OxyContin, Percocet and other opioids out of an area medical clinic.

Prosecutors said he worked at New Vision Rehab Center, where he provided doctors with lists of patient names and identification that he knew were used to fill medically unnecessary prescriptions. He and others exchanged prescriptions for cash in a scheme running from 2019-20.

Carter pleaded guilty in March 2021 to his role in the scheme. After his conviction, he was released on bond.

But he was right back at it, said prosecutors, who said they had text messages showing Carter was still dealing with opioids while out on bond.

After his sentencing, Carter’s bond was immediately revoked and he was taken into custody by US Marshals.

“Carter’s plan to illegally funnel prescription pills into the community and fuel overdose deaths for profit is over,” said Orville Greene, chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Detroit office.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription opioids are associated with more deaths than any other drug, with America witnessing a 15-year increase in deaths due to prescription opioid overdoses and driven largely by a recent increase in illicit opioid overdoses. Heroin and illegally manufactures fentanyl. In Michigan, more people die from drug overdoses — including opioids, fentanyl and heroin — than from car accidents.

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‘I apologize’

Carter, who is married with five children, described his behavior as a “terrible decision” in a letter to the court.

“I apologize to anyone I may have hurt while engaging in this crime, and to my family for the stressful time they have been through,” the letter read. “I will make better decisions for myself and my family in the future.”

In asking for clemency, Carter cited his 20 years coaching youth football for the Detroit PAL, saying football was his passion and helped him get a college scholarship to the University of Arkansas at Pine-Bluff.

“My new plan is to set some goals,” Carter’s letter continued, stressing that life behind bars would hinder his ability to work and support his family. “I will rehabilitate my mind and body to become a better man, husband, father and mentor.”

In a presentation report, Carter also said:

“Once again I took the wrong path and made a decision that would determine my success or failure as a human being. I will take this time to improve and rehabilitate myself. I didn’t give up…”

Contact Tresa Baldas: [email protected]

This article originally appeared in the Detroit Free Press: Opioid dealer LaVar Carter sentenced to 7 years in prison

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