Heroin Dealer With Previous Drug Arrests Dodges Prison Time

A bag of heroin and drug paraphernalia are seen at an abandoned house in Ljubljana August 3, 2009. REUTERS/Bor Slana

A major heroin dealer with previous drug convictions dodged a lengthy prison sentence in New Jersey despite getting caught with 83 heroin bricks worth $25,000.

Police nabbed Gary Fox, 30, of Toms River, for possession of 4,150 doses of heroin along with a litany of other drugs including varying amounts of prescription pills and marijuana. Despite facing possible sentencing of more than 10 years in prison, Fox managed get his case tried by a state Drug Court, which handed down a six month rehab sentence and five years of probation. Fox previously skirted prison with the same sentence in 2009 for possessing drugs, reports New Jersey 101.5.

Police initially arrested Fox in May after an investigation into a heroin distribution operation. Authorities arrested him a second time in July while out on bail and found 540 wax folds of heroin at a residence, in addition to the 83 bricks seized in May. Fox remained in jail for 168 days until January when he plead guilty to two counts of third-degree possession with intent to distribute and one count of possession but began his rehab sentence in November.

Officials from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office responded to outrage when the news broke of Fox’s sentencing Wednesday, noting he was eligible for a trial in drug court.

“It is their legal right,” Al Della Fave, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, told Toms River Patch. “His application met all the legal requirements and he received admission to the program. We have no control over the process.”

GOP Gov. Chris Christie established drug courts as part of his efforts to combat opioid and heroin abuse in the state and provide second chances for non-violent offenders, but critics point to Fox as an example of the program’s flaws. If Fox fails to finish his rehab stint he faces a 10 year prison sentence.

Christie declared the opioid epidemic a public health crisis Jan. 17 in New Jersey, which has a death rate from heroin higher than the national average. There are roughly 128,000 heroin addicts in the state and health experts fear that number is likely growing. Heroin deaths spiked 22 percent between 2014 and 2015 and the state doubled the national drug overdose death rate with 1600 fatalities in 2015.

Ocean County in particular is consumed by heroin overdose fatalities, which may eclipse 200 in 2016, though the numbers are not yet final. That would be roughly one heroin death every 43 hours.

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