Cincy heroin dealer pleads guilty to trying to hire a hitman to - Cincinnati News, Weather, Sports from FOX19 NOW-WXIX

Cincy heroin dealer pleads guilty to trying to hire a hitman to silence witness

Phillip Watkins (Provided) Phillip Watkins (Provided)

Last summer Phillip Watkins, 32, was indicted with trafficking heroin laced with fentanyl and carfentanil, a substance 10,000 times more powerful than morphine. Now he has plead guilty to trying to recruit a hitman to kill potential witnesses that may testify against him. 

A federal indictment says Watkins knowingly tried to hire a hitman between October 7 and December 16 in Ohio to murder an informant that is set to provide testimony in Watkin’s heroin case.

Watkins’ case is the first federal trafficking carfentanil case in the country., according to acting U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glass.

Hamilton County Heroin Task Force members arrested Watkins September last year. Watkins faces seven-count indictment on alleged drug offenses. Authorities say he sold heroin from his Carthage residence in August. The drugs resulted in serious physical harm including non-fatal overdoses to users.

Cincinnati saw a dramatic uptick in overdoses and deaths when synthetic opioids hit the streets. According to city data, first responders are called to an about 100 overdose incidents a month. In September last year, there were over 450 overdoses and at least eight deaths after a of heroin was laced with carfentanil and fentanyl. The synthetics are so potent, it is dangerous for law enforcement to handle any drug materials they may seize in an overdose call. 

The rate of fatal overdoses in the United States has nearly tripled since 1999, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Friday. One in four drug overdoses in 2015 were related to heroin. In 1999, just 6 percent of all overdoses in the country were opioid related. 

Ohio and Kentucky are among the four states with the highest drug overdose rate. In 2015, the states with the statistically higher than national rate of drug overdoses were West Virginia (41.5 per 100,000 people), New Hampshire (34.3), Kentucky (29.9) and Ohio (29.9).

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