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Egg Harbor Township Man Charged in Drug Death of Sea Isle Teen, Other

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By Herald Staff

TRENTON – New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin announced the arrest of an Egg Harbor Township resident who allegedly sold fentanyl-laced drugs that killed a teen from Sea Isle City and another from Landenberg, Pennsylvania.
The incident occurred in Pennsylvania in August 2022, when the suspect, Elias Santiago-Vera, 25, allegedly sold imitation Percocet pills that contained fentanyl to a 17-year-old from Sea Isle, which were then provided to a 14-year-old from Landenberg.
According to the attorney general’s press release, dated April 28, Santiago-Vera allegedly traveled to Sea Isle City Aug. 16, 2022, and sold 24 pills he claimed were Percocet to the 17-year-old.
The teen traveled to the 14-year-old’s home in Pennsylvania later that night and the two ingested several pills each. Both teens were found unresponsive in separate bunks of a bunk bed by the 14-year-old’s father. They were transported to a hospital in Delaware, where they were pronounced dead.
Autopsy results indicate the teens died from the combined effects of fentanyl and para-fluorofentanyl, both synthetic opioids, which were found in the pills allegedly sold by Santiago-Vera.
According to the attorney general, the 17-year-old ordered the drugs through Telegram, an instant messaging app, and paid for them using the mobile payment service Cash App.
Pennsylvania State Police detectives executed a search warrant on the 14-year-old’s home and recovered a bookbag belonging to the 17-year-old.
The bookbag contained a bag labeled “Gelatti” containing 18 round, white pills labeled oxycodone. Lab results indicated the pills were fentanyl and methamphetamine.
Another bag held 17 green pills marked Xanax, but were analyzed and found to contain clonazolam, a benzodiazepine not approved for use in the U.S.
State police from Pennsylvania and New Jersey executed a search warrant on Santiago-Vera’s residence Sept. 7, 2022, and recovered drugs, including pills marked as oxycodone that tested positive for xylazine, a veterinary drug used as a sedative for horses and cows, per the attorney general’s release. They also recovered bright blue bags marked “Gelatti,” the same type of bags found in the teen’s bookbag.
Santiago-Vera, who was indicted March 15, allegedly fled to Mexico but surrendered to authorities in Texas March 31. He was extradited to New Jersey and was arraigned before Superior Court Judge Todd Miller in Atlantic County, April 27, and ordered held in jail pending trial.
Santiago-Vera is charged with two counts of strict liability for a drug-induced death, a first-degree crime, which carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison, and multiple other drug offenses.
He is also charged with two counts of distribution of imitation controlled dangerous substances (CDS), possession of CDS, three counts of distribution of CDS, and possession with the intent to distribute imitation CDS – all third-degree crimes.
The first-degree charges carry a fine of up to $200,000 and no parole eligibility for the first 85% of the sentence. The third-degree charges carry a fine of up to $15,000.
As part of the Comprehensive Drug Reform Act of 1987, New Jersey enacted a provision making it a first-degree crime to unlawfully distribute a CDS that results in death. The statute prescribes strict liability, and it is no defense that the drug user contributed to his or her own death by voluntarily ingesting the substance that caused death. The statute applies to every person along the drug distribution chain, not just the dealer who may have personally interacted with the decedent.

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