New Haven School Custodian on Unpaid Leave Following Drug Charges

The night custodian of a New Haven school has been on unpaid leave since he was arrested in connection with several fentanyl overdoses reported last week. 

Steven Whaley, an assistant building manager at Lincoln Bassett School and two other men were arrested arrested on federal charges after an investigation into 17 drug overdoses in New Haven, including three that were fatal.

"Whaley is a night custodian at Lincon Bassett School and has been with the district for more than 10 years. As a night custodian, he has had very minimal contact with students," the school said in a statement.

The 17 people overdosed around June 23 and four remain hospitalized, according to the affidavit for the arrests of 57-year-old Frank Pina, 55-year-old Jerome Clay Sr. and 48-year-old Whaley.  

The overdoses prompted New Haven officials to issue a public health emergency last week and New Haven police and DEA agents have been working together to investigate.

Several of the people who overdosed thought they were taking cocaine, but they were actually taking fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that doctors said is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin, according to federal authorities. 

Investigators believe Pina, Clay and Whaley supplied the drugs to at least 12 of the people who overdosed, including two of the people who died, authorities said. 

Part of the investigation included the use of informants, including one who told police that Pina had become sick himself after trying the drug.

When investigators looked into his medical records, they showed Pina was hospitalized from June 19 to 22 for an overdose. 

Pina and Clay have been charged with possession with intent to distribute, distribution of controlled substances and conspiracy to distribute controlled substance. The affidavit says they sold drugs wrapped in lottery tickets near a liquor store on Dixwell Street. 

Whaley was charged with possession with intent to distribute and distribution of a controlled substance.  

All three suspects have been detained.

Pina and Clay are due back in court on July 12 and Whaley is due back in court on Sept. 12.

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