May 2, 2024

Prosecutor's office announces increased enforcement for fentanyl dealers linked to overdose deaths

Marion County Proscecutor Ryan Mears discusses an uptick of charges against dealers whose clients have died due to a drug overdose.  - Ben Thorp / WFYI

Marion County Proscecutor Ryan Mears discusses an uptick of charges against dealers whose clients have died due to a drug overdose.

Ben Thorp / WFYI

The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office announced three charges on Thursday in drug dealing cases that resulted in death.

Law enforcement officials are making use of a 2018 law that allows for higher penalties –– up to 40 years in prison –– against dealers if a person they sell drugs to dies.

Michael Gannon, assistant special agent for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said dealers selling fentanyl need to be held to account.

“Never has there been a worse time in our country to think you’re going to use recreational drugs because fentanyl is being added to so many different drugs,” Gannon said.

Since the Indiana law was passed six years ago, only 16 charges have been filed in Marion County, 11 of which were since January of last year.

Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said the uptick in filings is part of an effort to deter dealers from selling drugs laced with fentanyl.

“None of us up here are suggesting that the solution to our drug problem is enforcement and enforcement alone,” Mears said. “We do believe there is an important part that all of us can play in trying to slow down the supply and deter people from using.”

Research published last year in the American Journal of Public Health suggests crackdowns on dealers may actually increase drug overdoses. The paper hypothesized this was because seizures could push users to a new dealer and an uncertain dosage.

In response to the research, some experts have suggested that drug seizures should be folded into a wider public health strategy.

The increase in filing charges is also due to increased collaboration between the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, the Marion County Coroner’s Office, and the DEA.

“[We] intend to drive home the message of enforcement for those choosing to deal deadly narcotics and intervention for those needing help,” IMPD Deputy Chief Kendale Adams said.

In both Marion County and statewide overall drug overdose deaths declined from 2022 to 2023.

According to the Marion County prosecutor’s office, fentanyl-related deaths fell from 641 in 2022 to 543 in 2023.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder you can seek help by calling 844-554-3354 or visiting

Contact WFYI health reporter Ben Thorp at


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