Pittsfield man allegedly sold 'bad' heroin linked to spate of overdoses

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PITTSFIELD — A city man is being held without bail for allegedly selling a potent strain of heroin that may be responsible for a recent rash of overdoses — one of which was fatal.

Kenneth Rathbun, 52, was out on bail from a previous drug case when police received a tip that he had been selling bags of heroin stamped with the words "American Gangster."

Authorities believe heroin in that packaging has caused a series of overdoses throughout the state recently. Locally, police said, there were five overdoses that were successfully reversed with Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of opioids, and one overdose death between Nov. 13 and Nov. 17.

Additionally, there were a pair of recent cases of drivers allegedly operating a motor vehicle under the influence of heroin.

"American Gangster," heroin was involved in all eight of those cases, according to Pittsfield Police. Three of those overdoses occurred on Nov. 17, according to court files.

Someone who knew one of the overdose victims contacted police Tuesday and informed them the "American Gangster" heroin was purchased from Rathbun.

Police located Rathbun and pulled over the vehicle in which he was riding near the intersection of Wahconah and Wilson streets.

Rathbun allegedly appeared shocked when he was told police had information that heroin he was selling had possibly caused a series of overdoses, one of which was fatal.

He was searched and was found to be carrying 50 bags of heroin, a pair of cellphones and a crack pipe, according to court records.

The street value of the heroin is approximately $500 and a search warrant is being sought for the cellphones, police said. The driver of the vehicle was searched along with the vehicle. Nothing illegal was found and the driver was released.

Rathbun pleaded not guilty in Central Berkshire District Court on Wednesday to possession of heroin with intent to distribute and possession of a Class B drug for the crack pipe.

Judge William Rota ordered Rathbun held without bail pending a Dec. 18 pretrial hearing.

Rathbun also is facing drug possession charges stemming from his September arrest. That case is still pending.

Contact Bob Dunn at 413-496-6249.


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