Overdose leads to decade behind bars

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Katarina Carinci

As far as federal court records are concerned, her victim doesn’t even have a name.

But their death —  whoever they were — will ultimately cost a 28-year-old Knoxville woman more than 10 years of her life for providing them the drugs they overdosed on. 

Katarina Scarlett Carinci was sentenced to 125 months in federal prison Friday by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas A. Varlan. 

Carinci, who goes by the street name of “Red,” was one of seven people indicted in 2019 for their alleged roles in a drug trafficking conspiracy that dealt in heroin and fentanyl and has been tied to at least two fatal overdoses and an execution-style murder.

Details of the allegations against them or even how the case has been handled through the court system have been placed under seal at the request of the government. 

Assistant United States Attorney Brent N. Jones is prosecuting the case.

Based on the few substantive court documents that are considered public records, the case is slowly working its way through the federal system. Three of Carinci’s co-defendants are still facing trial for their alleged roles. Another defendant was sentenced to “time served,” one got probation, and all charges were apparently dismissed against another.  

Federal prosecutors accused Carinci of distributing drugs to various customers in East Tennessee after obtaining them from the organization’s leaders between May 2017 and May 2018. 

“On one specific occasion in August 2017, officers responded to an overdose death in Oak Ridge,” according to a statement Friday from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “Prior to the death, the defendant had received drugs from her source and distributed drugs to a co-defendant, Samuel Hammond, who used the drugs with his friend.  The friend later overdosed and died.”

The “friend” who died was not named in the indictment or any of the sentencing documents available to the public. Hammond received three years’ probation for his role in the conspiracy but wasn’t actually charged in connection with his friend’s death. 

Carinci’s co-defendant in the death of the unnamed overdose victim, Jaleen G. Allen, aka “Jay Scoop,” hasn’t gone to trial or pleaded guilty as of yet and is probably in no hurry to do so. 

Allen, a Detroit gang member, is already behind bars for the brutal execution of a Knoxville man in August 2017, the same month of the overdose death.

Allen was in the process of selling heroin at a house in the Bearden neighborhood of West Knoxville when he encountered 28-year-old Michael W.  Johnson, whom he suspected of stealing a car from a friend. Allen taped Johnson’s wrists together, led him outside the house and then shot him 13 times with a .40-caliber pistol.

Jaleen G. Allen

Allen was later convicted by a Knox County jury of first-degree murder, especially aggravated kidnapping and using a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. He was sentenced to life plus 35 years in the state prison system.  

The federal indictment claims that Allen distributed drugs to a second person who died from an overdose on August 29, 2017. That victim isn’t named in court records, either.

Dozens of Detroit residents have been killed, injured or arrested themselves for killing and wounding other people on the streets of Knoxville and surrounding communities over the past few years. Many others have been arrested for trafficking in illegal drugs, primarily narcotic painkillers such as oxymorphone, heroin and fentanyl. 

Fentanyl is a highly potent narcotic painkiller used for decades in hospitals and for outpatient chronic pain treatment. Because of its cost and strength, organized crime groups began cutting heroin with it several years ago, leading to tens of thousands of overdose deaths across the country.

In Knox County alone, 222 people have died from overdoses this far this year, most of them involving fentanyl, authorities say. 

The cost in human life is one reason that law enforcement has prioritized catching dealers. Local and state authorities can bring murder charges in some overdose cases, while federal prosecutors can ensure that dealers face similarly lengthy prison terms if they’re convicted simply of trafficking in the deadly narcotic.

Carinci pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of a substance containing fentanyl and heroin. She also pleaded guilty to a single count of distributing fentanyl, according to court records. 

She is supposed to serve her time at Alderson, a prison camp for female inmates in W. Virginia, and receive 500 hours of substance abuse treatment as well as mental health treatment, according to court records. When her term in the U.S. Bureau of Prisons is finished, she will still have to serve five years of supervised release. 

The prosecution was the result of an investigation by the Appalachian High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area’s Drug Related Death Task Force, which includes members of the Knoxville Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration.  The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Oak Ridge Police Department, and the Knox County Regional Forensics Center also assisted in this investigation, according to the press release.

J.J. Stambaugh can be reached at jjstambaugh@hardknoxwire.com

Published on July 6, 2021