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Detroit — Federal prosecutors have filed criminal charges against several people accused of distributing drugs that led to the deaths of three people, a criminal crackdown that follows a spike in overdoses caused by a fatal mix of heroin and the painkiller fentanyl.

Federal court records indicate the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration launched an investigation of an Ypsilanti-based drug ring in April following a surge in overdose deaths across Metro Detroit.

The charges, announced Friday afternoon, follow the deaths this year of more than 60 people in Wayne and Washtenaw counties who took fatal doses of heroin and the powerful pain medication.

Nationwide, heroin overdoses tripled from 2010-13, according to the DEA.

In Oakland County, overdose deaths doubled from 2013-14.

“Heroin is poison, and overdose deaths are foreseeable to the criminals who sell it,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in a statement. “These charges send a strong message that heroin traffickers face severe consequences for the real harm that they inflict on our residents and our families.”

The charges were announced two months after the DEA issued a national alert warning about the dangers of fentanyl, which is 15 to 20 times more potent than heroin.

“DEA will continue to focus our resources on the drug violators such as these, who prey on our communities,” said Special Agent in Charge Joseph Reagan.

The four people charged are:

Zachary Burdette, 29, of Ypsilanti. He is charged with drug possession and is free on bond. According to federal prosecutors, he sold a mix of heroin and fentanyl to Benny Cavazos, 27, of Ypsilanti Township on April 4. If convicted, he faces up to life in federal prison.

Cavazos was found dead the next morning, slumped over on his bed with a syringe in his hand, according to court records. Burdette is free on bond.

Roy “Junior” Brownlee, 49, of Ypsilanti. He is accused of supplying the heroin/fentanyl mixture that killed Cavazos, according to prosecutors. The felon is being held without bond and, if convicted, faces up to life in federal prison.

Charlie Stevens, 24, of Beverly Hills. He is accused of distributing the pain medication Vicodin to an 18-year-old man from Franklin who died June 25, 2011. He is free on bond and faces up to 15 years in prison, if convicted in federal court.

Kenyatta “Big” McConico, 36, of Detroit. He allegedly distributed heroin to a 35-year-old Redford Township woman who overdosed March 19. He is in custody with a bail hearing next week. If convicted, he faces up to life in federal prison.

“Due to the excellent police work and investigations that were conducted, these dealers are no longer afflicting harm on our communities,” Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said in a statement.

Stevens’ lawyer declined comment. Lawyers for the other men could not be reached for comment.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2028

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