A Jersey Shore couple was arrested for selling a toxic mix of fentanyl and heroin that resulted in the fatal overdose of a 36-year-old man from Monmouth County, authorities said.
George Cucuzella, 30, and Nicole Ricciardi, 32, both of Oceanport, were taken into custody on Tuesday for the drug-induced death of Raul Garcia of Keansburg, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said in a statement.
The overdose death occurred in Eatontown in December, he said.
Eatontown police received a call about a possible overdose victim in a local motel at 12:21 a.m. on Dec. 2, 2019, Gramiccioni said.
Police officers found Garcia lying on the bathroom floor of Room 137, the prosecutor said. He was unconscious and not breathing. Despite rescue efforts of the Eatontown Police Department, the Eatontown First Aid Squad and the MONOC Paramedics, Garcia was pronounced dead, Gramiccioni said.
An investigation by the Eatontown Police Department and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office found that the victim bought heroin twice on Dec. 1, once at a gas station in Eatontown and once earlier that same day in the area of his motel room, also in Eatontown, Gramiccioni said.
George Cucuzella, Nicole Ricciardi and another man who has since passed away, all were tied to the drug sales, Gramiccioni said.
An examination by the Middlesex County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the cause of Garcia’s death as “acute combined drug toxicity due to fentanyl, acetyl fentanyl, and heroin” and the manner of death as being an “accident.”
Cucuzella and Ricciardi were charged with strict liability for a drug-induced death, the prosecutor said. A person who sells a controlled dangerous substance is strictly liable for a death which results from the injection, inhalation or ingestion of that substance, Gramiccioni said.
If convicted, both face up to 20 years in New Jersey State Prison, subject to the “No Early Release Act” which requires that 85% of the sentence be served prior to release.
This case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Christopher J. Decker, director of the Office’s Major Crimes Bureau.
Cucuzella is represented by West Orange attorney John J. McMahon
Ricciardi is represented by West Orange attorney Dennis S. Cleary.
A detention hearing is scheduled for Monday, July 20 before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Paul X. Escandon.
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