How a 2-time Michigan opioid dealer convinced a judge to show some mercy

Lavar Carter was more than a pill pusher. He was a college-educated opioid dealer who got a break the first time he ran afoul of the law.

He later broke the law again — for the same crime, selling pain pills — but was spared the harsh sentence the feds wanted.

In U.S. District Court this week, Carter, 45, of Southfield, was sentenced to seven years in prison for distributing more than 90,000 highly addictive prescription pain pills on the streets — a similar crime to what he had been convicted of nearly a decade earlier. That time, he cooperated with the government and received a prison sentence of 20 months, compared to the 6 and a half years he was facing.

Eight years later, he was caught up in another opioid scheme.

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He was released on bond but continued to work in the illegal pill trade, said prosecutors, who asked for a maximum sentence of 11 years in prison for Carter, calling him an “educated 44-year-old man” who repeatedly thumbed his nose at the law.

“Through his own repeated conduct, Carter has demonstrated that he is not completely deterred despite a prior federal prison sentence,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Ross wrote in a sentencing memo, in which he pushed Carter to get 110-137 months in prison. “(This sentencing range) is more appropriate for a repeat offender like Carter who has shown his contempt for this court, its orders, and the most basic expectations of society.

With her children in the courtroom, Carter and her attorney seek mercy from the judge.

Carter asked for a sentence of three years in prison, citing, in part, his chronic battle with alcoholism: he was drinking a fifth of alcohol a day when he committed these crimes, his lawyer argued in court records the court

Carter also mentioned a troubled and dysfunctional childhood. His mother was in prison until he was 9 years old, and he battled a lifelong drug addiction. Her father was a chronic alcoholic who had little or no involvement in her life. He spent his formative years rotating from one grandparent’s house to another. He started drinking at 13, and smoking pot at 16. Drunken driving convictions followed, although he married and had five children – which urged the judge to show mercy to his father.

Carter’s children described him as a loving and supportive father who took them to sporting events, attended their volleyball games, taught them to fish and encouraged them to do good things with the his life As one son stated in a letter to the judge: “… every time I say to him, ‘I want to be like you when I grow up,’ he responds with, ‘No, son, you want to be better than me.'”

The probation department recommended a sentence range of 151-188 months for Carter, about 12 to 15½ years.

In the end, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman gave Carter seven years — three years less than prosecutors sought and about half the probation department’s recommendation, though more than the double what Carter hoped for.

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Feds: Carter helped fuel addictions

According to court records, Carter was a patient recruiter who used family members and people he met at soup kitchens to get information to fill prescriptions for opioids that ended up on the streets. Over the course of a year, he distributed more than 90,000 doses of Oxycontin, Percocet and other opioids out of an area medical clinic.

Prosecutors said he worked at New Vision Rehab Center, where he provided doctors with lists of patient names and identification that he knew were being used to fill medically unnecessary prescriptions. He and others exchanged prescriptions for cash in a scheme that lasted from 2019-20.

Carter pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme in March 2021. After his guilty plea, he was released on bond.

But he was right back, said prosecutors, who said they had text messages showing Carter was still being treated with opioids while out on bond.

After his sentencing, Carter’s bond was immediately revoked and U.S. marshals took him into custody.

“Carter’s scheme of illegally funneling prescription pills into communities and feeding overdose deaths for profit has come to an end,” said Orville Greene, head of the administration’s Office for Detroit Drug Enforcement.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription opioids continue to be involved in more overdose deaths than any other drug, with America seeing a 15-year increase in overdose deaths of prescription opioids, and a recent increase in illegal opioid overdoses primarily driven. with heroin and fentanyl made illegally. In Michigan, more people die from drug overdoses — including opioids, fentanyl and heroin — than car accidents.

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“I want to apologize”

Carter, who is married with five children, described his behavior as a “terrible decision” in a letter to the court.

“I want to apologize to anyone I offended during my involvement in this crime, and to my family for putting me through this stressful time,” the letter says. “In the future, I will make better decisions for myself and my family.”

In asking for mercy, Carter cited his 20 years coaching youth football for Detroit PAL, saying football is his passion and helped him earn a scholarship to the University of Arkansas at Pine-Bluff .

“My new plan is to set some goals,” Carter’s letter continued, stressing that life behind bars will hinder his ability to work and support his family. “I will rehabilitate my mind and body to become a better person, husband, father and mentor.”

In a presentation report, Carter also stated:

“Once I traveled down the wrong path and I made a decision that will determine my success or failure as a man. I will take this time to improve myself and become rehabilitated. I will not give up…”

Contact Tresa Baldas:

This article originally appeared in the Detroit Free Press: Opioid dealer Lavar Carter sentenced to 7 years in prison

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