PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A Westport man has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for selling a fatal dose of fentanyl that caused the 2018 death of a Rhode Island man who had thought he was using heroin.

The Rhode Island Attorney General's Office announced Monday that 57-year-old Cary Pacheco entered a no contest plea last week to charges of trafficking fentanyl causing death.

A no contest plea is not the same as pleading guilty, as there is no admission of guilt.

Pacheco is the first to be sentenced under Kristen's Law, a Rhode Island law that took effect in 2018 and establishes a penalty of up to life in prison for anyone delivering controlled substances resulting in death.

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He was charged for selling fentanyl in September 2018 to a third party, who then delivered it to 29-year-old Andrew Paiva, resulting in his death by overdose in Newport.

Paiva and the third party had believed the drug they allegedly bought from Pacheco to be heroin, according to the A.G.'s office.

Upon his release from prison, Pacheco will spend 17 more years on probation.

On Sept. 10, the unnamed middleman sought to buy heroin from Pacheco, a drug trafficker from whom he had previously purchased heroin, the A.G.'s Office stated.

Paiva and the third party went to Portsmouth to meet Pacheco, who allegedly sold the person fentanyl instead of heroin, before returning to Newport.

Several hours later, Newport police responded to an overdose call at a shelter on Meeting Street to find Paiva unresponsive.

Emergency crews took Paiva to Newport Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Weeks later, after a controlled buy operation in which undercover officers purchased heroin from Pacheco in Newport, Pacheco was arrested.

During the arrest officers seized 81 glassine bags that lab testing confirmed held a mixture of heroin, fentanyl, acetyl fentanyl, and tramadol.

Pacheco was on probation for dealing drugs in Massachusetts at the time.

Newport police were able to use evidence from his GPS monitoring ankle bracelet to confirm his presence at the location and time where he sold the fentanyl to the third party.

Pacheco has a lengthy criminal record, including 10 separate arrests for distribution and/or possession from 1984 through 2017.

In 2017, Pacheco was arrested twice in Massachusetts for possession with intent to distribute drugs.

"Drug dealers – those dealing fentanyl and heroin in particular – must be the focus of our prosecutorial efforts," said Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha.

"Here, the defendant – a significant, repeated drug dealer – knew exactly what he was doing: distributing a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl to whoever ultimately used it."

"He neither knew the victim nor cared what happened to him," Neronha added.

"Though it pales next to the price paid by his victim, he has now paid a heavy price himself: 18 years in state prison, every year entirely deserved."

Kristen's Law was enacted in 2018 and establishes a criminal penalty of up to life in prison for anyone who delivers a controlled substance that results in death.

The law is named after Kristen Coutu, a Cranston woman who passed away in 2014 after taking a fatal dose of fentanyl.

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