Reporter

Nancy Amons is an award-winning member of the News4 Investigates team. She has been breaking stories in Middle Tennessee for more than 20 years.

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - A federal judge called it one of the saddest cases he’s ever seen.

Drug dealers sold counterfeit pills, knowing their customers were keeling over in droves, some of them dying.

Jonathan Barrett is now in prison for selling pills that prosecutors said led to three deaths and more than 30 people collapsing from overdose during a 24-hour period in 2016.

Murfreesboro hospitals, police and EMS were swamped with calls.

Barrett sold pills that were pressed and stamped to look like Percocet, a commonly prescribed pain pill.

There was no Percocet in these, instead a potentially lethal substitute.

“What you’re getting is fentanyl, which is 10 times stronger than heroin,” said Murfreesboro Police Sgt. Tommy Massey.

Massey investigated the first – Tiffany Scott - in a series of deaths. Her roommate found her cold body.

Barrett’s phone was blowing up. His customers reported bad reactions to the “perk,” short for percocet.

One customer texted “the perk you sold us sent me to er in ambulance.”

Someone else “said that it messed her up, said she wrecked her car and went to the hospital,” Barrett said in court.

“He was being reached out to, from people that he had sold to, that they were getting sick,” said Massey.

The faces of the victims became court exhibits.

The most damning evidence against Barrett – the timeline. He kept selling the pills even though he knew people were dying.

“When you sold between 12:30 and 2 and you knew Tiffany was dead, and you knew it had a potential to be from those Percocet,” Massey asked when interviewing Barrett.

“When we confronted him about it, he admitted he continued to make the sales, that he had to get rid of the pills,” said Massey.

“He had $1,000 invested in it, so he’s not going to flush his money down the toilet.”

A federal judge has sentenced six defendants so far.

Barrett, who made a $2 profit off each of those pills, was sentenced to 23 years in prison.

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