Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Deadly ‘Ace of Spades’ Branded Heroin

Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead with a needle in his arm and envelopes of heroin stamped with an Ace of Spades logo. This isn’t the first time the brand has been in the news.

Andrew Burton/Getty,Andrew Burton

At approximately 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in the bathroom of his Greenwich Village apartment. He lay on his side in a t-shirt and shorts with a hypodermic needle in his left arm. According to police, five empty heroin envelopes were in the trash, and two full ones were found near his person. Some of the envelopes were branded with an Ace of Spaces logo, others with an Ace of Hearts. Whoever sold Hoffman this brand of narcotic aided in his untimely death.

He left behind his longtime partner and creative collaborator, Mimi O'Donnell, and their three young children.

Heroin, in general, has seen a major surge in the New York City-Long Island areas in recent years. On March 24, 2009, the New York field division of the Drug Enforcement Agency arrested 13 men in Long Island in a heroin-trafficking operation that moved large quantities of the drug from Elmhurst, Queens, to western Suffolk. The “ringleaders” were Gilberto “Macho” Rivera, 25, of Oakdale, and Felix Cruz, 29, of Brooklyn.

“Inside their car, detectives recovered $25,000 in cash and 5,000 packets of heroin packaged for street sales,” said Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota in a statement. “Just a few hours later, we executed a search warrant at Mr. Cruz’s property in Queens that we suspected of being his heroin distribution center. Inside the apartment at 32-15 112th Street in East Elmhurst, we found 2,000 bags of heroin packaged for individual sale, thousands of glassine envelopes, scales, a grinder used to cut the heroin with lactose, three loaded handguns and an AR-15 assault rifle stored in Mr. Cruz’s guitar case.” He added that they also found “packaging paraphernalia including scales, grinders and stamps these dealers used to label their product with names like Ace of Spades, Underdog, and Stop Snitching.”

Rivera later pled guilty to a 14-count indictment including murder in the second degree, robbery, drug and weapons possession, and conspiracy to distribute narcotics.

The Ace of Spades heroin has been spreading across the country, too. On July 7, 2011, 12 people in Wichita, Kansas, were indicted on heroin trafficking charges, including Jermaine Ward, 28, who was accused of establishing a heroin distribution center in Wichita from drugs obtained in New York. The busts came as part of a 13-month investigation dubbed Operation Resection.

“This investigation targeted a form of powdered heroin that is easily inhaled rather than injected,” U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said in a statement. “This type of heroin is growing in popularity in urban and suburban areas across the country. As a result, the number of overdoses caused by heroin is growing nationally, too.”

An investigator’s affidavit in Ward’s arrest described a series of undercover purchases made by investigators, the last of which came on Oct. 5, 2010, when investigators “reported paying $2,000 for 98 bags of heroin. The bags were stamped with the word ‘Ace’ in the shape of an ace of spades.”

It seems that most of the heroin is hailing from Brooklyn and Queens. In Jan. 2012, after a yearlong probe, eight members of a drug ring were arrested for selling high-quality South American heroin at various hotels, diners, and electronic stores in Brooklyn and Queens. Users would cop the heroin from pushers in Brooklyn and Queens and then transport it to eastern Long Island, resulting in the arrests of 120 suspects, 90 of which hailed from Suffolk County. According to the New York Daily News, the heroin could be purchased from the Brooklyn and Queens pushers at an extreme discount—$400 for 100 packets, or around a third of the street price. More than 8,000 packets of heroin were eventually seized, and prosecutors came to dubbing the Long Island Expressway “heroin highway.”

Bad batches of heroin are spreading across the country as well. A lethal combination of heroin and the opiate fentanyl, a drug used to soothe pain in cancer patients, has been responsible for close to 100 deaths from New Hampshire to Washington State, including 37 in Maryland since September, and two dozen in Pennsylvania. The heroin has been labeled “bud ice,” “income tax,” and “Theraflu,” according to authorities, and just last month, was said to be responsible for 5 deaths in the Nassau County area, thus spreading to New York.

The Ace of Spades heroin popped up again recently on Jan. 16 when authorities arrested Kendall Sistrunk, 49, with transporting heroin from New York to Stamford, Connecticut, for sale. Sistrunk would take the train to New York every day, purchase heroin at discount, and hide it in his buttocks on the ride back, where he’d sell it on the streets of Stamford at double the cost.

“Police found 44 bags of heroin with an Ace of Spades brand with a street value of about $900,” according to Capt. Richard Conklin, head of Stamford’s Narcotics and Organized Crime Squad.