A former UMass student is on trial for allegedly selling a fatal dose of heroin to a fellow student working as a confidential informant.
Jesse Carrillo, 28, is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of 20-year-old Eric Sinacori, who overdosed in 2013 at his off-campus apartment.
Carrillo, who attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst with Sinacori, is also facing a heroin distribution charge. He has pleaded not guilty to both charges.
Sinacori, 20, of New Jersey, died 10 months after he became a confidential informant for the university police department, which ended its student snitch program in 2015. He was a third-year kinesiology major and scholarship student.
Carrillo—arrested two years after Sinacori’s death—was studying graduate music theory after obtaining a bachelor’s in music at UMass. The flute performance major, who now lives in New Hampshire, was expelled in 2014.
After Carrillo’s indictment, Sinacori’s mother told the Daily Hampshire Gazette, “This is not going to bring my son back, but it gives me a little closure at this point.”
“It’s been a long time coming,” Francesca Sinacori said at the time.
Meanwhile, Carrillo’s attorney, J.W. Carney Jr., said his client entered a rehab program in January of 2014 and has been sober for 29 months. Carrillo is currently the admissions director for the sober residence, Carney told the Gazette.
“He has known this day was coming and he looks forward to ending this part of his journey as a drug-free and inspiration[al] example to people suffering from heroin,” Carney said. “He has dedicated his life to helping people in this way because he knows exactly what they are going through in their struggles.”
Eric Sinacori became an informant in the fall of 2012, when he was caught selling LSD and Molly in his dorm and carrying a hypodermic needle. UMass cops offered him a deal: become an informant and skirt criminal charges.
According to the Gazette, police didn’t inform Sinacori’s parents or school administrators of his drug abuse and his work with cops. It was only when Sinacori died that they became aware of the confidential informant program.
Francesca Sinacori had criticized authorities for not charging Carrillo sooner.
In May 2015, the grieving mother told The Boston Globe that her son’s cellphone had text messages from his dealer, who promised to send Sinacori to the “comforting arms of Miss H” hours before he died.
Still, prosecutors hadn’t charged anyone in Sinacori’s death. “I know who the dealer was, and they should, too. They had the phone records. What are they even doing? It’s just so frustrating,” Francesca Sinacori told the Globe.
The Globe, along with UMass investigative journalism students, first exposed Sinacori’s stint as a student informant in 2014. They identified him by Logan, his middle name. The story also revealed Sinacori’s alleged code name in the program: “CI-8.”
Sinacori’s parents, then asking for anonymity, told the Globe they separately drove from out of state to surprise their son. They found the former high-school hockey star on the bathroom floor, with a needle and spoon at his side. His body was already cold.
For their part, campus police said they never suspected Sinacori was a heroin user; the needle they found could have been used for other drugs. Campus Police Chief John Horvath said Sinacori declined an offer to get into drug treatment. “His biggest concern was his parents finding out about his situation,” Horvath told the Globe.
Last October, Francesca Sinacori filed a lawsuit against Carrillo, UMass Amherst, and a campus cop identified only as “John Doe.”
The mother alleges that the university was required to notify parents if their child was caught with illegal drugs, per the student code of conduct.
Cops investigated Sinacori for selling drugs but agreed not to charge him if he helped bust another dealer. After that dealer was arrested, university officials never told Sinacori’s parents about his heroin use, Francesca Sinacori says.
UMass police would keep students’ drug use secret from administrators if they worked as informants, the lawsuit says. The campus police officer was negligent and caused her son’s “fatal drug addiction to go untreated,” court papers allege.
Her lawsuit seeks $5 million in a breach of contract claim against the university, and $1 million for her son’s wrongful death due to Carrillo’s allegedly reckless conduct.
Eric Sinacori sold drugs to undercover cops twice in 2012, the Globe reported. When police searched his dorm room the second time, they found a hypodermic needle, drugs and $700 in cash. After Sinacori helped nab another dealer, cops returned the $700, which Sinacori used to buy more drugs, the lawsuit claims.
His informant work also put him at risk, the complaint alleges.
Sinacori wore a wire when he bought LSD, inside a dorm room, from a dealer with a criminal record, the lawsuit says. Cops swarmed in to bust the alleged dealer moments later, making it clear that Sinacori was a narc.
In the spring of 2013, Sinacori told his friends via text message that he would have to tell his parents he was a heroin addict, and that he expected his dorm to become a “shootup den” because of his addiction, the Globe reported.
After school resumed in the fall, Carrillo allegedly alerted Sinacori that he had “Tropicana”-labeled heroin to sell him. “I know you’re hurting but you will very soon be in the loving comforting arms of Miss H,” Carrillo told Sinacori via text message on Oct. 3.
Carrillo would allegedly peddle nine bags of heroin to Sinacori, who used three of them that fateful night. “How much Tropicana did you drink?” Carrillo wrote late that night.
But Sinacori never replied. His father found him dead in his dorm room on Oct. 4, 2013, during parents’ weekend.
Sinacori’s case as a student informant is not the only one getting national attention.
Last year, The Daily Beast reported on the death of Andrew Sadek, a 20-year-old student in North Dakota who was moonlighting as an informant.
Sadek’s family was also unaware he was a narc for cops—in this case, for not campus police but for the Richland County sheriff’s office. He was weeks away from graduating a two-year electrician program at the North Dakota State College of Science.
In November 2013, Sadek was caught selling $80 worth of marijuana to an informant at his school. An interrogation video later revealed a Richland County deputy warned Sadek he faced up to 40 years in prison for the pot.
“What I’m going to ask for you to do is do some buys for me… then depending upon how you do… a lot of this could go away,” the officer told Sadek.
Sadek’s body was found six months later in the Red River with a bullet in his head. He was wearing backpack full of rocks.
His parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the sheriff’s office and the deputy who recruited him, Jason Weber. The case is pending.
“I think [Andrew] was trying to get his quota, and he went to the wrong person,” Sadek’s mother, Tammy, told The Daily Beast last year.
In April, North Dakota legislators passed “Andrew’s Law,” which establishes protections for confidential drug informants including allowing them to speak to a lawyer before agreeing to work with law enforcement.