(CBSDFW.COM) – An ex-employee of the Los Angeles Angels was charged with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl in connection with the 2019 overdose death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs who was found unresponsive in a North Texas hotel room while in town to face the Texas Rangers.
Former Angels Communications Director Eric Prescott Kay, 45, was charged via criminal complaint with conspiracy to distribute a mixture containing detectable amounts of fentanyl. He was arrested in Fort Worth and made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey L. Cureton at the Mahon Federal Courthouse Friday morning.READ MORE: North Texas Getting Short-Lived Break From Above-Normal High Temps
According to the criminal complaint, filed on July 30 and unsealed Friday, the investigation began on July 1, 2019, when the Southlake Police Department received a 911 call stating that Skaggs, then just 27 years old, was found dead in his hotel room at the Southlake Town Square Hilton. The Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s office later determined that Skaggs had a mixture of ethanol, fentanyl, and oxycodone in his system at the time of his death; it was later ascertained that but for the fentanyl, Skaggs would not have died.
“Tyler Skaggs’s overdose – coming, as it did, in the midst of an ascendant baseball career – should be a wakeup call: No one is immune from this deadly drug, whether sold as a powder or hidden inside an innocuous-looking tablet,” U.S. Attorney Nealy Cox said. “Suppressing the spread of fentanyl is a priority for the Department of Justice.”
Inside the baseball player’s hotel room, investigators discovered a number of pills, including a single blue pill with the markings M/30. An analysis of the pill – which closely resembled a 30-milligram oxycodone tablet – revealed it had been laced with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opiate.
In an initial interview with law enforcement, Kay allegedly denied knowing whether Skaggs was a drug user. He claimed the last time he’d seen Skaggs was at hotel check-in on June 30. However, a search of Skaggs’s phone revealed text messages from June 30 suggesting that he had asked Kay to stop by his room with pills late that evening.
Hotel key card records indicated that Kay’s room, no. 367, was opened at 11:29 p.m., and Skaggs’s room, no. 469, was opened nine minutes later, at 11:38 p.m.READ MORE: Rescuers Recover Body Of Bicyclist Who Flipped Over Bridge Railing Into Lake Lavon
Investigators later learned that, contrary to what he’d told law enforcement the day Skaggs’s body was discovered, Kay had allegedly admitted to a colleague that he had, in fact, visited Mr. Skaggs’s room the night of his death.
In the course of their investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration determined that Kay allegedly regularly dealt the blue M/30 pills – dubbed “blue boys” – to Skaggs and to others, dolling out the pills at the stadium where they worked.
“Fentanyl does not discriminate in its potential deadly consequences,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Eduardo A. Chávez. “With the prevalence of fentanyl in many of the counterfeit prescription drugs sold on the streets, every pill taken could be your last. The Dallas DEA mourns not only with the Skaggs family, but with all families who have endured loved ones taken too soon due to a drug overdose. As with Mr. Kay’s arrest, we will continue to identify and investigate those who distribute these drugs to ensure they face justice.”
If convicted, Kay faces up to 20 years in federal prison.
The family of Skaggs released a statement through their attorney, Rusty Hardin.
“The family is deeply heartbroken to learn that Tyler would be alive today were it not for a pill containing fentanyl that was provided by the Director of Communications of the Angels. We note that the Angels say they commissioned an independent investigation that concluded no one in management was aware that a team employee was supplying illegal drugs to Tyler. We encourage the Angels to make that report public.MORE NEWS: Charges Dropped Against 2 In Deadly Austin Shooting
We are relieved that no one else who was supplied drugs by this Angels executive met the same fate as Tyler. While nothing will replace the loss of Tyler, we are very grateful to federal prosecutors for their diligent and ongoing work.”