Man who sold Michael K. Williams deadly dose of heroin sentenced to 10 years in prison

Michael K. Williams wears an olive blazer and a white button-down shirt as he leans on a door jamb
The dealer who sold Michael K. Williams a deadly dose of heroin has been sentenced to 10 years in prison. “This sentence, while severe, is sufficient but not greater than necessary,” the judge said.
(Los Angeles Times)
Share via

A Brooklyn drug dealer was sentenced to 10 years in prison for providing Emmy-nominated “The Wire” star Michael K. Williams with a fatal dose of fentanyl-laced heroin.

Irvin Cartagena, 40, of Aibonito, Puerto Rico, was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams. Cartagena had pleaded guilty in April to conspiring to distribute drugs.

Williams overdosed in his Brooklyn penthouse apartment in September 2021. He was found “cold” by his nephew and died hours after authorities said he bought the heroin from Cartagena on a sidewalk in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. The deal was recorded by a nearby security camera.


New York City’s medical examiner ruled that Williams, 54, died of accidental acute drug intoxication.

Cartagena faced a mandatory minimum of five years in prison and could have faced up to 40 years. Three others were also charged for being part of the drug-trafficking crew that continued to deal from the deadly batch after becoming aware that it had caused Williams’ death. Last month Carlos Macci, 71, was also sentenced and received more than two years in prison for his role in the star’s fatal overdose.

“I am very sorry for my actions,” Cartagena said before the sentence was announced, according to the Associated Press. “When we sold the drugs, we never intended for anyone to lose their life.”

Carlos Macci, a 71-year-old man charged in the 2021 death of ‘The Wire’ star Michael K. Williams, has been sentenced to more than two years in prison.

July 26, 2023

Judge Abrams acknowledged that people who knew Cartagena described him as “helpful and humble and hard-working,” when he was abstaining from using drugs.

“I’m hopeful that with treatment ... it will help you move forward on a more productive and law-abiding path,” Abrams added.

In a statement, U.S. Atty. Damian Williams condemned Cartagena’s involvement in the tragedy stating: “On September 5, 2021, Irvin Cartagena sold Michael K. Williams a fatal dose of heroin laced with fentanyl and a fentanyl analogue. Michael K. Williams tragically lost his life after using the drugs sold to him by Cartagena.


“Although their product had already claimed one life, Cartagena and his co-conspirators continued to sell potentially lethal fentanyl-laced heroin. This Office will tenaciously continue our enforcement efforts against unscrupulous drug dealers who distribute poison and exacerbate the scourge of the fentanyl epidemic.”

Prosecutors added that Cartagena eventually fled to Puerto Rico, where he was arrested in February 2022.

Prior to sentencing, Cartagena’s lawyer, Sean Maher, argued that a harsh sentence wouldn’t bring back the acclaimed actor.

“In a tragic instant, Mr. Cartagena was the one who handed the small packet of drugs to Mr. Williams — it easily could have been any of the other men who were there or in the vicinity selling the same drugs,” Maher wrote, according to the Associated Press. “Sentencing Mr. Cartagena to double digits of prison time will not bring back the beautiful life that was lost.”

‘The Wire’ star Michael K. Williams died from a fentanyl overdose in 2021. Now, the show’s creator asks for ‘mercy’ for the man charged with selling it to him.

July 7, 2023

Also prior to sentencing, prosecutors requested a minimum 12-year sentence for Cartagena. But the court’s Probation Department pushed further, suggesting 20 years, citing his 14 prior convictions for drug-related crimes, which included burglary, robbery and prison escape.

Judge Abrams concluded that the recommendations were “simply too high.”

“This sentence, while severe, is sufficient but not greater than necessary,” she said, according to the Associated Press.


Last month, prior to Macci’s sentencing, David Simon, the co-creator of “The Wire,” asked for leniency for the 71-year-old, citing the man’s issues with addiction and Williams’ dedication to public service and rehabilitation.

In a three-page letter, Simon wrote that “Michael would look at Mr. Macci and hope against hope that this moment in which he finds himself might prove redemptive, that his remaining years might amount to something more, and that by the grace of love and leniency, something humane and worthy might be rescued from this tragedy.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.