Metro Weekly

Alleged Fentanyl Dealer Charged with Deaths of Two Gay Men

Jevaughn Mark was linked by investigators to the accidental poisoning deaths of Brandon Román and Robert Barletta.

Illustration by Todd Franson

An alleged fentanyl dealer who was previously charged with multiple counts of illegal drug distribution has been indicted on charges of distributing cocaine and fentanyl that resulted in the deaths of two gay men.

On June 13, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia announced in a press release that it had obtained a “secondary superseding indictment” linking 32-year-old Jevaughn “Ledo” Mark to the deaths of 38-year-old Brandon Román and 28-year-old Robert “Robbie” Barletta.

Román and Barletta were found unconscious at Barletta’s home on December 27, 2023, after police responded to a 911 call.

Román, an attorney and LGBTQ rights advocate, was declared dead at the scene, while Barletta, a historic preservation expert and home renovation business owner, was taken to Washington Hospital Center, where he died two days later.

Results of autopsies revealed the cause of death to be accidental consumption of drugs that created a fatal “toxic” effect.

Both men’s deaths were attributed to a combination of MDMA, or ecstasy, cocaine, fentanyl, and cocaethylene, a substance formed within the human body after someone consumes both cocaine and alcohol.

Additionally, Román’s autopsy showed traces of ketamine and xylazine, or “tranq,” a non-opioid tranquilizer approved for veterinary use but not for humans, which has been linked to a large number of drug overdoses when used, most likely unknowingly, with fentanyl as a party drug.

Many drug dealers will mix cheaper fentanyl with other drugs like heroin, cocaine, MDMA, and meth to increase their profits without risking the dwindling of their supply of party drugs.

Harm reduction advocates focused on preventing unintentional chemical poisonings or drug overdoses say xylazine is often ingested after it is used to cut opioids like fentanyl or heroin, often resulting in a host of unpleasant side effects, including the development of large ulcers on various parts of the body.

Jevaughn Mark is being held without bond on charges that include eight counts of unlawful distribution of fentanyl, cocaine, and heroin and distributing 40 grams or more of fentanyl between January 10 and March 13, 2024.

The charges stem from six controlled purchases in which Mark allegedly provided drugs to undercover agents from a task force comprised of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Metropolitan Police Department officers.

In each instance, the undercover agents requested “Special K,” or ketamine, from Mark, who supplied them with a mixture of fentanyl and other substances, including heroin, but not ketamine.

After obtaining a sealed indictment against Mark on March 21, law enforcement executed a search warrant the following day at his residence, where they recovered two firearms, cocaine, fentanyl, about $38,000 in cash, body armor vests, and drug trafficking paraphernalia.

Law enforcement executed another search at a second residence tied to Mark, where they discovered his brother, 30-year-old Angelo Mark.

From Angelo Mark’s bedroom, officers recovered seven firearms, 900 rounds of ammunition, dozens of pills, cocaine, fentanyl, drug trafficking paraphernalia, and about $50,000 in cash.

On April 9, both brothers were charged in a superseding 17-count indictment alleging that they participated in a larger conspiracy, along with other yet-to-be-named individuals, to distribute large amounts of fentanyl and cocaine throughout the D.C. metropolitan area between January 2021 and March 2024.

As part of that first superseding indictment, Angelo Mark was charged with possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.

Meanwhile, Jevaughtn Mark was charged with possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and heroin, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.

After the D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined the cause and manner of death for Román and Barletta, police were able to link their deaths to drugs allegedly sold by Jevaughn Mark as part of the aforementioned drug distribution conspiracy, resulting in the second superseding indictment last week.

Both Román and Barletta were well known in the local LGBTQ community and patrons of D.C.’s various gay bars. Following their deaths, there were calls from some to raise awareness of the unreliability of party drugs, and the dangers of opioid poisonings or overdoses, especially where fentanyl is concerned.

Several D.C. bars also hosted training sessions or provided educational information about naloxone, also known as Narcan, a lifesaving nasal spray that counteracts opioid overdoses, and testing strips that can be used to detect whether drugs have been laced with fentanyl. 

The D.C.-based harm reduction organization HIPS, Inc. recently launched an initiative employing “harm reduction” vending machines with the aim of curbing the number of opioid overdoses or unintentional poisonings among drug users in the District of Columbia.

The vending machines, which require a code to operate, contain Narcan, fentanyl testing kits, syringes and syringe wound care kits, “snorting kits” that include paraphernalia to aid users in snorting drugs — which carries less risk of overdose than administering drugs intravenously — and condoms for those engaged in sex work.

The aim is to ensure those engaging in illicit behaviors do not put their lives ant further at risk, and can respond effectively and rapidly when overdose or poisoning-related complications arise.

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