NYC drug suspects probed for possible link to Philip Seymour Hoffman case

By: CBS
By: CBS

NEW YORK -- Four people arrested on narcotics charges in Manhattan Tuesday night were being questioned by New York City police to determine whether they might be linked to the death of Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, CBS News has learned.

The New York Police Department confirmed to CBS News that three men and a woman were taken into custody on narcotics possession and other drug charges. WCBS reported that more than 350 bags of heroin were found in three apartments that were searched.

None of the bags had an "Ace of Spades" stamp or marker on them, police told WCBS, as law enforcement officials say some heroin bags recovered from Hoffman's apartment did.

WCBS said it was not clear whether authorities believe the suspects might have sold heroin directly to Hoffman, or to others who did.

Heroin recovered at the actor's apartment after he was found there dead with a syringe in his arm has tested negative for the powerful additive fentanyl, a police official said Tuesday.

Samples taken from Hoffman's Manhattan apartment didn't contain the potent synthetic morphine, which is added to intensify the high and has been linked to 22 suspected overdose deaths in western Pennsylvania, said the official, who wasn't authorized to talk about the evidence and insisted on anonymity.

Investigators also have determined that the "Capote" star made six ATM transactions for a total of $1,200 inside a supermarket near his home the day before his death, law enforcement officials said Tuesday. They've been piecing together his final hours using video surveillance to determine his whereabouts.

The 46-year-old actor was found dead in the bathroom of his apartment Sunday. His door was double-locked when his body was found around 11:30 a.m. by his assistant and a friend, law enforcement officials have said.

Besides the bank records, investigators discovered buprenorphine, a drug used to treat heroin addiction, at Hoffman's apartment and are examining a computer and two i Pads found at the scene for clues, two law enforcement officials said.

A private funeral, limited to family and close friends, will be held Friday in New York, Hoffman's representative said Tuesday. A memorial service is also expected to be held later this month.

"In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Phil's name to two charities that were very close to his heart: The DreamYard Project and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. The family wishes to thank everyone for their continued support and good wishes," the actor's publicist, Karen Samfilippo, said in a statement.

Hoffman is survived by his longtime partner, Mimi O'Donnell, and their three children.

A spokeswoman for the medical examiner's office said Tuesday there has been no official determination made on what killed Hoffman. Police have said the medical examiner's ruling on his cause of death will determine whether there is any criminality but they suspect it was an overdose.

More than 50 small plastic envelopes of heroin were recovered in Hoffman's apartment along with syringes, a charred spoon and various prescription medications, including a blood pressure drug and a muscle relaxant, law enforcement officials have said.

Some of the packets were variously stamped with the Ace of Hearts and others with the Ace of Spades, they said.

The New York Police Department's intense effort to determine the source of the drugs in an apparent accidental overdose is unusual. Courts have found in past rulings that under state law drug dealers can't be held liable for a customer's death.

Addiction specialist Dr. Louis Baxter, a former president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, said Tuesday that addicts, especially those who have built up high tolerances, can use as much as two bundles of heroin, or about two dozen packets, per day.

"Addicts with financial means will actually stockpile their drug," he said. "Someone who has developed tolerance, who is seeking to develop a high, may need to inject every two hours or so."

And more powerful heroin is now being sold on the streets. Narcotic agents say dealers competing for customers are not diluting the drug as much as they used to.

"There is a marketing scheme there," Jamie Hunt, acting special agent in charge of the New York office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, told CBS News. "They want addicts to know, 'This is my product, this is better than the guy down the street.'"
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© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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