Federal agents uncovered an 11-person international heroin ring in New Orleans in April — and one man used the morgue van he drove as part of the conspiracy, authorities said.
Rodney “Sugar Man” Robinson, the 60-year-old driver of an Orleans Parish Coroner's Office morgue van, has been accused of using the vehicle to buy, sell and package drugs, the New Orleans Advocate reports. Robinson was caught dealing heroin in or around July 2017, according to an indictment of Robinson and others involved in the alleged drug ring.
FBI agents arrested Robinson April 13 on federal drug charges, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. That arrest occurred as Robinson was responding to a local drug overdose death, according to the Advocate. Speaking to a New Orleans police officer who was working with the FBI, Robinson confessed that he had been dealing drugs from the publicly-owned vehicle, the Advocate reported.
Robinson told the officer that “sales were conducted from the coroner’s van that he uses for his job,” an officer testified in court, according to the Advocate. “He would … break it down and package it for street-level sales.”
Robinson faces one count of distribution of heroin in addition to conspiracy to distribute charges, according to Duane A. Evans, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
The distribution charge alone carries up to 20 years in prison, according to federal prosecutors, followed by at least three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $1 million.
The FBI worked with the Drug Enforcement Administration to investigate the alleged crime, federal prosecutors said. A total of 11 men from Houston and New Orleans face charges, federal prosecutors said. The drug ring is allegedly tied to Colombia, as well.
The coroner’s office fired Robinson following his April arrest, the Times-Picayune reports.
Before he got his job with the coroner’s office, Robinson had been convicted of dealing cocaine in 1995, the Advocate reported. He was sentenced to three years probation for that offense. Separately, in 2013, Robinson pleaded guilty to criminal trespassing and got three months of probation after a woman said he stole jewelry from her — and then drove off in a vehicle owned by the city.
A coroner’s office spokesman told the New York Post that (despite his criminal record) a former New Orleans coroner had made the decision to hire Robinson in 2008.
Robinson is being held without bail, court records said.