The probe of a November drug death in Stafford leads to the arrest of a suspected fentanyl dealer in Barnegat.

Peter Caragiani (Ocean Co. Dept. of Corrections)

Peter Caragiani, 23, is charged with strict liability for the November 7 death of Michael Nugent, 24, according to the office of Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato.

Caragiani is also charged with manslaughter, and possession and distribution of fentanyl.

Police found Nugent unresponsive in his South Main Street dwelling at about 10:18 PM. He was confimed dead at Newark Beth Israel Hospital.

Authorities said that signs of a drug overdose prompted local police to bring in the Ocean County Prosecutor's Major Crimes Unit and the Sheriff's Criminal Investigations Unit.

Caragiani was apprehended at his Hollow Way home, at about 11:45 PM on December 20, by Major Crimes Detective John Carroll and Stafford Township Detective John Schweigart. He was placed in the Ocean County Jail in Toms River, in lieu of $150,000 bail.

The investigation and arrest, Coronato said, underscore the gravity of the County's "No Dealer Zone" initiative, and the need for en masse community involvement.

"Dealers who are relentless in their efforts to profit from the misery and deaths of others have now resorted to dealing deadly doses laced with powerful synthetic opiates in order to combat our initiatives and to increase their addictive grip on users," Coronato said.

"We will continue to send a strong message through our enforcement efforts to these callous dealers, but Law Enforcement cannot address this evil alone. We implore everyone and anyone to join in our efforts. Citizens and community groups must show their disgust with this horrific new 'Synthetic Storm.' Please join us in working to stop the deaths and to make Ocean County a 'No Dealer Zone.'

A department spokesman did not indicate whether Caragiani has legal representation.

Criminal charges are accusations. Defendants are presumed innocent unless, and until, found guilty in a court of law.

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