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ST. LOUIS — Authorities said three factors linked multiple overdoses that occurred within two hours in August 2020: fentanyl, the Ameristar Casino and Ledra Craig.

Craig, federal prosecutors said, caused the death of one man and serious overdoses of two others after he sold them drugs at the St. Charles casino. They blamed him for being part of the widespread proliferation of a deadly substance that can kill people in minutes.

On Friday, a jury convicted Craig, 46, of Wright City, on five charges, including causing the death of Ryan Paris with the fentanyl he sold.

Craig’s attorney said her client was being accused of something he didn’t do, and she offered alternative explanations for Paris’ death and the overdoses of the other two men.

It all started on the gaming floor of the Ameristar Casino just after 6:20 a.m. Aug. 2, 2020.

Craig showed up on surveillance video meeting multiple people, at one point disappearing into a bathroom with a man named Letrell Tappin. The two stayed there for roughly five minutes, according to court documents.

After that meeting, Craig met up with Ryan Paris. Craig pulled a quarter-sized, white object out of his pants pocket. Both examined it. The two men walked into the parking garage toward a GMC Terrain, and Paris’ friend, Nickolaus Bruno, appeared. Paris then appeared to buy drugs from Craig, prosecutors argued.

Meanwhile, in the lobby, Tappin was caught on surveillance video staggering backward and crumpling into a corner. Paramedics arrived moments later to revive him.

Bruno and Paris then left the casino in a maroon Chevy car, driving to a St. Charles neighborhood and parking outside a house. A neighbor noticed the car while out on a walk. The neighbor noticed it had rolled onto a lawn roughly an hour later, and when he went to speak with them he found both the driver and passenger passed out.

Paramedics arrived around 9:15 a.m. Paris had died. Bruno needed multiple doses of Narcan, an opioid reversal drug, before he regained consciousness. In the center console, police found rolled-up bills and fentanyl residue nearby.

Later that afternoon, an undercover officer arranged to buy $400 worth of fentanyl from Craig. He was caught on video during the sale, according to court documents and testimony.

Authorities reviewed Craig’s phone and found text messages between Craig and another person named “Glenn” where they discussed selling drugs and between Craig and other people where he advertised “fen” and “fenny.”

“Ledra Craig was selling fentanyl — one of the deadliest drugs known to man,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Derek Wiseman said. “He knew exactly what he was doing.”

Craig’s attorney, Susan McGraugh, argued there was not enough evidence to convict.

She said Paris and his friend, former Bellefontaine Neighbors police officer Nickolaus Bruno, had been drinking and using prescription drugs for 12 hours before they showed up that morning at the casino.

She said they could’ve passed out because they were “blind drunk,” and Paris could have died of a heart problem after consuming alcohol and some prescription amphetamines.

“People with heart disease cannot take amphetamines,” McGraugh said. “It’s deadly. It is lethal.”

And, McGraugh said, while prosecutors attempted to paint Craig as a “big-time drug dealer,” they didn’t find any evidence of large-scale packaging or distribution when they searched his home.

Ultimately, a jury took nearly five hours to find Craig guilty of two counts of distributing fentanyl and causing serious bodily injury, one count of distributing fentanyl resulting in death, conspiring to distribute fentanyl and distributing fentanyl.

Craig’s sentencing is set for April 24. He is facing a sentence of between 20 years to life.

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