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Former L.A. Angels employee charged in pitcher Tyler Skaggs' fatal opioid overdose

Tyler Skaggs was just 27 when he was found dead in his hotel room, as his team prepared to play the Texas Rangers.
Skaggs was drafted by the Angels in 2009 and later rejoined the franchise after spending time with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Skaggs was drafted by the Angels in 2009 and later rejoined the franchise after spending time with the Arizona Diamondbacks.Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images

A former Los Angeles Angels employee was criminally charged for allegedly supplying drugs that killed pitcher Tyler Skaggs last year, officials said Friday.

Eric Prescott Kay, who was director of communications for the Major League Baseball team at the time of the incident, was charged with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas.

Text messages on June 30 between Kay, 45, and Skaggs showed the Angels pitcher asking Kay to deliver pills to his room at a Hilton hotel in Southlake, Texas, according to a criminal complaint written by Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Geoffrey Lindenberg.

The Angels were in the Dallas area to play the Texas Rangers when the 27-year-old Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room on July 1.

Skaggs ingested a lethal combination of opioids and alcohol before choking on his own vomit due to "mixed ethanol, fentanyl and oxycodone intoxication," according to findings made last year by Dr. Marc Krouse, Tarrant County deputy chief medical examiner.

The powerful drug fentanyl is an easy ingredient for dealers and traffickers to slip into pills, and too many times, the drug takers don't realize what they're ingesting, according to U.S. Attorney Nealy Cox.

Skaggs likely believed he was taking just oxycodone and not a deadly combination with fentanyl, the prosecutor said.

"But for the fentanyl, Mr. Skaggs would be alive today," Cox told reporters outside a Fort Worth courthouse where Kay was arraigned earlier.

The Angels said in a statement on Friday that the club has been cooperating with investigators and hired a former federal prosector to conduct an internal probe.

"Our investigation also confirmed that no one in management was aware, or informed, of any employee providing opioids to any player, nor that Tyler was using opioids," the Angels said.

"As we try to heal from the loss of Tyler, we continue to work with authorities as they complete their investigation."

Rusty Hardin, a Texas lawyer representing Skaggs' family, urged the Angels to reveal more details of their independent investigation of Kay, who had worked for the team for 24 years.

"We note that the Angels say they commissioned an independent investigation that concluded no one in management was aware that a team employee was supplying illegal drugs to Tyler," Hardin said in a statement.

"We encourage the Angels to make that report public. We are relieved that no one else who was supplied drugs by this Angels executive met the same fate as Tyler."

A California attorney who represented Kay last year said Friday he was no longer of client of his.

It wasn't immediately clear who is representing Kay now.

In the complaint, Lindenberg wrote, "During the course of the investigation, I learned that T.S. and Kay had a history of narcotic transactions, including serval exchanges wherein Kay acquired oxycodone pills for T.S. and others from Kay's source(s) in the days leading up to and surrounding T.S.'s overdose death."

These pills were call "blues" or "blue boys" and "Kay would distribute these pills to T.S. and others in their place of employment and while they were working," Lindenberg alleged.

Cox called Skaggs a "left-hander with a ton of promise, a good teammate and a hard worker."

"Tyler Skaggs’s death — coming, as it did, in the midst of an ascendant baseball career — should be a wakeup call," Cox added.

"No one is immune from the deadly addictive nature of these drugs, whether sold as a powder or hidden inside an innocuous-looking tablet. Anyone can be fooled by counterfeit prescription drugs."

The investigation is ongoing and more arrests are possible, officials said.

"As with today’s arrest of Eric Kay, the DEA will continue to identify and investigate individuals and organizations responsible for the illicit trafficking of counterfeit and diverted controlled prescription drugs," DEA Special Agent in Charge Eduardo A. Chávez told reporters in Fort Worth.

"We will hold each and everyone of you accountable. "

This is a developing story, please refresh here for updates.

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