Indictments obtained in drugging deaths of two men in New York City: Sources

A framed photo shows Linda Clary and her late son, John Umberger. — ABC News

(NEW YORK) — Prosecutors have obtained indictments in the case of two men who took tainted drugs at gay night clubs in New York City and then were assaulted, multiple sources familiar with the case told ABC News.

Last year’s deaths of John Umberger and Julio Ramirez were deemed homicides earlier this month and prosecutors obtained indictments last week from a grand jury last week for six people believed to be connected to the cases, sources said.

Police are now looking for the men allegedly involved in the deaths, with plans to charge at least two of them with second degree murder. Other charges would include robbery, identity theft, grand larceny and conspiracy, according to ABC News’ sources.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office declined to comment. Indictments will remain sealed until the defendants are arrested and appear in court.

At least 43 incidents of drugging have been linked to robberies in and around Manhattan clubs dating back to September 2021. Seven of the drugging incidents resulted in fatal overdoses, including the cases of Umberger and Ramirez. Although the patterns first gained public attention after the April and June deaths connected to gay bars in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, the patterns involve a mix of both straight and gay bars, and of both heterosexual and LGBTQ people.

Multiple suspects are still being sought in the two patterns of drugging that officials have established, which appear to be unrelated.

The patterns involve loosely knit robbery crews and no one person is believed involved in all incidents, according to police sources.

Police linked 17 drug-aided robberies between Sept. 19, 2021 and Aug. 28, 2022 to the method used against Umberger and Ramirez. In those cases, drunk victims were offered tainted narcotics or marijuana at a bar. Once the drugs took effect, they were robbed of their cellphones and large amounts of money were transferred from the victims’ bank accounts.

Another 26 robberies between March 18, 2022 and Dec. 8, 2022 are linked to a similar but separate pattern, sources say. This pattern involves a more violent method, with suspects offering tainted drugs to victims in clubs before stealing money, jewelry and cellphones for money transfers.

Some of the robberies in that pattern have been perpetrated through brute force outside or near clubs for jewelry and cash.

Ramirez, 25, was found dead in the back of a taxi and his bank accounts were drained after a night out at Ritz Bar and Lounge in April 2022.

Umberger, 33, was found dead inside an apartment where he had been staying after arriving in New York for business in June 2022.

The 2022 deaths of the two men were ruled homicides after they were given drugs tainted with fentanyl.

Officials are also looking for the perpetrators behind the death of fashion designer Kathryn Marie Gallagher, who was discovered dead in her Lower East Side home last July. Her death was ruled a homicide last week and is connected to one of the drugging patterns seen by authorities.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Friday ruled her death a homicide from the combined effects of fentanyl, p-fluorofentanyl and ethanol.

Two other fatal drugging victims include 29-year old-Nurbu Shera, who was found in front of an East Village building in March 2022, and 26-year-old Ardijan Berisha, who was found in front of a Lower East Side building in July 2022.

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