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Man convicted in heroin death under Len Bias Law

A Lawrence man was convicted yesterday of selling heroin that killed another man, under a rarely used law named for Celtics draft pick Len Bias, who died of a cocaine overdose, according to US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan's office.

Luis De La Cruz, 23, faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years in prison, five years of probation, and a maximum $4 million fine under the Len Bias Law, passed by Congress in the aftermath of the University of Maryland basketball star's overdose death in 1986.

On March 8, 2001, De La Cruz sold the heroin that killed Bryan Wallace, 21, of Woburn, two days later, according to prosecutors. De La Cruz sold it to an intermediary, who then sold it to Wallace. Assistant US Attorney Rachel Hershfang said key evidence that linked the drugs to De La Cruz was a branding of black eagles with little blue stars on bags found in Wallace's trash can.

De La Cruz also conspired to distribute heroin throughout northern Massachusetts between July 1999 and March 2001, prosecutors said.

His sentencing is scheduled for July 20. His lawyer, Paul M. Yee, did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

Sullivan's office has won seven convictions under the Len Bias Law, and was the first in the country to charge someone under the law in 1999, said spokeswoman Samantha Martin.

Hershfang said it is difficult to prove a link between a drug dealer and a customer, because often the drugs are not sold directly by the initial supplier. ''It's rarely a hand-to-hand transfer," she said.

Wallace worked for a demolition company and lived with his mother, who testified during the trial. Lori Wallace, 45, said in a telephone interview yesterday that she was pleased with the verdict. ''He wasn't a heroin addict," she said. ''He was experimenting in his room. This is what drugs do to the unsuspecting daredevils."

After what she called ''four years of hell," the justice system worked, she said.

Scott Goldstein can be reached at sgoldstein@globe.com.

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