A Northfield man who pleaded guilty to selling dangerous opioids believed to have caused three overdoses in early 2018 opted to spend at least nine more months in custody as he continues drug treatment.

Joshua Edward Tarka, 25, pleaded guilty to third-degree carfentanil sale and third-degree cocaine sale Feb. 17 in Rice County District Court.

Carfentanil, an opioid 10,000 items more potent than morphine, is used to sedate large animals such as elephants. The drug is so strong that microscopic amounts can be deadly to humans.

As part of his plea agreement, which called for a stayed sentence, Tarka agreed to a 2½-year prison term. Of that, he has already served nearly one year. By the time he’s released, Tarka is expected to serve 21 months of the 32-month sentence. Tarka had been charged with seven felonies, including three counts of distributing a sentence that caused the overdoses. The remaining counts will be dismissed at Tarka’s May 6 sentencing.

Tarka was charged following a February 2018 traffic stop in Northfield after investigators reportedly learned from the overdose victims that he had sold them pills that caused their overdoses, two Feb. 23, 2018 and one two days later. All three were revived with an anti-opioid. Remaining pills purchased by the overdose victims were analyzed by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and found to contain carfentanil.

Joshua Ryan Chlan, then a Minnesota State University, Mankato student, was arrested in connection with the case. Chlan purchased counterfeit oxycodone off the dark web and sold it to another man identified as Tarka.

Chlan, who in October 2018 admitted to being the source of the opioids, was sentenced in Blue Earth County to three years probation the following month. According to Minnesota Courts records, Chlan met all conditions of his sentence and was discharged from probation Aug. 10, 2020.

As part of Tarka’s agreement, he pleaded guilty to transporting pills containing the drug with Chlan, and knowingly selling the substance for cash. In the cocaine sale case, Tarka admitted possessing an eight ball of cocaine when he was pulled over Feb. 28, 2018. He admitted giving the drug to his passenger, who was arrested with Tarka.

Judge Karie M. Anderson noted that the plea agreement will be nullified and the original charges reinstated if Tarka, who is not in custody, violates pre-sentence requirements.

Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115. © Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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