HOUSTON (CN) – A former Rice University football player stood before a magistrate in Houston federal court Friday to face charges he sold opioids to a teammate who died in his sleep after taking the pills.
Stuart “Mooch” Mouchantaf, 26, could be sentenced to life in prison and fined $3 million if convicted of federal charges arising from the death of Blain Padgett, who also played on the university’s football team.
The 6-foot-4 Mouchantaf, in an orange jumpsuit with shackles around his waist and wrist, made his initial appearance in federal court Friday, facing drug conspiracy and possession charges.
A June 2018 autopsy report stated Padgett died in his sleep from the toxic effects of carfentanil in March 2018.
Carfentanil, which is used to tranquilize large mammals like elephants and elk, has a similar chemical makeup to fentanyl, an opioid that heroin dealers add to their product to increase its potency.
Houston police arrested Mouchantaf in October 2018 and a Harris County grand jury indicted him in March on a second-degree felony charge of delivery of a controlled substance resulting in death.
The state charge was dismissed Thursday, however, the day after a federal grand jury returned an indictment against him under seal. The indictment was unsealed upon his arrest by federal agents Thursday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Corley said after Mouchantaf’s hearing Friday morning he couldn’t comment on why the case was moved from state to federal court.
According to court records, a Rice University football player told investigators he saw Padgett standing outside the school’s football stadium on March 1, 2018, and Padgett told him he was waiting to “buy some hydros” from Mouchantaf.
Mouchantaf reportedly told Harris County investigators he gave Padgett four or five “hydros” that day, referring to hydrocodone pills. Hydrocodone is an opioid prescribed as a painkiller.
Padgett’s father told Houston’s ABC affiliate KTRK in October he believes his son had no idea the pills he took contained carfentanil.
Padgett inherited a love a football from his father, who played linebacker at the University of Texas, and aspired to play in the National Football League.
The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Padgett led Rice University’s defensive line with 41 tackles in 2016 and also snapped the football on punts.
Mouchantaf was a psychology major at Rice University, located in Houston. He had stopped attending classes and was not on the football team when he allegedly sold Padgett the pills, according to Corley, the federal prosecutor.
Corley said during Mouchantaf’s brief court appearance Friday morning he was going to read a report on Mouchantaf’s finances and background prepared by pretrial services to determine if he will request he not be granted bond.
Corley said if he moves to detain Mouchantaf Friday afternoon, he will have a detention hearing next week.
Rice University declined comment. “Out of respect for the legal process the university does not have a comment on the federal arrest from yesterday or on any possible details of the case,” spokesman David Ruth said.
The federal grand jury charged Mouchantaf with conspiracy to possess, and possession, with intent to distribute a controlled substance resulting in death, both of which carry a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $1 million fine.
It also charged him with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance in or near a university, the max sentence for which is 40 years in prison and a $2 million fine.