Law Enforcement Source Says Arrests Should Be Made After Matthew Perry's Death: Here's What Could Happen Next

Matthew Perry died in October 2023 at the age of 54 from acute effects of ketamine, according to the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner

Michael Kovac/FilmMagic Matthew Perry
Michael Kovac/FilmMagic Matthew Perry

Matthew Perry’s death from acute effects of the prescription drug ketamine has been the source of an ongoing criminal investigation. For seven months, authorities have examined where the actor got the powerful medication. His autopsy report also determined the level found in his blood was the equivalent to the amount that would be used during general anesthesia.

A law enforcement source close to the investigation told PEOPLE this week that "multiple people" should be charged in connection with the probe handled by the LAPD, DEA and the U.S. Postal Inspector, which according to the source was "nearing its conclusion."

The source says the U.S. Attorney's Office will make the ultimate decision on whether or not to press charges. But what charges might someone face — and why?

Related: Law Enforcement Believes 'Multiple People' Should Be Charged in Matthew Perry's Ketamine Death: Source (Exclusive)

Since the California branch of the Drug Enforcement Agency is involved in the investigation, experts say that federal authorities may be looking at distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death or conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance resulting in death charges following his Oct. 28, 2023 death.

"This, primarily, is what is used to charge drug dealers, but it can be used to charge pill mills and doctors as well," says former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani. "Doctors that are overprescribing and not seeing patients absolutely would be charged under this section."

Rahmani says there are different possible sentences for offenders depending on a number of factors.

“If you distribute drugs and someone dies, there's different mandatory minimums,” he says. “There's even mandatory life, depending on the number of factors."

<p>Newsmakers/Getty</p> Matthew Perry portrait.


Matthew Perry portrait.

Former CIA and FBI special agent Tracy Walder adds that the suspects could also be charged with mail fraud. "They're looking at the illegal transportation of drugs across state lines to people that they have not been prescribed. Obviously that's a crime," says Walder. "I think that's probably where they started, and that's most likely the evidence that they would use if that's the case. Those are the charges I could see because I don't see a homicide charge."

Walder believes this could also be a case where Perry or someone in his "inner circle" was "doctor shopping" to multiple physicians in different states, and those doctors could have sent prescriptions across state lines. "I don't know if that's the case, but if it's true — that person can also be held accountable just as much as a doctor prescribing drugs across state lines, which is a federal offense."

"Medical licenses are state issued," says Dr. Michelle Reyes, MD Medical Director of the Med Spot in Woodland Hills, Calif. "I can prescribe something to you if you are physically in my state of licensure. But I can't write a script to someone in another state and I can't send any prescription drugs through the mail to a patient in another state. That is a practice not supported by a state license."

In May, an investigative source with the LAPD told PEOPLE that the department had been working on the case since December 2023 and they turned it over to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles. The department's public information officer responded "no comment" to PEOPLE's inquiry on the status of the investigation on Tuesday, June 25.

Related: Authorities Investigating Circumstances Surrounding Matthew Perry's Death from Fatal Ketamine Dose

"It could take a year or more for charges to be filed," says Walder. "You're dealing with federal agencies so it takes a while. One case I worked on took four and a half years. They have to convene a grand jury, then they present all the evidence and then the grand jury decides if they want to indict the person or multiple people and press charges. Once indicted, they can make arrests. If not, it goes back to the state and they can decide to proceed or not."

<p>David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty</p> Matthew Perry

David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty

Matthew Perry

As for the U.S. Postal Services involvement, Los Angeles defense attorney and former federal prosecutor Caleb Mason tells PEOPLE that it's possible an investigator found mail that contained illegal drugs.“The postal inspectors probably got involved in executing a warrant," he adds. "Obviously, there was some piece of mail that was found that somebody thought was significant.”

Related: Costars and Friends of Matthew Perry Remember Him as a 'Lovely Man' as Tributes Continue to Pour In for Star

Mason says the U.S. Attorney’s Office runs a task force that investigates and prosecutes overdose cases in the Central District of California that includes Los Angeles County, where Perry died.

“Anytime there's death, you're going to have an initial police response and investigation,” says Mason. “If somebody dies of an accidental drug overdose, there should be an investigation into where the drugs came from. If the initial investigating agency, if it's the LAPD, they might notify the DEA, they might notify the DA's office. They might notify the U.S. Attorney's office. The normal practice is to try and do an investigation into why people died, if they died in a way that might be criminal."

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"Unfortunately, there are way too many drug overdose deaths in LA County and across the country every year for all of them to be thoroughly investigated,” adds Mason. “So this one, because of the high profile nature of the decedent, surely drew more attention than a lot of others. But in theory, we should investigate every time somebody dies of a drug overdose where the drugs came from.”

Perry was found unresponsive in a hot tub at his Pacific Palisades home. He was 54. The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner said that Perry had been on ketamine infusion therapy but the last known session didn't contribute to his death, since it was about a week and a half before he died. The autopsy report listed drowning, coronary artery disease and the effects of buprenorphine — a medication used to treat opioid use disorder — as contributing factors in his death.

Related: Matthew Perry's Cause of Death Determined: Friends Actor Died of 'Acute Effects of Ketamine'

The Los Angeles Police Department started looking into the star’s death in December, immediately after the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner closed its investigation.

Perry wrote about his lifelong battle with addiction in his memoir Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing.

“I wanted to share when I was safe from going into the dark side again,” Perry told PEOPLE for a 2022 cover story. “I had to wait until I was pretty safely sober — and away from the active disease of alcoholism and addiction — to write it all down. I was pretty certain that it would help people if I did.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, please contact the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

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