Federal jury convicts Buffalo man in fatal fentanyl overdose

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – 32-year-old Dontrell Wise will serve a mandatory life sentence for selling deadly drugs last fall. 

Wise distributed fentanyl that caused the fatal overdose of a 28-year-old Cheektowaga woman last November. 

This is the first conviction of its kind in the Western District according to U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy. 

Cheektowaga Police, Buffalo Police, the FBI, and the DEA assisted federal prosecutors in the case. 

Kennedy credited Cheektowaga Police especially, who he said treated the overdose scene like a crime scene, which allowed investigators to gather important evidence. 

Dontrell Wise is not the first drug dealer to face federal charges that he sold a fatal dose of fentanyl, but he is the first to take his case all the way to trial.

The case against Wise revolved around the allegation that he sold the drugs that ended up killing 28-year-old Amanda Jarczyk of Cheektowaga in November of last year.

He will face a mandatory sentence of life in prison when he is sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci Jr.

Over the course of the trial, prosecutors Michael J. Adler and Brendan T. Cullinane painted a profile of a man with “unexplained wealth.”

Their evidence included a rap video showing Wise with large wads of cash, and the testimony of police officers who stopped Wises car and found thousands of dollars in his pocket.

“You heard how the defendant had money, a lot of money,” Adler told the jury in his closing statement. “That money he had on his person came from the sale of drugs.”

Wise is the latest in a string of drug dealers to face federal charges linking them to an overdose death.

With the opioid crisis as a backdrop, the U.S. Attorneys Office in Buffalo has linked nearly a dozen defendants with overdose deaths over the past five years. Those prosecutions involve 19 victims.

During a press conference after the verdict, U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. called the fatal overdose prosecution — the first such case to actually go to trial — a groundbreaking case.

“He took someone elses life, Kennedy said when asked about the mandatory life sentence. An eye for an eye.

Gary Loeffert, special agent in charge of the FBI in Buffalo, said Wise was a member of the Black Soprano Family, a street gang in Buffalo, and said the jury verdict sent a message to other drug dealers.

Wise, 32, did not take the witness stand but his lawyer questioned the governments case, calling it a prosecution dependent on informants who are “singing for their supper.”

Chief among them, he said, is Brittney Ridgeway, a drug dealer who previously admitted giving Jarczyk the fentanyl that killed her. Ridgeway also claims the drugs originally came from Wise.

“Dont get bogged down with the story,” Robert Ross Fogg, Wises defense lawyer, said of Ridgeway and other witnesses with a criminal record. “Justice is not who tells the best story.”

Dr. Eugene Gosy, one of New Yorks busiest pain specialists at the time of his arrest, is facing allegations that his illegal prescriptions resulted in six deaths.

In another case, Aaron J. McDuffie, a 23-year-old drug dealer from Buffalo, admitted selling heroin and fentanyl that killed two people.

McDuffie, who is facing up to 30 years in prison, was linked to the death of a 24-year-old man in Cheektowaga in June of 2015 and the death last year of a 34-year-old man in West Seneca.

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