Sus­pected dealer charged in two fa­tal over­doses

The Buffalo News - - CITY&REGION - By Phil Fair­banks

A new and unique facet was added Mon­day to the other side of the opi­oid cri­sis – drug deal­ers charged with caus­ing fa­tal over­doses.

Aaron J. McDuffie, 22, of Buf­falo, is the lat­est in a se­ries of al­leged deal­ers to face al­le­ga­tions linked to a death, and the first to be ac­cused of sell­ing heroin and fen­tanyl that killed not just one per­son, but two.

A fed­eral grand jury re­cently in­dicted McDuffie on felony charges con­nected to an over­dose death in Cheek­towaga in June 2015 and a sec­ond death last year in West Seneca.

“We’re out to get you,” act­ing U.S. At­tor­ney James P. Kennedy Jr. said of McDuffie and other drug deal­ers. “We will re­move you as a threat.”

McDuffie, who is al­legedly known to lo­cal drug ad­dicts sim­ply as “G,” was ar­raigned Mon­day be­fore U.S. Mag­is­trate Judge Michael J. Roe­mer on an eight-count grand jury in­dict­ment. He pleaded not guilty.

If con­victed, McDuffie could face up to life in prison.

Kennedy, in stress­ing the sig­nif­i­cance of the in­dict­ment, pointed to the roughly 5,000 Amer­i­cans killed by ter­ror­ism since 1975 and com­pared it to the 50,000 Amer­i­cans who died of over­doses in 2015

alone.

“Is it a cri­sis? Is it an epi­demic? Is it a war?” asked Kennedy. “I think it’s all of those things.”

The in­dict­ment charges McDuffie with dis­tri­bu­tion of heroin and fen­tanyl and caus­ing the death of two peo­ple, iden­ti­fied in court pa­pers as “A.E.” and “D.M.”

As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Wei Xiang would not iden­tify the vic­tims but de­scribed them as males un­der the age of 45.

In the the past, Xiang said the vic­tim in Cheek­towaga was given shots of the over­dose re­ver­sal medicine Nar­can but died more than two weeks later. An au­topsy found the over­dose was caused, in part, by acute use of bu­tyrylfen­tanyl.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors from the Cheek­towaga Po­lice also claim they found ev­i­dence of cell­phone calls be­tween McDuffie and the vic­tim.

“He was a mid-level traf­ficker,” John P. Flickinger, res­i­dent agent in charge of the Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s of­fice in Buf­falo, said of McDuffie.

Kennedy said the over­dose cri­sis – more than 400 deaths are ex­pected in Erie County this year – has prompted his of­fice to ad­vise lo­cal po­lice that all over­doses should be viewed as po­ten­tial crimes.

“We want to treat all over­doses as homi­cide scenes,” he said. “Take pre­cau­tions. Pre­serve fin­ger­prints. Col­lect ev­i­dence.”

McDuffie is not the first al­leged drug dealer to face crim­i­nal charges linked to an over­dose death.

Carlique DeBerry, 35, of Buf­falo, is cur­rently fac­ing al­le­ga­tions that he sold drugs that led to the death of a Ham­burg man iden­ti­fied in court pa­pers as “R.G.” DeBerry also faces life in prison.

Even be­fore DeBerry was charged, an­other dealer, Peter N. Militello, 35, of the Town of Ton­awanda, was con­victed of sell­ing fen­tanyl-laced heroin that killed some­one. Robert Run­fola, the man who died, had bat­tled ad­dic­tion for years and was found dead in his Buf­falo home, the bags of fen­tanyl­laced heroin near his body.

Militello was sen­tenced to 30 years in prison.

It was right around the time of Run­fola’s death in 2013 that the pres­ence of heroin mixed with fen­tanyl, al­ready pop­u­lar with ad­dicts in Chicago and Philadel­phia, came to the at­ten­tion of law en­force­ment here.

The re­sult has been a four-year epi­demic of fa­tal over­doses.

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