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'Merchant of death' heroin dealer gets eight years in prison

The saga of a heroin dealer dubbed "a merchant of death" connected to as many as 10 opiate-related deaths in one day came to a conclusion this week in Erie County Court.

Dellsean Hamilton, 28, was sentenced to eight years in prison by Judge Sheila A. DiTullio. Hamilton pleaded guilty in March to four felonies — criminal possession of heroin with intent to sell, criminal possession of fentanyl with intent to sell and two counts of selling heroin to undercover officers. But his sentencing was delayed while other charges against Hamilton were resolved in federal court.

Finally, at the end of August, Hamilton was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara to eight years and four months in prison for selling heroin in Buffalo and Cheektowaga late in 2015. The sentences will be served concurrently.

Earlier in 2015, DiTullio made an effort to keep Hamilton from resuming his drug business. He came before her on the felony charges after his arrest in July 2015 for possessing more than 2,000 packets of fentanyl, ready for sale. Investigators suspected that the drugs Hamilton was selling could have been connected to a sudden surge in fatal drug overdoses in Erie County, with 10 occurring in one 24-hour period that month.

At Hamilton’s initial appearance in Buffalo City Court after his July arrest, Judge Betty Calvo-Torres set bail at $20,000 and Hamilton was walking free before the day was over. The low bail outraged prosecutors and law enforcement, with one investigator calling Hamilton "a merchant of death."

Dealer whose release sparked outrage now faces up to 10 years

Hamilton remained free for about two weeks. Then, at his felony hearing before DiTullio on Aug. 10, 2015, the judge reset bail at $250,000 and had Hamilton jailed. It took him almost a month, but he made bail again in September 2015 and got back to business.

His freedom ended in January 2016, when he was arrested on federal charges for selling heroin to confidential sources working with law enforcement.

Hamilton then was denied bail and has been jailed ever since.

Defense attorneys were hoping DiTullio would consider a shorter sentence on the local charges to enable Hamilton to get drug treatment while in custody.

But the judge was more concerned with what Hamilton had been doing to others.

“He made $250,000 bail and while out on bail he was caught selling heroin again,” said DiTullio. “He’s had plenty of chances for treatment.”

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