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Drug dealer sentenced to 6 months in prison; Zittel abused drugs after initial arrest

The Concord woman whom police called a major Southtowns prescription drug peddler was arrested twice for petit larceny since the April 5 narcotics raid in her Concord farmhouse.

Chandra M. Zittel also continued to use cocaine and heroin.

"I'd ask this court to allow her to get help," Michael A. Benson, her lawyer, said during Zittel's sentencing Friday before state Supreme Court Justice John F. O'Donnell. "I ask the court to give her that opportunity."

The simplest place for that help is in jail, O'Donnell replied.

The judge sentenced a pregnant Zittel to six months in the Erie County Correctional Facility and five years' probation.

Her incarceration will help her overcome both her physical and mental health issues, he said.

"The care you're going to get now is much better than you'd get on your own," O'Donnell told a tearful Zittel.

In the April raid of Zittel's home, Erie County sheriff's detectives found an estimated 1,000 pills in prescription bottles.

In a plea deal, Zittel, 29, pleaded guilty to fifth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and attempted third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance for illegally selling prescription pain pills out of her Trevett Road home. She had faced up to 5 1/2 years in state prison.

Since her plea in May, she's been twice arrested for petit larceny, by sheriff's deputies June 13 and by Hamburg police July 29. The presentencing report mentioned in court indicated continued cocaine and heroin use, but her attorney countered that by saying she was doing well in counseling.

Prosecutor Mary Beth DePasquale noted Zittel used narcotics while pregnant with her fifth child. Her due date is in January.

"I'm truly sorry for what I have done," Zittel said in court.

O'Donnell said he appreciated her apology but said her actions since pleading guilty "indicated a need for some incarceration."

Before the raid, authorities say Zittel dealt with two or three physicians, conning them into prescribing pain pills for her that she didn't need. When her prescription supplies ran dry, she traveled to Buffalo and purchased more prescription opioids to keep her customers supplied, authorities said.

She was selling as many as 1,000 pills a month, primarily opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone, that fetched $3 to more than $20 per pill.

After her arrest, she still struggled with physical and substance abuse issues.

"She couldn't find a doctor to help her," Benson said. "What doctor was going to write her a script?"

Zittel, who is unemployed, became known to authorities soon after her husband, Garrett, died of a heroin overdose in 2008.

Zittel's former mother-in-law, who identified herself as Jan Zittel, had hoped for a stiffer jail sentence.

"I think it should have been longer," she said, so Chandra Zittel could get more help.

The former mother-in-law has been caring for Chandra Zittel's four children and said she's seeking custody of them in Family Court proceedings.