When Dellsean Hamilton was arrested last summer and accused of possessing 2,100 packs of fentanyl-laced opiates linked to at least one fatal overdose, a City Court judge set bail at $20,000. He was out in a few hours.
After he was indicted on felony charges, a state judge set bail at $250,000. It took him a month to raise bail that time.
Hamilton, 27, was arrested again Jan. 12 on federal charges of heroin possession with intent to distribute. This time, there is no bail.
State Supreme Court Justice Sheila A. DiTullio revoked bail from Hamilton’s previous appearance before her, and Hamilton was denied bail on the federal charges. He was booked into the Erie County Holding Center and is being held in Niagara County.
In the federal case, Hamilton is accused of making repeated sales of heroin in December to a confidential informant working with a Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force through the Cheektowaga Police Department.
Cheektowaga Assistant Police Chief James J. Speyer Jr. praised the collaborative effort.
“It’s our job to save lives, and we should be able to save some lives by keeping this guy in jail,” Speyer said.
He also made it clear that police cannot fight the opiate epidemic alone.
“The case against Hamilton began last March with an anonymous tip,” Speyer said.
At that time, Cheektowaga police arrested Hamilton with more than 140 packets of opiates that tested to be largely fentanyl, a stronger and more deadly chemical than heroin. Speyer encouraged people who suspect or see drug-related activity to use the town’s six-digit line to send an anonymous tip via text message: 847411 (TIP411).
In Buffalo, there also was satisfaction that Hamilton will not be walking free anytime soon.
“With the opiate epidemic and people dying every day, it’s a good thing when we can get a dealer like him off the streets and keep him off the streets,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said.
Hamilton easily came up with the $20,000 bail that Buffalo City Judge Betty Calvo-Torres set during his first court appearance after his July arrest, as opiate overdoses were rising. In one 24-hour period last summer, there were 10 overdoses in the county.
Buffalo and Erie County narcotics investigators had executed a search warrant at Hamilton’s home and recovered more than 2,100 packs of customer-ready opiates that later tested as mostly fentanyl rather than heroin.
When he was back on the street within hours, there was outrage among some police, prosecutors and the public over the relatively low bail.
“He is a merchant of death. For a profit, he is willing to kill some people,” Alan N. Rozansky, Erie County Sheriff’s Narcotics Unit chief, said at the time.
Law enforcement officials considered Hamilton a major heroin supplier in Western New York and continued their investigation. They were able to make multiple undercover purchases of drugs from Hamilton, including at least three buys in December and executed search warrants at 1150 E. Lovejoy St. and 2008 Bailey Ave., recovering a firearm, drug-packaging materials and a scale.
Hamilton was held after his appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder. He could face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine if he is convicted on the federal charges, and additional penalties if he is convicted of the state charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy C. Lynch is prosecuting the federal case, and Assistant District Attorney Paul J. Williams III is handling the state’s case against Hamilton.
Erie County recorded more than 190 deaths from opiate overdoses in the first nine months of 2015. In response, Acting District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty Jr. created a stand-alone Narcotics Unit when he took office this month, and County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz this week issued an executive order to form an Opioid Epidemic Task Force to combat the epidemic.
News Staff Reporter Lou Michel contributed to this report.