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Major heroin dealer pleads guilty to four felonies

A Buffalo heroin dealer whose release from jail last summer caused a public furor pleaded guilty Thursday in Erie County Court to four drug-related felonies as a prelude to the disposition of federal charges pending against him.

Dellsean Hamilton, 27, admitted to 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, all third-degree felonies.

Hamilton’s case became notorious when he was freed on $20,000 bail hours after he was arrested in July when 2,100 packs of heroin were found in two houses where he lived and kept his stash. Narcotics officers from the Erie County Sheriff’s Office raided the houses at the same time that the area was experiencing a deadly spike in opiate-related deaths, with 10 fatal overdoses occurring in one 24-hour period.

Hamilton was not a new face to investigators. When he was picked up in July, he already was facing charges from a March arrest in Cheektowaga.

Police there, who were staking out an area for drug sales, pulled over Hamilton’s car and found 141 packets of fentanyl hidden in the bra of Hamilton’s girlfriend, Brittney Ridgeway, 27, who was driving. Hamilton admitted the drugs were his, and both were charged with drug possession and intent to sell.

The investigation that led to Hamilton’s arrest in July, however, began in Concord, where one man died of an overdose and another man, his brother, survived. Information from that incident may have led investigators back to Hamilton, although it was not clear whether both brothers used the same supplier.

According to prosecutors, Hamilton sold 25 packets of heroin to an undercover police officer on July 10, and 24 more packets to the same undercover police officer on July 14. These sales helped investigators locate Hamilton’s houses and on July 15 they executed search warrants at 16 Dash St. and at 75 Edison Ave. Along with the heroin, they confiscated more than $8,000 in cash and materials to package the drugs.

Hamilton was arrested and posted his bail the same day.

The public outcry that followed included the voices of police and prosecutors who were trying to stem the flow of the deadly opiates, and when Hamilton arrived in County Court for his felony hearing on Aug. 10, Judge Sheila A. DiTullio raised his bail to a total of $250,000 – an amount that kept him in jail for nearly a month.

He was out again in September, however, and apparently back in business not long after that. By the end of December, Hamilton allegedly had made repeated sales of heroin to an informant for a Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force that was working in coordination with Cheektowaga Police.

Hamilton was arrested on federal charges in January and has been held without bail since.

Thursday’s plea agreement came with multiple conditions on all sides. Defense attorney Michael L. D’Amico put on the record that it was his understanding that Hamilton will not be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for any drug-related deaths that may have occurred in connection with the current charges against him, and the judge concurred.

DiTullio also committed to sentences capped at 10 years on each charge, with the understanding that the state sentences will run concurrent with whatever Hamilton’s federal sentences may be. Assistant District Attorney Paul J. Williams III said that Hamilton, in turn, waived his rights to make any claims of double jeopardy, to appeal the pleas or to challenge their validity.

The maximum penalty Hamilton faces if convicted on the federal charges is 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. His sentencing on the local convictions is scheduled for May 3.

Ridgeway also pleaded guilty Thursday to criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fourth degree and faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison.

Acting District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty Jr. praised the Sheriff’s Narcotics Unit, led by Chief Alan Rozansky, for its investigation.