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Tragic trend continues: Accused dealer charged in overdose deaths

A  new and unique face 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 of 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 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 butyryl fentanyl.

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

"He was a mid-level trafficker," John P. Flickinger, resident agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration 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 fentanyl-laced 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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