Two years ago, a man in the Town of Concord overdosed and died, one of many to fall victim to fentanyl that year.
No one was ever charged in the man's death. However, the investigation that followed led to the arrest of Dellsean Hamilton, described by investigators as one of the biggest heroin and fentanyl dealers in the region.
Now 28, Hamilton, a Buffalo resident, was sentenced Monday to 100 months – or eight years and four months – in prison in a separate federal case.
"The drugs Mr. Hamilton sold are the same drugs causing an epidemic in our community," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy C. Lynch.
Lynch claims Hamilton – whose release on low bail two years ago stirred widespread outrage – continued his drug dealing despite several arrests over the past two years.
His first drug-dealing charge stemmed from a March 2015 traffic stop and Cheektowaga police’s seizure of 141 packets of fentanyl hidden inside his car. They arrested Hamilton and his girlfriend, Brittney Ridgeway, and charged them with drug dealing.
In court on Monday, Hamilton apologized to Ridgeway and their children.
"I hope one day they'll forgive me," he said.
A few months after the initial traffic stop, Hamilton was again arrested, this time because of 2,100 packets of fentanyl-laced opiates that Buffalo and Erie County investigators found inside his house. They also said the arrest stemmed from an investigation into the fatal overdose in Concord.
When City Court Judge Betty Calvo-Torres set bail at $20,000 and Hamilton was freed within hours, police, prosecutors and the public reacted with anger. After Hamilton was later indicted on new felony charges, a state judge set bail at $250,000, and this time it took Hamilton a month to raise bail.
Hamilton eventually pleaded guilty to four drug-related felonies in state court, and on Monday was in federal court on separate charges that he and others sold heroin and fentanyl in Buffalo and Cheektowaga until early last year.
In the federal case, Hamilton pleaded guilty to two of the charges against him and was facing a recommended sentence of up to 125 months when he was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara.
The case against Hamilton included allegations that he made repeated heroin sales to a confidential source working with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and Cheektowaga police.