Even now, years after the heroin and fentanyl epidemic began, it's rare to see drug dealers held accountable for the deaths they cause.
Carlique DeBerry is the exception.
DeBerry, 36, of Buffalo, admitted Wednesday to selling the fentanyl that killed a Hamburg man last year, making him one of the few local dealers to be linked directly to a fatal overdose. He will face a recommended sentence of up to 27 years in prison.
The victim, identified in court papers as “R.G.,” died in February of last year, just hours after buying fentanyl from DeBerry.
"Later that night, R.G.'s mother found him slumped over the chair," Assistant U.S. Attorney Wei Xiang said in court Wednesday.
Xiang told U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Roemer that autopsy and toxicology reports, as well as cellphone records, were used to to link the death to DeBerry. The defendant also admitted selling fentanyl to the victim in a statement to police.
Defense lawyer Emily P. Trott said her client's case is evidence of why there needs to be a greater emphasis on drug prevention and treatment, and less of an emphasis on punishment.
"My client's family lost a son," Trott said of DeBerry. "There are no winners in this case."
DeBerry is not the first dealer to admit he sold drugs that killed someone, but the criminal prosecutions have not matched the hundreds of deaths that have rocked the community.
In 2015, Peter N. Militello, a Town of Tonawanda dealer, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for selling fentanyl-laced heroin that resulted in a fatal overdose.
Robert Runfola, the man who died, had battled addiction for years and was found dead in his Buffalo home, the bags of drugs near his body.
Earlier this year, another dealer, Damien Hicks-Bailey of Buffalo, was sentenced to eight years in prison for selling heroin to a West Seneca man found dead of an overdose 11 hours later.
A surveillance video showing Hicks-Bailey selling the victim heroin led to a plea deal.
Aaron J. McDuffie, 22, of Buffalo, was charged earlier this year with selling heroin and fentanyl that led to two fatal overdoses.
Prosecutors said the overdoses took place in June 2015 in Cheektowaga and November 2016 in West Seneca.
The allegations that DeBerry caused the death of a Hamburg man follows his conviction two years ago in an unrelated check-kiting scheme that resulted in a $367,000 loss for several local banks. He was sentenced to six months in prison.