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Fatal Cheektowaga overdose is focus of trial as cases against drug dealers mount

Dontrell Wise didn't pull a knife or fire a gun, but he faces allegations that he killed someone.

He is also looking at a potential sentence of life in prison.

Prosecutors say Wise is the other face in the war on opiates, a drug dealer who sold deadly fentanyl to an addict.

"Money made, no matter the cost," Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Adler told a jury in opening statements Friday. "In this case, the cost was high – a young woman's life."

Indicted by a grand jury in April, Wise is on trial in Buffalo federal court, accused of selling the fentanyl that killed 28-year old Amanda Jarczyk of Cheektowaga in November of last year.

Adler, who is handling the case with prosecutor Brendan T. Cullinane, said the government will call witnesses who will testify that Wise made his money, a lot of money, selling drugs and that he was twice stopped by police and found in possession of large amounts of cash.

Robert Ross Fogg, Wise's defense attorney, reminded the jury Friday that there is nothing illegal about possessing large amounts of money.

Fogg also questioned the government's version of what happened that day in November of last year and said the jury will eventually learn that the drugs that killed Jarczyk came from a different drug dealer.

He also asked jurors, who will be asked to look at autopsy photos, to avoid the inclination to blame his client for Jarczyk's tragic death.

"You are not to be moved by emotion," Fogg said. "You are to decide this case on the facts and the facts alone."

Wise, of Buffalo, who was 32 when he was indicted earlier this year, is not the first person to be charged in connection with a fatal overdose.

To date, nearly a dozen defendants have been charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Buffalo with causing overdose deaths. Those prosecutions involve 19 victims.

One of the defendants, Dr. Eugene Gosy, is still fighting allegations that his illegal prescriptions resulted in six deaths. At the the time of his arrest, Gosy was one of the busiest pain specialists in the state.

Dr. Gosy faces new charges tied to six deaths

In another case, Aaron J. McDuffie, a 23-year old drug dealer, admitted selling heroin and fentanyl that killed not just one person, but two.

McDuffie, who is facing up to 30 years in prison, was linked to the death of a 24-year old man in Cheektowaga in June of 2015 and the death last year of a 34-year old man in West Seneca.

Even before McDuffie 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.

Alleged dealer faces trial for fatal overdose of heroin-fentanyl

Militello was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Wise's trial before Chief U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci Jr. resumes Monday.


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