Two men were charged in federal court Thursday with distributing heroin in Dutchess County and causing the overdose deaths of three people, law enforcement officials announced.
Dennis Sica and John Rohlman are accused of selling a potent form of heroin in bags stamped with the brand name “Breaking Bad,” court papers say. Some of the heroin contained fentanyl, a synthetic chemical which makes the drug stronger than common street heroin.
Both men face life sentences if convicted on the charges described in a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in White Plains. The men appeared in federal court Thursday and were remanded to custody.
Investigators from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Officers were told by witnesses that Sica sold “Breaking Bad” heroin to Anthony Delello, a 20-year-old Beekman, New York, resident, on Dec. 28. The next day Delello was found dead from “acute heroin intoxication,” prosecutors say.
Text messages revealed the defendants learned of Delello's death but kept selling the drug, prosecutors say. One witness said they were selling about 250 grams of heroin per day, according to the complaint.
On Feb. 1, Thomas Miller, 31, of Pawling, New York, and Laura Brown, 35, of New Milford, Connecticut, were found dead at their homes as a result of “acute heroin and fentanyl intoxication.” Prosecutors said glassine envelopes stamped “Breaking Bad” were found near both bodies.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said heroin trafficking "and, increasingly, death by heroin" is resurgent in the region. Heroin deaths were up 45 percent from 2006 to 2010 and continue to rise, he said.
James Hunt of the Drug Enforcement Administration said Mexican trafficking organizations are flooding the Northeast with heroin, "leaving tragic overdose deaths in the cartel's wakes."
Dutchess County district attorney William Grady said prosecutors wanted to bring the case in federal court because state penalties are more lenient. He said the defendants could be sentenced to a drug diversion program or even probation if convicted under New York law.
Both Sica and Rohlman were already in jail before Thursday’s charges. Sica was arrested on Feb. 2 in East Fishkill, New York, following a car stop during which an officer saw several glassine envelopes stamped “Breaking Bad” on the floor of the car. Rohlman had been detained at the Dutchess County Jail on other state charges.
Attorneys for both men didn't immediately return voicemail messages Thursday.