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Man And Woman Charged With Selling Heroin Which May Have Led To The Deaths Of Two Individuals Will Remain In Federal Custody

CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
FAX #: (716) 551-3051

BUFFALO, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Sarah Szymanski, 28, of Cheektowaga, NY, was ordered detained following a detention hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy. Szymanski’s co-defendant Jonathan DiPirro, 29, of Depew, NY, waived his right to a detention hearing at this time and as a result, he also remains in custody. The defendants were arrested on March 24, 2020, and charged by criminal complaint with conspiracy to distribute heroin. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and a $1,000,000 fine.

“Thankfully, and notwithstanding the ongoing pandemic, my Office was able to do that which the New York State authorities, because of the recently enacted New York State bail reform law, were unable to do—protect our community from danger,” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “Sadly, for at least one member of our community, that protection may have come too late. What is particularly troubling in this case is the fact that in January 2020, defendant Szymanski was arrested on 3 occasions—by the Cheektowaga Police Department, the Lancaster Police Department, and the Erie County Sheriff’s Office—during one 24 hour period. Despite having been arrested and charged with violating New York State Law 3 times in 1 day, Szymanski was permitted to remain at liberty. While free, she and her co-defendant continued to peddle these deadly opiates. Despite the fact that the police did their job and the District Attorney did his job, New York State law failed to do its job. My Office, with all of our partners in law enforcement, will not hesitate to take action to protect the public from those who bring harm to our community, and this case stands as proof positive that New York State’s bail reform law, as currently drafted, makes our community less safe.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan T. Cullinane, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, in October of 2019, the Lancaster Police Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, and the New York State Police Violent Gang Narcotics Enforcement Team began investigating the drug dealing activities of the defendants, who were identified as individuals who sold heroin and fentanyl together in the Western New York area.  Since February of 2020, law enforcement has made three separate controlled purchases of suspected opiates from Szymanski and DiPirro.

On November 2, 2019, Lancaster Police Officers, the Bowmansville Fire Company, and the Lancaster Volunteer Ambulance Corporation, responded to an emergency call at a residence in Lancaster. When first responders arrived, they discovered an individual identified as J.L. deceased. Next to J.L., officers observed a hypodermic needle containing a small amount of liquid or blood. A few days later, on November 4, 2019, officers took custody of an eyeglasses case that contained an amount of suspected controlled substances and the hypodermic needle. Testing by the Erie County Central Police Services Forensics Laboratory confirmed that the powdered substance contained a mixture of acetyl fentanyl, fentanyl, and cocaine. On February 11, 2020, the Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office issued a death certificate listing the cause of death as “[a]cute mixed drug intoxication,” and identifying fentanyl and acetyl fentanyl as two of the drugs in J.L’s system at that time that contributed to the drug intoxication.

Subsequent investigation determined that DiPirro was the individual J.L. contacted by cell phone, using calls, text messages, and Facebook Messenger, to purchase heroin or fentanyl. Specifically, between September 2019 and November 2, 2019, the date of his overdose death, J.L. contacted DiPirro continually using these lines of communication. During that time, J.L. overdosed from heroin and/or fentanyl on three known occasions. J.L. survived the first two overdoses, but died as a result of the third overdose.

On March 4, 2020, the Cheektowaga Police Department responded to an emergency call at a residence in Cheektowaga involving an overdose of an individual. When officers arrived, they found an individual, identified as S.L., unresponsive. Officers administered two doses of Narcan but could not revive S.L. Officers also administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation and transported S.L. to St. Joseph’s Hospital. Medical personnel ultimately pronounced S.L. dead.  The investigation into S.L.’s fatal overdose revealed text messages and voice calls exchanged between S.L. and DiPirro on the date of S.L.’s death. The cause of S.L.’s death is pending.
        
The complaint is the result of an investigation by the Lancaster Police Department, under the direction of Chief William J. Karn, Jr.; the Depew Police Department, under the direction of Chief Jerome Miller; the Cheektowaga Police Department, under the direction of Chief Michael Sliwinski; the New York State Police Violent Gang Narcotics Enforcement Team, under the direction of Major James Hall; and the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Ray Donovan.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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