March 25, 2020
Contact: Erin Mulvey
Phone Number: (212) 337-2906
Two people arrested and charged with selling heroin which may have led to the deaths of two individuals
BUFFALO, N.Y. – U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration New York Division Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan and U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Jonathan DiPirro, a/k/a JD, 29, of Depew, New York, and Sarah Szymanski, 28, of Cheektowaga, New York, were arrested 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.
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 in the Western New York area.
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.
Since February of 2020, members of DEA, Lancaster Police, New York State Police, and Depew Police have conducted three controlled purchases of suspected heroin from DiPirro and Sarah Szymanski.
“Notwithstanding the current pandemic, 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,” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “In this case, that harm was in the form of lethal opiates. What is particularly troubling is the fact that in January 2020, Ms. 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 those arrests, she was permitted to remain at liberty, allowing her and her co-defendant to peddle this deadly poison. If that is not conclusive proof that New York State’s bail reform law as currently drafted makes our community less safe, then I don’t know what is.”
DiPirro and Szymanski made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder and are being held pending detention hearings.
The complaint is the result of an investigation by the DEA Tactical Diversion Squad-Buffalo; Lancaster Police Department; the Depew Police Department; the Cheektowaga Police Department; and the New York State Police Violent Gang Narcotics Enforcement Team.
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.