Leader of Drug Delivery Service Responsible for Three Fentanyl Poisoning Deaths Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison
NEW YORK CITY - Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that Billy Ortega, a/k/a “Jason,” was sentenced to 30 years in prison today for running a drug delivery service that distributed dangerous drugs for over seven years, including the fentanyl that killed three New Yorkers on a single day: Julia Ghahramani, Amanda Scher, and Ross Mtangi. Ortega was convicted following a two-week trial in January 2023 before U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams, who imposed today’s sentence.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Billy Ortega ran a drug delivery service that delivered fentanyl, killing three victims on a single day. Worse yet, Ortega was fully aware that a customer had previously overdosed from the deadly fentanyl Ortega laced into his product yet continued sending the drugs to his victims. Even after Ortega learned that his drugs killed three people, he told another drug dealer that they were too strong and to give them to other unsuspecting victims. Ortega’s callous and remarkably evil conduct rightly deserved a significant sentence. This sentence sends a message to the fentanyl traffickers causing the fentanyl epidemic in our communities that they will bear the most serious consequences.”
According to court documents and the evidence presented at the trial of Ortega:
Billy Ortega was the leader of a major drug trafficking conspiracy, distributing dangerous drugs in New York City via a crew of workers from at least in or about 2015 to in or about February 2022. Ortega used his mother’s apartment in Manhattan as his stash house, employing family members and close friends to manage his drugs and cash and to deliver his drugs to customers. Ortega carried guns, supplied guns to his workers, and stored guns in the stash house to protect his drugs and drug money. For years, Ortega ran his drug delivery service by text message, acting like a dispatcher, coordinating drug deliveries by messaging his couriers and his customers.
In March 2021, Ortega mixed fentanyl into a weak batch of cocaine and sold it to at least five customers, who had no idea that they were receiving cocaine mixed with that deadly opioid. In the course of a single day – March 17, 2021 – Ortega delivered, through one of his couriers, fentanyl-laced cocaine to Ghahramani, Mtangi, and Scher at three separate locations in Manhattan. All three victims died after consuming the drugs distributed by Ortega.
On the day of the three poisonings – and prior to the fentanyl being delivered to any of the three victims – Ortega received a text message from a different customer warning Ortega that his drugs had almost killed someone else. Specifically, that other customer sent Ortega the following text message: “Hey man. Just on a follow up from yesterday - I gave most of my last bag to my buddy and he just called me this second to say he ended up in hospital last night. [. . .] He had to get a Narcan shot and was released in the early hours.” Ortega read this text message prior to coordinating the three deliveries of the drugs, from the same fentanyl-tainted batch of cocaine, that killed the three victims in this case.
Later that night on March 17, 2021, after the victims had stopped responding to Ortega’s text messages, Ortega offered the fentanyl-tainted batch of cocaine to another drug dealer, so he could test it out on “some girls” and see what happens. Specifically, Ortega texted the drug dealer: “If you[’re] going to be around [the] way let me know have some every one is saying it’s to[o] Strong . . . Give it to some girls and you let me know lol bro.” And when it became clear that Ortega had killed his customers, Ortega did not change course and stop selling dangerous drugs. Ortega changed his cellphone number and continued selling drugs every day until he was arrested nearly a year later.
Billy Ortega, 37, of West Milford, New Jersey, was convicted of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute fentanyl, acetylfentanyl, and cocaine, the use of which caused the deaths of Julia Ghahramani, Amanda Scher, and Ross Mtangi; distribution of fentanyl, acetylfentanyl, and cocaine to Ghahramani, the use of which caused her death; distribution of fentanyl and cocaine to Scher, the use of which caused her death; distribution of fentanyl and cocaine to Mtangi, the use of which caused his death; and carrying, use, and possession of a firearm in connection with, and in furtherance of, the narcotics conspiracy. In addition to his prison sentence, Ortega was sentenced to five years of supervised release.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”) New York Strike Force, the SDNY Digital Forensic Unit, and the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Intelligence Analysts for their support and assistance in this matter. The Strike Force is affiliated with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (“DEA”) New York Division and includes agents and officers of the DEA; NYPD; New York State Police; Homeland Security Investigations; U.S. Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; New York National Guard; U.S. Coast Guard; New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision; Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office; Fort Lee Police Department; Palisades Interstate Parkway Police; Teaneck Police Department; Hillsdale Police Department; Closter Police Department; Northvale Police Department; River Vale Police Department; Englewood Police Department; Saddle River Police Department; Bergen County Sheriff’s Department; Hawthorne Police Department; and Hackensack Police Department.
The OCDETF New York Strike Force provides for the establishment of permanent multi-agency task force teams that work side-by-side in the same location. This co-located model enables agents from different agencies to collaborate on intelligence-driven, multi-jurisdictional operations to disrupt and dismantle the most significant drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations. The specific mission of the New York Strike Force is to target, disrupt, and dismantle drug trafficking and money laundering organizations, reduce the illegal drug supply in the United States, and bring criminals to justice.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Micah F. Fergenson, Michael R. Herman, and Robert B. Sobelman, with the assistance of Paralegal Specialists Alex Frenchman and Christine Woods, are in charge of the prosecution.