Drug dealer convicted of dealing fentanyl-tainted drugs that killed three people in one day
The drug dealer who headed the cocaine delivery service that left three dead of fentanyl overdoses in one day was convicted in Manhattan court on Monday.
Billy Ortega, 36, was working as a dispatcher of sorts for the on-demand drug service back in March of 2021.
Ortega directed fellow drug dealer Kaylen Rainey to transport cocaine to several Manhattan addresses, according to federal prosecutors.
Rainey, who pleaded not guilty, then allegedly sold fentanyl-tainted cocaine to attorney Julia Gharamani, Credit Suisse trader Ross Mtangi, and social worker Amanda Scher.
Each of the working professionals would die of an overdose on March 17.
Julia Ghahramani, 26, a first year attorney died in March of 2021 after taking cocaine laced with fentanyl
Ross Mtangi, a trading executive at Credit Suisse Group AG, died on the same day in March after taking cocaine from the same dealer
Amanda Scher, 36, a social worker, was the third victim that day after ordering cocaine from the service run by Ortega
On Monday, Ortega was convicted by a Manhattan federal jury of one count of narcotics conspiracy resulting in death, three counts of narcotics distribution resulting in death, and one count of use and carrying of a firearm in furtherance of the narcotics conspiracy.
He pleaded not guilty and has not yet been sentenced, but is facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and could be looking at life behind bars, according to federal authorities.
Two of Ortega’s alleged runners, Rainey and William Drayton, are awaiting sentencing. Drayton pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced on the 17th of next month.
According to text messages between the dealer and the victims, Ortega had touted a ‘new batch’ of drugs that his crew was selling that day. He specifically warned Scher that the batch was particularly potent after she asked about its quality.
US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement following Ortega’s conviction, ‘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.
‘As a unanimous jury determined, Ortega will now be held accountable for the victims’ tragic and untimely deaths,’ he said.
It takes just a tiny dose of fentanyl to cause an overdose. Two milligrams – the equivalent of five grains of salt – is enough to cause death.
Because it is cut into other popular drugs, many people who die of overdoses (including Scher, Mtangi, and Ghahramani) do not know they are taking fentanyl. Fentanyl has been partially blamed for America’s sharp decline in life-expectancy over the past three years.
Drayton (left) pleaded guilty to acting as a drug runner for the service operated by Ortega. He will be sentenced next month. Rainey (right) entered a not guilty plea
Pictures of Rainey allegedly delivering drugs from the government’s case against the three dealers
On March 17, Gharamani, who was back at her Avenue B apartment following a stay at her family’s Connecticut home, sent a text to a phone that prosecutors say belonged to Ortega, asking: ‘Can u come thru?’
The number then texted back: ‘I’ll send them right now if you want.’
‘That would be great, thank you, really appreciate it,’ she replied.
‘No worries, we family,’ came the response.
After getting the text, prosecutors say, Ortega sent Rainey to Ghahramani’s address with instructions to collect $200.
Just about nine minutes later, Rainey could be seen on surveillance footage buzzing her apartment.
Six hours later, she received two text messages that she never responded to.
They read, ‘Hey,’ and ‘Hey, you there.’
Ghahramani also received seven calls on her phone through the night and into the next morning from the delivery service number.
By the time her mother woke up that morning, the Wall Street Journal reports, her mom knew something was wrong because she had not heard from her daughter.
A friend then went to check in on her, and found her dead still holding her phone.
On the table, the complaint says, was a credit card and a rolled up piece of paper with white residue on a plate.
Rainey was caught on surveillance footage in the elevator of Ghahramani’s apartment before he rang on the door and allegedly delivered the drugs
Dealers have been cutting fentanyl (pictured) into cocaine to make it more potent and addictive
The same day, prosecutors say, Amanda Scher texted a number stored in her phone as ‘Jason Melissa.’ Prosecutors say Ortega sometimes used the name Jason.
She proceeded to order some drugs, but asked if it was the same as she got on Sunday ‘because that was not good, lol, had to get rid of it.’
The dealer on the other end replied: ‘No new… Batch.’
About two hours after Rainey was once again caught on surveillance camera delivering the drugs, she texted back that it was ‘def better.’
She then counseled a private patient online from 8 to 9pm before sitting down on the sofa and turning on the television.
Soon, texts came in from the service number saying: ‘Hey, try not to do too much because it’s really strong.
‘Hey boss lady you heard?’
Three FaceTime audio calls to her phone went unanswered that night, and she later received another message from ‘Jason Melissa’ saying: ‘Hey can you give me a call back I need to ask you something real fast?’
The next morning, her dog walker found her dead on the sofa.
Prosecutors say the texts and calls to Ghahramani and Scher after the deliveries showed a consciousness of guilt.
And, they say, just one day after the deliveries, Rainey sent Ortega screenshots of home drug testing kits, and Ortega switched to a different phone.
They then continued to sell drugs until their arrests, prosecutors allege.
Deaths caused by fentanyl in the US surged in the 2010s. At the start of the decade, 2,666 Americans died of a fentanyl overdose. This figure shot up to 19,413 by 2016. Covid made the situation worse, with a record 72,484 deaths recorded in 2021
Already In the first weeks of 2023, dozens of overdose deaths have occurred in King County, Washington, according to local outlets. Pictured: A man in Seattle smokes fentanyl
The fentanyl crisis has helped fuel the steep drop in American life expectancy in recent years. Americans now live 76.4 years on average, down from 78.8 years in 2019. In the UK, which suffered the Covid pandemic just as the US did, but does not suffer a fentanyl crisis, life expectancy slightly increased from 81.3 years in 2019 to 81.52 in 2021.
The US remains in the throes of the catastrophic fentanyl epidemic that is causing an eye-watering number of deaths and tearing the fabric of American society apart.
The synthetic opioid being cut with virtually every street drug in the country killed a record 75,000 Americans in 2021, the equivalent of 1,500 lives lost every week.
Fentanyl – which is 100 times more potent than morphine – started off as a cheap alternative to heroin and was used by only the most hardcore drug addicts in the US, who mainly injected it or smoked it through a pipe.
But its cheap manufacturing costs and potency have made it the go-to cutting agent for cartels and drug dealers in and out of the US looking to stretch their supply. It’s now found in everything from cocaine to molly and street benzodiazepines like Xanax.
Fentanyl has infected virtually every major city in America, turning once-thriving streets in New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia into wastelands. Scenes of zombified addicts shooting up or smoking the drug in front of children are increasingly becoming a part of everyday life in America’s major metropolitan areas.