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January 22, 2013

Officials say drug sentence is warning to dealers

By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star

---- — The multidecade sentence imposed on a drug kingpin last week is a warning that narcotics trafficking won’t be tolerated in the area, state and local law enforcement officials said.

Dante Major, 36, of Hobart, was sentenced to 55 years to life in prison Wednesday by Otsego County Judge Brian D. Burns.

Major, who had been convicted in October after a jury trial, was sentenced to 55 years to life imprisonment and fined a total of $260,000 for operating as a major trafficker and three counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance, all felonies. He is to serve the four sentences, ranging between 10 and 20 years consecutively.

Burns and other judges in Otsego County have no tolerance for drug trafficking, Otsego County District Attorney John Muehl said Monday night. Major’s sentence was “exactly what I expected,’’ Muehl said.

“He got the sentenced that he deserved — hopefully it will send a message to other people who want to sell drugs in Otsego County,’’ Muehl said. Settling on a number of families affected by the trafficking in Major’s organization is difficult, the district attorney said.

Major was identified as the primary supplier and distributor of heroin and oxycodone powder throughout Otsego County, according to a media release issued last week by Brian R. Crowell, special agent in charge with the state Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Sheriff Richard Devlin Jr. of Otsego County.

Prescription drugs are the second most abused drug by teenagers behind marijuana, Crowell said, and Major’s sentencing should send a clear message to dealers.

“The men and women of our task force will not tire or relent in their work to identify, investigate and arrest all those responsible for distributing these deadly drugs into our communities,’’ Crowell said in the release. “One life taken away or ruined by opiate abuses is one life too many.’’

Devlin said because of the size of the drug trafficking operation, Major’s sentence was appropriate.

“Dante Major and his organization’s trafficking activities clearly supplied drug users in numerous counties and a wide variety of locations,’’ Devlin said in the release. “They are directly responsible for destroying many lives and families. … We must continue to tirelessly investigate and prosecute those that distribute illicit drugs in our county.’’

The release summarized the case as follows: The Otsego County Sheriff’s Office, Oneonta Police Department, the state Division of Parole, state Department of Health Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office and the DEA Albany District Office initiated an investigation a year or more ago into the rampant use and abuse of opiates in the Otsego County area.

Otsego sheriff’s investigators and DEA special agents made purchases of heroin and oxycodone powder from retail level dealers working for Major, who was arrested March 20.

On Monday night, Muehl said, “It was an excellent effort by all the law enforcement involved.’’

Devlin also praised the efforts.

“I am extremely proud of this investigation and the partnerships formed by the agencies involved,’’ Devlin said in a statement. “I commend everyone involved for their persistence in investigating this matter and their dedication to justice.’’