A Suffolk jury convicted an Amityville man on charges linked to a fatal fentanyl overdose, the first time county prosecutors used a toxicology report as key evidence rather than seized drugs, authorities said Tuesday.
Austin Hunter, 43, was convicted Monday on three counts of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, third-degree possession of a controlled substance, and second-degree criminally using drug paraphernalia, according to a statement from Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini.
Hunter will be sentenced Dec. 15 and faces a maximum of 24 years in prison, officials said.
Investigators linked him to the April 20, 2019 fatal overdose in Lindenhurst after using a cellphone recovered on the scene that showed him as the supplier of the fentanyl that killed the victim, officials said.
“The Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner determined that the cause of death was a fentanyl overdose. … The case marks the first conviction in Suffolk County history for a criminal sale of a controlled substance based upon a toxicology analysis as opposed to the physical recovery of narcotics,” prosecutors said in the statement.
Sini noted that New York “still does not have an explicit ‘death-by-dealer’ statute on the books, but that hasn’t stopped our Office from arresting and convicting drug dealers in connection with fatal overdoses and seeking maximum prison time for those criminals.”
Hunter’s Hauppauge-based attorney Christopher Gioe said in an email: “Austin Hunter continues to maintain his innocence. He will appeal this conviction and is confident that he will be vindicated and set free after the Appellate Division reviews the record of the trial.”
In Sini’s statement, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said dealers who “prey on the addicted” should know police will use every tool in their arsenal to ensure peddlers of deadly drugs are held accountable.
Agents with the Long Island Heroin Task Force arrested Hunter May 2, 2019, during an undercover operation in which he had agreed to meet at a specific location, prosecutors said.