NEW YORK -- The leader of a drug delivery service who was convicted of distributing the fentanyl that killed three young New York City professionals was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in prison, short of what the government asked for but more than the defense sought.
Billy Ortega provided the drugs that caused the March 2021 overdose deaths of Amanda Scher, Ross Mtangi and Julia Ghahramani, whose families appeared in Manhattan federal court as the sentenced was handed down.
"My son is gone and my life destroyed because of Ortega's greed and callousness. I don't believe he cares about the destruction he caused or the rippling effects that our families will endure. It could have been prevented. My son was poisoned by Fentanyl. That horror sits on my chest and I feel it with every breath," Mtangi's mother Lauren Lackey said in a letter to Judge Ronnie Abrams.
Ortega was the leader of a drug trafficking conspiracy, distributing dangerous drugs in the city via a crew of workers for at least seven years.
According to federal prosecutors, he used friends and family members to run his stash house and delivery operation out of a public housing unit.
In March 2021, he mixed fentanyl into a weak batch of cocaine and sold it to at least five customers, who had no idea that they were receiving fentanyl.
"Ortega knew what he was doing, and bears full responsibility for those deaths. He "bagged up" the deadly batch of drugs himself. He deliberately and personally introduced fentanyl into his cocaine, and then willingly distributed it to his customers," prosecutors said in asking for a life sentence, citing callous disregard for human life. "Worse still, the first customer to use the deadly batch warned Ortega it was poison-that it sent someone to hospital, who had to be revived with emergency anti-opioid medication. Ortega read that first customer's warning, but went ahead and sold the same poison to four other customers anyway, killing Ghahramani, Scher, and Mtangi."
The defense sought a sentence of no more than 25 years in prison for Ortega, who is 37, citing, in part, a difficult childhood.
"Billy had a difficult upbringing, his parents were separated and his father was barely in his life. He resided with his mother and grandmother, though his grandmother was his primary caretaker as his mother was in and out of rehab," the defense sentencing memorandum said.