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Press Release

Two Defendants Sentenced for Distributing Heroin and Fentanyl That Caused a Fatal Overdose in Queens

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York

Earlier today, at the federal court in Brooklyn, Vladimir Esguerra and Jonathan Betancur were sentenced by United States District Judge Eric Komitee to 128 months’ imprisonment and 110 months’ imprisonment, respectively, for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and distributing the heroin and fentanyl that caused the death of Michael J. Marino.

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Ivan J. Arvelo, Special Agent-in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, New York (HSI), and Edward A. Caban, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD), announced the sentences.

“As the defendants admitted in their guilty pleas, they conspired over a period of years to distribute narcotics in our community, and tragically those narcotics had deadly consequences,” stated United States Attorney Peace.  “We are facing a national crisis of opioid addiction, which cuts lives short every day in this district and across the country.  Today’s sentences send a message that those who prey on people suffering from this disease will be punished.  It is our hope that these sentences will deter others from peddling dangerous drugs and provide some measure of comfort to the victim’s family.” 

“The opioid crisis has cut a wide swath across our country, affecting people from all walks of life and causing immense harm in every community,” stated NYPD Commissioner Caban.  “To combat this scourge locally, the NYPD and our law enforcement partners work relentlessly to disrupt drug trafficking operations and hold those involved fully accountable. The sentences handed down today send a message of support to the families of loved ones lost, promising that we will not rest until justice is delivered.”

As set forth in the government’s sentencing letters and other public documents, Esguerra and Betancur were drug dealers who distributed narcotics together in Queens since at least 2015.  Sometimes Esguerra would meet the buyer and handle the transaction himself and sometimes he would send them to Betancur instead. In July 2019, they sold heroin cut with fentanyl to Marino, who suffered a fatal overdose as a result in a pizzeria in Ozone Park, Queens.  In September 2019, Betancur was arrested by the NYPD in an unrelated case, and two cellphones that he was carrying were seized.  One of them was the same phone he had used to communicate with Marino on the day of the overdose—and the number to which Marino had saved as “Vlad.”  Earlier this year, both defendants pleaded guilty to drug trafficking conspiracy and admitted responsibility for Marino’s death.

Assistant United States Attorney Robert M. Pollack is prosecuting the case.

The Defendants:

Age:  34
, New York

Age:  41
, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 21-CR-525 (EK)


John Marzulli
Danielle Blustein Hass                            
United States Attorney’s Office
(718) 254-6323

Updated November 21, 2023