On Tuesday, June 12 a notorious City Island drug supplier was found guilty in the overdose death of a recovering addict.
On the fifth day of the trial heard in Manhattan Federal Court, 28-year-old Frankie Beqiraj was convicted of conspiracy to distribute heroin, that resulted in the death of 25-year-old City Islander, Robert Vivolo.
The jury’s guilty verdict was an unanimous decision before United States District Judge Richard M. Berman.
While the Pilot Street resident could face anywhere from 20 years to life in prison, his official prison sentence will not be handed down until September 27.
As the community awaits the official sentencing details, many hope this verdict sends a clear message to other dealers.
“We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to prosecute and convict criminals seeking to profit from the current public health crisis afflicting our city,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman.
“The decision was great. Other dealers should take note of what they’re possibly facing in their future,” said Annie Boller, from the 45th Precinct Community Council, of the conviction.
Beqiraj was arrested on May 1, 2017 from his Pickwick Terrace apartment and charged in connection with two overdose deaths, Vivolo’s and Leonides Madrid’s from New Rochelle.
He had been the primary drug supplier on City Island since July 2016, and employed others to carry out business for him, according to court documents.
“All drug dealers are a cancer to the society they operate in,” said City Island resident and president of the City Island Civic Association, Bill Stanton, upon learning the guilty verdict.
“His conviction will directly correlate to saving lives,” Stanton continued.
Other City Islanders hoped the decision would help turn the tide in the opioid epidemic and get more of the community involved in tackling the issue.
“Our neighborhood had been grappling with opioid addiction and making sure we get the dealers off the street is important,” said longtime City Island resident, John Doyle.
“But it also needs to be matched with treatment for those who are addicted,” continued Doyle, who explained removing suppliers does not change the demand for opiates among existing drug abusers.
Doyle, who is also part of the 45th Precinct Community Council recalled a letter sent to Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neill back in December 2017.
The letter asked for more resources to be allocated to the understaffed 45th Precinct to help better address the opioid epidemic in their communities, like the reinstatement of a narcotics unit, which the precinct lost in 2011.
Doyle and the rest of the council hopes that with Beqiraj’s conviction, the letter will soon receive a response, as U.S. Attorney Berman also praised the NYPD’s Bronx Narcotics Heroin Overdose Team as one of the key factors in obtaining the conviction.
Beqiraj sold heroin to Robert Vivolo on October 21, 2016. Vivolo overdosed that same night.
Beqiraj was not the only one arrested in connection with Vivolo’s death.
On February 3, 2017, 24-year-old Fabrice Diaz was also arrested and charged with selling heroin to Vivolo.
In addition to Beqiraj’s guilty verdict, he was also convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, oxycodone, and alprazolam.