ALBANY — On July 3, 2016, an unconscious man was discovered by police in a vehicle parked in Niverville less than a mile from his drug dealer’s house.
The 29-year-old overdose victim from Columbia County, identified only as “S.B.” in court documents, was taken to Albany Medical Center, where he died five days later. An autopsy revealed the man’s organs shut down after a heroin overdose.
Inside S.B.’s car, state police found a folded, yellow sticky note with heroin and fentanyl, and “4-0” written on the outside — the amount of money that S.B. told his dealer that he had for the drugs in a text message.
Three weeks later, on July 23, 2016, a second victim, a 19-year-old woman identified as “S.S.” in court documents, was found dead at a home in Stuyvesant by deputies from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office. Three folded sticky notes containing heroin and fentanyl were found in a small plastic bag on her bed.
The two deaths sparked a federal prosecution of drug dealing in Columbia County, and led to one of the first charges against an alleged drug dealer in the county for causing a fatal overdose.
Using text messages and the signature sticky notes, investigators linked the drugs to Jacob Ebel, 32, of Niverville, who was arrested on drug conspiracy and possession charges, including distribution of controlled substances with serious bodily injury and death resulting from use of controlled substances.
Ebel is expected to serve 18 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to the charges Wednesday in U.S. District Court. As part of his plea, Ebel also consented to three years of supervised release.
In pleading guilty, Ebel admitted to selling heroin, fentanyl and other controlled substances from 2014 through July 26, 2016 in Columbia County. Ebel also admitted to distributing heroin and fentanyl to the two people who took the drugs and died in Columbia County in July 2016.
Ebel has been in custody since his arrest after police seized about 16 grams of heroin and fentanyl in a search of his house July 26. The heroin had a street value of about $5,000, police said at the time of Ebel’s arrest. Ebel intended to sell the drugs, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
After his arrest on July 26, 2016, Ebel told state police investigators from Livingston in a video-recorded interview that he bought heroin “by the brick,” and said “these people want to overdose,” and “you think stopping me is going to stop these people from killing themselves?” Ebel also admitted to police that he would fold heroin into sticky notes before selling it.
Shortly before his high slipped him into unconsciousness, S.B. wrote to a friend, “I am going to get the stuff that almost killed me yesterday. I am going to get twice as much this time so this may be the last time u ever talk to me cuz I am all alone this time w no one to save me.”
In text messages before picking up the drugs, S.B. told Ebel that he was “buggin’” and upset over a fight with his friend. Ebel told investigators that S.B. didn’t have money so Ebel gave him $20 worth of heroin, which “S.B.” took before leaving Ebel’s house, according to court documents. Ebel said to police that S.B.’s death was “on me.”
S.B. communicated with Ebel in text messages prior to his death. Ebel sold heroin and fentanyl to S.B. at on July 3, 2016, about 2:15 p.m., several hours before S.B. was found unresponsive.
Ebel knew that his friend, S.B., died, but he kept dealing heroin and fentanyl, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“Jacob Ebel was a merchant of death whose heroin and fentanyl killed two people in less than three weeks,” U.S. Attorney Grant C. Jaquith said Wednesday. “Thanks to the quick and thorough work of our law enforcement partners, Ebel is being held responsible for his crimes and the pain and suffering he inflicted on two families.”
Ebel sold heroin and fentanyl to S.S.’s husband in the days prior to her death, and that she had taken these drugs and died, according to interviews with her husband and text messages obtained by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office. Ebel admitted to police he sold $100 in heroin to S.S.’s husband the night she died, according to court documents.
Ebel would put the drugs in his mailbox for his clientele to pick up, according to text messages.
“Jacob Ebel had absolutely no regard for his victims, instead selling them a dangerous and deadly mix of illegal drugs just to make a profit,” state police Superintendent Keith M. Corlett said. “We have absolutely no tolerance for those who destroy lives, families and communities for their own personal gain.”
Ebel is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 8. U.S. District Court Judge Mae A. D’Agostino will decide whether to accept or reject the recommended sentence on or by the sentencing date. Ebel would be allowed to withdraw his plea and the case would proceed to trial if D’Agostino does not agree with an 18-year sentence.
The case was investigated by state police Troop K and the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Columbia County District Attorney’s Office.
“Rarely have so many and varied law enforcement agencies worked so well together and so successfully,” said Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka. “I thank them all for an outcome that should provide some level of deterrence with respect to the poison that exists on our streets and in too many of our homes.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Barnett.
“These dealers are killers and we will continue to work with our federal and state law enforcement partners to bring them to justice for their heinous behavior,” Columbia County Sheriff David Bartlett said.
To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.