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Drug trafficker seeks to shorten sentence

Ocasio now serving 39-78 years in prison

A former resident of Buffalo, N.Y., who as a young man was sentenced to more than 39 years in prison for drug-related offenses, has asked the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons to shorten his sentence.

Felix B. Ocasio, who was charged with multiple drug offenses in 1999 by the Pennsylvania attorney general and the Blair County district attorney, has spent the last 22 years behind bars.

He is serving a sentence of 39 years, three months to 78 years, six months, currently at the State Correctional Institution at Benner Township, Centre County.

The leader of the ring was Efrain G. Hidalgo, also of Buffalo.

A third Buffalo resident, Kenneth Monture, was also convicted for his role in the heroin operation.

Ocasio was considered the second in command by the prosecution.

He was convicted of 17 offenses by a Blair County jury on March 9, 2000.

Blair County Judge Thomas G. Peoples imposed consecutive sentences on each of the offenses for a total of 39 years, three months, to 78 years, six months.

Ocasio asked the state Board of Pardons to commute or shorten his sentence.

A spokeswoman for the board said that the decision will be released today.

The five-member Pardons Board, led by Lt. Gov. John Fetterman reviewed 11 requests by inmates on Wednesday, including Ocasio’s.

The board was presented with information about Ocasio by a representative of the Department of Corrections, revealing a 2018 misconduct offense.

Fetterman pointed out that Ocasio had spent 22 years behind bars for dealing in drugs. He referred to the 39-year minimum as “an extraordinary sentence.”

He also pointed out that even if the commutation is granted, it will be up to the Board of Parole and Probation to decide when Ocasio is released.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, also a member of the board, did not comment on the Ocasio case.

Blair County District Attorney Pete Weeks said that when Ocasio’s request was first circulated, a detective in his office opposed the commutation.

Weeks was not the district attorney at the time.

He said the investigation into the Buffalo drug ring was led by the AG’s office, although Assistant District Attorney Jackie Bernard — now a Blair County judge — was one of the prosecutors.

Weeks said Wednesday after the hearing that drug dealing has a “high level of impact on a community.” It affects safety in a community due to an increase in crime and it often results in violence.

“It’s the biggest blight to our community that we have, “ he said, noting that a plethora of other crimes are related to the abuse of drugs.

Ocasio was convicted of conspiring to participate in a corrupt criminal organization, dealing in the proceeds of illegal crime, multiple counts of possession with the intent to deliver

and the criminal use of a communication facility.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court and U.S. District Court in Johnstown denied his appeals.

The testimony showed that heroin from Buffalo often was transported to Altoona by car or bus.

A 15-year-old girl would carry the heroin by bus to DuBois where she was picked up and brought to Altoona.

The Buffalo contingent would provide heroin to addicts and use their homes to distribute the drugs.

One homeowner who protested that arrangement reported to investigators that Hidalgo said to him, “Would you like me to have Benji (Ocasio) take you out someplace and cut your throat?”

According to the federal court opinion, Ocasio “was present and sat through this speech without comment.”

Hidalgo, now 48, is serving a 60- to 150-year sentence at SCI Albion in Erie.

Monture, 44, according to Pennsylvania inmate locator, is also incarcerated at SCI Albion, serving an 18- to 36-year sentence.

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