OLEAN - Donald "Ducky" Benjamin once ran a drug ring in Olean that spread cocaine and fear throughout the Twin Tiers.
Now he'll spend 40 years in a federal prison.
Benjamin, 43, was convicted Dec. 17, 1999, of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of crack cocaine and marijuana. He was also convicted of use of a minor in furtherance of drug trafficking.
A federal judge originally sentenced Benjamin to 30 years in prison, but the federal prosecutor who put Benjamin on trial, Assistant United States Attorney Thomas S. Duszkiewicz, appealed the sentence.
Mr. Duszkiewicz argued the trial judge, the late U.S. District Judge John T. Elfvin, failed to justify why he didn't follow federal sentencing guidelines that recommended more time for Benjamin. The U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, in New York City agreed and ordered Benjamin be sentenced again.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Arcara sentenced Benjamin to six terms of 30 years for selling crack cocaine and marijuana in the Olean area and a 40-year term in prison for using a minor to sell drugs. Judge Arcara ordered all the terms be served concurrently, at the same time, so Benjamin will serve 40 years in federal prison.
Benjamin has been held in federal custody during his appeal. His attorney, Vincent Doyle III, didn't return a call to the Times Herald before press time.
Factoring in the time he's already served, Mr. Duszkiewicz said Benjamin's new projected release date is 2031, when he'll be 65 years old. Judge Arcara also ordered Benjamin serve six years of post-release supervision.
Olean Police Sgt. Robert Blovsky broke out in laughter Thursday when told Benjamin's release date.
"That's a lot of time," he said, still chuckling. "That's good, that's good."
Sgt. Blovsky was once head of Olean's Street Crimes Unit, formed in June of 1996 following the stabbing death of Bernard Washington in a home on Washington Street. Investigators believe Benjamin used the house to peddle his drugs.
The stabbing sparked an investigation that would eventually include the Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force, State Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration. On June 30, 1997, police arrested Benjamin, his older brother, Neal, and 33 others on federal drug charges. Judge Arcara sentenced Neal Benjamin to 30 years in prison Dec. 18 after the Appellate Division overturned an earlier 20-year sentence handed down by Judge Elfvin. Mr. Duszkiewicz prosecuted Neal Benjamin as well.
"The people of Olean should be grateful that they have a U.S. Attorney like Tom Duszkiewicz who is willing to work so hard for them," Sgt. Blovsky said Thursday.
He said without the help of Mr. Duszkiewicz and former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent William Nichols, Olean police wouldn't have been able to build the case against Benjamin.
"We needed federal resources to build this case, we couldn't have done it without their help," Sgt. Blovsky said.
Det. Nichols is now a part-time cold-case investigator with the Cattaraugus County Sheriff's Office. He has no pity for the Benjamin brothers.
"They're only getting what they deserve. They have no one to blame but themselves," he said of their long prison sentences. "When you start hiring juveniles in furtherance of your drug business and start arming them, you've crossed the line."
At the height of their operation, the Benjamins were selling 2 pounds of cocaine in the Southern Tier per month, police said.
Det. Nichols said Donald Benjamin would travel to Buffalo to recruit teens under 16 to sell drugs in Olean.
"They were telling them that if they got caught, all they'd be facing was juvenile time," he said.
Det. Nichols credits the arrests with preventing long-term gang violence in Olean.
"You've seen what's happening in Jamestown with the gangs?" he said. "That didn't happen here. Yeah, we still have people selling drugs, but it's not organized and without organization, you don't have the violence."
He said Olean's drug trade was turning violent in the 1990s because Donald Benjamin was trying to create an exclusive territory for himself.
Cattaraugus County Sheriff's Det. Cory Higgins, a member of the drug task force assigned to the DEA, said he doesn't know of any other prosecutor who would have stuck with the case the way Mr. Duszkiewicz did.
"It was 1996 when this case started and here we are 13 years later and it's all being wrapped up. I can't say I know of any other prosecutor who would have put the kind of time into this case as Tom did," he said. "He's a bulldog."
Neal Benjamin is serving his time in a federal correctional institution in Glenville, W.Va. Donald Benjamin is serving his sentence in a federal prison in Butner, N.C.
(Contact reporter John Eberth at firstname.lastname@example.org)