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Long IslandCrime

Drug dealer pleads guilty in overdose that killed ex-wrestling champion

Nicholas Weber during the Suffolk Division I

Nicholas Weber during the Suffolk Division I championship wrestling final at Hofstra University on Feb. 16, 2014. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

A drug dealer pleaded guilty on Monday to selling heroin to a former Kings Park High School wrestling champion who died of a drug overdose.

Richard Jacobellis, 24, of Ridge, was charged with selling $100 worth of heroin in May 2016 to 20-year-old Nicholas Weber, who had been the Suffolk County wrestling champion in the 195-pound class.

Before his plea, Jacobellis admitted to three drug sales including the fatal one to Weber.

“I sold heroin to Nicholas Weber that caused his death,” Jacobellis said.

He pleaded guilty in federal court in Central Islip to one count of distribution of a controlled substance causing the death of Weber.

Jacobellis had been facing four separate counts that could have resulted in life in prison, had he been convicted.

As part of the plea deal, Jacobellis is now facing 16 years when he is sentenced on Oct. 19.

Officials said Jacobellis had been selling heroin on Long Island since 2012, and in March 2015, before Weber’s death, he sold to another customer who overdosed on heroin.

That 18-year-old customer was revived with naloxone by Suffolk County police, officials said.

Nevertheless, officials said, Jacobellis continued to sell heroin and did so even after Weber’s death, including selling to an undercover agent a month before his arrest in February 2017.

Stephen Weber, the wrestler’s father, called the plea deal “just.”

“The fellow did a terrible thing,” Weber said after the court proceeding. “I hope he serves his time honorably” and then does good for himself and his family and the community, he said.

In court, Eastern District federal prosecutor Christopher Caffarone said the previously unidentified 18-year-old victim revived by Suffolk officers was Frances Theiling.

Caffarone said that victim suffered “some permanent brain damage” but provided no further details.

Justin Levine, Jacobellis’ attorney, spoke for the defendant’s relatives. “We all feel badly for the victim of this crime,” he said. “We all feel badly about this drug epidemic that is sweeping this nation.”

Weber went to Lehigh University in Pennsylvania on a wrestling scholarship, choosing it over the Naval Academy, but dropped out after six months, his family said.

He then attended Suffolk County Community College and planned to enter Stony Brook University in fall 2016 to study physics.

At the time of his son’s death, Stephen Weber said his son was “a Triple-A threat in Art, Academics, and Athletics,” who could play a Mozart sonata on the piano, discuss the work of physicist Stephen Hawking and wrestle at a championship level.

Weber said he and his wife, Karen, had no idea their son was using heroin and the death was a “complete shock.”

Nicholas Weber asked a friend to connect him to a heroin dealer, but the friend tried to discourage him, saying he could become addicted, officials said.

But Weber told him that he only “used heroin occasionally and would never become addicted because of his busy schedule,” officials said.

The friend then contacted Jacobellis, who sold the drug to Weber, officials said. About a half-hour later, the friend came to Weber’s parent’s home and found him “unresponsive.” An autopsy said the cause of death was “acute heroin intoxication.”

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