Coatesville man, 25, dispensed more than 14,000 doses weekly, authorities said
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
The lure of cash – an estimated $35,000 in profits per week – proved too powerful to deter a 25-year-old Coatesville man, despite a previous drug-dealing arrest at age 16, authorities said.
Calling Phillip DiMatteo a scourge on the community, Deputy District Attorney Stephen J. Kelly asked Chester County Court Judge Phyllis R. Streitel to sentence him on Wednesday to at least 30 years in prison. Kelly said investigators believe DiMatteo’s weekly sales funneled 14,285 doses of cocaine into the community.
Defense attorney Evan Kelly countered that DiMatteo was not the kingpin prosecutors described. That individual, Luis Rodriguez-Cruz of Philadelphia, “the one supplying Coatesville” with cocaine, recently received a 15- to 30-year sentence. Plus, DiMatteo, a lowly lieutenant in the operation, accepted responsibility by pleading guilty, sparing the government a trial, he said.
After listening to argument and pleas for clemency from the defendant and his mother, Donna Burgess, the judge imposed a 15- to 30-year sentence. Although the penalty more closely matched the defense request, the judge echoed the prosecutor’s belief that DiMatteo – whose neck tattoo says ‘”trust no one” – posed a grave threat to others.
“Drugs are a scourge on society today, and you’re part of the problem,” Streitel said to DiMatteo. “You’re an enabler for all the people down the chain from you.” The judge explained that drug-dealers prey on the weaknesses and addictions of others, negatively impacting the community with thefts, burglaries and robberies.
The judge said she was mindful that estimates of a drug-dealer’s sales can get inflated; however, even if the purported dosage units in DiMatteo’s case were halved or quartered, the totals would remain substantial. “There’s no way we can look at this amount and say it’s anything close to minor,” she said.
Streitel expressed surprise that DiMatteo pursued drug trafficking when his own father died from a drug overdose when he was 7. Even worse, he put his children, aged 3 to 5, at risk. “You have three little kids, and you were selling right out of the home,” she said. “It amazes me.”
Streitel dismissed the prosecutor’s argument that DiMatteo’s criminal activities and subsequent treatment as a juvenile merited a stiffer penalty; however, she also rejected the defense contention that DiMatteo was likely to reform now that he’s had a wake-up call.
The judge said he had several that failed to resonate, pointing out that he was robbed by three armed, masked men on April 10, 2010. “That right there should have been a wake-up call,” Streitel said. “It’s a dangerous business you’ve engaged in, and you know that.”
Burgess told the judge that she “lived for” her three children, adding that her late husband Frank was a “loving father” despite his drug habit. As for her son Phil, she said, “I had to let him go in order for him to become a man.” She said the family is ready to support him. “We will do everything and anything to help him,” she said.
Addressing the court, DiMatteo said that he has “lost everything and almost everybody” during his 28 months of incarceration. “I just pray that I get a second chance to turn my life around and take care of my kids,” he said. “That’s all.”
After the two-hour hearing, Stephen Kelly said, “We have to accept the decision by the court.” Evan Kelly said that he felt the sentence was fair and that he appreciated the time the judge took to review the voluminous records. He said he believed Streitel gave DiMatteo credit for accepting responsibility. “He’ll have another shot at life,” Evan Kelly said of his client. “It’s up to Mr. DiMatteo to take advantage of it.”
Among the half-dozen members of law-enforcement who attended the proceeding was former Chester County Detective Sgt. Joseph Daniels. Even though he retired, Daniels said he wanted to recognize the dedication and hard work of members of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area unit, a team of federal, state and local law-enforcement. “My best time in law enforcement was working with these guys,” Daniels said.
According to court records, DiMatteo appeared on investigators’ radar during a probe that began in the fall of 2009 and focused on an organization headed by Rodriguez-Cruz. DiMatteo was identified as a sub-distributor for Rodriguez-Cruz, and investigators got enough evidence from controlled buys by informants to warrant a nonconsensual wiretap.
After Rodriguez-Cruz was incarcerated, DiMatteo pursued other sources of cocaine, widening the investigators’ net; more than 20 others have been prosecuted, including DiMatteo’s live-in girlfriend, Erin Taylor, records said.
DiMatteo was arrested Oct. 22, 2010, and immediately cut a deal with police: He would permit them to monitor an imminent drug deal. However, when he was released to follow through on his promise, he fled. He was re-arrested by U.S. marshals in Downingtown on Oct. 28, 2010, records said.
In his sentencing memorandum, Stephen Kelly said that although police know DiMatteo made enormous profits, they were unable to seize any assets and believe they are hidden. DiMatteo lived in publicly subsidized housing in the Regency Park apartments and placed his children in publicly subsidized day care, Kelly said.