ALBANY - Kate Centofanti is believed to have been clean from heroin for more than a year prior to her September 2016 death. But troubles in her life, a car break-in and loss of hours at work, are believed to have led her to relapse, federal prosecutors say.
She ultimately found the drugs she sought through an old acquaintance, Daniel Fillerup, a man she'd previously told of how long she'd been clean, prosecutors wrote ahead ahead of Fillerup's federal drug distribution sentencing last week.
"Even with the knowledge that (Centofanti) had been clean for a year, on September 29, 2016, when she reached out to the defendant for heroin, he did not say, 'No'," Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas G. Collyer wrote. "He procured what turned out to be fentanyl for (Centofanti); the fentanyl that took her life."
Fillerup, 33, of Albany, pleaded guilty in December to a federal count of distribution of a controlled substance as part of a plea deal and was sentenced last week to 10 years in federal prison.
He had been accused of distribution of fentanyl resulting in death, a charge that carries a minimum of 20 years in federal prison if convicted.
Centofanti had been identified in court filings only by her initials, K.C. But prosecutors identified her by name in a press release last week, which an official said they did following the sentencing at the request of family.
Centofanti was 31 when she died and had been a student at UAlbany, working toward a degree in political science, according to her obituary.
"Kate was a spitfire, while also at the same time a generous and caring friend," her obituary read.
According to prosecutors, Centofanti sought out Fillerup after her long sobriety, prompted by two possible triggers: a theft of her purse from her car and loss of hours at work that left her struggling to pay bills.
She contacted Fillerup after she had sought heroin without success elsewhere, according to the defense account. The defense described Fillerup as a longtime heroin addict himself, who had been using nearly daily for more than six years.
They met in the parking lot of the Family Dollar store in Schenectady. She gave Fillerup $36. He purchased two bags of heroin from someone for her and five bags for himself, according to the defense filing ahead of sentencing. They then used the heroin together in a car. Fillerup fell unconscious and Centofanti passed out beside him.
When he came to, he attempted to wake her, but was unsuccessful and he immediately drove her to Ellis Hospital, according to the defense account.
Once at the hospital, the prosecution filing picks up, Fillerup carried Centofanti to the lawn, where medical staff began treating her. Fillerup left without identifying himself, but police caught up with him later through a license plate captured on hospital surveillance.
Fillerup was charged federally in March 2018.
While both prosecutors and the defense agreed on the 10-year sentence for Fillerup that the judge in the case ultimately imposed, the two sides gave differing assessments of Fillerup's remorse, or lack of remorse, after Centofanti's death.
Prosecutors wrote that while "there is no doubt the defendant did not intend to cause" her death, "each time fentanyl-laced heroin is sold and ingested, it is only by the mercy of fate that it does not take a life."
Prosecutors also pointed to Fillerup's March 2018 arrest, at his Albany apartment, where he was found with heroin packaged for sale and accompanying drug paraphernalia. They also wrote that, after his arrest, he "acknowledged not feeling morally responsible" for Centofanti's death.
"Clearly, providing a substance that killed someone has not affected the defendant, nor deterred his criminal conduct; perhaps 120 months in prison will," Collyer wrote.
Fillerup was represented by attorney James Knox. Knox portrayed his client as an addict who is remorseful for the sadness and damage that Centofanti's death caused.
Knox wrote that it was only through "blind chance" that the tragedy fell on Centofanti's family and not Fillerup's, or both.
"However, Mr. Fillerup wishes to express to her family his sincere remorse," Knox wrote. "The tragedy of (Centofanti's) death is a burden Mr. Fillerup will always carry. Do what he may, he recognizes that he can never repair the damage that has been caused here."
Senior U.S. District Judge Lawrence E. Kahn imposed the 10-year sentence. The case was investigated by the FBI and its Capital District Safe Streets Gang Task Force, and members of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, including investigators from the Schenectady County District Attorney's Office, officials said.