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Friends Help Bail Out Man Arrested in Philip Seymour Hoffman Drug Probe

By Danielle Tcholakian | February 18, 2014 3:58pm | Updated on February 18, 2014 4:27pm
 Police say they found 250 bags of heroin in the Mott Street apartment of Robert Vineberg.
Police say they found 250 bags of heroin in the Mott Street apartment of Robert Vineberg.
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Pool/Steve Hirsch

MANHATTAN — Friends of Robert Vineberg, one of the people arrested as part of the investigation into Philip Seymour Hoffman's death, have pulled together the cash needed to bail him out of jail, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Vineberg has been held at Rikers Island since he was arrested Feb. 4 on drug possession charges for having 250 bags of heroin in two apartments at 302 Mott St., prosecutors said. Vineberg, a saxophone player, was targeted after police got a tip that he may have sold heroin to Hoffman, sources said.

Prosecutors have never linked him to the heroin found in Hoffman's apartment after the actor's apparent overdose.

On Tuesday, more than a dozen of Vinberg's friends turned out to his arraignment in Manhattan Supreme Court. Many were musicians who said they had played with Vineberg, who has worked with David Bowie and Wyclef Jean.

"I hope to be playing with him again soon," said Kevin Tooley, who played drums with Vineberg for the past 20 years.

Vineberg's friends pooled funds to help him make bail, which was set at $40,000 cash.

His lawyer, Edward Kratt, said that thanks to Vineberg's friends' generosity, he expected his client to be released as soon as Wednesday.

At the hearing, Vineberg pleaded not guilty to two counts of heroin possession with intent to sell and one count of heroin possession.

Hoffman's phone number was in Vineberg's cellphone, prompting speculation that the sax player was the Oscar-winning actor's dealer, but Kratt said they were simply friends.

"They had been friends for over a year is my understanding," Kratt said. "[Vineberg] feels bad about [Hoffman's] death, like we all do. He thought he was a great actor."

On Tuesday, Kratt asked the judge to place Vineberg in a drug treatment program, which could allow for the charges against him to be reduced or dismissed. Kratt said his client is not a drug dealer and had so much heroin in his apartment because he has a serious drug problem.

"He has been a drug abuser for a long time," Kratt said.

Since Vineberg is a Canadian citizen, a felony drug conviction could mean deportation, even though he has lived in the United States for at least 30 years, Kratt said.

The judge did not make a decision Tuesday on Kratt's request to divert Vineberg to a treatment program.

The two 22-year-olds arrested at 302 Mott St. along with Vineberg — Juliana Luchkiw and Max Rosenblum, who were both charged with misdemeanor cocaine possession— also appeared in court Tuesday morning. They were found with two bags of cocaine, a bag of marijuana and drug paraphernalia in their apartment, prosecutors said.

Luchkiw and her lawyer left quickly afterward, declining to comment.

Daniel Hochheiser, Rosenblum's attorney, said he would try to get the charge against Rosenblum dismissed.