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DA Drops Drug Dealing Charges Against Philip Seymour Hoffman's Friend

 Police said they found 250 bags of heroin in the Mott Street apartment of Robert Vineberg.
Police said they found 250 bags of heroin in the Mott Street apartment of Robert Vineberg.
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Pool/Steve Hirsch

CIVIC CENTER — Prosecutors have dropped the most serious charges against the man who was arrested for dealing heroin during the investigation following Philip Seymour Hoffman's overdose death.

Robert Vineberg, 58, was charged with selling drugs after police raided his apartment in February. As a Canadian citizen, he would have faced potential deportation if convicted, even though he has lived in the United States for decades.

On Thursday, Vineberg pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of drug possession, which carries a lower risk of deportation, and he will not serve time in jail, officials said.

Vineberg, a professional saxophone player, will be sentenced to five years probation, 25 days of community service and outpatient drug treatment, and he will forfeit $1,248 in cash seized by police when they raided his Mott Street apartment on Feb. 4.

Vineberg was arrested in the bust after a tipster told police Hoffman had purchased heroin at 302 Mott St., where Vineberg lived, and police found hundreds of bags of heroin in one of Vineberg's apartments. Two 22-year-olds, Max Rosenblum and Juliana Luchkiw, also lived in the building and were arrested in the same raid. They were charged with misdemeanor marijuana and cocaine possession.

Vineberg was held at Rikers Island for at least two weeks before his friends raised $40,000 for his bail.

A prosecutor said in court on Thursday that "evidentiary issues" with the police investigation caused the more serious charges against Vineberg to be dropped. The New York Times reported that the Manhattan District Attorney said in a letter to the judge that officers did not read Vinberg his Miranda rights before questioning him.

The DA's office refused to provide a copy of the letter Friday, claiming it was not a public court document. The NYPD did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Police said they found Hoffman's phone number in Vineberg's cellphone. Vineberg was longtime friends with Hoffman, and while Vineberg had turned to selling drugs because of financial problems, he has said he never sold to Hoffman.

Hoffman was found dead in his West Village apartment on Feb. 2 of an accidental heroin overdose.