February 5

Probe into Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death leads to four arrests

Investigators are culling evidence obtained during the arrests of four people on drug charges.

By Jake Pearson And Tom Hays
The Associated Press

NEW YORK — At least one of four people arrested during an investigation of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman's suspected fatal heroin overdose had the actor's cellphone number, two law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

click image to enlarge

Philip Seymour Hoffman poses for a portrait during the Sundance Film Festival last month. A private funeral for Hoffman will be held Friday.

The Associated Press / Invision / Victoria Will

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A makeshift memorial is seen Monday outside the New York building where the body of Philip Seymour Hoffman was found.

The Associated Press

Investigators zeroed in on the four after a tipster, responding to publicity about Hoffman's death, told police he had seen Hoffman at the lower Manhattan apartment building where they were arrested on Tuesday and he believed that's where Hoffman got the heroin, the officials said. In searches of two apartments in the building, police found hundreds of packets of heroin in one of them, according to a criminal complaint.

But prosecutors declined to pursue charges against one of the four, saying there was no evidence that he had control of the drugs or the apartment in which they were found, and two of the others were charged only with a misdemeanor charge of possessing cocaine, not heroin. Only one, jazz musician Robert Vineberg, was facing a felony charge of heroin possession with intent to sell.

Lawyers for the three people charged vigorously denied their clients had any role in Hoffman's death and suggested they were being swept up in a maelstrom of attention surrounding the actor's demise.

"This case and the charges against Mr. Vineberg have absolutely nothing to do with the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. ... We're hoping the (district attorney) will not use Mr. Vineberg as a scapegoat," said his lawyer, Edward Kratt, who declined to say whether Vineberg knew Hoffman.

The arrests came two days into the high-profile case, reflecting the attention and urgency it has attracted. All three of the people charged were indicted within a day after their arrests, a fairly unusual step, and were being held without bail. The two charged with cocaine possession, Juliana Luchkiw and Max Rosenblum, a couple who are neighbors of Vineberg's, were visibly dismayed when a judge denied them bail, though their lawyers hoped to revisit the issue Thursday.

"She's not a drug dealer. She's a college student," attending a design school, said Luchkiw's lawyer, Stephen Turano.

Rosenblum's lawyer, Daniel Hochheiser, said his client "has nothing to do with Philip Seymour Hoffman."

Luchkiw and Rosenbaum had two bags of cocaine, while investigators found about 300 packets of heroin, a bag of cocaine and about $1,200 in cash in Vineberg's apartment, according to criminal complaints.

Investigators have determined that the "Capote" star made six ATM transactions for a total of $1,200 inside a supermarket near his home the day before his death, law enforcement officials have said. Investigators are examining a computer and two iPads found at the scene for clues and recovered syringes, a charred spoon and various prescription medications, including a blood pressure drug and a muscle relaxant, law enforcement officials have said.

Police learned from phone records that one of the suspects had Hoffman's number, strengthening the theory that they may have supplied him with drugs, the law enforcement officials said. The officials, who weren't authorized to speak about evidence in the ongoing investigation of the death and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity, didn't identify which of the suspects had the number.

Some of the packets found in Hoffman's apartment were variously stamped with the ace of hearts and others with the ace of spades. Those found in the building where the arrests occurred had different brand names, including Black List and Panda, the officials said.

(Continued on page 2)

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