PITTSFIELD -- An oxycodone dealer was sentenced to 41/2 years in state prison on Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to trafficking charges.

Andrew "Tootie" Saunders, 41, of Pittsfield, was arrested by members of the Berkshire County Drug Task Force in June 2013 as part of a large-scale wiretap investigation into drug dealing in the county.

According to Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Richard M. Locke, Saunders was caught on tape setting up a buy with an oxycodone supplier in New York City.

Saunders sent his then girlfriend, Jenna Wheeler, down to New York City to pick up the drugs in a deal brokered by Saunders' sister, Delilah Saunders, 43, of the Bronx, N.Y., said the prosecutor.

Wheeler, 26, of Pittsfield, was arrested as she crossed into Berkshire County on her way back from New York on June 2, 2013. Police said they turned up more than 400 illegal oxycodone pills and a small amount of marijuana in the vehicle she was driving. A raid at their home turned up more marijuana and $400 in cash.

The cases against Deliliah Saunders and Wheeler remain pending.

Andrew Saunders pleaded guilty in Berkshire Superior Court on Wednesday to trafficking in oxycodone and conspiracy to traffic in oxycodone. Judge Daniel A. Ford sentenced him to at least four years and no more than 41 2 years in state prison in line with a joint recommendation.

As part of a plea deal between Locke and the defendant's attorney, Elaine M.


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Pourinski, Saunders was allowed to plead to lesser charges.

He was given credit for 427 days he spent behind bars awaiting the outcome of the case and unable to make his $35,000 cash or $350,000 surety bail.

The car used in the drug deal was forfeited by the defendant.

Pourinski said her client took responsibility for his actions and felt badly about getting his sister and his girlfriend involved. She said he had a hard upbringing and began to "dabble" in drugs.

In 1996, while being held on $100,000 bail on 24 drug-related charges, Saunders was accidentally released from the Berkshire County Jail because of a clerical error.

He fled and was later captured in Connecticut. Saunders eventually pleaded guilty to 20 of the charges, including multiple counts of drug trafficking and distribution, and was sentenced to between 10 and 15 years in state prison.

To reach Andrew Amelinckx: aamelinckx@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 496-6249. On Twitter: @BETheAmelinckx