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February 6, 2014

Officials: NY suspect had Hoffman's cell number

NEW YORK (AP) — 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.

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.

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