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March 1, 2012 - 7:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Oakfield.

A registered sex offender who was also recently arrested on a burglary charge in Oakfield entered a guilty plea in Genesee County Court today and faces up to six years in prison.

Steven Mullen admitted to failure to register as a sex offender and burglary, 3rd.

He waived indictment on both charges and also waived his right to appeal.

The plea deal would mean one-and-a-third to four years in state prison on the failure to register charge and the burglary charge has a penalty of three to six years.

The sentences would be served concurrently.

In 2004, Mullen was convicted of sexual abuse in the first degree and served two-and-a-half years in prison.

Mullen remains in Genesee County Jail on $100,000 bail.

March 1, 2012 - 7:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

A Rochester man accused of dealing cocaine in Batavia has a chance at avoiding prision if he can just stay out of trouble while awaiting his sentence.

In Genesee County Court today, Edward J. Fuller (aka "Taz"), 21, of 1906 Parsells St., Rochester, entered a guilty plea to attempted possession of a controlled substance, 3rd.

The plea arrangement will mean what's known as "shock probation" (an intermittent jail sentence and five years probation) if he can do things such as obey his 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and stay in contact with Genesee Justice between now and his sentencing.

Fuller was arrested in Batavia on July 12 following an investigation by the Local Drug Enforcement Task Force. He was accused of possessing more than an ounce of cocaine and $3,000 in cash.

All other pending charges against Fuller were dropped as part of the plea deal.

March 1, 2012 - 6:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, bergen.

A Genesee County jury today found a home-care nurse from Bergen guilty of filing false reports with her employer, generating compensation she hadn't earned.

Michele Ann Case, 46, of 7100 N. Bergen Road, Bergen, was convicted of grand larceny in the third degree.

To be found guilty, the jury needed to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Case stole at least $3,000 from her former employer.

She was accused of stealing more than $14,000 over a two-and-a-half year period.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman, in his closing argument, said Case filed 230 false claims with her employer.

"How could she not be aware of what she was doing?" Friedman said.

Friedman said testimony and documents showed that Case claimed 69 times that she made "call outs" -- totaling more than $5,000 in extra billing to her employer -- that she did not make.

She would make "call out" claims, he said, during hours when she was already working, when she had training or when she stayed in the office late filling out paperwork.

Case was also accused of filing false mileage reports, and Friedman said the false mileage reports were wildly inflated -- one report had her driving 30 miles, he said, when the trip was only 7/10ths of a mile.

Friedman said the evidence showed that in all but her first mileage claim Case filed inflated mileage reports, for a total of 33 times.

"She didn't offer any explanation for the inflated milage claims because there aren't any," Friedman said.

William Tedford from the Public Defender's Office made the closing statement for the defense and said that Case did not receive any compensation she did not believe she was legally entitled to receive.

"What we see here is a wide discrepancy between practice and policy," Tedford said.

The problem, according to Tedford, is that how nurses actually completed their paperwork and computer reports and what they were allowed to claim wasn't necessarily in line with policy.

"The people are trying to convict my client of violating policy," Tedford said.

He used as an example a practice change allowing nurses to claim "call outs" that came after 4 p.m. rather than 4:30 p.m., but Friedman said "there is no massive change in policy."

The district attorney said that was the only item brought up in testimony about any conflict between policy and practice.

Tedford criticized the prosecution for not presenting paper copies of charts and the policy, and for not getting a search warrant for Case's computer. But Friedman said the reason there were no paper charts in evidence was because none exist. And a search warrant wasn't needed for the computer because, first, all of Case's files were downloaded daily to her employer's server and, second, the employer owned the computer, so a search warrant wasn't required.

When Det. Charles Dudek interviewed Case, Friedman said, Case admitted to financial difficulties. She said the father of her children was more than $70,000 behind in child-support payments.

"I can't make ends meet," Case reportedly told Dudek.

She also reportedly told Dudek that she took a big pay cut when she left a job in Monroe County, but as Dudek questioned her further, Friedman said, it turned out she hadn't quit her job. She hadn't successfully completed, according to Friedman, her probationary period on the job.

"She didn't take a pay cut," Friedman said. "She was unemployed when she went to work for (her former employer). It's just another example of her trying to con the detective."

Tedford also argued that if Case was filing obviously false reports, why did it take her employer two-and-a-half years to bring it to anybody's attention?

Friedman said her supervisors simply weren't on the alert for wrongdoing.

"You heard (her supervisor) testify," Friedman said. "She assumed she was honest. She said, 'she's a licensed nurse, a professional, I expected her to be honest.' "

Case remains out of jail pending sentencing at 1:30 p.m., May 22.

Grand larceny in the third degree is a Class D felony and punishable by up to seven years in state prison.

After the verdict, Case walked into the gallery and was embraced by her mother and she sobbed.

When she left, Case's mother approached a reporter and said, "If you put anything in The Batavian that's not true, I'm going to sue you. What those people (pointing to the representatives from Case's former employer) said isn't true."

Previously: RN accused of creating inflated call claims to steal more than $14,000

March 1, 2012 - 5:41pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Kiwanis Club.

The U.S Attorney for Western New York was in Batavia today to speak to the Kiwanis Club about the three broad areas of crime he said his office spends much of its time prosecuting: crimes against your kids, your money and your identity.

William Hochul spent much of his time talking about the two things he said that most put kids in danger -- sexual predators and drugs.

It used to be, he said, parents told their children to run from strangers and not take candy from people they didn't know. Now sexual predators often find their victims on the Internet.

He told the story of a high-school teacher in Erie County who identified lonely, vulnerable boys and then pretended to be a girl contacting them online. Eventually, he would lure them into sending sexually explicit pictures.

"Once they did," Hochul said. "He had them." 

From that point, Hochul explained, the teacher blackmailed them into sending increasingly explicit pictures of themselves.

"He will spend 35 years in jail," Hochul said.

Recently, Hochul said his office has taken an interest in so-called synthetic drugs. While many of the compounds used in the drugs are not yet banned in New York, they are being added to the banned substances list by the federal government.

Another big drug problem, he said, is kids getting ahold of prescription drugs, which he said is a growing problem.

"My message to you," Hochul said is, "lock up your prescriptions."

Another growing problem in WNY, Hochul said, is con artists. Most typically, these criminals use various techniques to steal your identity and then steal your money.

"You can't believe how sophisticated some of these scams have become," Hochul said.

One scam he described involved people calling WNY residents claiming they were from a credit agency and that the targets owed them money. The caller would tell the targets that if they didn't pay immediately the police would be right over to arrest them.  The caller would then say the police had arrived and then describe the target's house -- with the description coming from a picture off Google Maps.

If the person agreed to pay, the caller would pretend he told the police to leave and then take a credit card payment.

"Now you might say to yourself, 'well, I would never fall for that,' but we prosecuted two men who got $6 million from 124 victims," Hochul said.

Prior to the Hochul speaking, the club received an award for being a "Distinguished Club" in 2011, primarily because of its long-term project -- raising funds for a new building for the Child Advocacy Center.

Photo below, Kiwanis Genesee Division Lt. Governor Ron Pollack, left, Batavia Immediate Past President Larry Friedman and Kiwanis Genesee Division Immediate Past Lt. Governor Bob Reusch.

Disclosure: Howard Owens is a member of the Batavia Kiwanis Club.

March 1, 2012 - 10:39am
posted by Howard B. Owens in politics, NY-26, redistricting.

Redistricting plans unveiled last night by a New York court reviewing the proposals indicate Republicans and Democrats in Albany have very different views of how Genesee County should be represented in Congress.

One plan splits the county in two and another plan keeps Genesee County whole.

One plan would seemingly make it easier for Rep. Kathy Hochul to retain her seat in November's general election. The other plan would seem to make an election fight tougher.

Both plans presented by the legislature -- the Democratic majority in the Assembly and the Republican majority in the Senate -- say that one of the aims  is to protect incumbent seats.

"Preserving the cores of existing districts — sometimes also referred to as incumbency protection — is a well-established, traditional districting principle in New York," reads a legal brief prepared by Republicans in the Senate.

The Senate memo cites several legal precedents saying that preserving relationships between legislators and constituents is a legitimate legal concern, and that for congressional seats, protecting seniority of house members is important to maintaining the state's influence in the lower chamber.

Democrats in the Assembly prepared a similar memo.

The Democrats also said they put a high value on protecting minority representation (as required by prior legal cases), so for the NY-26, the district includes all of urban Buffalo and Niagara County. It also includes other portions of Erie County and all of Orleans County, but in Genesee County the towns of Le Roy, Stafford, Byron, Bergen and Pavilion are in Rep. Tom Reed's NY-24 district.

The Republicans plan -- which is somewhat similar for WNY to a plan presented by Common Cause -- keeps Genesee contiguous and keeps the entire GLOW region as part of the same district.

In that plan, all of Niagara County and a portion of Erie County are part of the NY-24, making the district almost entirely rural.

The court could make a decision on a redistricting plan by some time Friday.

February 29, 2012 - 1:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

A former Batavia resident convicted of three felonies in Wyoming County who got married, changed his name and then fought extradiction from West Virginia is back in jail awaiting sentencing April 5.

Eric J. Motzer, 25, now goes by the name Eric J. Disalvo after getting married Sept. 21 in front of a Genesee County Justice of the Peace.

He was convicted by a jury in Wyoming County Sept. 14 of criminal sale of marijuana, 2nd, rape, 2nd, criminal sexual act, 2nd, and endangering the welfare of a child.

Up until Sept. 22, when he was scheduled for sentencing Motzer/Disalvo, who was out of jail on $5,000 bail, had made all of his court appearances.

He didn't show up that day and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Clay County Sheriff's deputies apprehended Motzer/Disalvo on Oct. 5.

He fought extradition on the grounds that his name was Eric J. Disalvo, not Eric J. Motzer, according to a Wyoming County Sheriff's Office press release.

According to the release, on Feb. 22, after numerous hearings and a governor's warrant being issued, Motzer -- still stating his name was Disalvo -- waived extradition.

Wyoming County officers drove to West Virginia yesterday, picked up Motzer/Disalvo and transported him back to New York.

Motzer/Disalvo is now being held in Wyoming County Jail without bail.

February 29, 2012 - 12:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in corfu, STOP-DWI.

A State Police investigation into the alleged misappropriation of STOP-DWI funds in Corfu has concluded there was no criminal wrongdoing in the case.

Allegations of malfeasance have been percolating in Corfu for months after Village Trustee Ralph Peterson first started looking into rumors that part-time police officers were being required to sign falsified time cards.

Investigator Ken Dubrinski concluded that there is no evidence any officers signed time cards that had notations on them claiming they were on DWI patrol when they were not.

STOP-DWI is a county program which uses funds from DWI fines to help pay for extra patrols by local law enforcement agencies -- either to operate DWI checkpoints or put DWI-specific patrols on the road.

Typically, the Village of Corfu Police Department has only one officer at a time on the road and that officer is engaged in general patrol duties. The only time two officers are on duty is during Darien Lake concerts, and one of those officers operates the intersection stop light at routes 33 and 77.

Even so, the village has been filing paperwork for STOP-DWI funding since at least 2009.

Dubrinski concluded that in the absence of falsified time cards, the filing of the STOP-DWI vouchers by the village clerk was the result of village officials misunderstanding how the program worked.

According to the investigator's report, obtained recently by The Batavian, the case started when Justice Robert Alexander (separately, a possible subject of an investigation into missing court funds) contacted Peterson and said that village police complained to him that they were being asked to sign time cards saying they were on DWI patrol when they were not.

Perterson told Dubrinski that he obtained copies of the program vouchers and interviewed police officers. He reportedly told Dubrinski that 39 out of 39 times, officers were reported to have worked DWI patrol but had only worked routine patrol.

Once officer told Dubrinski that he believed that the village was turning in STOP-DWI vouchers for any shift that resulted in a DWI arrest.

The officers interviewed by Dubrinski -- all seven or eight in the department are part-time -- said that as far back as a year ago, officers were asked to start signing time cards following a state audit. All said they had never been asked to sign a time card with additional notations on them.

February 29, 2012 - 12:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, East Pembroke Fire.

A state audit of the East Pembroke Fire District's financial records found problems with accounting procedures, but did not uncover any missing funds or improper expenditures.

The NYS Comptroller's Office released the audit this past week and was critical of the district for:

  • Not auditing treasurer's records and reports;
  • The treasurer has not completed and filed annual financial reports with state since 2005;
  • There's no evidence the board reviewed claims before they were paid;
  • Bank statements were not reconciled monthly.

The apparent problems with the bookkeeping required auditors to go through expenses check-by-check -- 75 checks in all totaling $21,875 -- from May 1 through Oct. 30, as well as all bank account transfers, deposits and withdrawals.

The financial activity was properly recorded and disbursements appeared for district purposes, but claims lacked proper approvals.

The audit period was Jan. 1, 2010 through Nov. 29, 2011.

The district has an annual budget of $158,000.

February 29, 2012 - 11:18am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Cedar Street.

Press release:

The 2nd Public Information Meeting for the reconstruction of Cedar Street will be held from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 7, at Batavia City Hall in the Council Board Room (2nd Floor).

Erdman Anthony, the engineering firm retained by the city, will present the Draft Design Report and discuss different design alternatives under consideration. The design alternatives were developed after the current road conditions were assessed, input from the residents and businesses along the corridor was considered, traffic studies were analyzed and surveying and mapping was completed.

The reconstruction of Cedar Street from Main Street (Rt.5) to Ellicott Street (Rt. 63) is a Locally Administered Federal – Aid Project that is scheduled for construction in 2013-2014.

A copy of the Draft Design Report is available to review at city hall in the Department of Public Works; Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. – 4:30 pm.

February 28, 2012 - 5:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business.

For years, Jim Vo would see residents from Genesee County go to Rochester and Buffalo to sell their gold and silver and knew that while many retailers in the big cities were reputable, some of them were clearly a little shady.

After looking around Batavia a bit, he decided it would be a good place to start a business, which became Batavia Gold Rush, at 4152 W. Main St.

With a family background in jewelry -- his parents started in the business while still in Vietnam -- and some experience buying and selling gold and silver, he said he saw an opportunity.

"I love it in Batavia," said Vo, who will soon marry and is looking for a place to live in Batavia. It’s clean. It’s quiet. The people are very friendly."

Vo wants to be known as a precious metals buyer people can trust. A customer in his store is just as likely to get a lesson on how to value items as they are to get cash.

"You gave me respect to come into my store, so I'm going to show you respect," Vo said.

When he markets his business he doesn't advertise "the highest price paid." He said customers will figure that out after they get bids from other stores.

"Usually customers who don't sell to me come back later that same day because they found I did offer the highest bid," Vo said.

His personal motto is, "give me a chance to prove we pay the highest price and we will."

Vo said he's hoping to attract business that is currently being siphoned off from Genesee County and going to Buffalo and Rochester.

Some of his recent print advertising has even emphasized that fact.

"People should shop local," he said. "We want to keep the dollars in Batavia."

While some antique and coin dealers might buy items for resale, Vo said he doesn't want to hold inventory for resale. It just means he has to pay a lower price because the item will sit on a shelf for a while before he gets his investment back on it. By sending out all the gold and silver he buys to refineries, he can pay the best possible price, he said.

"My goal is to try and make money, and at the same time, get the customers the deal they deserve," Vo said.

February 28, 2012 - 3:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, byron.

An 18-year-old Byron resident who was reportedly driving a golf cart Nov. 26 on North Byron Road when the cart was struck from behind by a car, leading to the death of her passenger, was arrested today on two felony charges.

A blood sample taken by investigators that night allegedly tested positive for alcohol and a drug.

Cortney L. Greene, of North Byron Road, Byron, is charged with vehicular manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

The top felony, a Class D, carries a maximum prison term of seven years.

The Sheriff's Office did not release the type of drug allegedly in Green's system at the time of the accident.

Zachary J. Rusin, 18, of Holley, died as a result of his injuries after being thrown from the golf cart when it was struck.

The accident was reported at 12:07 a.m. and Green was arrested that morning and charged with DWI, at which time she agreed to provide a blood sample to law enforcement.

The driver of the car, Emmaleigh R. Odom, 19, of Pavilion, was not injured and not charged.

February 28, 2012 - 11:47am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee ARC.

Representatives of Genesee ARC filled council chambers Monday night to see a proclamation presented that declared March as "Developmental Disabilities Month."

In the photo, from left, are John Brown, Donna Saskowski and Angie Maniaci representing Genesee ARC. Also pictured are City Councilman Kris Doeringer and Genesee County Legislator Marianne Clattenburg.

Photo by Sandy Konfederath.

February 28, 2012 - 11:35am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Batavia Development Corp..

Among the accomplishments of the Business Development Corp. in 2011 was hiring an economic development coordinator, Board President Ray Chaya told city council members Monday night.

Now the BDC is getting down to the business of growing business.

Chaya and Julie Pacette presented the BDC's action plan for 2012, which includes improving the real estate market, fostering an entrepreneurial spirit and becoming a friendlier city.

The second half of 2011 was pretty good for the BDC, Chaya said -- six loans for small businesses in Batavia were approved in 2011.

"It was quiet for some time, but has picked up," Chaya said. "Julie being on the street, talking to people, is something we’ve never been able to do before, so I really think it’s going to help drive some new business."

BDC Board Member Gregg Torrey is the group's champion for improving the real estate environment, which will include pushing forward with applications for $400,000 in Main Street grants from the state.

To qualify, property owners must cover at least 60 percent of the project costs.

Pacette said the BDC has already received grant applications totaling $700,000 in project costs and is looking for more applications to consider forwarding to the state for approval.

Pacette said the BDC hopes to get the applications through the process pretty quickly.

"We don't want to miss this construction season," Pacette said. "We hope to get the money on the street working this summer."

Chaya will spearhead efforts to foster a greater entrepreneurial spirit, which could include workshops for businesses on a variety of topics.

Brenda Richardson, manager at Coffee Culture, and City Manager Jason Molino, are champions of the action plan for making Batavia a friendlier city, which covers everything from ramping up customer service training for small businesses to streamlining government processes for small businesses.

Council members seemed to react favorably to the presentation.

"It validates the point we've been saying all along," Councilwoman Patti Pacino said. "We have all of the things to make our city a place where, when you drive through you say, 'I want to live here.' It's very exciting. It's happening."

February 28, 2012 - 8:22am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia.

Police requested to a business on Liberty Street for a loitering skunk near the front door, that's refusing to leave.

February 28, 2012 - 7:59am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire.

A possible chimney fire has been reported at 3491 Pearl Street, Town of Batavia.

Town of Batavia Fire Department responding.

UPDATE 8:20 a.m.: East Pembroke and Oakfield departments asked to standby in their halls. The fireplace has been cleaned out, according to a chief. Crews are rechecking the chimney. There appears to be no extension at the base.

UPDATE 9 a.m.: East Pembroke back in service.


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February 27, 2012 - 11:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Police Benevolent Association.

After years and years of wrangling -- and police officers working without a contract since 2005 -- the Police Benevolent Association and the City of Batavia finally have a labor agreement both sides can accept.

The PBA approved the contract Feb. 15 and the city council approved it Monday night.

Under the agreement, union members will receive retroactive pay increases from 2007 on, except for the final year of the contract, in the amount of 2.25 percent annually.

The retroactive pay will cost the city $784,000, which will be paid for with money in the city's fund balance and current fund surpluses.

This April, the city council will be asked to approve a transfer of $268,000 from the constituency fund to the police budget to cover the current year's increase in personnel costs.

"One of our goals was to solve this impass this year and here we are in February and we already have a resolution," said Council President Tim Buckley. "I credit Jason Molino and the PBA for reaching a resolution."

The PBA has been without a contract since 2005. The union won an arbitration award in 2009.

The contract impasse went to arbitration again in July 2011. The following September, the city and PBA leadership thought they had a contract agreement, but the union membership rejected the plan.

The arbitrator was set to issue PBA members 2 percent annual pay raises for 2007/08 and 2008/09, but before the award was final, the city and PBA settled on a new contract offer.

The ratified contract supersedes previous arbitration agreements.

Other provisions include a $1,000 per-member bonus in lieu of a 2012/13 pay increase, an increase in employee contribution to health insurance from 10 percent to 30 percent and increased co-pays on prescription drugs.

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