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October 13, 2016 - 9:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in State Police, batavia, news.

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Cody Towner, a former Town of Batavia fire volunteer, joined 226 other cadets today as the latest graduates of the Basic School of the New York State Police Academy. The cadets are the 204th graduating class.

Towner will join Troop C, based in Sydney.

July 7, 2016 - 4:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, State Police, homeland security.

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    Eduardo Quinones
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    Jose Quinones
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    Misael Rios
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    Yasser Chartrand
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    Claudia Diaz
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    Yaily Santurio
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    Fernando Pizarro
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    Humberto Roche

In January 2015, state and federal law enforcement raided a house at 3618 Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road, Batavia, and by appearances, it looked like a bust on a marijuana growing operation.

Agents at the scene that day declined to share information and a spokesperson for Homeland Security said that the fact that there were sealed indictments in the case prevented her from providing even a general overview of what investigators hoped to uncover.

It turns out, state and federal investigators weren't looking for marijuana -- though they had a pretty good idea they would find a pot-growing operation -- they were looking for evidence in a massive credit card fraud ring involving a group of Cuban nationals from Tampa, Fla., who set up shop in Batavia and Lockport.

Six of the seven defendants associated with the house have now entered guilty pleas in U.S. District Court, so we now have access to much of the details associated with the investigation that lasted for six months, starting in the fall of 2014.

There were two more people arrested and charged in Onondaga County who weren't charged federally.

It was likely a much larger operation, according to available information, but investigators concentrated their efforts on the individuals tied to the best, most solid evidence, said Ron Wilson, an investigator with the State Police in Batavia.

As many as 20 or 25 individuals could have been involved at various times during the criminal enterprise and the people arrested by federal authorities may not have been even the highest ranking in the organization, but according to the evidence uncovered, hundreds of people in Western New York were victims of credit card fraud at a price tag in the $1 million range.

It took several investigators, including Wilson, Investigator John DiPasquale with NYSP Lockport, Sean Needham with Homeland Security, and John Ferris with the U.S. Secret Service, six months to build the case against the individuals eventually arrested on federal charges. Early on Pat Welch with East Aurora PD brought another case to Wilson. Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell T. Ippolito Jr. prosecuted the case.

Wilson said he and DiPasquale dedicated as much as 50 hours a week on the case for six months, and Ferris and Needham also put in hundreds and hundreds of hours into the investigation.

It all started with a complaint routed to a trooper from a resident in Oakfield who had his debit card with him, but it had been used to make a purchase at a Tops Market in Hamburg.

The case made its way to Wilson and he secured a surveillance video that showed two subjects working together.

Wilson used law enforcement communication channels looking for help within the region (sharing the photo, among others, at the top of the story), but no IDs were forthcoming, so he published the photo on CrimeStoppers. Needham saw that post and called Wilson.

"I think I can identify one of your guys," he said.

Misael Toledo Rios was picked up for questioning, but Wilson quickly realized that Rios wasn't the man in the Tops video, but Rios, who had a prior record related to credit card fraud made some admissions that put him on the radar of investigators.

About this time, a Town of Batavia employee reported he was victimized as well, with his Discover card number being used for thousands of dollars of charges at chain retailers in Erie County, including the purchase of a full set of weight-lifting equipment from Dick's Sporting Goods later located in the Batavia house.

Meanwhile, Welch called Wilson and said he had a similar case he was handling and that the subjects in the Hamburg video matched a video he had that related to a fraudulent transaction in East Aurora.

Then DiPasquale called Wilson and said that Cornerstone Bank had just turned over information on 200 bank customers who had been victimized by credit-card cloning.

"At that point, we knew we had the same kind of investigation, but we didn’t know we had the same individuals," Wilson said.

The men decided to work together to find the criminals.

They started assembling the jigsaw puzzle.

The suspects, particularly the man in that first Hamburg Tops video, provided a stream of cued-up clues, showing up frequently on the cameras of Big Box stores and, once investigators could connect names with faces, in their own social media posts wearing the same outfits, sunglasses and rings that were clearly visible on them in surveillance videos. This match of fraudulent transactions and social media posts helped investigators link locations, purchases, times and dates.

For example, one of the women arrested usually posted from Tampa, Fla., where she apparently lives with her two children, but on the day of at least one fraudulent purchase, she posted a picture of herself with a geo-location of Oakfield, NY. There's also a picture of her where the Walmart in Batavia is obviously identifiable in the background.

"The investigation was arduous, to say the least," Wilson said. "Every day was something new with them."

The primary suspects were working out of the house in Batavia and a house in Lockport. In order to get a search warrant, investigators needed rock-solid evidence of potential crimes. It couldn't be just a hunch.

Wilson started collecting garbage from the Batavia residence, which is how he came to realize there was obviously a marijuana growing operation going on there.

Much of the case was built before the search. Ippolito wanted a solid case to prosecute. Crime scene photos had to show faces clearly, clothing had to match, times and locations had to match, so the investigators had to cross-reference every shred of evidence and only use the receipts, photos and social media postings that wrapped up each accusation in a tight bow.

That's why the final criminal charges covered only a bit less than $100,000 in fraudulent transactions, even though in the time frame of the credit-card cloning operation, the suspects probably conducted transactions worth as much as $1 million.

That's also why there was neither a state nor federal charge for the marijuana growing operation. Too many people had access to the house in Batavia that there simply wasn't enough evidence to tie any one or two people specifically to cultivating pot.

As investigators were moving in, the suspects started moving further afield, with transactions popping up further and further east.

Wilson said he was getting nervous that the suspects were getting ready to wrap up operations in WNY and head back to Florida.

Then, they got caught.

Police in DeWitt, which is in Onondaga County, received a complaint from a store of a fraudulent credit card transaction and the suspects were still in the store.

Two subjects were picked up and questioned. It became clear to investigators that there were other individuals involved. They figured out what hotel they were staying at and what vans they were driving. The District Attorney got involved. Search warrants were obtained.

What investigators found were hundreds of credit card blanks, the hardware and software to make credit cards and evidence of prior purchases.

All six were arrested and charged in Onondaga County and the evidence obtained by investigators there helped seal the deal on search warrants for Batavia and Lockport.

"They did an amazing job in DeWitt," Wilson said.

While the U.S. District Attorney's Office has released information in the federal indictments and guilty pleas in the case, the scope of the case and its ties to Batavia, Lockport and DeWitt were not discussed openly pending convictions of five of the suspects.

Investigators believe members of the ring acquired the card numbers through two common methods: placing a scanner over the top of a card reader on a gas pump, allowing the card numbers and information to be read and stored in memory for later collection, and by purchasing numbers from hacker websites (often referred to as the "dark web").

As part of the surveillance during the investigation, one member of the group was observed placing a reader on a pump at a gas station in Oakfield. A week later, he retrieved it.

The dark websites allow credit-card cloners to search for high-limit cards within a certain geographic location. For the Cuban ring operating in Western New York, a card belonging to a resident in Oakfield or Batavia, for example, wouldn't raise suspicions for the bank or credit card company if used in Rochester or Buffalo, where a card issued to a resident in Nevada or California might. This would allow the scammers to get more use out of the card before it was shut off.

The ring members purchased merchandise, such as sunglasses, clothing and jewelry and gift cards and gasoline for later resale.

One member of the ring owned a Ford F-250 pickup with a plastic fuel tank that could hold 300 to 400 gallons of gas in the bed that had a hose and pump nozzle attached. At the time, gas was selling for about $4 per gallon, so a member of the ring would fill up the plastic tank and sell the gas for $2 or $2.50 a gallon, and since the initial purchase was with a stolen credit card, the proceeds were pure profit.

A seventh suspect is in custody and awaiting extradition from Costa Rica.

Below are the names and information on the people identified in the cases:

  • Jose Valdivia Quinones, 41, Cuban National from Tampa, convicted of bank fraud, was sentenced to 10 months in prison and required to pay $1,642.51 in restitution. He was known to investigators as "JVQ" and was one of the men captured in the surveillance video at Tops in Hamburg. He as also among the six indicted in Onondaga County (Town of DeWitt).
  • Eduardo Hernandez Quinones (Hernandez), 46, Cuban National and former resident of Miami, was convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and was sentenced to 31 months in prison. He was ordered to pay $13,785.29 in restitution. He was also arrested in DeWitt.
  • Misael Toledo Rios, 46, a Cuban National and former resident of Miami, was convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and was sentenced to 31 months in prison. He was ordered to pay $13,785.29 in restitution.
  • Yasser Carrillo Chartrand, 24, a Cuban National, entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in U.S. District Court. He's scheduled to be sentenced in September. He was also arrested in DeWitt.
  • Claudia Diaz Diaz, 22, a Cuban National, was convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and sentenced to time served and three years probation. Diaz was convicted of using the credit cards (79 different accounts), but not tied to the operation to obtain numbers and make cards. She was also among the six arrested in DeWitt.
  • Yaily Santurio Milian, 32, Cuban National, was convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. She was scheduled to be sentenced in May, but we don't have information on her sentencing. She was also arrested in DeWitt.
  • Fernando Pizarro, 38, of Miami Gardens, Fla., and Humberto Roche, who is homeless, were also arrested in DeWitt, but not charged federally.

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These two photos show one of the suspects wearing the same blue jacket in social media posts that she was seen wearing at a time and place where she used a cloned credit card.

File photo: An officer removing a marijuana plant from the house at 3618 Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road, Batavia, which served as a base of operation for members of the credit card cloning ring operating in Western New York.

May 17, 2016 - 7:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Troop A, State Police, news, batavia.

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Members of the New York State Police, Troop A, honored their colleagues who died in the line of duty, serving their communities, in an annual memorial service at the Batavia Barracks.

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December 21, 2015 - 1:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Troop A, batavia, NYSP, State Police.

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Press release:

Major Steven A. Nigrelli is the new Troop A commander. He is a 25-year-veteran of the New York State Police, starting his career in 1990, serving as a uniform Trooper in Troop D in Central New York until he was assigned to the Community Narcotics Enforcement Team (CNET) in 1994.

Nigrelli was assigned to CNET in both Western and Central New York (CNET). Nigrelli worked undercover for more than five years in the State Police’s CNET. Nigrelli then was promoted to sergeant and investigator in 1999, and was assigned to Troop A Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI).

In 2003 while in Troop A, he received his promotion to lieutenant and was assigned to supervise Troop A's BCI.

In March of 2007, Nigrelli was promoted to captain, accepting an assignment as the Troop A Zone III Commander at SP Jamestown. In 2008, he was reassigned as the Troop A Zone II Commander at SP Clarence. As a Zone Commander, Nigrelli was responsible for overseeing all Uniform operations in his zone.

In 2012, Nigrelli was promoted to BCI Captain for Troop A at Troop A Headquarters in Batavia.

Throughout his career, Captain Nigrelli has had the opportunity to work on several high-profile cases, including numerous homicides, Ralph “Bucky” Phillips manhunt, Bike Path Rapist/Killer Task Force, and he served as the scene commander for the investigation of the crash of Continental Flight #3407.

As the Troop A Commander, Nigrelli will oversee the State Police operations in the eight counties of Western New York. Under his command will be more than 400 civilian and sworn personnel.

Major Nigrelli has been committed to community service and volunteerism throughout his State Police career. He has dedicated his time and energy to volunteering for Special Olympics and currently sits as both the New York State Torch Run director and International Executive Council Board of Directors for Special Olympics. These organizations are dedicated to raising both funds and awareness for Special Olympics, which is comprised of children and adults with individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Prior to joining the State Police, Major Nigrelli briefly served as member of the Buffalo Housing Police and earned a bachelor's degree from Buffalo State College.

December 22, 2014 - 7:30am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, State Police.

Press release:

State troopers in Batavia are joining police, firefighters and first responders from agencies across Western New York in the Unyts Holiday Heroes campaign. Agencies will host blood drives in December and January. The events will also include Donate Life Registry drives where they’ll be encouraging the public to sign up to become organ, eye and tissue donors. Unyts is Western New York’s only organ, eye, tissue and community blood center.

Unyts’ Donate Life Express Bus will be set up outside the New York State Police station in Batavia (4525 W. Saile Drive) on Monday, Dec. 22 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Appointments can be made at www.unyts.org or by calling 716-512-7940.

The holidays are generally a time when fewer people give blood, but the need for blood remains.Unyts is the primary provider of blood and platelet products for Kaleida Health, ECMC and all hospitals in Niagara and Wyoming counties. All blood donated through Unyts remains in Western New York.

More than 10,400 New Yorkers are currently waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant. Police, firefighters and first responders are urging more people to join the New York State Donate Life Registry. During the Holiday Heroes campaign, several organ recipients are sharing their own stories to encourage others to donate.

Victor Morales, the public information officer for Troop A of the New York State Police, shared the story of his kidney transplant to encourage others to give. Morales was born with only one kidney. In January 2001, he was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease and learned he would need a transplant. He joined the waiting list for a short time, but his cousin came forward as a living donor. Morales received a kidney from her on Oct. 4, 2001.

“It’s made me a new man,” Morales said of his transplant. “It gave me a new lease on life and I’ve tried to do what I can to make it worthwhile.” That new lease on life has enabled him to continue his service with the State Police, spend time with his wife and daughters, and perform as an actor in Western New York theaters.

Among the organizations hosting or promoting Unyts drives are: the Erie County Sheriff's Office; New York State Police in Lockport and Batavia; U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Buffalo and Lewiston; the Buffalo Police Department; and fire companies and police departments around the area. A full list of drives is available at www.unyts.org.

November 6, 2014 - 11:31am
posted by Alecia Kaus in batavia, State Police, NYS surplus auction.

The State of New York Office of General Services held a surplus vehicle auction at State Police Troop "A" headquarters this morning on West Saile Drive in Batavia.

The auction was open to the public and Scott Perry and Company Auctioneers from Niagara Falls ran the auction that started at 9:30 this morning. The company has been contracted out by NYS to run the vehicle surplus auction for the past six years.

 

According to a seasoned auction goer, the crowd was light this morning. Vehicles that normally go for $2,000-$3,000 were going for $200-$300.

The inventory list contained about 23 vehicles, mostly Ford Crown Victoria and Chevy Impala models.

The next scheduled State Vehicle Surplus Auction will take place later today at 1:30 at State Police Headquarters Troop "E"  on Rochester Road in Canandaigua.

May 28, 2014 - 3:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, State Police, NYSP, Troop A.

State Police assigned to Troop A held a ceremony today at the Batavia Barracks honoring troopers who have fallen in the line of duty. The wreath was place this year by Heidi Riley and Sharon Keane, the widows of Ross Riley and William Keane. Trooper Riley passed away during an exercise at Letchworth State Park and Trooper Keane suffered a heart attack while training.

To purchase prints, click here.

April 23, 2014 - 10:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in law enforcement, State Police.

Ron Burroughs sent in these pictures of the State Police aviation unit training at the Genesee County Airport this morning.

The State Police helicopter is actually no longer stationed in Batavia, having been moved to Rochester, according to county officials. The move has cut into the county's fuel tax revenue from the airport.

April 10, 2014 - 11:39am
posted by Howard B. Owens in State Police, law enforcment.

Press release:

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and traffic crashes continue to be the greatest threat to the safety of the average New Yorker and the number one killer of teens in America. Cell phone use and texting are responsible for a significant proportion of traffic crashes, injuries, and deaths. These behaviors continue to become increasingly common despite their obvious danger.

State and local law enforcement are participating in stepped up traffic safety enforcement efforts including “Operation Hang Up” announced by Governor Cuomo yesterday. “Operation Hang Up” will consist of high visibility, stepped up cell phone and texting enforcement statewide April 10 – April 15.

“The State Police has always been in the forefront of trying to keep our highways safe for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. Operation Hang Up is a campaign about protecting everyone using our roads and highways from preventable injuries and property damage caused by distracted drivers using cell phone and other electronic devices,” said Major Michael Cerretto, Troop A Commander.

The dates for this year’s spring "Operation Hang-Up Campaign" correspond with a coordinated nationwide effort to combat distracted driving through ad campaigns and enforcement. In response, Troop A will partner up with other law enforcement agencies and will make distracted driving enforcement a priority.

Operation Hang-Up will run from Thursday, April 10, through Tuesday, April 15.

November 1, 2013 - 10:16am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Sheriff's Office, State Police.

Press release:

Effective November 1, the Genesee County Emergency Dispatch Center, under the administration of the Genesee County Sheriff, will begin dispatching Troopers for the New York State Police Batavia Barracks. Currently, the State Police dispatches Troopers from the State Police Troop Headquarters on West Saile Drive but effective November 1, all police calls for service will be transferred to the Genesee County Emergency Dispatch Center (9-1-1 Center) for dispatch. Currently, all cellular 9-1-1 calls within Genesee County are received by the Genesee County Emergency Dispatch Center. Staff at the State Police Barracks for non-emergency business may still be contacted by calling (585) 343-2200.

The Genesee County Emergency Dispatch Center (9-1-1 Center) currently dispatches the Batavia Police, Le Roy Police, Genesee County Sheriff’s patrols and all fire and ambulance services within the County. The 9-1-1 Center maintains a staff of approximately 16 full-time and five part-time civilian dispatchers and each shift is staffed with three to four dispatchers. The Genesee County Emergency Dispatch Center is an accredited 9-1-1 Center by the New York State Sheriffs’ Association Accreditation Program and meets all the New York State adopted standards for emergency dispatching.

“Our dispatchers have the highest level of training available and our Center is in compliance with the most stringent requirements for emergency dispatch set forth by New York State,” said Sheriff Gary T. Maha.

Sheriff Maha said, “The partnership with the State Police comes at a time when governments are being asked to cut expenses and share services. It just makes sense to combine dispatching into one central location where future equipment and resources can be dedicated to a single site.

A full upgrade in radios and towers for Genesee County Emergency Dispatch Center to Dispatch State Police communication is currently under way to comply with federal mandates for narrow banding. The $10.8 million project, contracted to Harris, will narrow the current bandwidth for police communications to free up additional spectrum for first responders and private industry. The project also updates the current 9-1-1 Center to receive Next Generation 9-1-1 calls. The project has a target date of February 2014 for partial completion and June 2014 for full completion.

State Police Captain Craig Hanesworth said, “I believe that this consolidation of dispatch services provides the citizens of Genesee County with the best in police service and response times while also providing for an increase in the safety of our officers. In addition, this consolidation allows us to reassign Troopers to road patrol functions that would have otherwise been delegated to dispatch and clerical administrative functions. This move should help increase police coverage and response times in the County."

For any police, fire or EMS emergency, citizens should call 9-1-1. Non-emergency police-related calls should be made as follows:

Batavia City Police, 345-6350
Le Roy Village Police, 768-2527
Sheriff/State Police, 343-5000

 

September 25, 2013 - 9:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, State Police, NYS School for the Blind.

Students at the New York State School for the Blind in Batavia were paid a special visit today by members of the State Police out of the Batavia Barracks, Troop A.

The troopers hosted an ice cream social (ice cream donated by Perry's) and interacted with the students, letting them touch their holsters, pet the K-9, sit in a patrol vehicle and blast the siren themselves.

This past winter Troop A hosted a fundraiser and donated the proceeds to the School for the Blind. They dropped off the donation around Christmas and had so much fun, they decided they wanted to find a reason to come back

"We received a donation and so we thought we would come out and give it to them," Sgt. David Martek said. "It's just something for the kids. We had a good time with them last year and we just thought we'd come back and do something fun for them."

Other uniformed personnel participating today were Trooper Nicole Berostko, Trooper James Jackson, Trooper Michael Swarthout and Sgt. Mike Dembrow.

Martek said, however, it was really the Batavia Barrack's civil staff who put the event together, arranged the donations and were on hand to serve the ice cream.

August 24, 2013 - 7:30am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, State Police.

A trooper assigned to Troop A-Batavia died of a heart attack Friday while attending a conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.

William P. Keane, a 26-year veteran of the State Police, was assigned to the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit and was attending a commercial vehicle safety conference.

Prior to join NYSP, the 56-year-old Keane served in the Navy for four years.

He is survived by his wife, Sharon, his seven children and his five grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

August 13, 2013 - 10:05am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, law enforcement, State Police.

Major Michael J. Cerretto has been appointed commander of Troop A, NY State Police.

Here is a brief overveiw of his career with the State Police:

Major Michael J. Cerretto, 48, is a Navy veteran with more than 26 years of service with the New York State Police. He started his State Police career in 1987, serving as a uniform trooper in Troop E, Monroe County.

Cerretto was promoted to sergeant in 1991 and was assigned to Troop K, Westchester County. In 1992, Cerretto was transferred to Troop A where he was promoted to the position of Sergeant/Station Commander serving in Wellsville and Batavia.

In 1994, he was assigned as an Investigator with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) to work in the Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force. He received his promotion to Lieutenant in 1996 working as both Uniform and BCI Lieutenant in Troops A and E. He is a graduate of 190th session of the FBI National Academy, in Quantico, Va.

In March 2003, Cerretto was promoted to Captain, accepting an assignment to the Internal Affairs Bureau in Syracuse. He returned to the uniform division in 2005, taking command of the Rochester area in Troop E.

In June 2013, Cerretto returned to Troop A, as the acting Troop Commander, receiving his promotion to Major in July. He is the 22nd Troop Commander in the 96 year history of Troop A.

As Troop A Commander, Cerretto oversees the State Police patrol and investigative operations in the eight (8) counties of Western New York. Under his command will be more than 453 civilian and sworn personnel.

Photo by Howard Owens.

May 21, 2013 - 1:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, State Police, Troop A.

State Police and members of the regional law enforcement gathered today at the Batavia Barracks of Troop A to honor their brethren who have fallen in the line of duty.

U.S. Attorney for WNY William Hochul was among the speakers. He quoted Matthew 5:9 -- "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" -- and told the families of those who had fallen that police officers do more than enforce laws, they are the peacemakers who keep communities safe so they are assured of honor in the eyes of God.

To purchase prints from this event, click here.

January 22, 2013 - 9:55am
posted by Howard B. Owens in safety, weather, State Police.

Press release:

The State Police in Western New York encourage motorists to exercise due care over the next few days.

The temperature will be hovering in the single digits in addition to somewhat windy conditions, which will result in subzero wind-chill temperatures.

State Police will be out across the region checking all major routes of travel to ensure that motorists are as safe as possible. The State Police need your assistance to make this possible. Use your best judgment to determine if driving is prudent and also be prepared in case you either become stranded or you encounter a long traffic delay.

Keep the following tips in mind:

-- Get the latest weather forecast before leaving – www.weather.gov , monitor radio or TV stations or contact your nearest State Police station;

-- Start with a full tank of gas and try to maintain it over half full at all times;

-- Make sure fluid levels are sufficient ( windshield washer fluid, anti-freeze);

-- Carry your cell phone in case of an emergency;

If you do go out, be prepared:

1) Is your trunk supplied to help you to be safe in case you are stopped or stranded in an area without assistance readily available?

2) Stock gloves, blankets, warmers, tool kit, first-aid kit, non-perishable foods, water, working flashlight and batteries, cell phone charger, etc.;

3) Have ready a shovel, ice scraper, de-icer, snow brush, rock salt or cat litter, tow chain or cable, jumper cables or battery charger, etc.;

4) If you have an exisiting medical condition, consider having a supply of necessary medication and, if possible, let someone know you are traveling.

Be prepared. Be safe.

December 21, 2012 - 9:58am
posted by Howard B. Owens in State Police.

Press release:

In preparation for the first real snowfall for this season, the State Police encourage motorists to exercise due care over the next few days. There is expected to be significant snowfall through Saturday that will impact parts of Western New York.

The State Police will be out across the region checking all major routes of travel to ensure that motorists are as safe as possible. The State Police need your assistance to make this possible. Motorists traveling in areas impacted by the snow are asked to consider traveling only if necessary. Take into consideration snow accumulation on the roads, the current snowfall rate, the wind and visibility. Use your best judgment to determine if driving is prudent.

Keep the following tips in mind:
- Get the latest weather forecast before leaving – www.weather.gov , monitor radio or TV stations or contact your nearest State Police station.
- Keep a full tank of gas.
- Make sure your fluid levels are sufficient (windshield washer fluid, anti-freeze).
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Spare tire is sufficient and you have the jack and wheel wrench.
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Use headlights at all times to increase your visibility to others. Remember, if your windshield wipers are in use due to weather then your headlights must be on.
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Drive prudently. If the conditions are adverse you should decrease your speed accordingly.
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Brake early and correctly.
- Be careful, snow and cold temperatures can create icy conditions. Pay particular attention on bridges and overpasses.
- Do NOT use cruise control. This decreases your reaction time to apply braking.
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Look out for events farther down the road. Creating more time to react can make a difference.
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Be aware of snow plows, maintenance vehicles and emergency vehicles. Give them room to work.
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If you do not absolutely have to go out on the roads, then don’t.

December 14, 2012 - 3:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in State Police.

Press release:

Major Christopher L. Cummings, Troop “A” commander, announces that the New York State Police in Troop “A” are participating in a national impaired-driving enforcement campaign called the "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over National Crackdown.”

Beginning Friday, Dec. 14, through New Year's Day, more than 20,000 police agencies nationwide are expected to participate.

Around the state, the New York State Police are planning 30 sobriety checkpoints, 10 saturation details, 18 underage drinking details, and 41 additional dedicated local DWI patrols. Saturation details consist of multiple roving units that target a specific area of focus. It is a massive effort supported largely through grants from the governor's Traffic Safety Committee, aimed at preventing tragedies during the holiday season.

There are a number of these concentrated details planned throughout Western New York and they will be conducted for the remainder of December.

“The holiday season is all about the joy of families and friends, but each year the season turns to sorrows for some as a result of traffic crashes resulting from drinking and driving,” said State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico. “We are starting our enforcement this weekend with full knowledge there will be numerous office parties and other gatherings in the coming weeks where alcohol may be consumed, and we are asking everyone who drinks to designate a driver or arrange safe transportation in advance to secure the happiness of the season for your loved ones.”

Last year during the holiday enforcement effort, troopers made 526 arrests for DWI, and issued a total of 35,496 tickets.

December 1, 2012 - 12:31am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, State Police.

When I interviewed retired State Police Investigator Leo Hunter for an article on his career and his family, Leo told me a secret and made me promise not to include it in the story: He and his fiancé Dawn Rindel were going to get married at the end of the retirement ceremony.

Judge Robert C. Noonan, who MC'd the retirement party and then officiated the wedding, quipped that Hunter didn't do a very good job at keeping a secret. At least half of the 300 or so people at the party at the Clarion Hotel on Friday night knew what was coming.

With all of Hunter's six children, his sisters and many friends present, Hunter and and Rindel exchanged vows and were pronounced by Noonan husband and wife.

After the service, each of Leo's children spoke briefly and said how proud they were to have Dawn as part of their family now and thanked their father for being a great dad.

November 27, 2012 - 9:51am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, State Police.

As a young man in the late 1970s with a wife and two children, Leo Hunter decided he needed a career, not just a job, to help support his growing family.

At the military recruitment station, Hunter had about an hour wait before he would raise his right hand, swear an oath and become a United States Marine. He asked a captain if he could use a phone and call his wife.

He told her what he was about to do.

"Well, if that’s really what you want to do, we’ll just have to live with that," Hunter recalled his wife saying.

He then asked her if he had received any mail.

Yes, she said, something that looked like it was from the government and a couple of other items. He asked her to open up the letters.

One was from the FBI, offering Hunter a chance to advance in his application to become an agent and the other was from the State Police inviting him to take an agility test as the next step in his application process.

Hunter never became a Marine.

He chose the State Police over the FBI, reasoning that the FBI might move him anywhere in the U.S., but at least as a trooper, he would always be in New York.

On Friday, friends and family will gather to celebrate Hunter's 30-year career as a trooper and criminal investigator. He retired earlier this month.

"I don't think I would have gotten the kind of training I wanted if I had joined the Marines," Hunter said. "In the Marines, they just tell you what you will do, and who knows what that would have been. I'm sure I would have been in public service, but who knows how long I would have been in the military. I always had some idea of doing something as a career."

Hunter's life as a public servant hasn't been confined, though, to just wearing a badge. He also did something right for society by raising six children, from the time they were ages 7 to 13, as a single father.

All of his children are adults now and leading good lives.

Thameena lives in Batavia and is a nurse manager at ECMC. Shabaana works at Dent Sleep Study in Buffalo. Saad (Leo Hunter Jr.) is a staff sergeant in the Army, a combat engineer with the 101st, and will be deployed to Afghanistan next month. Saad has three children.

Yasmeen is a wife and mother living in Batavia with one son and another child on the way. Hunter's twins, Sumiyya and Safiyya, both received track scholarships (North Carolina and SUNY Buffalo). Sumiyya, who was a Division I Big South champion in the 800 meter, now works for the IRS. Safiyya just returned from a two-year Peace Corps mission to Mozambique.

Hunter said he raised his children with the idea that he was there to be a parent, not a friend.

"As teenagers, we were horrible," Thameena said. "In being a cop, he had to do what was right to raise us. Then we didn't like it, but now we understand it. We appreciate it. If he hadn't done it, we probably wouldn't be here."

It's been said that it takes a village to raise a child. To hear Leo tell it, in the case of the Hunter clan, it took all of Batavia.

There were parents, friends, neighbors and family members, along with other cops, who all looked out for the five girls and one boy Leo was trying to raise on his own while working a demanding job after he and his wife divorced.

"They were the other eyes I might need," Hunter said. "They shared the same concerns and my kids knew this. They benefited from that love and caring that we found in this community."

It must have been crazy around the Hunter household on Montclair Avenue. Leo was a soccer coach and Girl Scout leader in a home of children and their friends always coming and going.

Every day Hunter made sure he knew what his children were doing and where they were, Thameena said. As the oldest child, she helped around the house, especially with the younger children, and each night, Hunter made sure the chores were done, homework completed and the whole bunch in bed by bedtime.

As teens, of course, the kids would have social lives that would take them out of the house, but Hunter kept tabs on them.

"We would go out at night and when we came back, he would ask questions," Thameena said. "We always thought he was being nosy, but he was being a dad. He always knew what was going on."

Hunter had that detective's skill and knowledge in interrogations.

Thameena remembered one time when one of the children damaged an item in the house and Hunter wanted to know which one did it. She said they laugh about it now, but Leo placed each child in a different room of the house so they couldn't talk to each other and get some story straight, just like a good detective would do with multiple suspects. He then went from room to room and questioned each one individually.

Hunter figured out who did the deed, got a confession, and there was an appropriate punishment.

"To this day, he still knows what's going on with us," Thameena said. "He can tell when something is going on (in our lives). He doesn't have to ask. He knows it. That's something amazing about him. I'm like, 'wow.' "

Leo is a proud father, he said.

"I remember going through it," Hunter said. "I always wanted them to be happy. I always wanted to be there for them and now they have grown up and they're living successful lives, I look at that, I look back and I say, 'wow.' I wish I could take all the credit, but they had wonderful teachers and a wonderful family."

A Buffalo native, Hunter grew up on Northland Avenue in Buffalo, attended McKinley Vocational School and then Canisius College.

His first assignment as a trooper was with SP Boston, then Falconer. After awhile, Hunter was offered an assignment with Troop T, patrolling the Thruway, but that wasn't a route he wanted to take, so he got himself assigned to communications in Batavia. That gave him time to study for his sergeant's exam.  Over the next few years, his career included Franklinville, Olean, Wellsville, Boston, Clarence and back to Batavia as station commander.

After two more years running the Batavia station, he was offered a slot in the Criminal Bureau of Investigation. He worked as an investigator from 1994 until retirement.

"Being a backroom investigator is probably one of the bigger responsibilities as an investigator in the State Police because they're not just working on one thing," Hunter said. "They're working on a multitude of things."

At any one time, Hunter's caseload might include child sex crimes, burglaries, fraud and other financial crimes, assaults and even homicides.

The most stressful cases, however, according to Hunter, are the hostage situations, a threatened murder or suicide, where the negotiator must talk somebody out of doing something with permanent consequences.

"When someone is at that line of giving up hope and taking the life of themselves or somebody else, I still have to take a deep breath," Hunter said. "You're traveling to a situation and you just don't know how those things are going to turn out."

For the past 12 years, Andre Dunlap has been Hunter's partner in CBI, but more than that, Dunlap said, Hunter has been his mentor.

It was Hunter who pulled Trooper Dunlap aside at a crime scene once and told him he should apply for investigations. 

"I told him I wasn't ready," Dunlap said. "He told me, 'no, you're ready.' "

One of the things that has made Hunter a good investigator, Dunlap said, and something he tries to emulate, is to be sensitive.

"Whether it's a child abuse case, a homicide, a stolen credit card or a rape, handle every case like it was a family member involved," Dunlap said. "Talk to not only victims like they were family members, but suspects, too. Give them respect and they will respect you."

In retirement, Hunter, 55, is staying physically active, he said. He still plays racquet ball (a game Dunlap taught him), though he said injuries have slowed down his basketball game. He's also taken up archery, with the help of a 75-year-old neighbor.

Hunter is also planning on getting married again soon. His fiancé is Dawn Rindel, a clerk in Le Roy Town Court.

As for going back to work, there's usually jobs in insurance investigations and that might be an option, but for now, Hunter wants to keep his free time open for his family, especially his grandchildren.

He looks back on his career and he doesn't talk so much about the cases he handled, but the people he met. He said those are the memories that will stay with him.

"I always felt that even with 30 years on the job, you're always learning something from them, even the new people," Hunter said. "I always felt that if you can learn something from somebody, you learn about yourself."

He pauses and adds, "An older investigator told me once, 'When you have your family and your friends, you’re a wealthy man.' I'm not as wealthy as some, but I'm a wealthy man."

Photo below: Leo Hunter's children (photo submitted by Andre Dunlap).

November 23, 2012 - 4:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, State Police.

Photo and info submitted by Rachel Chudoba:

Civilians of the NYS Police Headquarters in Batavia raised money in awareness of October as "Domestic Violence Awareness Month." They worked all year raising money from Dress Down Day, selling purple ribbons, drawings and luncheons.

They raised $500 to donate to Path Stone Corporation's Domestic Violence Services program. A brunch was served and check was presented to Path Stone.

Pictured from left are: Tina Zack, Teresa Ferris, Kelly Peruzzini, Margie from Path Stone, Dianna Bogue and Rachel Chudoba.

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