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March 5, 2013 - 2:48pm

Judge tells bookies they will serve in a weekend-work program

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

The three men -- including two former City firefighters -- who admitted to a bookmaking charge late last year will work weekends for the community through the Sheriff's Office the next four and a half months, serve three years on probation and pay a $1,000 fine each.

Because the county's work release program doesn't have any openings until March 30, City Court Judge Robert Balbick delayed formal sentencing until March 26.

Greg Phillips, Brian Bordinaro and Lance Engel each appeared in court with their attorneys.

Engel was the first called to the bench and his attorney Joseph LaTona argued that Engel should be given a conditional discharge, meaning no supervised punishment, though he would need to stay out of trouble for a period of time.

All three men entered guilty pleas Dec. 11 to a Class A misdemeanor charge of promoting gambling, 2nd. The maximum sentence available to Balbick on the conviction was up to a year in jail.

LaTona took note that while it's true that his client initially faced felony charges, District Attorney Lawrence Friedman, "a pretty tough guy," agreed to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor for a plea bargain.

"My client had to resign his job of 17 years at the New York state Veterans Hospital," LaTona told Balbick. "In terms of punishment already sustained by my client and his family, that is enough."

Adding later, "He did wrong. He knew he did wrong and he knew it was a crime."

Asked for a statement by Balbick, Engel said, "I take full responsibility for my actions and the embarrassment it caused to members of my family, coworkers and friends."

Friedman (inset photo) acknowledged that even though the charges had been reduced from felonies, including the Class B felony of enterprise corruption, the fact the charges were reduced was already a substantial break.

Friedman supported the Probation Department's recommendation for Engel, which was a period of probation.

"Assuming the defendant is a law-abiding citizen in coming years, then it's not a great hardship for him to be on probation and that's a pretty good disposition for the community in a way I don't feel that a conditional discharge is good for the community."

Balbick said he's thought long and hard about the case, and while he has no doubt Engel is a hard-working family man who made just one "horrible mistake," a sentence of probation wasn't enough.

"It would be a waste of money to put this man in jail, but I do think this man committed a crime and there needs to be accountability to the citizens of this community," Balbick said.

After Engel's appearance, Bordinaro and Phillips approached the bench in turn. Both were asked if they would accept the same sentence as Engel.

The alternative sentence, Balbick said, was 120 days intermittent jail time.

Both Bordinaro and Phillips accepted Balbick's terms. There was no discussion about the sentence during their appearance before Balbick.

Phillips appeared unhappy with Balbick's offer and his attorney, Larry Andolina (top photo), admitted to reporters outside the courthouse that Phillips was indeed displeased with what transpired in court.

"It was a little more than what I expected, but we'll come back to court on the 26th and we'll deal with it then," Andolina said.

Asked about allegations that Phillips and Bordinaro conducted their bookmaking operation while on duty at the City of Batavia Fire Station, Andolino said the allegation was "nonsense."

Asked why the case had been reduced from felony charges, Andolina said, “The investigation wasn’t handled appropriately.”

Asked if there was a conflict of interest, Andolina said, "yes."

Asked if he would elaborate, he said, "No."

"You have to ask Larry Friedman or the Sheriff?" Andolina said. "They have much more information."

Asked again later if he had evidence to support his allegation that the investigation was mishandled, Andolina said, "Steve Mullen retired, didn't he."

When told that wasn't exactly evidence, Andolina again referred the question to Freidman or Sheriff Gary Maha. 

"You're asking the wrong people," he said and added, "My client still has to get sentenced on the 26h."

Later, Friedman said he wouldn't discuss the matter.

Maha who is out of town, has yet to respond to an e-mail requesting comment.

While Engel expressed remorse in court, neither Phillips nor Bordinaro were given a chance to speak.

Asked if his client, Phillips, was remorseful, Andolina said, "Sure he's remorseful. He lost his job. He lost his pension. He’s got a family. This is not a real big community. He knows a lot of people in this community. This is not a happy time."

Andolina said Phillips has been training to become a barber and can't receive a state license unless Balbick signs a "release from disability," a legal document that would allow Phillips to be licensed for such an occupation.

Balbick said he'll take up that matter on March 26.

Asked to comment on Balbick's characterization that the three defendants committed an offense against the community, Friedman said, "Regardless of how you feel about gambling laws, two of the defendants were professional firefighters and were on the public payroll and the evidence is that they were running the gambling operation on duty at least at times. The other defendant was an employee of New York State Veterans nursing home, so I think in that respect it would be considered offenses against the community."

UPDATE: WIVB's George Richert lead this evening's newscast with a story about the sentencing and included information accusing Mullen of placing bets with the bookies. Richert offered no proof, either in the form of documents or sources, to substantiate the claim. (WIVB Web Story)

Doug Yeomans
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"A Class A misdemeanor charge of promoting gambling, 2nd." Doesn't the state do that in every corner store, OTB parlor and every racino? I guess the real lesson is, do as we say, not as we do.

tim raines
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Law breakers always claim they're the victim after sentencing.

And everyone in prison never committed the crime

The attorneys spew BS. No one pled not guilty and requested a jury trail

That tells you everything.

What about the cocaine charge on Phillips.?

Howard B. Owens
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Dropped.

cj sruger
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Maha is conviently out out town . Friedman wouldnt discuss because he knows exactly what happened, the case fell apart when they revealed the lead investigators name in the books. It was covered up quite nicely

Doug Yeomans
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Hey Tim, if someone wants cocaine, they should be given a flour sack full of it so that people aren't willing to sell it while supporting a drug-kingpin and his empire of ill-gotten wealth. The war on drugs has killed more people and cost more to society than the actual drugs. I have no sympathy for addicts, but the war on drugs is pathetic.

I've never heard a criminal say they were a victim of their own crime, but I have heard them blame various other aspects of their life on why they commit crimes. Those things are all just excuses and I'm sure most people realize that. The fact that the United States imprisons more people per capita than any other country, it doesn't surprise me when we read about so many innocent people in prison. There are so many innocent people in prisons across the country that there's an organization called the innocence project.

Are you one of those people that thinks everyone in prison is guilty? Do you not read the news over and over again about people wrongfully convicted because DA's dismissed evidence exonerating the accused and because police lied during testimony? REALLY?

http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_pri_per_cap-crime-prisoners-per-ca...

tim raines
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yo man

I didn't read all of your blabble, but the ole saying is EVERYONE in prison says they didn't do it, whether they did it or not.

Doug Yeomans
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lol...blabble...I like that simple word

Jack Dorf
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Your right Doug, we should in courage people do take whatever illegal drug they want just so money won't go to drug king pins. Get serious. Your argument is counter productive to society. Using "freedom" to do whatever you want? Really.

Sure the war on drugs is difficult to fight but the answer is not to legalize illegal drugs so you end up having more people being dependent on the gov.

Don Lovelace
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I'm going to stay on topic.
Who were the victims of their crime? no one.
The State didn't get their cut, so these men are made to suffer.

Mark Potwora
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If this part is true about Mullen placing bets and nothing happens to him, but a volunteer fireman in Oakfield gets arrested for stealing water to wash the fire trucks shows how unfair justice is.....

cj sruger
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the much bigger story here is will charges be brought against mullen? I wouldnt be suprised if all charges are thrown out After more details emerge. The lead investigator on the case at sheriffs dept was directly involved in the illegal activity he was investigating. Did the sheriff know this and let him retire so he can still get his pension?

Howard B. Owens
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There are no allegations -- never even been a rumor as far as I know -- that Mullen took bets, only that he placed bets.

It's not illegal to place bets in New York. It's not even illegal to take bets if you're not taking a rake or vig or consideration.

The only rumor about Mullen I've heard is that he placed bets. If he did, he didn't break any law.

The rumor has been going around for months but nobody who says they know it's true has been willing to produce proof.

Even Andolina today, after tossing out the allegation, refused to produce proof.

Time will tell if WIVB actually has proof to back up this story, but in this story there is no evidence presented to support the allegation.

Maybe the proof is out there, but all of my requests for proof have been either rebuffed or met with silence. I'm not going to report mere speculation and rumor. (Of course, if another news organization, such as WIVB reports it, I'm not going to ignore it either, though I will treat the story with some caution unless actual documentation and sources are revealed).

So specifically to Mark's comment: If it is true, he didn't break the law, and he's no longer in law enforcement, so what else might be done? To CJ's comment, charges for what, if true? Charges for not breaking the law?

Dave Olsen
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Yes, Jack people should be free to do whatever they want AS LONG AS they do not infringe upon others. Drugs and gambling are victimless crimes. Who gives a rat's tail if people want to do cocaine and gamble. As long as no violence ensues over it and no government dependance, with freedom has to come responsibility. A free society is a productive one. Really

Jack Dorf
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Dave, The key is "no gov. dependence". That's really my point. I don't believe you can legalize drugs without having the other. We end up being the victims of their stupidity and ignorance.

Jim Rosenbeck
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Doug, Great response. I would like to invite you attend our next county libertarian party meeting at GCC on Monday, March 18th. I think you will find a lot of like minded people. We need more people like you.

Mark Potwora
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Howard..The part that if true about Mullen that seems wrong and i don't know if its was illegal was that he was also investigating the case ..That would seem like a conflict of interest.. and that should be illegal..Why is he no longer in law enforcement.Is this why he retired..Justice is meted out differently for someone..I'm sure there is more to the story.If he was placing bets with these men and lost alot and owed money and then had them arrested thru his investigation i could see a legal problem..But its just my speculation...WVIB also stated that this could be investigated by the FBI...interesting story..Good reporting...What is BS is gambling ..If its good enough for the state to run then it should be OK for you or I to take bets also..

Robert Tretter
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Ok . I hate to post because people behind computers can say what they want because they are big and brave and have no idea of what is really going on and they berate.

1) The drug issue. Come on! It was a trace! He had a party a few weeks before and they found a trace. Does anyone really know everything about the friends they invite to their house? I can just hear the righteous people. Not my friends! Come on!. Why was it dropped. In Buffalo or Rochester they would not even delved into this evidence but here in Batavia, it's big NEWS and make it a bigger case! This was said from from law enforcement from both areas and it was dramatized in the press.

2) As far as the officer, I am unfamiliar with the gambling thing. There is other things that will come up. I will not talk any further about that.

3) Again I stress, it was not proven they did it on duty if they were doing it at all. I love how certain individuals say well I am paying taxes they should be convicted .

4)OK. Another issue. Why did they plea bargain? Well most of you people don't know but you don't realize until you are involved in something like this or know someone involved that the State has tons of money FROM US THE TAX PAYERS! They keep going and going. They have empty pockets. While the defendants have to keep paying mega money for their lawyers. This is one reason why plea deals are made. It is common practice.

5) Yes I am friends with these individuals. Yes I am a retired firefighter. Yes I have a lot of friends in the law enforcement area. Yes I didn't vote for Obama but I love what the stock market is doing now. Yes I am Catholic and they have gambling for their carnivals.

RD Adams
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Gambling is not a victimless crime. Without giving names I can specifically think of 2 individuals, a wife of a gambler and the daughter of a gambler that were the victim of gambling. A gambler that spends his money on bets and the like instead of buying food or clothing for the children and makes the wife work 3 jobs to cover the difference has victims to his gambling. A father who gambles and makes the daughter take out a loan to pay for his gambling debts and then never pays back the loan to the daughter has victims. Drugs are the same way. I personally believe we need to re-write the drug laws of the nation and specifically in NYS, but I would never say those infractions are victimless and is off topic. Would you say that prostitution is victimless? These guys got off EASY! Probably because of the jobs they held in the community and partially because of city politics. Once again it's who you know. Not fair and I think these individuals deserved some jail time. If it was me, someone with no political contacts or friends with power, that was taking bets and got busted with cocaine you can bet, no pun intended, that I would be sitting in jail now.

Dave Olsen
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But that's not all that you wrote, Jack. I'm not going to copy and paste your words, they are up there to read. You first said people can't be allowed to take drugs. Also, do you really think it will cost more to rehabilitate addicts than we spend right now on the war on drugs? Everyone who uses doesn't necessarily become an addict. Also, we all know many get started on that garbage strictly because it is forbidden fruit. Legalize it, stop the crime associated with protecting markets and the stealing to buy the overpriced black market drugs. Mainstreaming will lower the price, make it easily obtainable, remove the false glamour associated with forbidden activity, increase education about the dangers and create less drug users. Zero money, time and assets spent on enforcement of drug laws will save us billions in the long run and the rehab care costs will be less than they are now. Savings all around and safer streets. You and I may disapprove of using drugs, but it's not our business if someone else does.

Peter O'Brien
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RD your argument is the same one made for smoking, drinking, drugs, and even pinball at one point in our history.

Self responsibility is hard but its what makes us human vs animal.

The daughter in your story should never have taken out the loan.

There is no reason any person should not be able to do anything I listed above so long as their action do not interfere with others. The wife and the daughter should have either gotten him help or walked out on him and cut his money supply.

We are on the precipice of a slippery slope to regulating everything from gambling to how many calories worth of food you can purchase. Your attitude will help push us down the icy flume of dependency instead of towards the shining city on the hill of freedom with responsibility.

Dave Olsen
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May i suggest: http://www.leap.cc/

Howard B. Owens
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Robert Tretter wrote, "4)OK. Another issue. Why did they plea bargain? ..." and so on.

Let me get this straight, Robert. You're saying that the three defendants entered guilty pleas to a crime they didn't commit? You're saying they never took illegal bets (meaning, bets for which they took a vig)? That this whole thing was just made up? And yet they still entered guilty pleas?

So when Engel said in court on Tuesday, "I take full responsibility for my actions ...," was he not being honest with the judge?

Frank Bartholomew
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Jack, people already do what they want, it just costs more to obtain illegal drugs.
The " war on drugs" is nothing more than a federal employment agency, sucking away tax dollars.These people are also "dependent" on the govt..
Look at alcohol, nasty shit in the wrong hands, but at least it is regulated and taxed, it produces money, it doesn't suck money
away from the taxpayers.

Howard B. Owens
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The problem with calling gambling a victimless crime is that it engenders the argument as made by RD Adams (first time commenter, I believe, so thanks, RD) that a wife or a child is a victim.

My counter argument would be: These are matters of the family to work out, not the government.

A personal matter, a family matter, not a government matter.

Yes, there are people who gamble too much and create hardship on those around them, but the vast majority of people who gamble do so responsibly.

The vast majority of people who drink, do so responsibly.

The vast majority of people who own guns, do so responsibly.

The vast majority of people who consume marijuana do so responsibly (as for other drugs, well, that's getting into more complex issues that are related both to the legality and the nature of the drugs).

The common thread here is that the government should not be in the role of regulating behavior for which most people can make mature and wise decisions about for themselves.

The only time these choices become a matter of government concern is when a person commits a crime related to the choice -- burglarizing a house to get drug money, forging a check to get gambling money, endangering others by driving drunk, using a gun to facilitate a violent crime, etc.

There are amble laws on the books to deal with the people who are unable to make wise and mature decisions about drinking, drugs, gambling and gun ownership, so why specifically regulate those activities?

If a person has a problem with alcohol, drugs or gambling that does not impinge on the wider society, then this should be a matter for the family, the church, friends, social circles of support, etc., not the government, because it's really nobody else's business.

Dave Olsen
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Well put Howard.

May I also welcome RD Adams and I thank you for sharing your opinion. In my time commenting here on the Batavian, I have usually been grateful for the chance to get someone else's opinion, even when I don't agree. I know I am better and smarter for reading others' thoughts and having mine challenged.

Raymond Richardson
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Doug,

The difference between the state doing it and these guys, is the state venues which you mentioned, are licensed by the state. These three are not.

tim raines
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@ mr tretter

The 3 gentlemen had the opportunity to plead not guilty

Had the opportunity to request a jury trial, present evidence and defend themselves

Had the opportunity to be acquitted

Had the opportunity to keep their jobs, pensions, and status in the community.

They choose none of that.

Jack Dorf
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Dave, I never said people can't take drugs. People can do whatever they want to their own bodies. I believe legalization of certain drugs will have a negative impact on our society as a whole and also very destructive on the family structure.

Laura Mooney
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I see all gambling equal as long as both parties enter into it knowing all the facts and do so willingly. Whether it is scratch offs, slot machines, horses, dogs, football boards, or bookies it is all the same you give your money to "someone" hoping to get it back plus.

Gambling is the wagering of money or something of material value (referred to as "the stakes") on an event with an uncertain outcome with the primary intent of winning additional money and/or material goods. Typically, the outcome of the wager is evident within a short period.

You can lose your home, job, life basically betting on anything without the control = personal issue not the "stakes" nor the business, person ect. People can become addicted to almost anything including shopping or BINGO the list goes on and on. It is a persons responsibility to not enter in to such wagers if they cannot handle it and choose to spend their bill, grocery, children's lunch money ect on it.

I think this "crime" is blown way out of proportion and I think gambling if legal one place it should be legal in all. Yes I am one of the ones who think that drugs should be legal as well. If I had a choice driving down the road oncoming car was drinking or smoking marijuana I would choose the latter. We do live in a supposed free country but, lately I see less and less that is actually free unless of course you are an illegal immigrant.

Just my opinion

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