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Despite Ignatius "Sonny" Miano's tearful plea to continue as guardian of his mentally handicapped nephew Monday, Erie County Surrogate Joseph S. Mattina demanded answers.

The judge, who bristled at the former head of the now-shuttered Helping Hands soup kitchen and pantry, gave Miano until Thursday to answer questions about a $24,000 second mortgage, obtained by Miano without Surrogate Court permission, on a Snyder home owned by the nephew, Glenn R. Griffin, 39, who currently is a ward of the court.

Mattina wants to know how Miano obtained the mortgage and how the money was spent, along with other expenses linked to the $102,000 sale of the home on Cloister Court.

"Since you are now being investigated by the district attorney for possible fraud, you might want to first discuss your answers with your attorney," Mattina told Miano, who is accused of mishandling thousands of dollars donated to Helping Hands.

Miano was director of the soup kitchen and pantry for 13 years until he was forced to resign in April 1998.

After the scandal broke, Mattina told Miano, "You obtained the $24,000 mortgage and then moved to Florida, taking Glenn -- both without the permission of the court -- and Glenn's name, along with yours, reportedly were on those papers.

"Glenn is not capable of signing papers like these on his own," Mattina said.

"I made a mistake in getting the second mortgage and I made a mistake in not coming to you," Miano replied, "but I did everything for my family. . . . Glenn is my family. I have raised him
since he was a little boy."

Mattina recoiled when Miano told him about the purchase of a home in Florida.

"The last time you were here you told me you were renting a house in Florida," Mattina said. "I want to know where this house is located, how much it cost, what was the down payment and what are your monthly payments.

"Until this entire matter is resolved," the judge said, the nephew will remain in the temporary guardianship of People Inc. in Buffalo, a non-profit agency for the developmentally disabled.

Mattina also pointed to reports from Florida social workers who question if the nephew should remain with the Mianos.

Miano was named guardian of Griffin after the young man's grandmother, Miano's mother, died in January 1988, and left a West Side home and a small estate to Griffin, naming Miano as executor. Miano was granted lifetime use of the $40,000 home as long as he cared for Griffin.

Since then, he reportedly has purchased and sold a succession of homes, including the Snyder home he purchased shortly before being charged with the mishandling of soup kitchen donations.

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