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>Cheektowaga man dies after SUV goes into ditch

A Cheektowaga man died at about 10:15 a.m. Tuesday after his sport utility vehicle crashed into a ditch off Bloomingdale Road in Newstead, state troopers said.

Lawrence Chirico Jr., 76, of Clover Place, was pronounced dead at the scene. He was not wearing his seat belt, police said. An autopsy was to be performed today in Erie County Medical Center.


>10 cats living in filth taken from Riverside home

The SPCA has taken 10 cats from a Riverside home after finding them living in filthy conditions. There are questions about the last time the ailing owner of the cats lived in the home.

The SPCA still is trying to determine the medical conditions of the cats, described as elderly. But none was starving, and no charges have been filed against the owner, a Rano Street resident.

"There was food at the location, so they're not considered abandoned, but there's a question on whether somebody was living there," said Gina Browning, an SPCA spokeswoman.

SPCA officials believe somebody has been going into the home to feed the cats while their owner has been hospitalized.

"This is, by definition, an animal hoarder, somebody who has more animals than they can properly care for," Browning said.


>Two local men accused of workers' comp fraud

Two local workers were among 14 people accused Tuesday of submitting fraudulent claims to obtain workers' compensation benefits, according to a statement from Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's office.

David J. Bajer, 48, of Cheektowaga, and Terry Rolling, 39, of Niagara Falls, were charged in separate incidents following a joint investigation into workers' compensation fraud by the attorney general's office and other agencies.

Bajer allegedly submitted a claim for a knee injury suffered at work in January 2005 while he was employed by the state Office of General Services. He failed to disclose on a form that he sprained his knee while skiing the day before and received benefits of $27,000.

The case against Bajer is pending in Buffalo City Court.

Rolling, meanwhile, is charged with fraudulently receiving benefits of more than $3,000. No other details were disclosed. That case is also pending in Buffalo City Court.

The dozen other individuals charged involved cases in Albany, Broome, Dutchess and Herkimer counties, the attorney general's office said.


>Judge sentences man to 25 years in drug case

A Buffalo man who was convicted in November 2004 of conspiring to possess and intending to distribute cocaine and attempted possession of cocaine and using a telephone to set up a felony drug transaction was sentenced Tuesday to 25 years in prison and eight years of probation.

Jamile Lee, 26, was sentenced by U.S. Chief District Judge Richard J. Arcara.

According to acting U.S. Attorney Kathleen M. Mehltretter, Lee was arrested with three others in May 2003 in connection with a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sting operation.

Sentencing had been pending since November 2004 because of numerous motions filed by Lee, according to prosecutors.


>McDonald's on Niagara is robbed at gunpoint

A McDonald's restaurant on Niagara Street was held up at gunpoint Wednesday evening, police said.

The manager of the restaurant reported that at 7 p.m. a masked man with a large silver handgun walked behind the front counter to the manager's office and pointed the gun at her. She opened three cash registers and handed cash to the robber, who fled through the front door and headed north on Niagara.

Witnesses described the suspect as a 6-foot-1 black man, weighing about 180 pounds, wearing dark glasses, a blue and white bandanna, a black scarf, dark purple hoodie and dark pants.


>Habitat house is struck by burglars yet again

A Habitat for Humanity house fell victim to burglars again this weekend.

Police said the Northampton Street home was entered through a boarded-up window Saturday, and thieves made off with a toilet, bathroom vanity, a vacuum cleaner, four buckets, five gallons of paint, safety equipment and a first-aid kit.

The house was also burglarized Jan. 17, when a vacuum cleaner, paint and brushes were taken. Also, a furnace was stolen from the house last November and six stepladders and three saws in October.


>City slumlord issued 'time-served' sentence

Former slumlords Venere M. Hutchinson and Dana Upcher Hutchinson embraced for the first time since last May following her release from custody Tuesday afternoon shortly after the couple made the first of three payments to the city on Housing Court violations linked to their former real estate empire.

Buffalo Housing Court Judge Henry J. Nowak issued a "time-served" sentence on Hutchinson, 33, allowing her release from custody after Thomas J. Eoannou, one of the couple's attorneys, handed the judge a $20,000 certified check for the first payment.

At the request of Housing Court prosecutor Gregory A. Heeb, the judge scheduled a May 8 court session for payment of the second of the payments the Hutchinsons are to make.

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