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>Man denies fondling woman while she slept

LOCKPORT -- A Town of Tonawanda man pleaded not guilty in Niagara County Court Tuesday to an accusation that he fondled a sleeping woman in a North Tonawanda home May 9.

Justin R. Eschenbach, 22, of Dupont Avenue is charged with first-degree sexual abuse. The alleged incident occurred in a third person's home. Eschenbach was not arrested until June 27.


>Falls man pleads guilty in shooting, robbery

LOCKPORT -- A Niagara Falls man who shot a teenager in the elbow and robbed four people at gunpoint in separate incidents last year pleaded guilty Tuesday in Niagara County Court.
Brent M. Rafter, 19, of 80th Street admitted to second-degree burglary and second-degree assault. He could have received a maximum of 22 years in prison for those crimes, but as part of a plea bargain Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza agreed to sentence Rafter to no more than 10 years. Sentencing was set for Jan. 18.
Rafter shot Christopher Warner Sept. 30 with a rifle after Warner got into an altercation with some of Rafter's friends, court papers said. The next night, Rafter, again carrying a rifle, broke into a Buffalo Avenue apartment and stole $300 from four teenagers.


>Sex offender admits failing to register

LOCKPORT -- A Level 3 sex offender pleaded guilty in Niagara County Court Tuesday to not keeping police apprised of his home address, as required by law.
Phillip M. Bickle, 30, told Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza he was homeless during the period in question, March 2006 to January of this year. His last known address was on Oliver Street in Lockport. He admitted to a second offense of failure to register and faces up to seven years in prison when sentenced Jan. 24.
Sperrazza agreed to a request from attorneys in the case to lower Bickle's bail from $50,000 to $20,000 as part of the plea deal, so Bickle's family could post a bail bond. Bickle said he will live on West Delavan Avenue in Buffalo after his release. He was listed as a Level 3 offender after having sex with a 15-year-old girl in Kenmore in 2001, and served four years in prison for third-degree rape.


>Three juveniles accused of tire-slashing spree

NIAGARA FALLS -- Three juveniles were charged with slashing and puncturing tires on their way to school Tuesday morning. Niagara Street School personnel said they saw the students puncturing a tire in the Wilson Farms parking lot in the 2600 block of Niagara Street at 9 a.m. and held them for police.


>Falls man pleads guilty to cocaine possession

LOCKPORT -- A Niagara Falls man faces two to eight years behind bars after pleading guilty Tuesday in Niagara County Court to cocaine possession.
Michael A. Howard, 21, of Ashland Avenue admitted to fourth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance -- .29 ounces of crack cocaine he had when Niagara Falls police arrested him Jan. 26, following a raid on a Pine Avenue apartment.


>Air-conditioning units stolen from business

NIAGARA FALLS -- Two air-conditioning units valued at $4,000 were stolen from KNP Headgear, 2900 block of Service Road, police said Tuesday.


>Falls gas station scammed in transfer of money

NIAGARA FALLS -- The manager of the Sunoco gas station in the 8500 block of Niagara Falls Boulevard said the business was scammed out of $2,359 Monday night.

The manager told police on Tuesday that a caller identifying himself as an "internal security" employee managed to get the money transferred to an unknown account via the business's prepaid sales/credit card machine.

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