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NIAGARA POLICE & COURTS

Fire destroys house on Ridge Road, Cambria

CAMBRIA -- Investigators Monday night continued to seek a cause for a blaze that destroyed a house on Ridge Road.

The fire broke out at about 3:30 p.m. at 4292 Ridge Road. Those inside the house were able to escape unharmed, Niagara County sheriff's deputies said. The house was declared a total loss.

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Prosecutor vows to show videotaped confession

LOCKPORT -- A prosecutor promised to show a videotaped confession and a video of the crime, but defendant Art Swain Jr. told a State Supreme Court jury Monday that he's not guilty of robbing a Niagara Falls cell phone store at gunpoint and tying up three female employees with zip ties.

Swain, 21, of Roesch Avenue, Buffalo, was convicted in November of six robberies or attempted robberies in Erie County. He represented himself in that trial, and Swain is again acting as his own lawyer in a second-degree robbery trial stemming from the Feb. 9 holdup at Universal Wireless on Pine Avenue.

Assistant District Attorney David Hoffman said in his opening statement that Swain allegedly wore "a distinctive vest" along with gloves and a mask as he brought a gun into the store, forced the three women into a back room and emptied the cash register.

Hoffman told the jurors they would see the videos, the vest, the gloves, the gun and the zip ties.

But Swain said, "I can assure you, the prosecution will not provide you with any DNA or fingerprints. For what reason, I don't know; possibly to hide the truth."

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Supermarket employee, 16, faces theft, drug charges

LOCKPORT -- A 16-year-old supermarket employee was charged Sunday with theft and drug possession after surveillance footage showed him going through other people's property in the employee break room, and he then admitted to taking cash out a fellow employee's backpack, Niagara County sheriff's deputies reported.

The victim told a manager at Tops Supermarket on South Transit Road that $41 was missing from a backpack she kept in the break room. After the manager viewed the surveillance footage, he told deputies that he confronted the teen and told him to empty his pockets. The teen was found with the $40, as well as a bag a marijuana and a glass smoking pipe, deputies said. The teen also turned over the additional $1, which he said he had put into his wallet.

The Gardenwood Drive teen, who's name is not being reported because of his age, was charged with petit larceny and unlawful possession of marijuana.

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M&T Bank is robbed in University Plaza

An afternoon bank robbery in Amherst on Monday has police asking for the public's help in identifying a suspect.

Police said the male in his mid-30s entered the M&T Bank branch at University Plaza, 3500 Main St., at about 2:15 p.m. and handed a teller what appeared to be a black pillow case with cream colored stripes, then demanded cash.

The robber was described as 5-foot, 9-inches tall and 170 pounds, was wearing a dark green jacket over a blue hooded sweat shirt with a dark blue bandanna. He fled across Kenmore Avenue and into a waiting getaway car that was parked in the Walgreens parking lot. The vehicle was described as a dark green Pontiac Bonneville from the mid-1990s.

The vehicle traveled away from the scene west on Main Street into the city of Buffalo.

The robber escaped with an undetermined sum of cash. No weapon was displayed and no injuries were reported.

Amherst detectives think the same man robbed the same bank branch on Dec. 17. Anyone with information is asked to call 689-1339.

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Man, 49, arraigned in sales scams

LOCKPORT -- A man with a long criminal record was arraigned Monday in Niagara County Court on charges of selling empty boxes to shoppers in local parking lots, claiming there were electronic goods inside.

Clifford D. Brown, 49, who gave an address on Fourth Street in Niagara Falls, pleaded not guilty to a 14-count indictment accusing him of thefts in Niagara Falls and the Town of Niagara on Aug. 18, 28 and 29, Sept. 7, Oct. 17 and Nov. 26. Police said a total of about $3,000 was stolen.

A co-defendant, who is still at large, is accused of joining Brown in some of the thefts, as well as committing a couple of his own Sept. 9 and Nov. 20.

Brown is charged with first- and second-degree robbery in the Aug. 28 incident, in which a knife allegedly was pulled on a woman who tried to look in the box before paying. The indictment also includes five counts of fraudulent accosting, two counts each of third-degree robbery, petit larceny and scheming to defraud and one count of fourth-degree grand larceny.

Brown has been arrested 47 times and has 25 convictions. He has used eight aliases and three dates of birth, Assistant District Attorney Theresa L. Prezioso told Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza. The judge, noting that Brown's arraignment was delayed an hour because the County Jail had him listed under a different name, set bail at $100,000.

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