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Swindler faces return to prison

Anthony F. Monkelban, a con artist who masqueraded as an auctioneer, could return to prison for up to eight years on his guilty pleas Monday to bilking relatives of deceased Western New Yorkers out of estate sale revenue.

State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang refused to give Monkelban, 50, a sentencing commitment after he pleaded guilty to single counts of felony scheme to defraud and fourth-degree grand larceny. He was remanded pending his Feb. 25 sentencing.

In pleading guilty, Monkelban admitted failing to make good on payments for property he liquidated on behalf of Western New Yorkers who had entrusted him with inherited possessions they wanted to sell.

Financial Crimes Prosecutor Candace K. Vogel said Monkelban's latest crimes began shortly after he was paroled from prison in July 2009 after serving several years for an earlier larceny.

Prosecutors did not provide a dollar amount of the frauds Monkelban committed here from early November 2009 through last July.

With arrest warrants pending against him in Cheektowaga, Buffalo, Amherst, West Seneca, Orchard Park, Hamburg and Clarence, Monkelban reportedly fled to Texas in August. He was arrested by U.S. marshals in the Dallas suburb of Denton, where he was living in a recreational vehicle park with a friend, and was returned to Buffalo for prosecution early in December.

The criminal probes began last year after an estate specialist who had recommended Monkelban to survivors trying to dispose of estates realized his criminal scheme and notified authorities.

According to court papers Monkelban, a former Cheektowaga resident, was living in the Southern Tier Village of Delevan when he fled to Texas.

Salvatore P. Abbate, Monkelban's assigned lawyer, said the former auctioneer "just sort of" got involved in the estate swindles some years ago and found he was able to generate enough money to live on comfortably.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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