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Probe of Maziarz campaign funds turned over to Erie County DA

The Erie County District Attorney's Office will investigate whether money was stolen from the campaign treasury of former State Sen. George D. Maziarz, according to a court order.

Niagara County District Attorney Caroline A. Wojtaszek, who took office Jan. 1, said she withdrew from the case because her husband, former Niagara County GOP chairman Henry F. Wojtaszek, testified before a federal grand jury in a probe related to Maziarz' political spending. That created a conflict of interest for the new district attorney.

The court orders, signed by State Supreme Court Justice Paula L. Feroleto, turned the matter over to Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn Jr. His spokeswoman, Joanna Pasceri, confirmed Flynn accepted the case.

Caroline Wojtaszek said she thought the case had been referred to the state Attorney General's Office by former Niagara County District Attorney Michael J. Violante. But she found out otherwise after a Jan. 6 phone conversation with Maziarz' attorney, Joseph M. LaTona.

"At the start of my term, Joe LaTona called to find out what was going on with the investigation, because he thought it had been taken to the Attorney General's Office by Mike Violante," Caroline Wojtaszek said.

Wojtaszek said she checked and discovered the file remained in Lockport.

Feroleto signed the order transferring cases against two defendants, both referred to as "John Doe," to Erie County, after Wojtaszek asked Flynn to take over the case.

The boxes containing the files were delivered to Flynn's office Friday. Wojtaszek said she never looked at them.

She said her husband testified in New York City before a grand jury convened by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

No charges have resulted from Bharara's probe into the Maziarz campaign fund, which as of last month still contained more than $684,000.

The inquiry started after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and State Legislature leaders agreed in March 2014 to shut down the Moreland Commission, a state anti-corruption panel.

A report in 2014 from City & State magazine said Maziarz, a Newfane Republican, drew the attention of the Moreland Commission because he had the largest amount of unitemized political spending of anyone in the Legislature. Court filings last year showed about $151,000 was listed without further explanation as having been spent from the campaign account.

The Buffalo News reported in 2014 that Maziarz's former chief of staff, Alisa D. Colatarci-Reimann, and former office manager Marcus R. Hall also were subpoenaed to appear before Bharara's grand jury.

Maziarz took the political community by surprise when he canceled a re-election bid in July 2014. Maziarz, who served 19 years in the Senate, left office at the end of 2014. He is now working with an Albany lobbying firm.

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