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Phil Fairbanks

I cover federal courts and criminal justice issues and occasionally veer off into the world of refugees, human traffickers and streets gangs. As a product of the Watergate era, I value a newspaper's role as the community watchdog.


Local News

In the Oscar-winning movie "Spotlight," Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian talks openly about the priest who abused his clients and the power of the Catholic Church to keep the scandal a secret. "I'm not crazy. I'm not paranoid. I'm experienced," Garabedian, played by actor Stanley Tucci, says of the church. "You'll see. They control everything. Everything." That sc…

An oil spill into Cayuga Creek in Niagara Falls led to the conviction Wednesday of a Delta Sonic employee in charge of environmental compliance. Michael Yount, 46, of Lancaster, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wilford to making a false statement. He will be sentenced Aug. 23. Prosecutors said the spill, estimated at between 300 and 500 gallons …

Crime

The federal government's eight-year-long pursuit of Steve S. Jabar ended Wednesday with a judge who refused to send the Iraq native to prison and suggested the prosecution against him was punishment enough. The long-awaited sentence, delivered in a federal courtroom downtown, means the former U.S. military adviser will avoid prison time or probation in connection with h…

Crime

Michael Giokas' three decades as a trusted investment adviser ended Monday with an admission that he cheated clients out of $1.4 million. It was money, prosectors said, that he used to pay for personal expenses. The former owner of Giokas Wealth Advisors in Williamsville also admitted using a fake company, Trinity Council LLC, as part of a scheme to solicit investmen…

Crime

To hear prosecutors talk, Robert "Fonz" Moore was a drug dealer who left behind a trail of fatal overdoses. Even more significant, perhaps, the five people who died at his hand were seeking help, they said. "They were going through rehab, they were going through treatment and they had the support of people who loved them," Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Felicetta sa…

Crime

Filip Caruso admits to being a tough guy and a hot head, and the former Kingsmen would be the first to tell you his violent reputation earned him immediate status in the biker club. Within the Kingsmen community, Caruso, a convicted felon five times over, may be best known for his role in a gun-toting confrontation outside the South Buffalo clubhouse just weeks before t…

Crime

When it comes to falls from grace, Michael H. Wilson's was a big one. Wilson arrived on the scene 10 years ago, a 21-year old investment wunderkind from Cleveland. A few months later, his purchase of a $6.3 million, 126-acre estate in Hamburg garnered headlines. It was a record for home sales in Erie County at the time. And then came the FBI raid. Wilson, now 3…

Dr. Eugene Gosy, the Williamsville pain specialist facing criminal charges linked to six deaths, is asking for two trials, not just one. Herbert L. Greenman, one of Gosy's defense lawyers, argued in court Tuesday that the grand jury indictment against his client alleges the same crime in separate counts and asked the court to divide the charges into two trials. In re…

Local News

Shane Aurand took sexually explicit photos of a 7-year-old girl and is now facing 20 years in prison. Aurand, 21, of Gowanda, pleaded guilty Friday to distributing child pornography but will face a recommended sentence reflecting the more serious charge of producing child pornography. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Lamarque said Aurand took photos and videos of th…

Crime

By all accounts, there are no eyewitnesses to the murders of Kingsmen Paul Maue and Daniel "DJ" Szymanski. But in the hours before and after they were shot on that rainy September morning four years ago, no one was closer to the man who pulled the trigger than Rene Faulkner. Now 27, Faulkner sat in the witness chair this week and told a federal court jury about her t…

Local News

Carlo J. Marinello II did the unthinkable: He took on the Internal Revenue Service and won. It took a decision from the U.S Supreme Court on Wednesday, but the former Buffalo small business owner won his appeal of a four-year-old obstruction conviction. The high court, in a 7-2 decision, found that the criminal tax law that led to Marinello's conviction was overly br…

Crime

When John Haak was interviewed by police, he made statements about his involvement in selling fentanyl that caused the death of a Hamburg man, according to prosecutors. An appeals court has now ruled that those statements, which were suppressed by a federal judge in Buffalo, will be allowed into the case. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court tha…

Crime

The promise of a big pay day – $1 million on a $100,000 investment in just 30 days – cost investors across the world, including the National Association of Home Builders, millions of dollars. Michael K. Martin, 48, of Virginia Beach, Va., was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford to four years in prison for his role in the fraud. The case, pros…

Crime

In the hours after the murders of two of his fellow Kingsmen, Roger Albright found himself inside the Olean clubhouse with Andre "Lil Bear" Jenkins. Albright said he was in the midst of calling other Kingsmen Motorcycle Club members, warning them about the killings and the possibility a rival biker club might be involved, when Jenkins interrupted and said, "I'm here." …

Buffalo

After nearly four decades, the federal courts are ending their oversight of the Buffalo Police Department. In a decision Thursday, U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo dismissed a court order requiring the Buffalo police force to desegregate its ranks, and declared the department in compliance with the court decree. The end of the landmark civil rights case came a…