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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.


Crime

When investigators arrested Andre Jenkins for the murders of two fellow Kingsmen, they overlooked the real killer, defense lawyers told a jury Wednesday. They also missed the boat on who was behind the effort to turn the Kingsmen into a “one-percent” club capable of competing with other outlaw biker gangs engaged in criminal enterprises, the attorneys argued. Former …

Crime

A  Buffalo drug dealer admitted Tuesday to selling heroin and fentanyl that killed two people. Aaron J. McDuffie, 23, is the latest in a series of dealers to be linked to a death, but the first linked to two deaths. Both victims, a 24-year-old Cheektowaga man and a 34-year-old West Seneca man, died of overdoses, one in 2015, the other in 2016. Under the plea agreemen…

Crime

After killing two of his "brothers" assassination style, Kingsmen Andre Jenkins jumped on his Harley and as he fled the scene, yelled out one last four-letter message - "LKDK," according to prosecutors. "Live a Kingsmen. Die a Kingsmen," Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph M. Tripi said Tuesday. The story of how two Kingsmen Motorcycle Club members died at the hands of on…

Crime

When Joseph Tigano III was first arrested, it's a safe bet no one saw the legal legacy that would sprout from his otherwise simple and straightforward request for a speedy trial. A decade later, the Cattaraugus County man's nearly seven years in pre-trial custody is being cited as one the reasons why two Buffalo men facing allegations of murder may soon be released from…

Crime

A romance fraud targeting men and women who used MillionaireMatch.com resulted Friday in a guilty plea by a resident of Ghana. Jason Osei Bonsu, one of two men charged in the fraud, admitted playing a role in a scam that victimized a local woman, a highly paid, white-collar professional in her late 50s. The woman lost an estimated $718,000. Bonsu and others, accordin…

Crime

While chaperoning a Boy Scout overnight, Daniel Huzinec took sexually explicit photos of a sleeping 16-year-old boy. Huzinec, an assistant scoutmaster at the time, also posed as an underage girl named "Jennifer" in order to get a former member of his troop, a 15-year-old boy, to send him sexually explicit photos of himself. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Lawrence J…

Crime

Stephanie A. Costanzo let her boyfriend store his cocaine at her Niagara Falls home. One problem, though: Costanzo was a police officer. On Monday, the 29-year-old former Falls cop admitted helping her drug-dealing boyfriend as part of a plea agreement that carries a recommended sentence of up to six months in prison. Costanzo, a four-year veteran of the force, al…

Crime

Joe Ciffa's niche in the debt collection world was collecting on debts he knew people had already paid off. Prosecutors say the tactic was routinely used by Ciffa's employees and over time became known as "re-dos." Ciffa, as part of a plea agreement Friday, admitted using the tactic to go after debtors he deemed "easy targets." As part of his deal with prosecutors…

Buffalo

When FBI agents went looking for Jabril Harper's killers, they found their way to Ernest Green and allegations of a murder-for-profit scheme. Arrested in 2012 but never convicted, Green has spent every day since his arrest in jail. On Friday, a federal judge pointed to Green's time in custody without a conviction — his trial resulted in a hung jury — in dismissing th…

Crime

For most of us, the cost of a misplaced romance is difficult to measure. But for a local woman, a highly paid, white-collar professional in her late 50s, the price tag amounted to real dollars and cents. And by the time the relationship was over, she was out more $718,000. On Thursday, two years later, Adams Amen, one of the men behind the online fraud, appeared i…

Crime

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Buffalo recovered nearly $17.9 million in criminal, civil and asset forfeiture cases last year. Crime victims received about $7.2 million of that money, with the rest going back  into government coffers. In announcing the results of his office's recovery efforts, U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. said, "Speaking both literally and figur…

Environment

A metal fabricating and machine shop operation dating back to World War II is the source of groundwater contamination at an industrial site in Gowanda, the state said in a lawsuit filed this week. The federal court suit seeks at least $4.2 million – the amount spent on a clean-up of the two acre site – from American Locker Group and other companies that once operated at…

Buffalo

In mid-December, during a radio interview, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo declared his opposition to New York's lower minimum wage for restaurant workers and said it exploits immigrants and women. A month later, in his State of the State address, Cuomo followed up by ordering public hearings into the so-called "tip credit" and suggested again it was an issue of "fairness and dece…

A Buffalo man drove himself to the Erie County Medical Center after being shot in the leg Saturday. According to Buffalo Police, the victim was struck by gunfire at about 5:30 p.m while sitting inside a parked vehicle near Towne Gardens. Police said the 27-year old then drove himself to ECMC, where he is being treated for non-life-threatening injuries. Detectives …

Obituaries

July 17, 1927 – Feb. 2, 2018 Lajos "Louie" Rigler fled the Hungarian revolution with his wife and two children in 1956, only to be stopped by the Russians. But luck was on their side, and they eventually found their way out of Europe and landed in Riverside. In that working-class Buffalo neighborhood, Rigler made a life for himself and his family, becoming a self-made b…