Phil Fairbanks - The Buffalo News

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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

Over the course of four years, Dr. Paul T. Biddle wrote 888 prescriptions to a Tampa, Fla. pharmacy, according to prosecutors. But the prescriptions for opioids never made it to the Orchard Park doctor's patients, they claim, and instead ended up back in his own hands. Biddle, 53, was arrested Tuesday and charged with using his patients, two of them dead, as a front …

Crime

Everyone likes a bargain but, sometimes, that low, low price is a tip off, a red flag of sorts. You may be buying a fake. With the holiday shopping season upon us, federal law enforcement officials warned consumers Tuesday to be on the look out for counterfeit goods and suggested more than once that shoppers need to be the front line of defense. "If it's a popular…

Crime

When Arthur Jordan was arrested, his provocative statements to Buffalo police became big news. So did the fact that Jordan, accused of using Facebook to threaten police, was carrying a handgun at the time of his arrest. Two years later, both the gun and statements are being tossed out by the judges overseeing Jordan's federal prosecution. The rulings stem in part …

Local News

Victor Pacheco planted, trimmed and harvested the grapes and raspberries at the Diller-Raby farm in Lewiston for more than two decades. Over time, he became foreman, moved into the rent-free trailer near the main house, got married and became a fixture in the community. He was a welcome addition to the Raby family. But on a warm afternoon last month, Pacheco found hi…

A Lovejoy barber shop near a public school served as the front for a cocaine operation, according to federal prosecutors. The allegations about Barberians Barber Shop on East Lovejoy Street are the result of a Drug Enforcement Administration and Buffalo police investigation into four Buffalo men now charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine. The defendants, inclu…

Crime

When Joseph Tigano III went to prison for growing marijuana in Cattaraugus County, the judge who sent him there regreted the decision and said so publicly from the bench. She called the mandatory 20-year sentence unnecessary, even excessive, but acknowledged it was out of her hands. Late Wednesday afternoon, that same judge intervened on Tigano's behalf and, acting o…

Citing independent reviews by two doctors, federal prosecutors asked a judge Tuesday to stop Dr. Eugene Gosy from practicing medicine. The judge denied their motion. In making their request, prosecutors pointed to the doctors' evaluations of Gosy's files and their conclusion that his pain medication prescriptions contributed to the deaths of six patients. Gosy, ch…

Crime

In just three years, the number of marijuana arrests in Buffalo dropped by more than half. At the same time, the overwhelming majority of people arrested continued to be people of color. A new study, released Tuesday, found 86 percent of the people arrested for marijuana possession in Buffalo during the five year-period ending last year were black or Hispanic. In …

Crime

When Jeremy Wright stood for his arraignment Saturday, Fred Merukeb also stood, craning his neck to catch a glimpse of the accused killer. "He shot my son," Merukeb said. "I just wanted to see him." Wright, 30, of Buffalo, is charged with firing the gun that killed Saleem Merukeb on Nov. 3 in Allentown. He was arraigned by Buffalo City Court Judge Amy C. Martoche an…

When A. Conger Goodyear died, his papers went to the Buffalo History Museum, a valuable addition to its collection of landmark letters and documents. Daniel Jude Witek also had his eye on the Goodyear papers and in 2013 stole some of the philanthropists' letters and, with the help of an alias, tried to sell them to a collector in Manhattan. Witek, a former museum vo…

On a cold December day in 2009, Jabril Harper was shot twice in the head and left for dead in Buffalo's Roosevelt Park. Harper was murdered, prosecutors say, because of his reputation as a drug dealer and the expectation that he was rolling in cash and cocaine. Eight years later, the two men accused of targeting Harper as part of a murder-for-profit scheme are standi…

Crime

Dr. Eugene Gosy ignored obvious red flags warning him of his patients' abuse and addictions and six of them died as a result, prosecutors said Wednesday. Gosy, a Clarence pain specialist, is accused in a new federal indictment of illegally prescribing pain medication that resulted in the six deaths, making him the first local doctor to be charged with such a crime. P…

Amherst

When the Environmental Protection Agency went after William Huntress, it ran up against a developer with the will and means to fight back. Eight years later, the government is declaring an end to the battle. Huntress, in a statement, said the government's decision to voluntarily dismiss its suit against him is a total victory for his company, Acquest Development, and…

Damien Hicks-Bailey, a heroin dealer tied to a fatal overdose in West Seneca, was sentenced Thursday to eight years in prison. Hicks-Bailey, 22, of Buffalo, had previously pleaded guilty to distribution of heroin and, as part of his plea deal, acknowledged selling heroin to a man found dead of an overdose 11 hours later. The case against Hicks-Bailey, prosecuted by A…

Social media is at the center of another criminal case involving an underage victim. Anthony Weber, 35, of Grand Island, is charged with enticement of a minor and accused of using Facebook to seek a sexual relationship with the 15-year old girl. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Cantil said the girl began communicating with the defendant after she responded to an emp…