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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 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…

Crime

To hear David Masse talk, cocaine was the Kingsmen drug of choice. He used it and, within the confines of Kingsmen clubhouses in Buffalo, North Tonawanda and elsewhere, so did dozens of other motorcycle club members, he told a federal court jury last week. Drug use was so prevalent that everyone knew it was part of the biker culture, said the former club member, who'…

Crime

For years, what went on inside the Kingsmen Motorcycle Club stayed inside the Kingsmen Motorcycle Club. "You kept your mouth shut, whatever happens," said Chester Schultz, a longtime member. But over the course of two days last week, Schultz sat in a downtown courtroom and revealed a lot about the biker club and the violent, male-dominated subculture that defined it.…

Crime

A credit card scam that cost several major banks more than $860,000 is sending a Buffalo man to prison. Ricky Butler, as part of a plea agreement Wednesday, admitted using fraudulently obtained credit cards to buy store gift cards at Walmart and other retailers across Western New York and then reselling them at a discount. Butler also admitted working with others to …

Crime

A Buffalo man once suspected of taking part in the genocide of minority Tutsi in Rwanda pleaded guilty this week to making a false statement. Peter Kalimu, 52, admitted previously using the name "Fidele Twizere" but concealing that fact when he filled out naturalization papers to come to the United States. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Cantil said Kalimu answered …

Local News

Activists say Tonya "Kita" Harvey is another victim in a nationwide plague of hate and violence. It's an outbreak targeting transgender people, they say, and transgender woman of color – such as Harvey – are being hit the hardest. Harvey was killed earlier this month on Buffalo's far East Side. She will be remembered Sunday at a vigil intended to raise awareness of s…

Buffalo police are investigating a shooting near Fillmore Avenue and Best Street that sent a 33- year-old woman to the hospital. The woman, according to police, was taken to the Erie County Medical Center in a private vehicle at about 4:30 a.m. Saturday and she was treated and released. Police said the woman told hospital workers she was injured by a gunshot, and inv…