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.


Local News

Black water. Raging water. Ice-covered water. The city's rivers and lake can be at their worst when Buffalo's Underwater Recovery Team is called into action. On alert 24 hours a day, the team is one of the busiest special squads in the Police Department and can be called upon to investigate drownings, help with boats in distress or search for lost evidence. "It's …

Crime

Albert Victory, the man who went to prison for killing a New York City police officer and then sued over his botched parole, received a $50,000 cash settlement from the state. The settlement, disclosed in court papers Wednesday, ends Victory's 15-year legal battle over a state parole board that granted his request for freedom and then, under pressure from then-Gov. Geor…

A Williamsville financial adviser is facing charges that he stole $200,000 from one of his clients. Michael Giokas, founder of Giokas Wealth Advisors, was arrested on fraud charges Wednesday and later released on bail by U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Roemer. Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul E. Bonanno said Giokas led his client to believe the $200,00o would be placed …

Financial adviser Tarek D. Bahgat of Amherst posed as his clients in order to misappropriate $378,000, according to a new lawsuit by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The suit, filed in Buffalo federal court, claims Bahgat also used the Web to transfer money from his clients' accounts to his own personal accounts. Bahgat, 55, and now believed to be in Egypt, is…

The trial of Corey R. Krug, the Buffalo police officer caught on videotape striking a man with his nightstick, is being put off until next year. Krug, who was scheduled to go on trial in 12 days, asked for a delay because of an illness in his attorney's family. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara rescheduled the trial for Feb. 6. The trial will center around al…

Typically, a man arrested for child pornography possession is forced to give up his private laptop or phone. In Robert Roy Richmond's case, the computer he is accused of using is located in the Batavia Public Library. Richmond, a Batavia resident, was scheduled to appear Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder Jr. in connection with charges that h…

Local News

Hanad Abdi says he fled his native Somalia when it looked like the same men who killed his father were coming for him. With the help of paid smugglers, he escaped to Ethiopia and then Brazil. From there, he made his way through nine countries before reaching his final destination – the U.S-Mexico border. It was there in Brownsville, Texas, that Abdi declared his de…

Local News

An Alden company used a figurehead to qualify for contracts set aside for disabled veteran-owned small businesses and on Tuesday agreed to pay $3 million to settle a whistleblower's lawsuit, according to federal prosecutors. The monetary settlement ends a civil suit that accused Zoladz Construction Company, Arsenal Contracting LLC and Alliance Contracting, all of Alden…

Local News

When Buffalo school board members learned that Yamilette Williams lacked certification to serve as chief of curriculum, they fired her. Williams, claiming breach of contract and defamation, sued the board in federal court. U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci Jr. dismissed Williams' suit last week and pointed to a lack of evidence to support her allegations. Now li…

Local News

Even after a jury found them guilty, Steve S. Jabar and Deborah C. Bowers declared their innocence. For months, they argued in court that the core allegation against them – that they stole money intended for a radio station in war-torn Iraq – was misplaced and unproven. A federal judge agreed this week and set aside their fraud convictions. In the same decisio…

Local News

Ice skating is one of the activities that brings crowds to Canalside, but behind the popular downtown rink is a politically charged legal battle. A federal judge this week dismissed one of the lawsuits at the center of that dispute. The ruling ends Rosanne DiPizio's 2-year-old suit against the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., a suit that accused the state agency …

Nation and World

A federal appeals court Tuesday vacated the corruption conviction of former Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos. In overturning the Long Island Republican's 2015 conviction, the court pointed to the same U.S. Supreme Court decision that vacated the corruption conviction of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver earlier this year. At one time, Skelos and Silver were…

Local News

A Buffalo street gang member faces a mandatory life sentence after a jury found him guilty Monday of conspiracy and murder. The verdict, reached after a trial that focused on the gang's rap music videos, means the jury found Schuele Boys member Roderick Arrington responsible for the revenge killing of Quincy Balance  in August 2012. The jury, which found Arrington …

Crime

Albert Victory went to prison for killing a New York City police officer and, when the state botched his parole decades later, he sued in Buffalo federal court. Now 76 and free, Victory has settled his suit for an undisclosed amount of money. The settlement ends Victory's 15-year legal battle over a state parole board that granted his request for freedom and then, un…

A member of the Bailey Boys street gang admitted Monday to taking part in a drug ripoff that turned deadly. Rayshod Washington, 26, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy as part of a deal that also linked him to the Feb. 9, 2012, murder of Fred Rozier on Deerfield Street. Washington was accused of giving a gun to Raymel Weeden, who shot and killed Rozier. Washi…