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Ernest Mawalla was spared prison Tuesday for bilking 13 Erie County residents out of $8,100 in recent years by posing an auto insurance salesman.

State Supreme Court Justice Joseph S. Forma put Mawalla on probation for five years, ordered him to repay $4,600 he owes victims, and warned him stay away from both the bail-bond and auto-insurance businesses or face prison.

Three weeks ago, Mawalla, 45, of Roebling Avenue was placed on three years of probation in Niagara Falls City Court in a similar scam. He returned $3,500 that a Niagara Falls woman paid him last year to get her son out of jail. In this scam, he pretended to be a Cleveland bail bondsman.

Mawalla pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of attempted grand larceny. Last Jan. 22 he pleaded guilty before Forma to a felony charge of first-degree scheme to defraud for bail and auto-insurance scams in recent years.

An employee of several East Side social clubs, Mawalla declined to comment during his sentencing Tuesday.

Forma told him he was sparing him a four-year prison term because of the $7,000 in restitution he has made. But the judge ordered him to begin paying the Erie County Probation Department $175 a week on Oct. 10 until the remaining $4,600 in restitution is repaid.

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