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'SALARY SCANDAL' TO GO BEFORE GRAND JURY

LOCKPORT -- Niagara County Sheriff Thomas A. Beilein and District Attorney Matthew J. Murphy III have decided to send the matter relating to the salaries of the county elections commissioners to a county grand jury during October and November.

Neither would discuss the targets of the investigation on Friday, the possible offenses to be investigated or the identities of witnesses to be called before the grand jury. In addition, they declined further comment on the case until the completion of the grand jury process.

County political leaders have been struggling over the election commissioners' salaries since Feb. 15, when a resolution to raise their pay was pulled off the Legislature's agenda after Legislator Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, noticed that the base pay stated in the resolution did not reflect a 10 percent cut enacted the last time the Legislature had tackled the issue.

Thus far, the dispute has included an ongoing criminal investigation by the Sheriff's Department and district attorney's office; the establishment of a board of inquiry, which is rarely used by the Legislature; and a lawsuit in which Supreme Court Justice Jacqueline M. Koshian ruled the pay cut was illegal all along.

Pet store bandit target of police search

LOCKPORT -- Detectives are looking for someone who stole five exotic frogs, six small tortoises and two Kenyan boa constrictors from the Pets Plus Store on West Avenue, Detective John P. Yotter said Friday.

The theft of $1,035 in pets and pet equipment was during business hours on Wednesday while work was being done on the store, Yotter said.

The stolen pets include two fantasy frogs, two painted frogs, and a green-and-black dart frog, all of which have been recovered during a police investigation, Yotter said. The dart frog died, he said.

He said the two snakes and a Sulcatta tortoise are still missing along with the suspect. He said he is looking for a specific suspect to arrest in the case.

Man charged with dual counts of arson

WHEATFIELD -- A Niagara Falls man was charged with two counts of fourth-degree arson Friday for allegedly starting two fires at the vacant Royal Order of Moose Lodge, 10175 Niagara Falls Blvd., in the past three months.

Joseph S. Davis, 21, of 1735 Caravelle Drive, is accused of starting a fire with trash and debris outside the building on June 28, causing minor damage to the structure, Investigator Louis J. Faery said.

He also is accused of starting a fire in the main entrance to the building on Sept. 22. Damage in that fire was estimated at $5,000. The building is owned by Benderson Development Co, Faery said.

Forster makes record third chairman term

NIAGARA FALLS -- The county Democratic Committee has re-elected Nicholas J. Forster for an unprecedented third term as its chairman.

The group met on Wednesday in the Best Western Inn-on-the-River.

With more than 200 in attendance, Forster received unanimous support. He thanked the members for their continued support as well as urging support for the national, state and local Democratic ticket.

Five rings, a wristwatch stolen from home

PENDLETON -- Five rings and a wristwatch valued at an estimated $7,200 were stolen from the home of an Oakwood Drive woman, sheriff's Deputy Kevin P. Landrigan said Friday.

The woman reported Friday that a $3,000 wedding ring set, a $2,500 green diamond ring, a $1,200 lady's wrist watch and an opal and a sapphire ring were stolen in August, Landrigan said.

4 youths arrested in theft of bingo funds

TOWN OF NIAGARA -- Four people, including a 15-year-old boy, have been arrested in the theft of $1,943 cash from the Niagara Active Hose Co. Fire Hall, 3995 Lockport Road, sheriff's investigators said.

The theft occurred on Sept. 2 when the suspects allegedly broke into the fire hall bingo office and took the cash from a locked drawer, Town Police Chief John L. Keller said.

Charged with third-degree burglary and fourth-degree grand larceny were: Nathan A. Reading, 20, of Lockport Road; Richard S. Rozel, 16, of Jerauld Avenue, Niagara Falls; Norman Conklin III, 19, of Whitney Avenue, Niagara Falls; and a 15-year-old town resident, Investigator Patrick Weidel said.

Police, victim agencies receive grants

NORTH TONAWANDA -- Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-North Tonawanda, Friday announced $109,000 in criminal justice and victim services grants to Niagara County police departments and agencies.

The grants, among $7 million throughout the state, go to:

Niagara Falls Police Department, $21,750.

Lockport City Police Department, $24,300.

Niagara County Department of Mental Health Rape Crisis Services, $14,000.

Niagara County Sheriff's Department, $49,000.

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