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Damage was extensive Wednesday night in two house fires in North Buffalo.

An unattended candle in a second-floor bedroom was the cause of the blaze at 265 Huntington Ave., according to fire dispatch. A resident of the 2 1/2 -story frame home tried to douse the flames but failed.

Children also were home at the time of the fire, which was reported at 6:55 p.m. No injuries were reported.

Damage was estimated at $45,000 to the structure and $20,000 to its contents.

Almost an hour later, at 7:45 p.m., a family dog perished in a fire at 77 Fordham Drive. The cause was listed as careless cooking.

Damage to the two-story frame home was estimated at $40,000 to the structure and $20,000 to its contents.

No injuries were reported among residents or firefighters.

Alleged mobster released
as fraud probe continues

Frank "Butchie Bifocals" BiFulco, a Buffalo businessman and alleged mobster, was released Wednesday after spending nearly a week in custody as a federal grand jury probe of alleged auto insurance arson fraud continues.

BiFulco, 56, of Delaware Avenue, declined to comment as he was released from the Erie County Holding Center at about 4 p.m., hours after U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder Jr. rejected prosecution efforts to keep him behind bars on grounds he would be a danger to the community.

After a two-hour bail hearing, Schroeder ruled BiFulco could be released under a $1,000 security bond.

Anthony J. Lana, BiFulco's attorney, said his client faces a possible federal auto insurance arson indictment "based only on the words of a man and woman, boyfriend and girlfriend, who the government has already said have lied about this incident."

BiFulco, a former administrator of the Buffalo Laborers Local 210 pension fund, was arrested late last Thursday by the FBI and charged with allegedly helping an associate set fire to a rental car in the parking lot at Home Depot on Elmwood Avenue on Aug. 22.

Lana said BiFulco, ousted from his union pension job three years ago, has been identified by the FBI as a longtime member of a local Mafia crime family. He operates a wholesale cigarette lighter business.

Arizona man held in Depew
questioned in terrorist probe

FBI agents investigating last week's terrorist attacks have questioned an Arizona man arrested by Depew police after he was found in a stolen rental van with a large amount of cash.

FBI officials in Buffalo, however, said they stand by an earlier statement that none of the 600 local tips they've investigated has led to anyone with any apparent connection to the attacks.

"Some of these tips are as inconsequential as one neighbor saying he thinks another neighbor has something to do with terrorism," said FBI agent Paul Moskal. "Every tip is looked at."

Depew Capt. Thomas Domino identified the man as Jeffar Salem, 53, of Kingman, Ariz. He is being held in the Erie County Holding Center without bail on a felony charge of possessing stolen property.

Lt. Patrick McCracken and Officer Jerry Miller arrested Salem last Thursday at a Transit Road fast-food restaurant after receiving a call about a suspicious person.

Terrorism-related events
delay police corruption trial

The corruption trial of four Buffalo Police Department narcotics detectives has been postponed until at least Jan. 8 because the chief prosecutor has been called to active duty with the National Guard.

The military call-up of Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Moscati caused District Judge Richard J. Arcara to announce the postponement Wednesday.

Selection of jurors for the trial of Darnyl Parker, John Ferby, David Rodriguez and Robert Hill was supposed to begin last Thursday but was delayed because of terrorism incidents. Arcara had intended to begin jury selection today.

After an FBI investigation, the four detectives were arrested March 2, 2000. They are accused of several illegal acts, including the theft of more than $30,000 from an undercover FBI agent posing as a drug dealer.

Cash and jewelry stolen
in break-in at wig shop

An undetermined amount of cash and jewelry was stolen late Wednesday from a Buffalo wig shop.

Ferry-Fillmore District police officers discovered the break-in at 8:29 p.m., when they heard an alarm ringing at Hana Wigs in the 900 block of Broadway.

An investigation determined that one or more individuals broke through an outside gate, smashed the front door glass and entered the business.

The money and jewelry were taken from the cash register, according to Officers James Reese and Tom Moran.

Probe of shotgun threat
brings weapon, drug charges

A West Side man who allegedly used a shotgun to threaten an individual in a Connecticut Street apartment house was arrested by Central District police early today.

John Higgins, 20, of the 400 block of Connecticut, was charged with criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of 40 bags of crack cocaine.

Officers Mark Locicero and Michael Long found the drugs and gun when they responded to a call for assistance at 468 Connecticut at 12:45 a.m. Higgins was also charged with trespass.

Child molester faces jail
for child endangerment

Peter Martone of Buffalo, a previously convicted child molester, faces a state prison term of up to four years on his guilty plea Wednesday to a probation violation charge for admitting he fondled himself in front of two girls, ages 14 and 15, in June in the City of Tonawanda Public Library.

State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia warned Martone, 37, that he faces at least 16 months in jail

Buscaglia ordered Martone to remain jailed without bail pending his Oct. 1 sentencing.

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