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POLICE & COURTS - South Suburban

Reduced guilty plea entered in Gowanda armed standoff

A Perrysburg man who fired a shotgun to hold off state and local police at a Gowanda bar during a hostage incident early this year pleaded guilty Wednesday to a reduced charge.

Dale Covert, 43, entered an Alford Plea before State Supreme Court Justice Joseph S. Forma to a reduced charge of second-degree attempted murder. Under a deal approved by the district attorney's office, the Gowanda police chief and his victim, Covert did not have to admit he had committed any crimes.

Forma agreed with a prosecution request that he impose a prison term of seven years when Covert returns for sentencing Jan. 5. Covert will remain jailed until that time.

Covert, who had faced a life term without parole if he had been convicted of trying to kill a police officer, also said he understood that his emotional and psychiatric problems and his drunkenness during the incident might have been a viable defense.

Covert's attorneys said he staged the four-hour siege at the Palm Garden on Jan. 3 after he had stopped taking prescribed medications while upset about a child-support battle with his former wife.

The incident ended when Covert passed out.

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Ex-worker admits scam costing company $240,000

Stuart J. Culver, a former Buffalo-area construction official, pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing almost $240,000 from his last local employer, an Orchard Park paving concern.

Jailed here since late May after he was returned from Northern California, Culver, 43, pleaded guilty before Erie County Judge Timothy J. Drury to second-degree grand larceny for a fake vendor scam he pulled at Holmes and Murphy Inc.

Candace K. Vogel, a financial crimes prosecutor for the Erie County district attorney's office, said that while Culver worked as a project manager on jobs for the company since at least late 2003, he created a fake vendor, HSM Sales, and had corporate checks mailed there.

Culver, a Town of Boston resident who was found in Santa Clara, Calif., did not disclose what he did with the funds he admitted embezzling from Holmes and Murphy.

He faces three to 14 years in prison at his Jan. 4 sentencing. Drury ordered him to remain jailed without bail.

Culver served a brief prison term for a similar financial scam against a Rochester company in 1998.

Dennis G. Gaughan, Culver's lawyer, said his client's problems "are the result of drug addiction and depression."

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Hughes Avenue resident, visitor robbed at gunpoint

Two men were robbed at gunpoint early Wednesday outside a Hughes Avenue home, Northeast District police said.

The victims -- one a Hughes Avenue resident and the other a visitor from Cheektowaga -- were confronted at about 12:20 a.m. by a man wearing a red bandanna and a big earring.

Police said the victims handed over $100 and the robber ran south on Oakgrove Avenue.

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