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Swindler makes deal to curb jail time

Venere Hutchinson, a real estate swindler who was jailed for eight months after defrauding five lending institutions of $2 million, has made a deal with the City of Buffalo to spare him and his wife more jail time.

Thursday, Housing Court Judge Henry J. Nowak agreed to release Hutchinson's wife from jail next week and sentence the couple to time served if Venere Hutchinson makes good on his offer to pay the city $80,000 in fines for his neglected city properties.

"I look forward to settling all my accounts with the city," Hutchinson, 30, said after the court session.

The couple had pleaded guilty in July to felony mortgage fraud after being prosecuted for buying 40 cheap Buffalo properties, then gaining second mortgages for as much as $100,000 above each property's assessed value.

City officials accused the Hutchinsons of abandoning those properties and contributing to neighborhood blight. The couple skipped town, but housing code violations continued to pile up against them in City Court.

The Hutchinsons completed their state sentences Jan. 9 after being found and arrested in May. But they still had charges pending against them in Housing Court.

Venere Hutchinson was released on $20,000 bail, but his wife remains incarcerated after Nowak raised her bail to $50,000.

The judge previously told the Hutchinsons they would face additional jail time if they did not pay $79,300 in fines for violating city ordinances and health laws. However, the Hutchinsons never paid, saying they were poor.

This week, however, Venere Hutchinson said he has the money to pay the city in four $20,000 installments.

"The money is coming from my family," he said.

Gregory A. Heeb, city assistant corporation counsel, had sought to have the Hutchinsons pay $160,000 for existing and potential demolition costs for their neglected properties and up to $20,000 more in fines.

Nowak, however, agreed to allow Venere Hutchinson to pay a total of $80,000, with an initial $20,000 bank check expected to clear by early next week. The judge postponed final settlement of the case until Tuesday to make sure that payment is received.

Hutchinson's lead defense attorney, Alan D. Goldstein, assured the judge Thursday that he will issue a check from his own law firm's escrow account to present to the city.

As far as how Hutchinson will raise the remaining $60,000 he will still owe the city, he said he's good at making money and doesn't foresee a problem raising the huge sum. He said the only reason he couldn't get the money sooner was because it's hard to conduct business from jail.

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