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POLICE & COURTS

>Food mart co-owner foils robbery try

The co-owner of a Bailey Avenue food mart pulled out her handgun to foil a robbery attempt at the deli late Thursday night, Ferry-Fillmore District police reported Friday.

Two would-be robbers, both dressed in black, entered the Fiya Food Mart, 2021 Bailey, at about 11:05 p.m. Thursday. One of the men pointed a handgun at the woman and threatened to shoot her if she didn't open the cash register.

The woman, who owns the store along with her husband, pulled out her pistol, forcing the two men to flee north on Bailey and east on Doat Street. Police said the couple has a valid permit for the handgun.

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>Fire lieutenant subdues burglary suspect

A Buffalo fire lieutenant was awakened in his firehouse early Friday and forced to do some quick police work, as he subdued a burglary suspect and held him until police officers arrived.

Lt. William Smith of Engine 26 was awakened in his Tonawanda Street firehouse at about 4:30 a.m., when he noticed a man leaning over his bed and looking through his belongings. Smith struggled with the man, subdued him and held him for police.

Northwest District police said the man, identified as Thomas J. Varrasa, 40, of no permanent address, had taken the fire lieutenant's cell phone. After officers took Varrasa to the Erie County Holding Center, they also found a crack pipe in his pocket, they said.

Police charged Varrasa with burglary, criminal possession of stolen property and one drug charge.

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>Ex-lawyer gets jail in Vermont fraud case

A former lawyer who ran a controversial debt-reduction clinic in Buffalo has been sentenced to 15 years and eight months in prison in a Vermont fraud case.

Andrew Capoccia, 63, of Guilderland, near Albany, was convicted last year of defrauding clients of his former Vermont firm, the Law Centers for Consumer Protection, out of millions of dollars.

In the 1990s, Capoccia ran the Andrew F. Capoccia Law Centers in Buffalo and other cities, claiming he could help people eliminate their credit card debts. After a number of complaints were filed against him, he was barred from practicing in the federal courts of Buffalo in February 1999. Six months later, he was disbarred.

In addition to the federal prison term, a judge in Brattleboro, Vt., ordered Capoccia to pay $7.2 million in restitution and forfeit $2.9 million in property to the federal government.

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>Man convicted of rape to be sentenced in May

Michael White, an unemployed Perrysburg man, was convicted Friday of raping a Gowanda woman at the house of a mutual acquaintance in Gowanda two years ago.

White, 37, who had been free on bail, was handcuffed and taken to the Erie County Holding Center after Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio pronounced him guilty of first-degree rape and first-degree sexual abuse for the early morning incident on Aug. 30, 2004.

White, who did not testify at the two-day non-jury trial he requested, will be sentenced May 24.

Prosecutor Roseanne McMorrow said she will urge Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark to seek the maximum 25-year prison term.

The victim testified Tuesday that she was asleep in the Gowanda home of a mutual friend when White accosted her at about 5:30 a.m.

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>Teen who shot at dad tagged youthful offender

LOCKPORT -- A South Street 17-year-old who fired a sawed-off shotgun at his father during an argument was granted youthful offender status Thursday by Niagara County Judge Peter L. Broderick Sr.

The move sealed Derek J. Rehm's sentence for second-degree reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor. The shots were fired outside Rehm's home Aug. 22.

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>Bank account set up to cover theft, police say

DUNKIRK -- A Fredonia man faces grand larceny and identity theft charges for allegedly stealing more than $13,000 from a Dunkirk bank, Dunkirk police said Friday.

Abdou R. Babarimissa, 38, of West Main Street, is accused of depositing stolen checks into the account under the assumed name of Armelle M. Zountcheme. He then withdrew the funds using checks and a debit card issued by the bank for the account, police said.

Babarimissa was arrested at another bank after he attempted to open another account under the assumed name.

The criminal activity occurred between Feb. 9 and 13, police said.

He was arraigned in Dunkirk City Court and held on $30,000 cash bail.

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>Husband denies charge he tried to choke wife

LOCKPORT -- A Niagara Falls man accused of choking and threatening to kill his wife July 25 denied the charges Friday in Niagara County Court.

Brian K. Shongo, 46, of Lafayette Avenue, pleaded not guilty to first-degree criminal contempt of court, aggravated criminal contempt, third-degree assault, second-degree harassment and resisting arrest.

Also Friday, Judge Peter L. Broderick Sr. ordered Clair D. Vanderschaaf, 35, of Upper Mountain Road, Lewiston, to serve six months in jail and five years' probation for felony driving while intoxicated. He was arrested Feb. 2 in Lewiston.

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