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Owner admits to housing violations on 38 properties

Joy A. Drati, the California businessman jailed here since late December, pleaded guilty Tuesday to Buffalo housing code violations covering 38 of the 59 local properties he purchased here in Internet deals four years ago.

Drati, 39, faces a possible state prison term and more than a half million dollars in demolition-related work when sentenced March 23 by Housing Judge Henry J. Nowak. He also awaits word from the county Health Department in a case involving a West Avenue house demolished by the city.

Through his attorney, Alan D. Goldstein, Drati pressed his claim that only his solely owned corporation and Scott Wizig, an Internet real estate investor, are to blame for his Buffalo woes.

At the request of Sheila M. Burke, the Health Department's Housing Court representative, Nowak put off a possible trial on Drati's final case, involving health code violations at the West Avenue home the city demolished after it was damaged by fire a year ago.

Goldstein told the judge that in light of Drati's guilty pleas to all the remaining Buffalo housing violation cases, the county agency should dismiss the West Avenue case.

Goldstein stressed that the city demolished the property and that its demolition costs are among the $700,000 in demolition costs the judge may order Drati to pay.

Burke told the judge she needs to discuss the matter with her superiors.

Drati's plea came a day after Nowak ruled him personally liable as the "owner" and sole employee of JD Max Homes, a limited liability corporation San Pablo, Calif.

Nowak refused to give Drati a sentencing commitment and remanded him pending sentencing.

Drati pleaded guilty to 38 cases of code violations after the city prosecutor got the judge to dismiss charges linked to three other properties he purchased from Wizig.

Drati, who was the subject of a fugitive warrant signed by Nowak last spring, purchased 59 Buffalo properties over the Internet three years ago from Wizig, the city's most prosecuted former landlord.

In Tuesday's court session, Goldstein stressed that Wizig had unloaded on Drati, sight unseen, Buffalo properties that all were "in terrible disrepair."

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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