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Suspect in fake calls allowed to make repairs at house

Juan Merced, identified by prosecutors as chief suspect in scores of fake 911 emergency calls to his family's 15th Street home, was given permission by a judge Friday to fix alleged heating and electrical problems at the house.

Merced also disputed safety concerns about the house.

"The house is safe," Merced, 49, said after he and his attorney, Ayoka A. Tucker, appeared before City Housing Judge Henry J. Nowak for his arraignment on week-old housing code violation charges lodged by the city Fire Department.

Merced, his wife and their nine children currently are living at an unidentified location, according to Tucker. The judge partially lifted his week-old order that directed the family to vacate the house by Thursday.

Nowak put off further proceedings on the ordinance case until Thursday.

Tucker told Nowak that officials from the Erie County Social Services Department inspected the Merced home late last month, amid concerns about the living conditions of the couple's children, and found it a "safe" dwelling.

Nowak said he wants city Fire and Inspections Department officials to examine the Merced home before the next court session Wednesday.

City Judge James A.W. McLeod recently granted the Erie County District Attorney's office permission to force Merced to undergo an FBI-reviewed voice test to compare him to the voice heard on nearly 1,000 fake 911 calls about the Merced home. After two days of quiet, the fake calls resumed Thursday, according to city records.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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