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POLICE & COURTS

>Trucker leaps to safety before collision with train

PORTLAND -- A Warren, Pa., man whose truck stalled at the Munson Road rail crossing leapt to safety Thursday shortly before his vehicle was struck by a westbound CSX train.

The collision occurred at about 2:35 p.m. as Jon L. Granger, 48, was driving north on Munson, Chautauqua County sheriff's deputies said. Granger started to cross the railroad tracks but stopped when he spotted the lights of the approaching train, and the truck -- its front wheels on the tracks -- stalled, deputies said.

The truck was destroyed, and the front of the train was damaged, but no one was injured, deputies added.

The Munson Road crossing is marked with a sign only.

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>Immigration charge dismissed by judge

A criminal charge accusing a Honduras man of being in the United States illegally has been dismissed by a federal judge.

Martir J. Ayala-Ayala, 35, was arrested Jan. 15 by federal agents at the Peace Bridge. He told agents he illegally entered the United States from Mexico and was trying to get to Canada to find work.

The criminal charge was dismissed on legal grounds by U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott, but Ayala-Ayala is still in government custody and subject to deportation, according to his federal public defender, Timothy W. Hoover.

Scott ruled that Ayala-Ayala cannot be prosecuted criminally because being found on the Peace Bridge does not legally constitute being found inside the U.S.

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>Ex-worker pleads guilty to theft of $350,000

A City of Tonawanda woman pleaded guilty to stealing $350,000 from her employer, court officials and prosecutors said Thursday.

Judith Ann Scheitheir, 57, of Young Street, pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny before State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang for her thefts from the C.J. Krantz concern while she was its bookkeeper from June 2001 to last spring.

Scheitheir admitted to State Police investigators that she has "a gambling problem" and began writing company checks to herself in 2003 to cover her credit card debt and losses at the Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls and the casinos in Niagara Falls, Ont., according to court papers.

Wolfgang told Scheitheir that she probably will place her on probation when she returns to court for sentencing April 27, but the judge warned she could face a prison term of up to seven years on her pre-indictment guilty plea.

Scheitheir and her husband have turned over life insurance policies to the Lapp Road topsoil firm covering about one-third of her embezzlement, and the top soil company has taken out a $250,000 policy on her life, said Candace K. Vogel, financial crimes prosecutor.

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>Two men plead guilty to child-porn charges

Two out-of-state men pleaded guilty to felony child pornography charges Thursday in Buffalo federal court.

William G. Loomis, 53, a truck driver from Tualatin, Ore., admitted that he had 3,000 images of child pornography on a computer he had in his truck when he crossed the Peace Bridge on July 3, 2006. He pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography before Judge William M. Skretny.

In an unrelated case, Richard Harrold, 37, of Wilkesboro, N.C., also admitted to the same charge before Skretny. Harrold admitted he sent illegal images to an undercover FBI agent in Buffalo on a number of occasions between 2004 and 2006.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles B. Wydysh worked on the cases with the FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

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>Second life prison term imposed in slayings

A Jamestown man has received a second life prison term for activities related to a major drug ring in the Southern Tier.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara sentenced Aaron B. Pike, 29, for his role in two execution-style slayings in the Chautauqua County Town of Gerry.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas S. Duszkiewicz said Pike arranged the slayings of Richard Alicea Jr. and Johnny Houston, who were shot May 23, 2001, in a car.

Last year, Pike had been sentenced to life in state prison for the two slaying. Police said Alicea and Houston were killed because Alicea had stolen $80,000 cash and 100 pounds of marijuana from the drug ring and because he had agreed to become a police informant.

After a federal jury trial last March, Pike was convicted of engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise that sold marijuana and methamphetamine in 2000 and 2001.

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>Dryer blamed for fire above Manor Lanes

A dryer was blamed for "a very small fire" Wednesday afternoon in an upstairs apartment above Manor Lanes bowling center in the Town of Tonawanda, police said.

Assistant Chief David Nowicki said there was no damage to the two-story building and the fire was contained to the dryer, which had about $500 damage. No injuries were reported.

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