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$730,000 sales tax theft admitted

Michael Wolfberger, the former owner of a defunct Williamsville luxury auto dealership, faces a probable jail term of at least six months after admitting he stole more than $730,000 in state sales taxes, the largest sales tax fraud in Erie County history.

Wolfberger, 60, former owner of Premium Auto Sales at 5139 Sheridan Drive, pleaded guilty Friday to a single count of second-degree grand larceny.

"Roughly half of that stolen amount, or about $365,000, would have been and still is owed to the Erie County government," Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark said.

State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang told Wolfberger, who came to court with his wife, that he could face a prison term of up to 15 years but because of the demands of authorities for full recovery, she will consider a local jail term of six month.

He remains free on his own recognizance pending his July 18 sentencing.

Wolfberger, who closed his luxury-car dealership about four months ago in the midst of a criminal investigation by both the district attorney's office and the state tax department, admitted stealing the tax money received between March 1, 2001, and Nov. 28, 2005.

Amid a continuing dispute between prosecutors and Wolfberger's attorney, J. Michael Lennon, about the exact amount of his thefts, the judge said she may have to conduct a restitution hearing soon to pinpoint the sum she will order him to pay.

Clark and James Quinn Auricchio, chief of the Erie County district attorney's Revenue Crimes Bureau, said they will press to get restitution of at least $733,938 plus penalties and interest.

Wolfberger was allowed to leave court on his own recognizance after Auricchio told the judge authorities want him to continue working as a car salesman for an area car dealership because restitution is a crucial part of the plea deal.


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