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POLICE & COURTS

Hamburg police say pastor saved girl from choking

Town of Hamburg police said a pastor likely saved the life of an 11-year-old girl Saturday by performing the Heimlich maneuver on her at a restaurant.

Police said two other patrons tried unsuccessfully to help the girl before Thomas Smardz, a Lake View resident and pastor of Southtowns Christian Center, stepped in. The incident occurred in a Friendly's restaurant.

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Drug swindle leads to charges against 2

A man swindled out of $50 in a bogus drug deal tried to turn the tables on the thief by claiming he had been robbed at gunpoint, Lackawanna police say. That false claim led Buffalo police, with their guns drawn, to arrest four men in connection with a robbery that never occurred.

When Lackawanna police detectives finally straightened out the sequence of events last week, they charged the bogus drug seller with petit larceny, for stealing the $50, and the victim of the swindle with filing a false report, authorities said.

The incident began late Thursday afternoon when Michael L. Sagliani, 56, of Kevin Street, Lackawanna, tried to buy some drugs for $50 from Andrew Santiago, 24, of Trowbridge Avenue, Buffalo, Lackawanna detectives say.

Santiago took $50 from Sagliani and never returned with the drugs, according to police.

So Sagliani called police about 5:35 p.m. with the bogus report that he was robbed at gunpoint by Santiago and three accomplices, detectives said.

He also provided police with a description of the vehicle carrying the four people.

A couple of hours later, Buffalo police arrested the four occupants of that vehicle in Buffalo, according to authorities.

Lackawanna Police Capt. Ronald Miller, Lt. Joseph Leo and Detective Daniel Cardi continued questioning the people involved. "Sagliani kept making inconsistent statements," Miller said. "The evidence just didn't support his claims."

Under further questioning, police said, Santiago admitted taking the $50 without providing the drugs, leading police to charge him with petit larceny.

Charges in addition to filing a false report may be filed against Sagliani after consultation with the Erie County district attorney's office, Miller said.

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