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POLICE & COURTS

>Woman found in home is ruled homicide victim

An elderly North Oak Street woman, whose body was found Tuesday inside her home, was the victim of a homicide, Buffalo police said.

Police identified the victim as Marlene Johnson, 76. her body was discovered just after noon in the bedroom of her home at 587 North Oak St. She is the fifth homicide victim of 2009.

An autopsy was conducted Wednesday in the Erie County medical examiner's office. Police declined to reveal how she died or further details of the crime.

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>Fugitive in India returned to face fraud charges

A former Niagara Falls businessman who had been identified by government agents as a fugitive in India has returned to the United States to face trial in Buffalo's federal court.

Bhavesh H. Kamdar, 42, who faces federal fraud charges, was taken into custody Wednesday by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agents who met his plane at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens.

His lawyer, Joseph V. Sedita, said Kamdar was already in India when the U.S. attorney's office filed charges against him in 2004. He said Kamdar denies the allegations.

Kamdar, who formerly lived in Amherst while operating an environmental business in Niagara Falls, is accused of mail fraud and money laundering in a 31-count federal indictment.

Kamdar is accused of defrauding New York State out of $1.2 million while his company had a contract with the state to remove underground gasoline tanks at numerous sites, Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony M. Bruce said.
He is expected to appear in Buffalo's federal court this afternoon.

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>Alleged intruder stabbed, badly hurt

An Erie, Pa., man was fighting for his life Wednesday after being stabbed in the back with a chef's knife during a home invasion early Wednesday on Pennsylvania Street, police said.

Richard Ricks, 27, was listed in critical condition in Erie County Medical Center Wednesday. At about 2:30 a.m., Ricks and two others forced their way into the residence after Antwon Joyner answered the door, police said. When Ricks hit Joyner with a beer bottle, Joyner's girlfriend, Anniaei Samuel, no age listed, of Pennsylvania Street, stabbed Ricks in the back with a 12-inch chef's knife, police said.

Ricks was dropped off at Roswell Park Cancer Institute before being taken to ECMC.

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>Role in gang shootings brings 8 years in prison

Steven "Gatillo" Zaragoza, one of three men pleading guilty in the drive-by shootings of two West Side drug gang rivals, was sentenced Wednesday to eight years in prison.

Zaragoza, 23, of West Avenue, told Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio that even though he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of first-degree assault, he accepts responsibility for the shootings of Manuel Castillo and Frank Matias on Dec. 9, 2007.

Prosecutor G. Michael Drmacich said Castillo, 29, is permanently brain-damaged and living in his hometown of Brooklyn. Matias, 20, formerly of Whitney Place, is currently in jail, facing a federal drug trial. Both were linked to Buffalo's infamous "Latin Kings" drug gang.

Matias was shot in the left arm and Castillo was shot in the head as Zaragoza, Jesus "Peludo" Colon, 24, of Dart Street, and Jose "Gordo" Martinez, 17, of Englewood Avenue, drove by the victims at Niagara Street and Columbus Parkway at about 4:30 a.m.

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>Two juveniles arrested in Oct. 29 arson case

Two juveniles wanted in the Oct. 29 arson of an Orchard Place house were arrested Wednesday, Buffalo police said.

Both were charged with arson, burglary and criminal mischief. They are accused of entering the basement of 22 Orchard Place just before 5 p.m. and igniting boxes and a sheet, causing $20,000 damage.

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>Woman faces charge of stabbing boyfriend

A Hopkins Street woman faces felony assault charges in the stabbing early Wednesday of her boyfriend, Buffalo police said.

Miranda N. Aljuwani, 32, was arguing with Robert Campbell, no age listed, in her Hopkins Street apartment at about 2:45 a.m. when she stabbed him in the chest with a kitchen knife, police said. Aljuwani washed off the knife, police added.

Campbell was listed in stable condition Wednesday in Mercy Hospital.

Aljuwani also was charged with criminal possession of a weapon and tampering with physical evidence.

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>Fire does $20,000 damage to vacant West Side house

Damage was put at $20,000 in a blaze at a vacant Fargo Avenue house late Tuesday evening, Buffalo fire officials reported.

The fire started at about 9 p.m. at 574 Fargo Ave. and quickly spread through the two-story building.

Firefighters arrived to find fire shooting through the roof.

Several fires were reported on the second floor and in the attic, according to reports. Buffalo firefighters brought the blaze under control in just over 20 minutes.

The cause remained under investigation.

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