An embarrassed Gary J. Moscato was spared a state prison term Tuesday after the repair shop owner pledged to reimburse the state the cost of cleaning up hazardous waste from his business that was illegally dumped last summer.
Erie County Judge Michael F. Pietruszka also placed Moscato, 55, owner of Earl's Best Paint & Body Shop on Main Street, on probation for the next five years and ordered him to perform 200 hours of community service. Moscato pleaded guilty Dec. 4 to a felony charge of unlawful possession of hazardous waste.
Attorney Charles J. Marchese told Pietruszka that rather than make monthly restitution payments for the next five years, Moscato will make full restitution of $11,867 in 12 months to the Department of Environmental Conservation, fully repaying taxpayers for the costs of the cleanup.
Marchese told the judge Moscato "admitted his mistake and accepts full responsibility" for what the attorney called "the dumbest" cost-saving scheme he could have devised.
Assistant State Attorney General Paul F. McCarthy told the judge Moscato paid long-time pal David J. Lakes, 51, $300 to get rid of more than 100 gallons of hazardous paint solvents for him last summer.
Lakes remains free on bail pending his April 3 sentencing on his Dec. 4 felony plea to unlawful dealing in hazardous wastes. He dumped about 30 five-gallon containers of the paint solvents near railroad tracks in fields off Ludwig Avenue and Ellicott Road in Cheektowaga, McCarthy told the judge.
Marchese said Moscato thought he could save several hundred dollars in recycling costs by paying Lakes to handle the solvents.
Jon A. Nichols, attorney for Lakes, of Angela Lane, Cheektowaga, said his client will be in an inpatient drug treatment program for the next month. Lakes' drug-addiction is the cause of his criminal problems, Nichols said.