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Art dealer admits natural gas theft

Jeffrey M. Weisberg, a widely known Buffalo arts and antique dealer, pleaded guilty Monday to a felony grand larceny charge linked to heating his West Utica Street home and warehouse for years with an illegal National Fuel gas meter.

However, he was not held culpable for stolen artwork and stained-glass windows that officials said also were found in his warehouse.

Weisberg, 61, pleaded guilty to a single count of third-degree grand larceny for the theft of the gas service.

The plea resolved an indictment stemming from the recovery of the stolen artwork and stained glass from his warehouse/home at 488 West Utica by Buffalo police Sept. 21, 2008.

Prosecutor Brian K. Parker said the stolen items have been returned to their owners. Weisberg, who had been charged with criminal possession of the items, was not required to plead guilty for storing and apparently trafficking in them, Parker said.

Weisberg, who had faced a jury trial next week, pleaded guilty to the highest grand larceny count he faced for the theft of an estimated $17,000 worth of natural gas illegally pumped into his house since 2004, the prosecutor said.

Erie County Judge Shirley Troutman told Weisberg, who has a number of medical problems, she will likely limit any jail time to six months when she sentences him Dec. 2. He also faces five years on probation.

Weisberg, the former operator of the Architectural Circus on Vermont Street, declined to comment as he left court Monday.

Parker said Weisberg likely faces a civil suit by National Fuel over the $17,000 in unpaid natural gas service.

According to court records, on Feb. 26, 1998, Weisberg was acquitted by an Erie County Court jury of illegally possessing stained-glass windows and ornate doors stolen from a Hickory Street home a year earlier.

At that trial, Weisberg was able to prove he had legitimately purchased that property for his business.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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