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Four Salamanca kayakers rescued at Letchworth

LETCHWORTH Four kayakers from Salamanca were rescued early Wednesday by police after they apparently became lost on the Genesee River, according to State Park Police.

Authorities said Shermane Rivers, 24; Gregory Wassar, 20; Ashley Wies, 23; and Amber Fellows, 25, were kayaking on the river in Letchworth State Park when they became disoriented.

State Park Police and the State Police Aviation Unit along with the Livingston County Sheriff's Office responded to a cell phone call made by the kayakers, authorities said.

The four were found near the Silver Lake Outlet just before 1 a.m. Wednesday by the aviation team.


Westfield couple plead guilty in disability case

A husband and wife from Chautauqua County admit that they misused a Social Security number to illegally collect disability benefits from two federal programs.

Harold Spearback, 65, and his wife, Allene, 56, both of Westfield, both pleaded guilty Wednesday to a charge of theft of government property. While working as a truck driver, Harold Spearback illegally used his wife's Social Security number to collect disability benefits from the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. said.

The scheme enabled Harold Spearback to collect nearly $120,000 that he was not legally entitled to receive, Hochul said.

Agents from Veterans Affairs, Secret Service and the Social Security Administration investigated the scam.


Felony DWI charge lodged in traffic stop

A Cattaraugus County resident was charged with felony driving while intoxicated following a traffic stop in the Town of Concord, the Erie County Sheriff's Office said.

A report of reckless operation sent Deputy Chris Parisi to South Vaughn Street shortly before 8 p.m. Tuesday, according to police. He located the vehicle, which was driven by Paul J. Bentkowski, 51, of West Valley.

Bentkowski was charged with felony counts of driving while intoxicated and aggravated unlicensed operation, stemming from a DWI conviction in Springville in 2009, when his driver's license was revoked. He also was charged Tuesday with aggravated driving while intoxicated because of a blood-alcohol content of 0.18 percent, deputies said.

Bentkowski was sent to the county holding center pending arraignment in Springville Village Court.


Fugitive faces charges in border cash smuggling

A Brooklyn man faces charges that he illegally smuggled more than $31,000 cash over the Rainbow Bridge last year and then cut off an electronic-monitoring device after he was released on bail.

Stephen U. Joseph, 35, who had addresses in Brooklyn and in the country of Guyana, is now a fugitive, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Wednesday.

According to court papers, Joseph was arrested at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls last Oct. 31, after he entered the United States in a taxicab.

Joseph told border officers he had $7,000 with him but actually had much more money hidden in his underwear, the lining of his jacket and in his suitcase, prosecutor Marie P. Grisanti said.

He was arrested and released on bail with an electronic monitoring device attached to his ankle, but Joseph later cut off the monitoring device and is now a wanted man, prosecutors said.

Joseph is charged with felony counts of smuggling and making false statements to a federal official.

The U.S. Marshals Service asked that anyone with knowledge of his whereabouts contact them at (202) 307-9100.


Black Pearl target of arson, burglary

OLCOTT -- The owners of the 73-foot Black Pearl brigantine said Wednesday that its Liberty Excursions will soon resume after a suspicious fire Saturday caused $10,000 damage to the $2.2 million ship.

Sheriff investigators said the fire, which broke out at about 6 a.m., is considered a burglary and arson, with the fire set at two points and the cabin broken into.

"We plan on getting our equipment replaced and hopefully we will be out in a week with passengers," said the ship's owner, Amanda Alexander

Niagara County Historical Society President Lee Simonson, who is coordinating the Black Pearl historical tours of the lower Niagara River, suggested excursions could begin in early


Identity theft alleged in attempt to enter U.S.

A Nigerian man is accused of aggravated identity theft because he allegedly tried to use another person's name while trying to enter the United States last November.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said Benedict Jacob, also known as Osemuanhu Edenojie, 46, of Nigeria, has been indicted by a grand jury. He was arrested after he attempted to cross the border in the Buffalo area Nov. 6. U.S. Customs & Border Protection agents investigated the case, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango.

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