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POLICE & COURTS

Erratic course draws attention to driver

YORKSHIRE -- A Lancaster woman was arrested Monday on Route 16 after police received complaints of an erratic driver headed toward Machias.

Julie A. Berst, 22, of Broadway, was charged by Cattaraugus County sheriff's deputies with driving without a license and was found to have five previous suspensions.

After arraignment in Yorkshire Town Court, Berst was taken to the county in lieu of $1,000 bail.

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Two accused of fraud at border crossings

Two men who attempted to enter the United States using fraudulent methods were arrested by federal authorities in separate incidents, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said Wednesday.

Authorities said Sebastian M. Palacio, 20, a Colombian national who had previously been denied a visa to enter the U.S., was caught Monday at the Rainbow Bridge attempting to enter the country with another man's passport.

Less than 24 hours later, Mirza Ballee, 34, a Guyanese citizen who had been previously deported from the U.S., was arrested at the Peace Bridge after he also allegedly presented a passport that was not his.

Palacio and Ballee were both charged with false statements and misuse of a passport. They were detained pending prosecution by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

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Man in crash charged with texting and DUI

BATAVIA -- An Alden man was charged with texting and driving under the influence of drugs after he crashed his vehicle into a ditch at about 7:45 a.m. Wednesday on Route 33 in the Town of Batavia, Genesee County sheriff's officials said.

Luke M. Tarnacki, 19, of Sandridge Road, was westbound on Route 33 near Read Road when he crossed both lanes of traffic and crashed into the ditch.

Tarnacki was charged with driving while ability impaired by drugs, aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle, failure to keep right and unlawful use of an electronic device while driving.

He is in Genesee County Jail in lieu of $3,000 bail.

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North Tonawanda man imprisoned for rape

LOCKPORT -- A 22-year-old North Tonawanda man who called himself "mentally, 17 years old," apologized Wednesday for having sex with a 14-year-old girl Nov. 18, then was sentenced to three years in prison.

Aaron M. Coughenour, of Tremont Street, had pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of attempted second-degree rape March 17.

But Judge Matthew J. Murphy III denied Coughenour's request for one year in Niagara County Jail.

Coughenour, who left the courtroom in tears, also faces 10 years of post-release supervision and is required to register as a sex offender, Murphy said.

Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Donatello told the court that Coughenour knew the victim's age, even though he denied so, and in a statement to police said he had "too many women to count" and had been with as many as 200 girls.

Murphy also said Coughenour has committed a crime every year since 2004.

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Auto impound worker attacked in office

An employee of Buffalo's auto impound on Dart Street was assaulted Tuesday afternoon by a man in his office, Buffalo police said.

The attacker kicked in the office door, grabbed the employee around the neck and choked him, police said.

The victim sought medical treatment at a local hospital.

Northwest District police are investigating.

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Damage put at $250,000 as Clarence fire spreads

A fire believed to be electrical in origin Wednesday caused more than $250,000 damage to two Clarence homes and a garage, Amherst Fire Control said.

The fire at 10660 Boyd Drive broke out at about 1 p.m., and firefighters arriving at the scene discovered the two-story garage ablaze, with flames spreading to the nearby house, officials said.

The garage was declared a total loss at $75,000. Damage to the home was estimated at $170,000. Exposure damage to house next door was estimated at $10,000.

Erie County sheriff's fire investigators were probing the cause.

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Safe containing $7,000 stolen from apartment

A safe containing more than $7,000 in cash, as well as some Canadian and U.S. coins and New York Lottery tickets, was stolen from an elderly woman's Riverside apartment Wednesday, according to Buffalo police reports.

The 78-year-old Albemarle Street woman told police the burglar got into her apartment while she was away. The victim said she had locked her door but told police there were no signs of forced entry.

Northwest District police are investigating.

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