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POLICE & COURTS

Basom man, 44, killed as pickup crashes into pole

A Basom man was killed early Thursday when he lost control of his pickup on snow-covered Carney Road in Newstead, near the border of Erie and Genesee counties, and crashed into a utility pole, state police said.

Bryan J. Oczkowski, 44, was westbound at about 6:30 a.m. when his pickup veered off the road, rolled over and struck a utility pole. Emergency response personnel discovered the pickup upside-down, with live wires touching it.

Oczkowski, who was pronounced dead at the scene, was wearing a seat belt, Trooper Timothy Mahony said. An autopsy is scheduled today.

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Water convoys in blaze can't save Marilla home

Firefighters used convoys of tanker trucks to battle a blaze Thursday afternoon that destroyed a 2 1/2 -story home at 3416 E. Blood Road, Marilla.

Fire crews found heavy smoke pouring from the upper floors when they arrived at about 3:30 p.m., and the house was fully involved within 15 or 20 minutes, Assistant Marilla Fire Chief Brad Wurthner said.

He said the house, which was three or four years old, is a total loss. Records show that it is owned by Jeffrey F. Hart, the National Fuel executive who was named deputy to County Executive Chris Collins last June. Sheriff's fire investigators are looking into the cause.

The residents discovered the fire when they returned home and found the house full of smoke, Wurthner said. A pet dog was brought out safely, he noted. There were no injuries.

There are no fire hydrants on the rural road, Wurthner said, and nearby ponds were frozen, so several tanker trucks were needed to bring water to the scene.

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Hassan trial judge sees windup of jury selection

Erie County Judge Thomas P. Franczyk said he is optimistic that 12 jurors and four alternates will be chosen by the end of today in the Muzzammil S. "Mo" Hassan murder trial.

A total of 10 jurors were chosen by the end of Thursday's court session. If the jury is chosen today, testimony is expected to begin Tuesday.

Court will not be in session Monday in honor of Martin Luther King Day.

Hassan, 46, has been jailed since he went to Orchard Park police headquarters Feb. 12, 2009, and advised officials that he had beheaded his third wife, Aasiya Zubar Hassan, 37, at about 5 p.m. that day in the office of the Orchard Park cable television station they formed five years earlier.

Aasiya Hassan had begun divorce proceedings a week earlier.

Hassan claims he was a battered spouse because of years of alleged verbal and emotional abuse by his wife.

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Targets of multistate probe arrested in W. Seneca store

Three New York City suspects in the multistate probe of the fraudulent use of credit card numbers to purchase gift cards were arrested late Wednesday in the Wegmans store on Orchard Park Road, West Seneca police said.

Huawei Zheng, 22, Jie Lin, 21, and Chuan Qin Huang, 25, are charged with possession of a forged instrument, grand larceny, criminal possession of a credit card, all felonies, as well as conspiracy and criminal facilitation.

Store security called police after noticing three men buying large numbers of $100 gift cards, using a variety of credit cards. Police recovered more than $10,000 in gift cards and $3,000 in cash.

The three are in Erie County Holding Center in lieu of $25,000 cash bail.

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Mini-mart owner admits untaxed tobacco sales

Jasem Hasan, operator of a Cheektowaga mini-mart, pleaded guilty Thursday to felony fourth-degree criminal tax fraud and first-degree falsification of business records for selling untaxed tobacco products.

Hasan, 52, the Iraq-born operator of Adams's Mini-Mart at 1174 Walden Ave., admitted selling untaxed tobacco products smuggled into the state by a Pennsylvania distributor.

Financial Crimes Prosecutor Gary M. Ertel of the Erie County District Attorney's Office said state investigators seized more than $60,000 worth of untaxed tobacco products during a Sept. 3 raid. Ertel said Hasan forfeited to the state the seized products, so no restitution will be sought for unpaid sales or other taxes.

State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang refused to give Hasan a sentencing commitment and allowed him to remain free on his own recognizance pending his April 7 sentencing. He faces a possible prison term of up to four years.

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Two charged with robbery of cabbie using toy handgun

Two 16-year-old Buffalo residents who used a toy handgun to hold up a cab driver early Thursday in downtown Buffalo were charged with robbery.

Jenell Carson, of Davidson Avenue, and Jerry L. Simpson, of Townsend Street, took $150 and a cell phone from the taxi driver at about 2 a.m. in the 200 block of East Eagle Street, according to Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority police.

Carson and Simpson were also charged with possession of stolen property and criminal use of a firearm, according to Transit Officer Brian Britzzalaro, who was assisted by other transit police.

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