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Judge reluctantly gives drug suspect probation

LOCKPORT -- Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza said she had her doubts about Buffalo drug dealer Eric J. Cobb being able to comply with the rules of probation, but she decided Wednesday to give him three months to prove himself.

Cobb, 22, of Lemon Street, had pleaded guilty to fifth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance for selling cocaine March 30 in the Town of Lockport. Defense attorney E. Earl Key urged Sperrazza to let Cobb try to make good on probation pending a final sentencing decision.


Mandatory prison sentence ends burglar's probation

LOCKPORT -- Jeffrey T. Wittcop, of Lockport, had been placed on probation for a June 12 Wilson burglary, but upon further review, Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza said Wednesday that Wittcop must go to state prison.

In January, when she originally sentenced Wittcop, 28, of Lockwood Drive, Sperrazza wasn't aware that he was a second-time felon, which made a prison term mandatory.

Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth R. Donatello said Wittcop was convicted of attempted second-degree rape in 2002, but there was an oversight and he never was ordered to register as a sex offender.

Sperrazza resentenced Wittcop to 1 1/2 to three years in prison but recommended him for boot camp-style "shock incarceration." That would make him eligible for parole in six months, but defense attorney Scott R. Stopa said he doubted Wittcop would be accepted into the program because he is a sex offender. Sperrazza declared Wittcop a Level 2 offender Wednesday.


Tonawanda man indicted in domestic violence cases

Dale W. Brand was indicted Wednesday on assault and other charges for a series of domestic violence incidents involving a 33-year-old woman he is accused of beating and briefly keeping hostage in a City of Tonawanda home over a month ago.

Though Brand, 31, of 61 Syracuse Street, City of Tonawanda, promised Erie County Judge Thomas P. Franczyk at his afternoon arraignment that he would seek out-patient mental health care for his emotional problems the judge ordered him to remain jailed in lieu of $250,000 bail.

Prosecutor Matthew A. Albert told the judge that a felony kidnapping charge was originally lodged against Brand for allegedly holding the woman a hostage for several days until his Feb. 1 arrest and jailing.

The grand jury indicted Brand on second- and third-degree assault charges, unlawful imprisonment and two weapons counts for two stun guns police reportedly seized from Brand during his Feb. 1 arrest, the prosecutor told the judge.


Tavern owner admits failing to file income tax returns

A Buffalo tavern owner and chiropractor has pleaded guilty to charges of failure to file personal income tax returns and grand larceny for failure to hand over sales taxes, state officials said Wednesday.

Anthony Amabile, 52, of Elma, is scheduled to be sentenced June 21 and faces up to a year in jail and fines of more than $120,000, according to state Department of Taxation and Finance Commissioner Thomas H. Mattox.

Amabile, owner of Mr. A's Village Corner Pub on the 800 block of Elk Street, was one of 14 individuals charged throughout the state in "Operation AccountAbility," an enforcement sweep targeting people who failed to file personal income tax returns over multiple years, Mattox said.

For a period from 2009 to 1999, Amabile did not file sales tax returns in the amount of $62,000. Mattox credited Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III for his assistance in the prosecution.


2nd suspect pleads guilty in credit card fraud case

LOCKPORT -- The second defendant in a credit card fraud case that victimized a Lewiston woman pleaded guilty Wednesday in Niagara County Court.

Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza scheduled sentencing June 1 for Leonard James, 19, of Ashland Avenue, Niagara Falls. James admitted to fourth-degree grand larceny and agreed to pay $6,450, a half-share of the restitution due the victim. Sperrazza promised to impose a sentence of no more than a year in County Jail.

It was the same plea arrangement entered March 11 by Dora T. Chatmon, 24, of South Avenue, Niagara Falls.

She and James used two stolen credit cards to ring up nearly $13,000 in purchases between Sept. 20 and Oct. 12. Chatmon was working as a home health care aide in the victim's home.


Guilty plea entered over counterfeit cards

A Florida man faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine when he's sentenced in July for allegedly stealing more than a half-million dollars using counterfeit credit and debit cards, U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. reported Wednesday.

Siu S. Cheung, 52, is the final defendant of nine to plead guilty in the case involving the fraudulent use of hundreds of credit and debit bank account numbers between July and December 2009.

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