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POLICE & COURTS

Fire heavily damages Cuba apartment complex

CUBA -- Fire ripped through a 12-unit apartment complex on Hill Street early Friday, Allegany County officials said.

Eight volunteer fire companies were dispatched to the blaze, which was reported at 1:17 a.m. All residents escaped from the apartments without injury. A few firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation, Cuba police said.

The fully occupied complex was declared uninhabitable. A damage estimate was unavailable.

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3 plead guilty in scheme to hire illegal aliens

Three men have pleaded guilty to criminal charges in connection with hiring illegal aliens to work at Mexican restaurants, the U.S. Attorney's Office reported on Friday.

Sergio Resendiz, 42, now of Henderson, N.C., and Javier Banda Mireles, 38, of Williamsville, pleaded guilty to harboring illegal aliens for private financial gain. Jesus Escalante, 32, of Dunkirk, pleaded guilty to employment of illegal aliens.

Illegal alien workers typically worked "off the books" at eight restaurants that were investigated, including one in Cheektowaga and one in Allegany, said Lev J. Kubiak, a supervisor of investigations for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The employees often worked 60 to 70 hours a week for wages of $250 to $300, which put them far below the required minimum wage, authorities said.

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Great Valley suspects accused of copper theft

KILL BUCK -- Three Great Valley men are accused of stealing copper from the closed Donver Lumber Yard.

Cattaraugus County sheriff's deputies said they observed a car in the lumber yard and determined electric lines had been cut and the copper stolen. Several-hundred pounds of copper were recovered at the scene and from a house in Great Valley, deputies said.

Jason Dille, 36, Richard Farnham Jr., 31, and Douglas Reed, 27, were arraigned before Salamanca City Judge Ronald Ploetz each on a charge of third-degree burglary. The investigation is continuing.

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Illegal turn leads police to DWI suspect

SALAMANCA -- A Broad Street man who made an illegal turn was stopped and found to be driving drunk and without a license, city police said.

Daniel S. Smrek, 45, was arrested about 7 p.m. Thursday after he refused to take a breath test, police said. He was being held in the city lockup until City Court arraignment on charges of DWI, no driver's license and traffic violations.

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Airport security worker charged in trafficking case

A suspended Homeland Security employee was indicted Friday on charges that she helped suspected drug traffickers to avoid scrutiny at Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

A federal grand jury indicted Minnetta Walker, 43, on felony charges of aiding another individual in avoiding airport security procedures, and obstructing government security measures.

Walker denied any wrongdoing last month when she was arrested on a criminal complaint. Friday's indictment is the next step in the prosecution of her case, U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. said.

Her arrest followed an investigation by the Buffalo offices of the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement.

Walker worked as a "behavioral detection officer" for the Transportation Safety Administration. Prosecutors said her job was to roam around the airport and watch people for signs of possible criminal activity.

At times, according to the indictment, Walker helped certain airport travelers to travel under false names and bypass security checkpoints. She is also accused of alerting alleged drug traffickers to the actions of law enforcement personnel.

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Assault charged lodged in attack by man with bat

LITTLE VALLEY -- A Virginia Avenue man who got into the middle of fight and used a baseball bat on his victim has been charged with assault, Cattaraugus County sheriff's deputies said.

Christopher Phillips, 20, was charged Wednesday with third-degree assault, deputies said. He is scheduled to appear in Little Valley Town Court at a later date.

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White Buffalo firefighters get appeals court victory

A state appellate court Friday upheld the right of 13 white Buffalo firefighters -- 10 still on the force -- to sue for financial damages because the city canceled the results of civil service promotion tests on racial grounds several years ago.

The unanimous decision upholds the Oct. 29 ruling by State Supreme Court Justice John A. Michalek. The five-judge Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Rochester rejected the city's appeal.

Andrew P. Fleming, counsel for the 13 firefighters, who lost promotional opportunities when the city canceled tests result in 2005 and 2006 after minority firefighters did poorly on the exams, estimates the city owes each of his clients "in excess of" $200,000.

Michalek has scheduled an August trial on the damages, officials said.

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