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POLICE & COURTS

Plea of guilty entered to theft from pension fund

A Youngstown man Monday pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to stealing $83,666 from an employee pension fund that he managed for a company owned by his wife.

Stephen Dillon, 49, former manager of Managed Care Network in Niagara Falls, was accused of embezzling funds from the employee benefit 401(k) pension plan sponsored by the business, which is owned by Jeanne Battaglia Dillon.

As the administrator of the plan, Stephen Dillon was responsible for deducting employee payroll contributions on a biweekly basis. However, Dillon failed to forward those contributions to the plan on behalf of the employees.

The charge against Dillon carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both. Dillon pleaded guilty before Chief U.S. District Judge William J. Skretny, who scheduled sentencing for Nov. 18.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell T. Ippolito Jr., who is handling the case, said the plea is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Marjorie Franzman, special agent in charge of the New York Region.

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Prison contraband case could add to sentence

Samuel Chandler, a Bronx robber who would have been released from prison in early April for a violent stickup there in the late 1990s, faces up to another seven years behind bars for trying to have drugs and a scalpel delivered to him at the state's Wende Correctional Facility last summer.

Chandler, 35, denied during a weeklong trial that he had made telephone calls from prison setting up the illegal shipment. But a jury of 10 women and two men that deliberated almost three hours Monday found him guilty of felony promoting prison contraband.

Sentencing on the new charges is scheduled for Sept. 12.

Prosecutors John P. Feroleto and Jaharr S. Pridgen said they will urge Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III to recommend the judge impose the maximum-allowable seven-year prison term.

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Guilty plea entered to steroid distribution

A Cheektowaga man faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine after pleading guilty Monday to distributing anabolic steroids, according to U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul.

Richard Lazzaro, 39, along with two other men, was charged with obtaining and distributing steroids while he was employed as a detention officer at the Buffalo area Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, said U.S. Assistant Attorney Michael L. McCabe.

Charged with Lazzaro were Michael Trautmann, also of Cheektowaga, and Richard Eldridge of West Seneca. Trautmann, 48, was, like Lazzaro, a detention officer working as a federal contract employee. Eldridge, 35, was an immigration enforcement officer.

Monday's plea by Lazzaro was made before Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny, and was the culmination of an investigation on the part of special agents from the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Inspector General.

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New trial denied for man in prison for home invasion

LOCKPORT -- A Buffalo man convicted of taking part in a 2001 home invasion in Niagara Falls was denied a new trial in a hearing last week before Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza.

Jack Z. Sweet, 51, formerly of Roehrer Avenue, is serving a 15-year prison sentence.

On Dec. 30, the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court ordered a hearing on whether Sweet's trial lawyer should have sought dismissal of the charges on the grounds that Sweet's right to a speedy trial was violated. Sweet said a felony complaint was lodged Dec. 5, 2001, but prosecutors didn't announce the case was ready for trial until 6 1/2 months later. Normally, that's supposed to happen within six months.

But Assistant District Attorney Thomas H. Brandt said he showed that police never sent the felony complaint to City Court.

Instead, they sent it right to the District Attorney's Office, which obtained an indictment without taking the case through the lower court, so prosecutors weren't on the clock right after the complaint was written.

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Man, 60 killed in fall at hydroelectric plant

Law enforcement officers say an Allegany man died Monday afternoon when he fell at a hydroelectric plant he co-owns on the Seneca River in suburban Syracuse.

John Stranburg, 60, fell while doing maintenance on a turbine at the Wave Hydro power plant in Baldwinsville and was sucked underwater by the powerful current, police said.

Hampered by strong current in the dark confines of the turbine pit, emergency workers labored for nearly four hours to recover Stranburg's body, which was removed shortly before 4 p.m.

Earlier Monday afternoon, rescuers pulled another man out of the river at the plant. He was taken away in an ambulance with what were believed to be non-life-threatening injuries.

The 10-foot-diameter turbine continued to spin during the recovery operation.