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Wife's fraud not known to him, councilman says

Common Council Majority Leader Demone A. Smith said Tuesday he did not know that his wife was involved in a counterfeit check scheme until investigators showed up.

Jayme D. Smith, the city lawmaker's wife, pleaded guilty Monday to federal bank fraud charges.

According to her plea deal, Jayme Smith created and mailed about $564,000 in fraudulent checks to people across the country last year. She printed some of the checks at home and signed other people's names to them. Her attorney said she was paid about $900.

In the end, four banks lost about $20,100.

"She was a victim of an online predator," Demone Smith said after Tuesday's Council meeting. "She got to the point where it went to court. She took responsibility for her involvement, and, pretty much, she got duped."

While his wife awaits sentencing in July, it appears that the Masten District representative is not in danger of losing his leadership post on the Council.

Council President Richard A. Fontana, who represents Lovejoy, said he believes that the situation clearly involved Smith's spouse as an individual and that in other professional fields, the actions of one spouse are not held against the other.

North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr. and Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto both said they do not see the matter affecting Smith's leadership position.

"Unless he did something wrong, this is a personal issue and a family issue to deal with," Golombek said.

LoCurto said he didn't think the situation would affect Smith's leadership post. But when asked whether it should, he declined to comment.

Fillmore Council Member David A. Franczyk, who earlier this year questioned Smith's appointment as majority leader, took exception to the situation being called a "personal matter."

"Like it or not," Franczyk said, "whenever you plead guilty to a crime, it's always a public matter."

Fontana and Golombek are part of the Council majority with Smith, while LoCurto and Franczyk are not aligned with Smith.

Jayme Smith was working for the Buffalo Bills at the time of her actions, and her attorney, John V. Elmore, told The Buffalo News on Monday that she was concerned about losing her job during the National Football League lockout.

She responded to an employment ad on Craigslist, and those who placed the ad convinced her they were running a legitimate company, Elmore said.

Demone Smith said he sees the situation as a warning about things online that seem too good to be true.

"So beware, because there are people out there that are lurking online," the lawmaker said. "They try to get people involved into things, and they're very good at this. And at the end of the day, they can leave you holding the bag."

In other matters Tuesday, the Council:

Voted, 8-0, to enact a ban on underage patrons in bars in a section of downtown. The new law bans "commingling," in which those under 21 occupy the same places as those of legal drinking age, every night of the week except Thursdays and when an exemption is granted to an individual establishment by the city.

The ban goes into effect immediately upon the signature of Mayor Byron W. Brown.

A deal between the mayor and lawmakers calls for the law to end Oct. 2 so it can be reviewed.

Approved an 11 percent salary increase for Modesto Candelario, assistant executive director at the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority. A proposal to allow the authority's Board of Commissioners to negotiate up to a 27 percent increase with Executive Director Dawn E. Sanders was sent to committee.

Voted, 8-0, to approve a resolution calling for an "aggressive investigation" into the Trayvon Martin case in Florida.