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Last of three pleads guilty to distributing steroids

The last of three men from the Southtowns indicted last year for distributing anabolic steroids at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia pleaded guilty in connection with the case, U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. announced Thursday.

Michael Trautmann, 49, of Cheektowaga, faces up to 10 years in prison, a $500,000 fine, or both, when he is sentenced Aug. 9 before Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny.

In the fall of 2010, Trautmann obtained and distributed steroids while employed as a detention officer at the facility, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael L. McCabe, who is handling the case.

Trautmann and Richard Lazzaro, 40, both of Cheektowaga, and Richard Eldridge, 36, of West Seneca, were indicted in March 2011 as part of the distribution ring.

At the time, Eldridge was an immigration enforcement agent with the Department of Homeland Security, and Lazzaro, like Trautmann, was a detention officer working as a federal contract employee.

The Batavia facility is an Immigration and Customs Enforcement processing center operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons and houses up to 360 inmates.

Eldridge will be sentenced July 10; sentencing information on Lazzarowas unavailable.


Canadian pleads guilty to importing OxyContin

A Canadian man pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiring to import OxyContin into the Buffalo area.

Joseph Julien, 67, of Ridgeway, Ont., was arrested last fall, following a long-term investigation into the illegal importation of prescription drugs from Canada into the U.S.

He was charged after he delivered 125 OxyContin tablets to Kevin Hinca, 23, of Lancaster, at a parking lot on Broadway in Depew, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael L. McCabe said. Julien brought the tablets over the Peace Bridge earlier in the day and had previously imported and delivered OxyContin to Hinca several times, McCabe said. Hinca in turn resold the prescription painkiller to others in Western New York.

Hinca pleaded guilty before Chief U.S. District Judge William Skretny earlier this month and is scheduled to be sentenced July 27.

Julien will be sentenced by Skretny Aug. 13 and faces up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $1 million, or both.


Three arrested in probe of drugs in Lancaster

Three people were arrested this week following a monthlong investigation into drug activity in the Village of Lancaster, a police official said Thursday.

The Lancaster Police Department's Emergency Response Team executed a search warrant at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday at 26 Cotton St., where officers searched the first floor, said Capt. Timothy Murphy, chief of detectives for the department.

Police found small amounts of marijuana and cocaine in the residence, along with a set of brass knuckles.

Brandon C. Farmakis, 20, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance and criminal possession of a weapon, both misdemeanors, and possession of marijuana, a violation.

Matthew Kroll, 44, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana. Christie Towles, 38, is charged with possession of marijuana.

All three live at the Cotton Street residence.

Detective Lt. James Robinson led the investigation, with Detectives Grant Gunsher, Jason Batt and Tom Bulera. Murphy said the probe is continuing.


Guilty plea entered to fraud, identity theft

A Florida woman arrested last year at the Peace Bridge with hundreds of stolen health care records pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Buffalo to access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Investigators later discovered that some of the records J'Melle Hooks, 26, of Cocoa, Fla., was carrying last September were used to file fraudulent income tax returns and that refunds issued by the Internal Revenue Service that were sent to debit cards also were established fraudulently, Assistant U.S. Attorney Maura K. O'Donnell said.

Hooks used the credit cards in multiple locations in the U.S. and Canada to make purchases and obtain cash, O'Donnell said.

Hooks faces up to 15 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both when she is sentenced Aug. 2 by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara.


Police probing bank holdup at Fountain Plaza branch

Buffalo police continue to investigate the robbery of the KeyBank Fountain Plaza branch Wednesday afternoon, Chief of Detectives Dennis J. Richards said Thursday.

Police are looking for a black man, about 5 feet, 9 inches tall, who was wearing a light-colored jacket over a light-colored hooded jacket and a knit cap. He walked into the bank shortly after 2:30 p.m. Wednesday and passed a note to a teller demanding cash.

He claimed to have a gun, but no weapon was displayed, Richards said. The man fled on West Chippewa Street with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Anyone with information is asked to call 847-2255 or text (716) 847-2255.