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Victim’s estate buys swindler’s businesses at auction

LOCKPORT – The estate of a Barker man who was swindled out of nearly $600,000 purchased the criminal’s former business property in an auction Wednesday.

William Ilecki, attorney for the estate of the late Matthew Pollack, said the $150,000 winning bid will be deducted from the restitution owed to the estate by the perpetrator, Kenneth C. Heitzenrater. The estate will be able to sell the property to recoup some of the money that was taken from Pollack.

When Heitzenrater pleaded guilty in October 2012 to ripping off Pollack, the terms included a commitment by Heitzenrater to sell 6817 Ridge Road in Newfane, a 5.6-acre parcel that included a building that housed two businesses started with the stolen money: Ken’s Eats and Treats and Heartland Quilts. The latter was in the name of Heitenrater’s wife, Tara.

“We believe he used the money to buy the property and fix it up,” Ilecki said.

Pollack, who suffered from dementia, died last year at age 90. He had considered Heitzenrater his best friend and named him as the primary beneficiary of his will.

Heitzenrater, who used a power of attorney to loot Pollack’s accounts, has been making the court-order minimum restitution payments of $1,300 a month, but he failed to sell the Ridge Road property. He listed it for sale for $399,900, nearly twice the assessed value of $207,000.

Thus, a sheriff’s sale was ordered, and Sgt. Cory Diez, head of the Civil Division of the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office, auctioned off the property at the County Jail.

Seven people signed up to bid, but only three actually did so. Daniel Horanburg, a Newfane builder, opened the bidding at $10,000, and for a few minutes he went back and forth, mostly in $5,000 increments, with Keith Hetrick of Ridge Road, Newfane.

After the bidding stalled out at $110,000, with Horanburg in the lead, Ilecki jumped in and competed with Horanburg. The latter’s last bid was $140,000, and Ilecki trumped that with $150,000 as Horanburg dropped out.

“I had to get at least $150,000,” Ilecki said.

Ilecki said no money will actually change hands, but the bid will be deducted from Heitzenrater’s restitution. “The estate will now list the property for sale,” Ilecki said.

“I wouldn’t give them any more than what I bid,” Horanburg said.

He said he had envisioned buying the property as an investment, perhaps subdividing the open land and possibly installing apartments in the former quilt shop. “It’s got a huge basement,” Horanburg said.

Diez said the buyer is responsible for paying the delinquent property taxes of about $18,000. However, he said a state tax lien against Heitzenrater of $57,000, which was the reason for postponing the auction last month, seems not to be attached to the Ridge Road property. Diez said the state submitted no paperwork to enforce it on the auctioned land.

The property was to be sold “as-is,” including contents, but Horanburg said Heitenrater seemed to make sure there wouldn’t be any.

“He’s cleaned it out pretty good,” Horanburg said. “He even took the cabinets out of his strip.”

Diez said, “I sent a deputy out there because he was removing the stone from the driveway.” Diez said that had to be prevented because such actions were harming “the integrity of the property.”