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Investigators question origin of money orders in Pigeon probe

Three money orders totaling $2,500 were transferred in August 2013 to a campaign fund tied to political operative G. Steven Pigeon but were never recorded as required by state law. Now state and federal investigators want to know why, according to two sources familiar with the probe.

That may not seem like a lot of money, but the transaction of WNY Progressive Caucus raises questions about the possibility of widespread efforts to disguise contributions, sources with knowledge of the probe say.

“In the business, it’s a classic case of hiding a true contributor,” said one person familiar with the investigation.

The WNY Progressive Caucus raised about $267,000 for candidates challenging those endorsed by Democratic headquarters in the 2013 primary elections. Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, the FBI and State Police are now probing the finances of the political committee and its recent campaign activities.

Pigeon, a former Erie County Democratic chairman, was among those whose homes were searched on May 28 by law enforcement officials as a result of the probe. The state and federal investigation includes questions about “elevated” payments for advertising, mailings and other political activities, a law enforcement official said.

Now, questions center on the three postal money orders purchased on Aug. 14, 2013, and made payable to the WNY Progressive Caucus, according to the sources.

A name appears on the postal orders as the purchaser. But nobody familiar with the case can say if the person named on the money orders actually purchased them.

Kristy L. Mazurek, treasurer of the WNY Progressive Caucus, endorsed the postal orders and deposited them, the sources said. Yet state Board of Elections campaign finance records indicate no corresponding contribution.

The Postal Service maintains no requirement to show identification when purchasing or sending postal money orders under $3,000, according to spokeswoman Karen L. Mazurkiewicz.

Investigators on May 28 searched the homes of Pigeon, former Buffalo First Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey, and Christopher M. Grant, chief of staff to Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, as a result of warrants signed by county and federal judges.

Nobody has been charged in the case.