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Phil Fairbanks

I cover federal courts and criminal justice issues and occasionally veer off into the world of refugees, human traffickers and streets gangs. As a product of the Watergate era, I value a newspaper's role as the community watchdog.


Crime

NEW YORK – Defense lawyer Paul Shechtman says there is one thing he and prosecutors in the Buffalo Billion trial can agree on – Kevin Schuler's testimony was clear and irrefutable. Well, almost. Using Schuler's own words, testimony from his time on the witness stand, Shechtman suggested Tuesday that the former LPCiminelli executive was more of a witness for his clien…

Crime

NEW YORK – Comparing the Buffalo Billion to a dinner gone bad, prosecutors Monday described the selection of LPCiminelli as precooked and defendant Alain Kaloyeros as a chef all too eager to serve his friends in Buffalo and Syracuse. Over and over again, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Podolsky returned to the cooking metaphor to remind the jury of the allegation that K…

Crime

Eight years after his arrest, Tyrone Pennick is still waiting for his day in court. And he is doing his waiting behind bars. Except for two years in home confinement, Pennick, who police once described as one of Buffalo's biggest cocaine dealers, has spent every day since his 2009 arrest in jail. His trial begins in October. "It's been a long time," Pennick said d…

Crime

Prosecutors say James A. MacCallum walked away with $2 million from his victims. The money came from an investment scam devised by MacCallum, 46, a Bemus Point lawyer at the time. MacCallum, who eventually pleaded guilty to mail fraud, was sentenced Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford to 84 months in prison and ordered to pay $2 million in restitution…

Crime

Raymel Weeden was holding the gun when Fred Rozier died in a drug deal gone bad six years ago. Weeden, a Bailey Boys gang member, admitted Monday to threatening and robbing Rozier in a car on Deerfield Street. "You know what this is," Weeden said of his gun. "Give me what you got." In a plea deal accepted by U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny, the 25-year-old …

Crime

When Orchard Park Police discovered a minivan driving without headlights or taillights early Saturday morning, they also found another surprise. A 14-year-old boy was at the wheel. And inside were five passengers, all of them 13 or 14 years old. Police said the minivan was driving southbound on South Buffalo Street at about 3:45 a.m. when Lt. Greg Sheppard tried to s…

Buffalo

Flora Miller Sliwa wanted to be heard, and she wasn't alone Saturday. With a crowd estimated at 1,500 to 2,500 people marching alongside her, the Amherst woman walked down Delaware Avenue in Buffalo to demonstrate her anger over President Trump's immigration policies. "People in power need to see how people in this country feel," Sliwa said. "It's a message the gover…

Crime

Two Buffalo men are facing charges of stealing another man's cash, car keys and cellphone at gunpoint Friday. Even worse, the victim claims the accused robbers also took his sneakers, pants and gold tooth. The two defendants, Deyonta Ragland and Cortez Green, were arrested and charged Friday morning with robbery, grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen proper…

Featured

In the days following 9/11, Laurie Fournier worked at the crash site in Shanksville, Pa., on her hands and knees, sifting through debris, searching for body parts or any other evidence of the people who died at the hands of terrorists that day. Later, the FBI agent, a native of Wilson, would talk proudly about how everyone aboard United Airlines Flight 93 was eventually…

Crime

Two years ago, Buffalo Democrat Marc Panepinto shocked party leaders by announcing his sudden departure from the State Senate. The announcement came 15 months into Panepinto's first term and just weeks after Democratic leaders endorsed his re-election. On Thursday, the reasons for Panepinto's surprising decision became clear. The former state lawmaker, as part of …

Business

There are counterfeit sneakers, counterfeit watches and counterfeit cosmetics. There is even counterfeit Viagra. And now, in a world where everything real seems to have a fake counterpart, there's a new twist: Counterfeit debt. A new federal lawsuit accuses two local companies, one in Amherst, the other in Hamburg, of distributing and collecting on "phantom debts"…

Local News

NEW YORK – With his former boss – a man he still calls "Louis" – sitting just a few feet away, Kevin Schuler took the witness stand Thursday to talk about the crimes he committed and the people who he said helped him. Schuler, described by defense lawyers as the "government's star witness," testified that defendants Louis Ciminelli and Alain Kaloyeros joined him in a sc…

Local News

NEW YORK – By September of 2013, Alain Kaloyeros and Louis Ciminelli were working hand in hand to fine-tune plans for the Buffalo Billion's marquee project. There was one problem, though. Kaloyeros, eager to announce plans for the massive solar manufacturing plant, wanted more detail on Ciminelli's company before finalizing the project's request for proposals. "Th…

Buffalo

NEW YORK – Walter G. Barber never saw evidence of bid-rigging. And he never had a problem with contractors getting an advance look at requests for proposals. Barber, former chairman of the board overseeing the Buffalo Billion, took the stand Tuesday as a witness for the prosecution, but you couldn't tell by his testimony. Over and over again, the former state audi…

Courts

NEW YORK – Todd Howe may not testify, but jurors in the Buffalo Billion trial are learning a lot about the former Washington, D.C., lobbyist and his ties to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Howe was close to senior leadership in the the governor's officer and used the initials "A.C." when talking about Cuomo and "H.G." when referring to Cuomo confidante Howard Glaser, according to…