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Phil Fairbanks

Phil Fairbanks covers federal courts and criminal justice issues and occasionally veers off into the world of refugees, human traffickers and streets gangs.


Crime

On a warm June day four years ago, Buffalo Police Lt. Nicole Santiago found herself in the midst of a melee. She and her partner, responding to a call, had turned onto Chippewa Street and straight into an angry, violent crowd that she estimated at about 300 people, many of them fighting in the street. "Mayhem," Santiago said of the scene. "It was pandemonium. We were…

Buffalo

Twitter. Snapchat. YouTube. Whatever the social media platform, the CBL/BFL street gang had an unusual and clandestine follower. On a daily basis and without the gang's knowledge, Buffalo Police Lt. Jonathan Pietrzak was watching and reading, often posing as someone else. "I'm monitoring those we believe to be involved in gang activity or criminal activity," Pietr…

High Schools

Calling it unfair and discriminatory, Mayor Byron W. Brown is challenging the Buffalo public schools' exclusion from a local high school football league. Brown, in a statement Saturday, said he "condemns" the decision by the Section VI Football Federation to shift to league play, and he noted that most of the affected city students are "young people of color." The mo…

Weather

Widespread moderate snow was expected to continue across much of Western New York through at least 3 p.m., following bands of lake-effect snow that whipped through the region Sunday morning and early afternoon. The National Weather Service forecast accumulations of one to two inches in the afternoon, with heavier amounts in higher elevations. Winds of more than 30 mi…

Local News

A citizens group questioning cleanup plans for the old Tonawanda Coke plant now wants the state to reject those plans. In a letter to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the Clean Air Coalition cited more a dozen reasons for turning down the brownfields application submitted by developer Jon M. Williams. The coalition maintains current cleanup plans w…

Local News

A fire in Niagara Falls on Friday night left one person dead. Fire officials did not identify the victim but said the body was found inside the house at 2227 Weston Ave., about a block from Hyde Park Boulevard. When the Niagara Falls Fire Department arrived at the scene, flames could be seen coming through the roof of the two-story house and smoke billowing from the …

Buffalo

On New Year's Day two years ago, as he lay on the ground unable to move because of a broken ankle, Xavier Wimes was shot 12 times. Federal prosecutors say the man who killed Wimes was Dalvon Curry, a member of the CBL/BFL gang that controlled turf around Towne Gardens Plaza. And it wasn't Curry's only murder, they claim. He also is accused of killing 19-year-old J…

Local News

Concerned about the cleanup of the old Tonawanda Coke plant, a sprawling but contaminated site along the Niagara River, the Clean Air Coalition asked the state agency overseeing the effort to host a public hearing. The state ignored the request, the coalition says, so the citizens group is holding its own meeting. "The governor needs to listen to the people of Tonawa…

Amherst

Christopher Casacci is in the business of selling cats, but it's not the domestic ones that landed him in federal custody Thursday. Prosecutors say Casacci trafficked in African wild cats – caracals and servals – and some of them died in his care. Charged in a 33-count indictment, the Amherst man is accused of violating the Lacey Act, a federal law prohibiting the il…

Buffalo

On the eve of his trial in a gang case rooted in allegations of murder and drug dealing, Dalvon Curry suddenly finds himself alone. His two co-defendants, also accused gang members, took 11th-hour plea deals detailing the CBL/BFL's violence-fueled control over the Towne Gardens neighborhood just blocks from downtown. In the end, Curry was left as the lone remaining d…

Courts

Dr. Eugene M. Gosy, the Williamsville pain specialist who came to symbolize the opioid crisis, stood before a federal judge Tuesday and admitted that he unlawfully prescribed painkillers to his patients over a 10-year period. Gosy, who at one time operated one of the largest pain management practices in the state, acknowledged prescribing fentanyl, oxycodone and other d…

Buffalo

When a stray bullet killed Badraldeen "Badr" Elwaseem, a 12-year-old boy standing in his apartment a hundred feet away from where the shot was fired, one of the first reactions was to suspect gang violence. More than a year earlier, at a news conference just a stone's throw from where Badr was killed, federal prosecutors had announced the arrest of 11 suspected gang mem…

A new state law granting farm workers the right to unionize and collect overtime took effect Wednesday, but not before a federal judge in Buffalo put a temporary halt to aspects of the law. U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo issued a temporary restraining order that prohibits the state from enforcing the law's definition of farm workers, which includes supervisors,…

Crime

When DEA agents showed up at the Neighborhood Health Center in Riverside to ask about Jillian Marks, health center officials showed them an official DEA letter praising the nurse practitioner. Investigators say the letter and the DEA seal at the top are both fake. They claim Marks used the fraudulent correspondence to hide the illegal prescriptions she was writing fo…

Crime

Over the next several months, friends and family members will take the witness stand in a downtown courtroom to talk about loved ones who struggled with addiction and paid the ultimate price. They also will point a finger at Dr. Eugene M. Gosy, of Clarence, and suggest the pain specialist ignored red flags warning him of his patients' abuse, according to prosecutors. …