Tag Archives: Crime & Punishment

It Was the Parsnips that Did It

3 Feb

Two updates to the Valenti’s saga

1. Verizon confirms that the restaurant’s phone was in the name of a dead woman. Commenter RoN aka Karma suspected that the reverse phone number search for D.A. Britting constituted fraud or identity theft. I suspected the online resource may have been out-of-date. 

Verizon was able to confirm that the phone number for Valenti’s restaurant (716-692-4339) was, indeed, in the name of “D.A. Britting”. Other online records show it as being in the name of Verne L. Britting.

Verne Britting died in 1985, but his wife, Dorothy A. Britting, died in 2009.

Why was the phone for Valenti’s Restaurant in the name of a woman who died 3 years ago?  Former employees charge that Valenti and Brocuglio used false social security numbers, or numbers belonging to the dead, to set up the phone lines. In one instance, Terry Valenti was heard to say that they could not pay the phone bill in person for that reason. 

2. Terry Valenti was brought before Niagara County Court Judge Matthew Murphy on Thursday morning, where he waived a hearing on his extradition. He will be held in the Niagara County Jail for up to 30 days awaiting transportation to Texas, where he stands accused of forging his name on documents to fraudulently convert, and transfer title in a motorcycle to unjustly enrich himself. Judge Murphy’s clerk says he likes the other state to pick up prisoners on warrants within 10 days.

Valenti’s: How the Story Has Changed (UPDATE & BUMP)

18 Jan

 

UPDATE & BUMP: Terry Valenti called the Shredd & Ragan show on 103.3-FM the Edge, and the recording of that conversation will be played on air around 7:45am on Thursday the 19th. I’ll be on the phone with them right afterwards.

It’s become the Valenti’s Restaurant Massacree. Arlo Guthrie could do a 30 minute monologue about it in talking blues style, if there was an underlying anti-war theme to be had.

If you missed it, I spoke with Shredd and Ragan from WEDG 103.3-FM on Tuesday morning to talk about Janice Okun, restaurant reviews, the Buffalo News, Valenti’s, and how all of it ties in together. The audio of the full interview is here.

For those of you who are checking this out to find out more, here is the compendium of Valenti’s posts so far:

1. “Two and a Half WTFs” is the original post from December 19th, now boasting over 650 comments, which have caused a very sordid and criminal tale to unfold about the purported owner(s) of Valenti’s, including a “secret” third partner, allegations of restraining orders, fraud, check kiting, violations of law and statute, battery, and a place that is apparently poorly run by some allegedly shady characters.  It was here that we first learned that Valenti never appeared on Iron Chef, never worked at Mamma Leone’s, and never attended, much less graduated from, the Culinary Institute of America – a claim that I uncovered from a Florida publication.

2. “Valenti’s Coda“, also from December 19th and headlined far too soon, pokes fun at the Buffalo News’ hasty and clumsy correction of Janice Okun’s original review of Valenti’s, which contained the false statements about Iron Chef battle parsnips. Andrew Galarneau, the Buffalo News’ food editor, assured me on Facebook that my Artvoice posts and comments at the Buffalo News’ own site played absolutely no part in the non-transparent corrections process, and that Jeff Levine from the CIA contacted him about Mr. Valenti’s claim to be a graduate of that institution, although that never appeared in Ms. Okun’s review.

3. “Valenti’s: Still Going” is a January 9th piece referencing MetroWNY’s work speaking to the producers of Iron Chef to verify that Valenti never appeared on that program.

4. “How Not to Run a Business” links to a Tonawanda News article that first uncovered Mr. Valenti’s landlord/tenant dispute with Frank Budwey, and references a Chowhound thread about the matter.

All of the foregoing articles served as a sort of informal assignment editor for this Buffalo News piece that appeared on Saturday.

So far today, I’ve learned more about the third partner, I’ve learned that there is no hearing scheduled yet on any eviction proceeding, that Mr. Budwey is out of the country at the moment, and I found out some other details I’m not at liberty to discuss at this time.

But suffice it to say that this has swiftly turned from a criticism of a poorly researched restaurant review, into civil eviction litigation, and now into bona fide criminal reporting.  We’ve turned a corner into hoping that these two people can no longer victimize another unsuspecting, naively trusting ambitious person.

How Not to Run a Sting

12 Jan

In order to prove the need for a voter ID poll tax, and to prove how easy it is for someone to procure and cast a false ballot, the kid who took ACORN down based on fabrications sent some people to New Hampshire to…well, to procure and cast false ballots.

The problem is that it’s a state and federal crime to do just that, and a pretty severe one at that – a felony. And it’s not a sting – it’s the commission of the crime itself; they didn’t catch people falsifying ballots or conspiring to falsify ballots – they actually did it.

“In either case, if they were intentionally going in and trying to fraudulently obtain a ballot, they violated the law,” Schultz said. “So right off the bat, what they did violated the law.”

Election law expert Rick Hasen, who writes the Election Law Blog, joked in an email to TPM that O’Keefe’s team should “next show how easy it is to rob a bank with a plastic gun.”

“Who in their right mind would risk a felony conviction for this? And who would be able to do this in large enough numbers to (1) affect the outcome of the election and (2) remain undetected?” Hasen wrote.

Of course, there was a spate of “Future O’Keefe Stings” on Twitter such as:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/TheDarklady/status/157252524464816128″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/157246918513274880″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/MotherJones/status/157244859663654912″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/d_pardee/status/157224694762831872″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/fbihop/status/157223680294928384″%5D

The Schadenfreude over this kid’s ham-handed efforts to promote conservative causes and embarrass liberals is awesome. I look forward to his next effort to re-create what he did with ACORN, but the problem is it’ll never happen because everyone knows he’s a fraud with zero credibility.

 

Collins & Fudoli: Rewind & Remix

25 Oct

Shocking  revelations in today’s Buffalo News that Erie County Legislator Dino Fudoli is accused of being a former ecstasy dealer who allegedly provided the drugs to one girl who subsequently died, and another who ended up in the hospital. Fudoli is now running for election as Town of Lancaster supervisor. So, let’s revisit the events of 2009 whereby Chris Collins conspired with turncoat Democrat Kathy Konst to put the fix in Konst’s former legislative seat to essentially guarantee Dino Fudoli a Collins-friendly slot on the legislature, elbowing out Konst’s replacement, Diane Terranova.

Let’s also recall the fact that Konst had no relevant experience in environment and planning, where she now works, and that supposed libertarian Fudoli pulled out every legal stop – right up to the Appellate Division of the 4th Department – to try and guarantee that the fix was in and prevent Terranova from appearing on the ballot.  You see, Konst’s defection was timed perfectly to try and ensure that no one could replace her on the Democratic Ballot.

So, what follows are two rewinds. First, a rewind of this post from 2009, detailing the legal shenanigans that led to an alleged former ecstasy dealer ascending to the county legislature seemingly out of nowhere. After that, a rewind of my obligatory endorsement post from 2009, where I asked voters not to elect a Collins-friendly slate, and I detail why Collins has been such a disappointment. I think it dovetails nicely into current events.

Terranova v. Fudoli

On Friday, a Supreme Court Judge ordered that Kathy Konst’s name be removed from the ballot for Erie County Legislator for the 5th District and that the name of the legislator who was appointed to replace her, Diane Terranova, be added. This means that Dino Fudoli, a conservative Republican who received the endorsement of the Glenn Beck Appreciation Club will have a race on November 3d.

But let me turn to the issue of the Konst-Collins conspiracy to all but guarantee Fudoli’s election.

Currently, the legislature operates on a 10 – 3 Democratic majority. By manufacturing a Fudoli win, that brings the number to 9 – 4, and Collins has to rely on one fewer race to get to that magical switch of 7 Reps, 6 Dems.

I don’t really know whether Collins and Konst conspired to help force a Fudoli win, but it sure looks that way from the outside. Collins appointed Konst to a 6-figure job in charge of environment and planning matters after the deadline to name a replacement had passed. Let’s just say that was no accident.

So, Terranova wanted to get on the ballot and have the privilege of running for re-election to a job she’s held for about two months. Everyone except the Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner and Party worked tirelessly to prevent Terranova’s name from replacing the happily ensconced Konst on November’s ballot.

There was an Independence Party lawyer from Albany, Ralph Lorigo representing the Conservative Party, Ralph Mohr as Republican BOE Commissioner, and Dino Fudoli’s campaign all came to court to keep Kathy Konst’s name on the ballot, even though she isn’t running. They all wanted Dino Fudoli to get a free ride into office. And they’re not satisfied with the Judge’s ruling.

John R. Drexelius, Fudoli’s attorney, said he and his client, the owner of a property development company, also are considering an appeal.

Drexelius? You mean Dale Volker’s counsel at the State Senate? The guy who went ballistic after Channel 2’s Scott Brown had the nerve to ask Dale Volker a tough question? Wow, that just screams “reform” and “transparency”, doesn’t it? What a joke.

Now, the law is the law, but the laws in this state are so heavily weighed in favor of the political bosses getting their way. Getting one’s name on a ballot is notoriously difficult and fraught with peril. When Konst left the race, replacing her with a Democrat who was ready, willing, and able to run that race should have been a no-brainer. It should have been a ministerial afterthought. Instead, it’s become a last-minute battle in court. That’s unacceptable.

I don’t really care enough about minor fusion parties to give a crap about their problems. The Fudoli campaign is all about reform and “tak[ing] your county back”. Reducing the size of the legislature, cutting legislative pay, eliminating the district offices are all low-hanging fruit of Republican candidates for county leg. Other than that, he’s in favor of great results (isn’t everybody?) and Chris Collins.

But going to court to prevent the voters of the 5th district from having a choice in November is, to me, fundamentally undemocratic and doesn’t at all jibe with the happy reform that Fudoli is selling. To anyone parroting the line that Chris Collins hasn’t set up his own political machine – a rather powerful one that talks a good game about reform but hardly delivers, and actively takes away people’s electoral choice wherever possible – is either ignorant or stupid.

Congratulations to Diane Terranova for getting her name on the ballot, and giving the people of the 5th from Lancaster to Sardinia a choice on November 3rd. And a big middle finger to everyone who actively tried to prevent that choice from happening.

Endorsements 2009

Much like his chief executive counterpart in Buffalo City Hall, Chris Collins brings to that office charisma and remarkable sum of banked political capital.  Tony Masiello or Joel Giambra were middling apparatchiks who talked a good game but left the office having done more bad than good.  To his credit, Giambra pushed for, but failed to bring about, any sort of regionalism.  Byron Brown and Chris Collins won in recent landslides and have the power, but lack the will, to do very much with it.

Regional metropolitan government could save this region.  We discard it like the morning’s Charmin.

Collins in particular won on a platform of “running government like a business”, being apolitical, reining in costs, lowering taxes, and asking tough questions through, among other things, Six Sigma initiatives.  In practice, however, he has failed at all of those things.

It’s as popular as it is facile to blame his failings on the Democrats, on the unions, on the legislature.  Politics is not a one-person sport.  Part of what makes a good politician is the ability to build consensus – to make the assumption that everyone in government is there to do good by those who sent them there.  Collins bypassed that, and behaved like a bull in a china shop from jump street.  His efforts, like Brown’s, amount to tinpot Machiavellianism – exploiting, for instance, a rift between Lynn Marinelli and Len Lenihan to his advantage, rather than genuinely reaching out to to a stark Democratic legislative majority to enlist their help to develop a strategy for betterment of the region.

The notion that Collins is apolitical is a falsity.

“Running government like a business” is a happy-sounding mantra that makes the electorate believe that he’s going to go after waste and fraud, and really streamline government.  That’s happened only on the fringes, and has been almost exclusively directed at the poor, the sick, the single parents – people who need help, but people on whom Collins could never count to support him.  He gave them even less reason to, arguing that 100% federal reimbursement of certain programs that assist the poor was irrelevant, and shunted these responsibilities off to charities.  He’s saving money on legacy costs, he argues.  Yet he has made no moves to, e.g., close golf courses that also employ county workers who also represent legacy costs.  That choice is neither political nor businesslike.

In other words, whatever little streamlining there’s been, it’s been decided politically.

Cutting waste and spending?  Like his predecessor, Collins hired people whom he knew (nothing wrong with that) and asked the legislature (which, for the most part, granted his requests) to give raises and variable minimums to his appointees.  This way, a new hire could have, say, 5 years’ worth of seniority on day one.  That’s not how businesses are run, is it?  That’s not a reduction in spending, is it?  And Collins blames Albany on 88% of the county budget problems, ignoring the fact that there are opportunities available to maximize savings even on that end of the budgetary spectrum.

It’s not the pablum you should pay attention to – it’s the deeds.

So, Chris Collins has allegedly struck a deal with Byron Brown where the Republicans run no one in city-based races for Mayor or County Legislature.  This guarantees Brown’s re-election unopposed tomorrow, and artifically depresses turnout in the city for the comptroller’s and sheriff’s races, thus helping Kadet and Howard.

And for the suburban races, Collins has deliberately done exactly what Byron Brown did back in 2007 – hand-picked or otherwise supported candidates to challenge elected officials whom Collins has deemed are obstructing his plan for oddly selected spending cuts, tax hikes, and union demonization. Collins’ complained-of inability to get his agenda through the legislature is as much his fault as anyone else’s.  When you treat the legislature like some meddlesome hoop through which you need to jump, rather than a co-equal branch of government, you’re going to run into some problems.

There has been practically zero substance to any of the county legislature races this year.  All anyone wants to talk about is minutiae – how many legislators; how much do they get paid; are they full- or part-time; are there extended terms; are there term limits; do they keep district offices.  There’s no referendum on Collins’ initiatives versus anyone else’s.  There’s been no analysis of Six Sigma or taxes or spending or practically any policies whatsoever.  Collins is just trying to stack the leg in his favor so there’s a better chance he’ll get done what he wants done.  I’m not saying that’s abnormal or wrong, per se.  Just true.

One thing’s for sure, if he’s successful, then being a legislator really won’t be full-time.  Introducing and rubber-stamping the executive’s initiatives takes little time or thought.

The sheriff’s race shouldn’t even be close.

The race for comptroller is laughable.  Collins is somehow trying to sell the public on the notion that it’s better that his guy is in that office, rather than someone independent from him.  That way, I guess, we can get the hard-hitting fiscal reporting and analysis we got when Nancy Naples kept an eye on Joel Giambra. Win!

And all of this, remember, is over what everyone will tell you is 12-ish% of the overall county budget.  $1.1 billion altogether, and they’re engaging in blood feuds over $130,000,000.

Since only 12% of the budget is allegedly subject to the political whims and desires of our elected officials, it would appear to me that most of their tasks are ministerial in nature.  In other words, we have no use for county government at all, as currently structured.  We could just as easily just have counties be geographical municipal divisions made up of a handful of elected overseers and a competent bureaucracy.  Make sure the parks are open.  Make sure you can reserve a shelter easily.  Pave the roads.  Fix the bridges.  Plow the streets.  You don’t need 15 elected legislators and a bunch of pointless fighting for that.

But since it’s more fun to bicker over WIC and golf courses, let’s not really get to the heart of the problem, but just skim the surface to please everyone’s constituencies.

Vote however you want on Tuesday.  But for as long as we remain saddled with that pointless anachronism we call county government, let’s maintain a check on the arrogant and misguided county executive until such time as he learns that politics is a game of give and take – not take and shiv.

And let’s start talking about abolishing county government.  Srsly.

Anyhow,

We all remember what came of that. Remember in November: Chris Collins and his team of turncoats and alleged former dealers in illegal narcotics brought this to you.

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On Calling Him “Bucky”

19 Oct

I think it’s finally time to stop referring to this cop-killing piece of trash as “Bucky”.

Bucky is a diminutive – something cute you call someone who is a nice guy.

The more accurate moniker, reflective of him and his personality, would be Ralph “Cop Killing Shit Flinging Motherf*cker” Philips.

You’re welcome.

Anyhow, he’s accused of trying to escape. Interesting, given that he chillingly threatened cops with “I’ll be back” when sentenced in 2006.

Tonawanda Coke: Indicted

30 Jul

Nearby residents have long suspected that emissions from Tonawanda Coke have literally been poisoning them.

An investigation has revealed, and a 15-count federal indictment has formally alleged, that Tonawanda Coke and its so-called “Environmental Control Manager” violated the Clean Air Act.

…five of these offenses relate to the release of coke oven gas containing benzene into the air through an unreported pressure relief valve. The remaining ten Clean Air Act counts relate to operating two coke-quenching towers without baffles, a pollution control device required by TCC’s Title V Clean Air Act permit designed to reduce the particulate matter that is released into the air during coke quenches. These charges carry a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment, a maximum fine of $500,000 for the corporate defendant and $250,000 for defendant Kamholz, or both.

YNN’s Report is here.

Cleaning Up Albany With a Baseball Bat and Whatnot

15 Jun

Manhattan Grand Jury Indicts Paladino Petitionmeister

14 Jun

I’m looking around, and I think it’s safe to say that this site was the first and only news portal of any kind in WNY to report on the legal troubles surrounding John Haggerty, whom Carl Paladino tapped several months ago to coordinate his petition-gathering effort.

Just 10-ish days later, a Manhattan grand jury has indicted Haggerty for allegedly misappropriating, laundering, or otherwise converting about $1 million in campaign contributions made by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to the state Independence Party.

One of the attractions of the Paladino campaign is that he will ostensibly run an ethical administration, pledging to clean Albany up, with blunt instruments, if necessary. He accuses Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver of crimes for which he should be sent to Attica, yet Silver has been indicted by a grand jury on zero occasions. Mr. Haggerty, on the other hand, is under indictment for grand larceny, money laundering, and falsifying business records.

You’ll note that Haggerty is the member of a rogue group of Republicans that has broken away from the Queens GOP establishment – a group which includes Paladino’s running mate, Tom Ognibene.

One would expect a reform campaign that bases part of its platform on transparency, openness, and responsive government would disassociate itself from an indicted alleged felon, if for no other reason to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Instead, they’re doubling down, as seen here in the reviled comments section of the Buffalo News:

Excelsior!

18 Apr

Money laundering, tax fraud, and an investigation by the FBI? Should make for an interesting few months for state government luminaries Pedro Espada, his son, Steve Pigeon, and Gary Parenti.

On The Cost of Government

26 Mar

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A quick message to budding teabag terrorists across the country:

I realize that you’re as angry about the cost of government as you are crazy, and especially hornet-angry about the cost of “socialized medicine” and the “end of America as we know it” by this “socialist” or “national socialist” (because you’re stupid and use them interchangeably) “Muslim” “antichrist” “usurper” who won’t just “show us the birth certificate“.

But when you decide to, say, send a note to a Congressman recommending that he “drop dead” and include some unknown but harmless white powder in the envelope, understand that there will be a massive law enforcement and environmental reaction to that:

The NYPD, the FBI and other emergency management officials responded as a precaution, spokesmen for the agencies say. Weiner’s Kew Gardens office will be closed pending the completion of the investigation.

Now, I realize that you didn’t want to really kill Weiner or his staff – you just wanted to scare them (you might want to re-read the definition of “terrorism”) – and I realize that you’ve probably hyper-rationalized this as being appropriate because you’re a patriot just like Samuel Adams, and Weiner should be happy you’re not tarring and feathering him, because he deserves it for voting differently from how you wanted, and even though Weiner is an elected representative of a defined constituency, you want to equate him with “taxation without representation“.

But that’s just because you’re dumb. We can’t change that.

But when the cops and FBI and hazmat teams have to be sent to Kew Gardens to make sure you didn’t send some sort of dangerous chemical or biological hazard, that costs a lot of money. Taxpayer money. If you were really so concerned about socialism and the cost of government, then instead of terrorizing congressional district staffers, you’d go about joining your local Republican committee and helping someone to defeat Weiner electorally.

Idiot.