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Howard B. Owens's blog

Saturday, July 10, 2010 at 10:28 pm

FBI agent's affidavit reveals some details of alleged meth ring investigation

post by Howard B. Owens in Basom, batavia, crime, Le Roy, methamphetamine


Note: Reminder, innocent until proven guilty. While we use "allegedly" throughout this report, the nature of recounting the events as alleged by the FBI could leave an impression that the events occurred exactly as reported. That has not yet been proven in court.

For a little over two months, Donald G. Vanelli was a man being closely watched by the FBI.

Agents obtained a court order authorizing a wiretap on his phone on April 22. The FBI mounted a camera on a pole near his home at 8394 Lake Street Road., Le Roy, allowing them to observe who was coming and who was going, and all the trips Vanelli made to his white-washed, two-door garage, where he allegedly stored the methamphetamine he was selling.

By May 7, agents even had two confidential sources allegedly buying -- with federal dollars -- at least one, and sometimes four, "eight-balls" of meth on each visit to the house of the 47-year-old president of the Road Agents Motorcycle Club.

mug_donald_vanelli.jpgAn eight-ball is approximately 1/8 of an ounce of meth.

The details of the surveillance and investigation into the alleged drug-dealing activities of Vanelli are contained in a 99-page affidavit written by FBI agent Mark R. Schirching.

The affidavit, unsealed at the time of Vanelli's arrest, was the basis for warrants for David H. Cohen, 49, of 918 Goodman St., Rochester; Andrew W. Chapman, 40, of 5 Cedar St., Batavia; and Kerry A. Ball, 51, of 7202 Meadville Road, Basom, as well as search warrants for the homes of Vanelli and Donna L. Boon (aka Donna Mcauly), 44, of 3658 Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road, Batavia.

All five suspects were arrested early Friday morning and arraigned in the U.S. District Court in Rochester on a federal charge of conspiracy with intent to distribute narcotics.

Vanelli is reportedly being held without bail, while the other four suspects were released on their own recognizance.

While Vanelli was the central figure in the investigation, and described by one investigator Friday as the center of the ring, Vanelli was not the person dealing with the higher level suppliers.

That job allegedly fell to Boon initially, but when Boon could either no longer allegedly supply Vanelli, or when Boon and Vanelli had some sort of falling out, Vanelli reportedly turned to Cohen, who had a contact -- a man who comes across in the affidavit as unreliable and arrogant -- named Igor. Cohen tagged Igor "The King," according to the affidavit, but the nickname doesn't have the ring of a compliment.

Igor's unreliability leaves the impression that he was buying from another source, not he himself manufacturing meth. It's also unclear from the affidavit whether Vanelli's other alleged supplier, Boon, was allegedly buying from a meth lab or dealt with another middle man.

There's no indication one way or another whether Boon or Cohen were themselves subject to a separate surveillance effort.

It's important to note that the affidavit itself is not the whole of the federal case against the suspects, only that portion which has been made publicly available.

Saturday, July 10, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Reported high-speed chase ends before reaching Genesee County

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

Law enforcement in Orleans County  notified Genesee County that they were in pursuit of a vehicle southbound on Route 98, passing through Barre.

The Silverado truck, which is registered to a Batavia resident, was exceeding 100 mph, according to the dispatcher.

Minutes after the call went out, the truck reportedly stopped, the driver got out. A dispatcher indicated a Taser was used on the suspect.

The Genesee County response was canceled with the report of the Orleans County traffic stop.

Friday, July 9, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Five suspected meth dealers busted in early morning raids

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Le Roy, methamphetamine


An alleged meth distribution ring with a hub in Le Roy and alleged dealers in Batavia and Rochester was broken up by a region-wide law enforcement effort early this morning.

Five individuals were arrested and now face a federal charge of conspiracy with intent to distribute narcotics.

None of the individuals are suspected of manufacturing methamphetamine.

U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. said at a press conference this afternoon that 75 grams of meth were recovered following the months long investigation that included wiretaps and the use of informants.

Sheriff Gary Maha would only say that the suspected meth was being manufactured "somewhere in the states."

"We're not concerned about there being a major lab out there in Genesee County," Maha said.

mug_donald_vanelli.jpgDonald G. Vanelli, 47, of 8394 Lake St., Le Roy, is suspected of playing a central role in acquisition and distribution of meth.

Vanelli, according to a press release put out late Friday by Hochul's office, is president of the Road Agents Motorcycle Club.

Much of the meth allegedly distributed by the ring was being sold in Batavia and throughout Genesee County, but one suspected dealer lived in Rochester. He is David H. Cohen, 49, of 918 Goodman St.

Also taken into custody were Donna L. Boon (aka Donna Mcauly), 44, of 3658 Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road; Andrew W. Chapman, 40, of 5 Cedar St., Batavia; and Kerry A. Ball, 51, of 7202 Meadville Road, Basom.

“We’ve made a number of significant drug arrests here in Genesee County, but this is pretty significant as far as the distribution of methamphetamine,” Maha said. “We think these people are major, major suppliers here in Genesee County.”

Cohen, Boon, Chapman and Ball were arraigned in U.S. District Court in Rochester this afternoon and released. Federal prosecutors were going to ask that Vanelli be held without bail.

Cohen is accused of obtaining meth in Genesee County and distributing it in Monroe County, as well as sometimes being a conduit to resupply Vanelli.

mug_donna_boone.jpgSearch warrants were executed at the homes of Boon and Vanelli. K-9 units from Orleans and Monore counties were used in the searches.

A 9mm semi-automatic gun, loaded with 10 rounds, was reportedly seized at Vanelli's home.

Authorities believe that Boon would sometimes supply meth to Vanelli for redistribution.

The federal charge carries a minimum five-year prison sentence, with a maximum available sentence of 40 years and a $2 million fine.

The street value of the 75 grams of meth, according to Hochul is about $7,000.

The stiffer federal penalties are exactly why the FBI and U.S. District Attorney's Office were brought into the investigation, according to Maha.

"We said in the beginning (a little less than a year ago when the first alleged meth lab was found in Alabama), we’re not going to tolerate methamphetamine here in Genesee County," Maha said. "So when it’s brought to our attention that people are manufacturing, or that people are distributing, methamphetamine we’re going to go after them as hard as we can."

The investigation is continuing and there may be additional arrests.

"An investigation into any crime isn’t complete until everybody who is responsible for either the trafficking, procurement of any of the substances and finally the financing are identified and prosecuted," Hochul said.

The culmination of "Operation Deep Freeze" began at 3 a.m. with members of the Batavia Police Department rapid response team (SWAT) meeting at the Sheriff's Office before heading out to serve search warrants and arrest the suspects. By 5:30 a.m., investigators from the Sheriff's Office and the FBI were heading into the field to conduct searches on the suspects' residences.

The investigation began, according to Maha, with informants. He shied away from characterizing them as "citizens" or people involved in criminal activity. He said there was no connection between this alleged distribution ring and the five previous alleged meth labs found in the county.

Also participating in the investigation were the Drug Enforcement Administration, State Police and the Le Roy Police Department as well as the Genesee County District Attorney's Office.

mug_david_cohen.jpg  mug_kerry_ball.jpg  mug_andrew_maxwell.jpg
David Cohen  Kerry Ball  Andrew Chapman

Inset photos: top, Vanelli; bottom, Boon.

Friday, July 9, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Condemnation notice placed on Latina's building

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Latina's


City officials are ramping up the enforcement action against LKLWL Properties, owners of the Latina's Foodland location on Ellicott Street.

Today, a condemnation notice appeared on the building's doors and a criminal complaint was filed in City Court.

Representatives of LKLWL Properties are being ordered to appear in court on July 23 at 10 a.m. to answer to a charge of creating unsanitary conditions, in violation of city code.

The condemnation notice prevents anybody from entering the building.

Also, based on the feces and feathers on the floor inside of the building, it seems pretty clear that gulls now have access to the interior of the building as well, not just the roof.

City Manager Jason Molino has not been available for comment this afternoon.

UPDATE 4:36 p.m.: City Manager Jason Molino said the court action and the condemnation are two seperate tracks that are part of the same effort to get the property owner to take the condition of the building seriously.

If the gull problem isn't remedied in 30 days, because of the condemnation notification, the city will be able to send crews in to deal with the gulls and clean up the property and then bill the property owner for the work.

"At this point we have to do what we can to try and remedy the situation," Molino said.

Asked about cleaning up the parking lot, which is increasingly covered with feces, Molino said it would be reasonable to consider billing the property owner for any clean up work there.

For previous coverage, click here.


Friday, July 9, 2010 at 1:25 pm

U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan to get Batavia-made T-shirts

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, charity


The crew at Top Line T-shirts made up patriotic shirts to sell at the Picnic in the Park on July 5. When there were some left over, owner Tim Walton was trying to think about what to do with them.

He struck up a conversation with longtime friend Jody Lutley of Hometown Hugs. Hometown Hugs is a local organization that has been sending care packages to soldiers in Afghanistan since the war started.

Walton and Leitey hit on the idea of sending the shirts to troops in Afghanistan, and Walton even printed up another batch to send over.

Pictured are Leitey, Walton, Rob Credi, Walton's business partner, and Andrew Maxwell.

Friday, July 9, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Police Beat: Man accused of drinking slushy without paying for it

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

Adrian Michael Alexander, 29, of Meadow Drive, Geneseo, is charged with petit larceny. Alexander is accused of consuming a slushy at 8204 Park Road in Batavia and not paying for it.

Christine Leigh Thomas, 21, of W. Park Street, Albion, was picked up on a bench warrant. Thomas was arrested by Albion Police and turned over to the Genesee County Sheriff's Office. Thomas was jailed without bail. No information was released on the reason for the warrant.

Friday, July 9, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Driver accused of not stopping for red light, causing accident

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident

A car that reportedly failed to stop for a stoplight allegedly caused an accident yesterday on Clinton Street Road that sent one person to the hospital.

Suffering non-life threatening injuries was a passenger in one of the cars, Kathleen L. Alianell, 81, address unknown.

No other injuries were reported.

Cited was Richard J. Satkowski, 75, of Blair Road in Medina.

The driver of the other car was Robert W. Frye, 59, of Lucinda Avenue, Rochester.

Satkowski was reportedly driving southbound on Batavia-Stafford Townline Road. Fry was driving west on Route 33. Satkowski reportedly failed to stop for the red light.

The accident was reported at 1:23 p.m.

(initial report)

Friday, July 9, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Photo: Giant storm puddle on Tracy Avenue

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, photos, weather


Richard Stevens, left, runs through a giant rain puddle on Tracy Avenue, with his dog, some neighbor dogs and a neighbor's boy.

The flooded street is now reportedly drained.

Below, a reader submitted the photo showing the flood waters outside Aldi's on East Main Street.


Friday, July 9, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Photo: Old school news delivery device spotted

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, photos


Dig the '80s style lettering on this old truck.

When I was poking around on Cedar Street this morning looking for some reported law enforcement effort going on, and finding nothing, I noticed Wade Avenue. I've never been down Wade Avenue before, so I drove to the end of the short street.

And the end was parked this old school delivery device for news, apparently put out to pasture. Shouldn't it be in a museum?

Friday, July 9, 2010 at 10:43 am

Today's Deals: Delavan's, Clor's, Sallome's, T.F. Brown's, Alex's, Center Street

post by Howard B. Owens in Deal of the Day

Delavan's Restaurant and Tavern, 107 Evans St., Batavia, NY: To me, Delavan's is one of those restaurants where you want to eat frequently until you try everything on the menu. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

Clor's Meat Market, 4169 W. Main St. Road, Batavia, NY: For the best, most flavorful, juiciest chicken or hamburger in town, hands down, stop by Clor's. Oh, and the steaks are great, too. And the sausage. Clor's also serves lunch and dinners from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. We have a $20 gift card for $10.

Sallome's Italian Deli, 40 Oak St., Batavia, NY: Wraps, subs, paninis and pasta as well as pizzas -- Sallome's offers a tasty variety of Italian deli items for eat-in or take-out. We have $10 gift certificates for $5 each.

T.F. Brown's, at 214 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: T.F. Brown's is a great place for a good meal, good friends and to catch up on what's going on in the sports world. "If it happens in sports, it happens at Brown's." We have a $20 gift card for $10.

Alex's Place, 8322 Park Road, Batavia, NY: People come from all over the region for a fine dining experience at Alex's. It's best known for its ribs, of course, but Alex's seafood is also a favorite of the restaurant's diners. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

Center Street Smoke House, 20 Center St., Batavia, NY: Authentic Southern BBQ, from ribs to brisket with all the fixin's. We have a $20 gift card for $10.

NOTE: If you've never bought Deal of the Day before, or are otherwise unfamiliar with the rules and process, click here.


Friday, July 9, 2010 at 6:58 am

Multiple raids this morning on suspected meth distribution ring

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, methamphetamine


Sheriff Gary Maha arrived at 3658 Townline Road a short time ago where, within the hour, law enforcement had arrived on scene and conducted a raid.

Maha also confirmed there had been a raid earlier on Cedar Street in Batavia. He said there were "three or four" locations raided this morning. He said it's related to an investigation into methamphetamine distribution. When asked where the meth was being manufactured he said he couldn't say.

The Sheriff's Office, State Police and an Orleans County K-9 unit are on scene.

Maha said his office would release a statement later this afternoon.

Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Photos: 6th Annual Taste of Stafford

post by Howard B. Owens in food, photos, Stafford, Taste of Stafford, veterans


Tonight was the 6th Annual "Taste of Stafford," which brought together Stafford's finest food and an event to honor the community's veterans (gathered above for a group picture).

Local businesses and community groups participated -- all to raise money to maintain the Stafford museum.

More pictures after the jump:

Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Mistler's new South Beach poised for a grand opening

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown, food, restaurants, South Beach


When I stopped into South Beach, 59 E. Main St., Batavia, this afternoon to see what was up with the re-opening plans, the first thing Ken Mistler did was give me a cup of ice water.

Man, was it good. And not just because it was 96 degrees outside.

Mistler has a whole new filtration system that all the water -- for cooking, ice and table service -- goes through. It's as pure and clear as a pristine mountain stream.

And it's also evidence of the first-rate job Mistler has done in putting together the new South Beach. He's not calling it "Ken Mistler's South Beach," but that's how we might start thinking about it. It's both that different and yet still South Beach.

Inside are the same bamboo and beachy themes, but Mistler has also made a lot of changes, from adding a side-door entrance and doing away with the Main Street entrance, to enclosing the kitchen. The latter change helps keep heat in the kitchen instead of the dining room. He's also added new, larger, more private booths.

There's also more seating overall and a bigger bar.

And Mistler isn't done. He's got expansion plans for downstairs once the main restaurant is running smoothly.

The new South Beach officially opens Tuesday.

As for the food, Mistler said it will be "South Beach with a flair." There will be steaks and seafood and pineapple dishes, but one unique feature is that diners will have the option of ordering -- and paying less -- for smaller portions.

"We thought, when we go out to eat the plates are just too big, too much food on the plate, and you feel obligated to eat it," Mistler said. "We’ll do away with that by offering the same dish, but a smaller portion at a lower price."


Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 1:46 pm

The 25 highest paid public employees in Genesee County

post by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, government

Using data from See Through New York, here's a list of the 25 highest paid public employees in Genesee County in 2009 (the most recent year with complete data available).

  • Edward Orman: $236,708, Superintendent, Pavilion Central Schools
  • Gary Mix: $211,413, Superintendent Pembroke Central Schools
  • Steve Hyde: $199,259, President and CEO, GCEDC
  • Gregory Geer: $149,605, Superintendent, Byron-Bergen Central School District
  • Martin Basinait: $137,850, Director, Western Off-Track Betting
  • Cindy Herzog: $132,708, Superintendent, Le Roy Central School District
  • Margaret Puzio: $127,000, Superintendent, Batavia City Schools
  • Christopher Todd: $123,600, Superintendent, Oakfield-Alabama Central Schools
  • Michael Crowley: $121,242, CFO, BOCES
  • Lawrence Friedman: $118,187, District Attorney, Genesee County
  • Pamela Buresch: $117,862, Administrator of Student Assessment, Batavia City Schools
  • Kathleen Maerten: $115,200, Superintendent, Alexander Central Schools
  • Stephen Mahoney: $112,077, Human Resources, BOCES
  • Kevin Hamilton: $110,430 Vice President for Finance and Operations, Genesee Community College
  • Michael Glover: $109,301, Superintendent, BOCES
  • Gregory MacAluso: $109,301 Asst. Superintendent, BOCES
  • Sheila Eigenbrod: $109,275, Middle & High School Principal, Pavilion Central Schools
  • Joan Cole: $108,250 Superintendent, Elba Central Schools
  • William Lang: $107,201, Asst. Superintendent, Pembroke Central Schools
  • Sandra Griffin: $105,935, Middle School Principal, Batavia City School
  • Trisha Finnigan: $105,924, Director of Special Education, Batavia City School
  • Brian Moran: $105,454, Athletic Director, Le Roy Central School District
  • Keith Palmer: $105,065, Principal, Pembroke Central Schools
  • Ted Hale: $104,700, Director of Instructional Programs, BOCES
  • Craig Williams: $104,581, Fire Captain, City of Batavia 

UPDATE: In comments, Jeff Allen correctly points out that we left out judicial salaries.  The bottom three on the list above would have been pushed off by the following three judges:

  • Robert Noonan, $139,479, Fourth Judicial Department, County Court Judge
  • Eric Adams, $123,240, Fourth Judicial Department, Family Court Judge
  • Robert Balbick, $115,540, Fourth Judicial Department, City Court Judge
Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Minor injury accident at Route 33 and Seven Springs Road

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident

An injury accident is blocking the intersection of Clinton Street Road and Seven Springs Road, Batavia.

Stafford Fire and Mercy EMS are dispatched.

Minor injuries are reported.

A pickup truck has lost a wheel and rear axle and needs to be towed from the intersection.

View Larger Map

Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 12:20 pm

One person critically injured in rollover accident on Thruway

post by Howard B. Owens in accident, pembroke, thruway

A rollover accident on the Thruway at 2:48 p.m., yesterday, sent all five people in the GMC Jimmy to Erie County hospitals, two by Mercy Flight, with one person still listed in critical condition at ECMC.

The SUV was driven by Lorriann Mingle, 44, of Depew. Mingle apparently swerved to avoid an unidentified car coming into her lane of travel. When she tried to move back into her lane, she over corrected, according to State Police, and when her tires hit the soft shoulder, the car flipped over.

Her front seat passenger, Dawn Hess, 40, of Palmyra, suffered a head injury, broken ribs and a broken arm.

Hess is listed in critical condition.

Mingle suffered cuts and abrasions and was treated and released at ECMC.

The Thruway was closed in both directions for 30 minutes while Mingle and Hess were picked up by Mercy Flight.

Three children in the back seat were transported to Women's and Children's Hospital in Buffalo for evaluation of minor injuries. Their names were not released.

All five people were wearing their seat belts properly, according to State Police.

The driver of the other vehicle has not been identified and no charges are pending.

(initial report)

Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Water incident at Austin Park

post by Howard B. Owens in austin park, batavia

City Police are being dispatched to Austin Park.

The trouble: "Kids are throwing water at each other."

In the words of the dispatcher, "apparently, the parents don't like that."

Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 9:27 am

Police Beat: Rochester man accused of stealing from Target and Walmart

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Le Roy

Kristopher David Cadieux, 32, of Strathallen Park, Rochester, is charged with petit larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and aggravated unlicensed operation. Cadieux allegedly stole two video cameras from Target on Monday. On Tuesday, he reportedly returned to the store and was spotted by Target security. As he left the store, the Sheriff's Office was contacted. He was later spotted at Walmart. He then reportedly drove to the Lowe's parking lot, where he was stopped and identified. During the stop, Deputy John Baiocco reportedly found four stolen video games in Cadieux's car.

Jordon J.J. Herthum, 20, of 7109 Chili-Riga Road, Churchville, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, unlawful possession of marijuana and failure to keep right. Herthum was stopped at 3:37 a.m. on Lake Street in Le Roy by Sgt. Michael Hare.

A 17-year-old resident of North Lyons, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. The youth is accused of stealing money from Darien Lake Theme Park while an employee.

Michael Aaron Witkop, 18, of Ross Street, Batavia, is charged with unlawful possession of fireworks, possession of alcohol under 21 and inadequate vehicle exhaust mechanism. Witkop was stopped at 1:54 a.m. by Deputy Patrick Reeves on Law Street, Batavia for an alleged traffic violation. He was allegedly found in possession of fireworks and alcohol.

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