Niagara Gazette

May 2, 2014

Salesmen charged after trespassing at deputy superintendent's Niagara Falls home

By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — A pair of peddlers from Buffalo were arrested Wednesday night after they picked the wrong home to try to prey on.

The two men where in the North End and paid a visit to the home of Falls Police Deputy Superintendent Kelly Rizzo. That’s when the trouble started.

“I heard the doorbell ring and I wasn’t expecting anyone,” Rizzo said. So I looked out the window and I saw a guy on my neighbor’s porch wearing a hat and jacket that I know is connected to salesmen who work for a company out of Buffalo called Just Energy.”

The Just Energy salesmen have been on the Falls police radar because of complaints from residents about their use of high-pressure sales tactics designed to get people to switch their electric power provider. Residents who have switched have also complained that after being promised lower electric rates, they ended up paying more for their power.

“They are very high pressure,” Police Superintendent Bryan DalPorto said. “And they’re walking up (to homes) and trying the door handles and, if no one is home, whose to say what they might do.”

Rizzo got the answer to that question when he didn’t answer his doorbell.

“I thought that the city had pulled (Just Energy’s) permits and that they couldn’t go door-to-door selling,” Rizzo said. “So I went to get my cell phone and was going to call (police headquarters) to check on that.”

As Rizzo walked into his living rooming, dialing his phone, he thought he heard someone in his hallway. When he opened the door, he found a man in a maroon jacket standing there.

“I said, ‘What are you doing in my house?’,” Rizzo said. 

The man began backing out of the house and Rizzo followed him out onto his porch. Wearing a t-shirt and shorts, Rizzo identified himself as a police officer but neither the suspect on his porch nor the one across the street seemed to believe him.

Rizzo told both men not to leave the area and that they were being detained, When the pair began walking away from him, he called for back up.

“The guy who came into my house said he didn’t care if I called police, because he had a (peddler’s) permit,” Rizzo said. “I told he didn’t have a permit to come into my house.”

Patrol officers arrived on the scene and took both men into custody. When an officer asked the suspect from Rizzo’s home, Dashawn Gill, 20, 2211 Fillmore Ave., Apt. 2, Buffalo, why he went into the house, he replied, “I didn’t think anyone was home.”

That response was a concern for both Rizzo and DalPorto. 

“We’ve had some burglaries in the North End that we’ve been investigating,” DalPorto said. “In light of what happened, we’re looking at these suspects in connection with some of those recent burglaries.”

Gill was charged with second-degree criminal trespass for entering Rizzo’s home. The other suspect, Michael L. Mason III, 18, 11 Midvale Ave., Buffalo, was charged with not having a peddler’s license.

“We want to make residents aware of what’s going on,” Rizzo said. “No one (selling energy services) had been licensed (for door-to-door sales). If these people come to your home, don’t even open the door. Call the police.”