By Rick Pfeiffer
— LOCKPORT -- The owner of a well-known Pine Avenue buy-and-sell shop had faced a possible five year prison stay for pleading guilty to drug and stolen property charges.
But Ruben Longoria will spend the next five years on probation instead.
Niagara County Court Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas handed down that sentence on Friday for Longoria's plea to charges of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property. The pleas stemmed from a deal with prosecutors.
At the time of the deal, defense attorney James Faso said he was hopeful his client would avoid time behind bars.
"We understand the (prosecution) will not seek a jail sentence," Faso said then.
On Friday, prosecutors confirmed they had recommended a probation sentence in return for Longoria's pleas.
Longoria does have a prior felony conviction on his rap sheet, which would have ordinarily subjected him to a longer sentence. However, Faso argued that the crime occurred "way outside 10 years ago" and should not be a factor in Longoria's sentencing.
At the time of the plea, Faso told Farkas the deal made sense for his client.
"Your honor, there was a search warrant (in the drug case)," Faso said, "and the evidence against him (in the stolen property case) is substantial."
Longoria, 57, 2008 Pine Ave., Apt. 2, was accused of making two sales of prescription pain killers to a confidential informant working for the Niagara County Drug Task in November 2012.
He was also accused of having stolen property in connection with an incident at his business, El Casino Buy & Sell, in October 2011.
The owner of a Falls construction company told police he was driving by El Casino Buy & Sell when he spotted heavy construction equipment, for sale, sitting on the front lawn. When he stopped and took a closer look at the equipment, the businessman discovered it was a hammer lauler/breaker, gas post digger and Lincoln mig welder that had been stolen from his company’s storage shed in July 2010.
The shed was entered after someone broke a padlock off. The heavy equipment and other items were then taken.
The business owner said he went inside and told Longoria that the equipment he was trying to sell was stolen. Longoria told the victim to “go get proof and bring it back.”
The victim told investigators that when he returned to El Casino the next day, with the proof of ownership Longoria requested, the equipment was gone.
Longoria told the victim “he left the (equipment) out front” and didn’t know what had happened to it.
The conviction could put Longoria out of business. Sources tell the Gazette the city may move to revoke his pawn shop license.
Contact reporter Rick Pfeiffer at 282-2311, ext. 2252.