Niagara Gazette

Local News

July 14, 2014

Richards sentencing wraps up public corruption probe

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — Former Town of Niagara Supervisor Steve Richards will be sentenced to three years of probation later today in the last act of a long-running joint state and federal investigation of public corruption in the town.

State Supreme Court Justice Christopher Burns told Richards he’d receive the probation sentence when the long-time supervisor pleaded guilty in May to a single count of official misconduct. The plea followed his resignation as town supervisor and includes an agreement that Richards will pay $1,240.37 in restitution to the town.

The plea deal was the result of negotiations with the New York State Attorney General’s Office. Richards had originally faced a 23-count public corruption indictment. 

In taking his plea, Richards read from a prepared statement and admitted that in May 2010 he sent town employees to a Cheektowaga business with a town truck and front-loafer and had them bring a concrete catch basin back to his auto shop in the town. The employees were supposed to be doing town work at the time.

Under questioning by Burns, Assistant Attorney General Diane LaVallee said Richards was pleading guilty to the second highest count in the indictment and, as a result of the plea, was being forced to leave office.

“It spares us having to call 30 witnesses (at trial), many of whom have expressed some reluctance to testify,” LaVallee said. “It’s our hope that the plea will help heal the town.”

“Your main focus is to bring (Richards’) behavior to light and to get restitution and it’s not your feeling that (a jail term) is necessary,” Burns asked LaVallee.

“The overwhelming feeling is Mr. Richards leaving office is the goal here,” LaVallee replied.

Scott Hapeman, a member of Richards’ defense team, said that the plea deal was best for his client and the town.

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