Seven Things

1. If Chris Collins or Dr. Barry Weinstein try to get between Iraq war vet David Bellavia and the Republican nomination for the NY-26 seat currently occupied by Kathy Hochul (or whatever it gets redistricted into), expect Bellavia to go absolutely nuts on them both, but especially Collins. Bellavia stepped aside to let Chris Lee take the seat in 2008, and was repaid with Collins and Paladino strong-arming him to give the seat to Collins neighbor Jane Corwin, who went on to lose convincingly.

2. There’s one thing we’ve learned about the drawn-out process to pick a successor to Mark Poloncarz as Erie County Comptroller – it’s the kind of job that no one wants, and is wanted by too many people, simultaneously.

3. It’s rumored that Erie County Legislator Lynn Marinelli, City Councilman Joe Golombek, and Attorney Mark Panepinto are all interested in taking on Mark Grisanti in SD-60. My feeling is that Grisanti has built up enough good will across the political spectrum by proving in his first term that he’s an independent and thoughtful legislator, that he’ll likely be a shoo-in for re-election.

4. Speaking of SD-60, Mickey Kearns’ clumsy foray into the A-148 race to replace Mark Schroeder is reminiscent of Antoine Thompson’s political fumfering. While Democratic candidate Chris Fahey has all the weight, support, and money of the Higgins team behind him, Kearns is rumored to find himself going door-to-door and answering uncomfortable questions from likely voters about why he’d take the Republican nomination after spending many weeks asking for Democrats’ support. Sometimes, political feuds are silly, especially when they force people to strike crazy deals just for a shot at power.

5. When Carl Paladino starts slinging mud at Higgins through his support of Kearns and whomever runs against Higgins for Congress, will he also have every one of his many corporate entities max out to these candidates? Will the self-proclaimed champion of clean politicking and tea party reforms in New York State continue his longstanding practice of obfuscating his financial support of certain candidates? Will Paladino start his own PAC?

6. David DiPietro is running for office again – this time for the newly reconstituted Assembly district that is currently occupied by Genesee County Republican Dan Burling. As might be expected, DiPietro will come at Burling from the tea party right, for instance, demanding that welfare recipients be subjected to Soviet-style invasions of privacy. There’s little love lost between DiPietro and the Republican establishment. Recall that Paladino famously stabbed DiPietro in the back in 2010 to back ECRC favorite Jim Domagalski for Volker’s SD-59 seat.

7. The entire Republican primary process is a depressing farce to see who can out-hate traditional Republican bogeymen like Muslims, Democrats, Obama, Clowns, people in clown makeup, Muezzins, Minarets, headgear, abortions, science, the weather, the notion of a generous and benevolent God, gay people, straight people who aren’t bothered by gay people, modern economic theory, contemporary society, video games, rap music, any non-country/western music, Mexicans, any Hispanics except Cubans, the prickles on roses, clean water proponents, clean air proponents, scientists, people who believe in evolution, bilingual people, Afghani cab drivers, the poor, blacks whom they perceive to be “uppity”, the First Lady, health, safety regulations, people who advocate for renewable energy, the 99%, Occupy activists, people who help the poor, people who help people who help the poor, anyone who isn’t disgusted by the poor, Catholics, Planned Parenthood, China, Asian people with accents, anyone with a foreign accent, public schools, teachers, college professors, Canada, Albanian doormen, people who ride bicycles, unions, people who work for a paycheck, people who get sick, people who need medical attention, swearing, cartoons, movies, salacious TV shows, and the fact that there are too many “Law and Orders”. I think it’s safe to say that President Obama is going to win re-election against these dummies.

NYS Food Map

NYS Foodie Map by Shannon Glazer

This map was created by Shannon Glazer and uploaded at Buffalo.com. I was most surprised to learn that “pizza rolls” is a thing.

Better Days?

Buffalo Sabres 2007: 

WGRZ Super Bowl ad 2012:

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1

It Was the Parsnips that Did It

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.

Komen Fights More than just Cancer

As the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation steps deeper and deeper into a steaming pile of its own bullsh*t, consider that all of this is a very calculated political move. What this is is a grave betrayal of Komen’s mission statement:

OUR PROMISE: To save lives and end breast cancer forever by empowering people, ensuring quality care for all and energizing science to find the cures.

Planned Parenthood is under attack from the right because it has the audacity to provide clinical medical services exclusively to women. Most of Planned Parenthood’s mission has to do with reproductive health and services, and yes, 3% of what they do involves abortion services. Because it performs legal, safe abortions in a clinical setting, and because the Republican platform prefers that abortions be done like they were in the old days – by quacks with hangers in alleyways, or abroad – Planned Parenthood must be destroyed.

But Komen and its former funding of PP had nothing whatsoever to do with abortions or even contraception. That’s how we know this is not principled, but political. How is Komen empowering people or saving lives if it de-funds breast exam and mammography services at Planned Parenthood?  The Angry Black Lady sums it up nicely: 

In a press release today, Planned Parenthood announced that The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation will no longer provide Planned Parenthood the more than half million dollars in grant funds which Planned Parenthood uses to provide breast health education, screenings, and referrals for mammograms.

Turns out that Komen’s new Vice-President of Public Policy, Karen Handel, is a Forced Birther, and even ran for governor of Georgia on a platform of defunding Planned Parenthood.  Thus, it seems that Komen for the Cure, the purpose of which is to help women, has been taken hostage by Karen Handel and her right-wing Forced Birth views which undermine women and women’s reproductive choices.  In her own words, “Since I am pro-life [anti-choice] I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood.”

The mission of Planned Parenthood? Lady, what are you talking about? Themission of Planned Parenthood is to provide health services, including breast cancer screening and education to primarily poor women who otherwise cannot not afford such services.  That is 90% of what Planned Parenthood does. The “mission” of Planned Parenthood aligns with the “mission” of Komen for the Cure — or, at least, it did.  Abortion comprises approximately 3% of the services Planned Parenthood provides.

Furthermore, just as the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funds from being used for abortion services, I presume that the Komen grant money previously provided to Planned Parenthood is used specifically for breast-health, and not for abortion.

This is part of the Republican effort to do to Planned Parenthood what they did to ACORN – destroy any foundation that exists to help the poor obtain some sort of services or rights. Exactly correct. When Komen isn’t busy pimping out the color pink, advocating against legislation to provide free breast and cervical cancer screening, and trademarking, then aggressively litigating any use of the term “for the cure”, it’s plotting to disassociate itself from Planned Parenthood for nakedly political reasons.

Komen’s official line on the reason for cutting off funds to Planned Parenthood was a newly-instituted rule that declared that the organization was not to give funds to organizations under investigation at the local, state, or federal level. According to Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic, former employees of Komen told him that the rule was, in fact, designed to single out Planned Parenthood.

If the new policy is to de-fund organizations that are under some form of investigation, then we ought to all eagerly await the imminent withdrawal of Komen’s $7.5 million for the health clinic at Penn State – an institution that is under administrative investigation arising out of charges of child rape. Komen’s new Vice President in charge of Public Policy is right-wing anti-Planned Parenthood activist Karen Handel, who re-tweeted (then quickly deleted) this:

The backlash has been swift and pointed. People are abandoning Komen in droves, and Planned Parenthood has already more than made up the lost funding through donations. 

There are thousands of national, regional, and local anti-cancer charities out there, but there’s only one Planned Parenthood. If you divest your women’s health organization from providing cancer screening for the poor and the underprivileged, you risk painting yourself unnecessarily into a political corner.  Komen may now become a sweetheart of the right-wing, but it will have long ago stopped fulfilling its mission. 

Komen isn’t so much a charity as it is a business, and it’s now firmly positioned itself as a business that’s right-wing-friendly and a footsoldier in the culture war. Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate based on race, political affiliation, or voting history. That’s why Komen politicizing itself so blatantly is so shockingly sad and unnecessary. 

#BradyonBuffalo

Yesterday morning, the story broke that a very mean meanie of a man-child who plays catch for a living deigned to say something critical of our fair burgh. As usually happens in these situations (e.g., hockey players who quite correctly criticize how dead our downtown is after business hours), our local media and commentariat freak the hell out, defending to the death the mistaken notion that Buffalo is a world-class city.

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/164706823868391424″]

Seeing that Channel 2 and 4 were turning this into the top story, I started the #BradyonBuffalo meme.

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/164729090367168513″]

The purpose of it – and most people got it – was not to mock Brady, but to mock our community sensitivity and over-reaction to what a Tom Brady thinks of Buffalo. Here’s a multi-millionaire superstar about to play in his fifth Super Bowl. He’s won three of them already. He lives in a world-class city – a Boston that just thirty years ago was a parochially-minded, predominately Catholic, faded and crumbling city with a shrinking tax base and a massive inferiority complex. Today, Boston is a world-class city, and Buffalo isn’t. It’s a simple fact that we should just accept.

Take, for instance, how Channel 4 reported on Wednesday’s meme:

Brady’s comments started a flurry of conversation on Twitter, with Buffalo Twitter users using the hashtag #BradyonBuffalo to mock Brady’s comments.

No, we used it to mock Buffalonians’ oversensitivity to outsiders’ criticism of our region. We used it to poke fun at the predictable top-story treatment this would get in all local media, complete with angry reactions from tourism officials and political figures.

You know what? With three exceptions – the Mansion at Delaware, the Hampton Inn on Chippewa, and the Embassy Suites at the Avant, Buffalo hotels are pretty crappy. I mean, have you set foot in the last Adams Mark on Earth yet? Leave it to a concrete eyesore in Buffalo to cling to a dead chain’s trademark. Tim Graham in the Buffalo News is, so far, the only local mainstream media type to get it exactly right, pointing out the small number of local hotels that can accommodate a football team (hint: the Mansion isn’t one of them).

Here are some of my favorites. Stop being such a whiny crybaby, Buffalo. Suck it up.

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/164749236821434368″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/ChrisSmithAV/status/164738559474012160″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/j_kruk/status/164730321735135234″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/164733731523919873″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/DerekPunaro/status/164733931818717185″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/164733607246704640″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/164732215677300738″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/164800859295858688″]

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The Serbian Fiat Countryman

With the release of its Countryman mini-SUV, Mini acknowledged that some people simply need more than two doors (or, in the case of the Mini Clubman, two and a half doors). The Countryman has a distinctive dip at the rear window that looks weird, but somehow works:

I test-drove the Fiat 500 last year, and thought it was a fun little car with a small but capable engine – especially the convertible version with a manual transmission. But the back seat was just not credible. Even for small kids. Same goes for the original Mini Cooper. The Cooper S, with a supercharged engine, is even better, and Fiat is releasing its own Abarth version with a turbocharged engine, regrettable 5-speed, rather than 6-speed, manual transmission, and 160HP and 170 lb/ft of torque. While Mini sells cool Brittania, the Fiat 500 Abarth sells, well, this:

But the Fiat 500 has been a poor seller in the States mostly because it’s too small for anyone with a kid, so Fiat is bringing a new model, the 500L (large), which it will unveil at the Geneva Auto Show:

You’d almost think it was a badge-engineered Countryman, but it isn’t. I don’t dislike it, but a quick scan of the Facebook comments reveal words like “antipatica”, “brutto”, and “non ci piace”, which you don’t have to know Italian to understand.

It would be great if we got the turbo diesel they’ll get in Europe, and it’s notable that this mini-ute will be built in the same factory in Kragujevac, Serbia that brought the world the Zastava “Yugo”. It will offer seating for 5 and 7 in Europe, but only for 5 in the States.

Here’s the press release:

Fiat presented the first official images of the Fiat 500L, the new model which will have its world preview at the 2012 International Geneva Motor Show.

500L – the L stands for ‘Large’ – is the new addition to the 500 range, which, following the Abarth and Cabrio versions, furthers the brand’s strategy, with the aim of extending its offer by introducing models in a position to satisfy different types of customers.

With the ‘L’, the 500 expands and grows together with customers, to accommodate new experiences and needs once more.

With MPV passenger space combined with the feel of a small SUV on the road and the restrained dimensions and efficiency of a B segment car, the new Fiat model defies the conventional distinctions between the various segments, combining the typical characteristics of different categories in order to create a distinctive alternative to the traditional B and C segments.

With the Fiat 500L, the Fiat brand demonstrates its creative spirit once more: a marriage of functionality and emotion, it features a 5-seater single-volume structure which is 414 cm long, 178 cm wide and 166 cm high. It is a further development of the concept of ‘cab forward’ introduced by Fiat with the 600 Multipla, a precursor to the concept of the compact people carrier.

Produced at the Fiat factory in Kragujevac, Serbia, 500L is a ‘first car’ for those who won’t settle for anything less than Italian style, the versatility that comes from a functional design and engine technology that sets the bar in terms of efficiency.

The Fiat 500L will be introduced to Europe in the last quarter of 2012, with an engine range which will initially comprise two petrol engines (TwinAir and 1.4-litre) and a turbodiesel engine (1.3 MultiJet II) and the most advanced, state-of-the-art technology from Fiat Group Automobiles.

Occupy Buffalo Evicted

Occupy Buffalo II

Occupy Buffalo, by Flickr user Nykino 2011

Last night, the Buffalo police moved in to evict Occupy Buffalo. The group’s permit to remain in Niagara Square had expired, and the city decided not to renew it. One is tempted to wonder why they were evicted, considering that they weren’t really bothering anyone.

Then again, “not bothering anyone” may not be the best strategy for demonstrating against the plutonomy and crony corporatist corruption. The Occupy movement can be thanked for bringing the patent unfairness of the U.S. tax code to light, and how it is especially designed to benefit the wealthiest 1% at the rest of our expense.

Were it not for the Occupy movement, the very serious problem that Mitt Romney has with respect to his very limited, very curious tax disclosure would not be a “thing”. Now, it’s not only a “thing”, but a thing that is the very embodiment of what Occupy was all about, and the American middle class is pissed.

The End of Valenti's Restaurant

Yesterday afternoon, North Tonawanda City Court Judge William Lewis awarded Frank Budwey a warrant of eviction against Desires Unlimited d/b/a Valenti’s Restaurant, and a money judgment for $5,200 in unpaid rent, plus $500 in costs and attorney’s fees.  Valenti’s has 30 days to appeal. 

The unusually long and contentious eviction trial took place over two days, and ended one of the more bizarre restaurant stories in recent memory. Just five short weeks ago, veteran Buffalo News restaurant critic Janice Okun lauded the volume of Valenti’s portions and booths, awarding it 2 1/2 stars. In that review, Okun repeated boasts that co-owners Terry Valenti and Lori Brocuglio had made about Valenti’s work history, including a wild claim that Valenti had defeated Bobby Flay on the TV program Iron Chef America with an award-winning dish of sea bass stuffed with artichokes and parsnips – quite possibly the most exotic “haute cuisine” Valenti could imagine. 

But Valenti’s had bigger problems than just a cook with a false resume. Although Budwey had waived the rent for part of October and all of November, he fully expected payment for December and January at $3,000 per month. By late December, Valenti’s still owed that month’s rent, and was losing purveyor accounts for non-payment. Valenti and Brocuglio paid Budwey $300 around that timeDoctored receipt, and a dispute arose at trial whether they paid $500 or $1500 in cash in early January. The court found that Valenti’s had, in fact, paid $500, because Budwey presented contemporaneous evidence of the cash deposits in both his business ledger and his bank records. He claimed that Lori Brocuglio, who admitted writing “payment in full” on the receipt also doctored it to read $1,500 instead of $500.  

The legal issue is that accepting money as “payment in full” would have potentially bound Budwey to that figure for rents then due and owing. The judge found, however, that other communications from clearly showed that he did not intend to be so bound. Around the same time the receipt was given, a Valenti’s check was made out to Frank “Budway” for $3,000.  Much of Tuesday’s trial centered around how Budwey got the check, and who wrote it. Budwey said either Lori or Terry gave it to him, and he took it to M&T, where he discovered that it would not clear. Budwey then turned the check over to the authorities, and Brocuglio awaits trial on misdemeanor charges of knowingly passing a bad check. 

Here is an example of a check that Brocuglio admits to having written: 

Compare that to the disputed $3,000 rent check that took up so much testimony and argument at trial: 

The mis-spelling of Budway’s name matches Brocuglio’s clumsily constructed Facebook page from last week. 

In rendering his decision, Judge Lewis said that “Brocuglio’s claims fly in the face of the testimony and documents”. He found that it was disingenuous for her to suggest that Budwey forged the check.  Brocuglio likely didn’t realize that Budwey had kept two voice mails she left for him in early January. In the first message, which was played for the judge in court, Brocuglio acknowledges that Terry Valenti had given the check to Budwey, and asks him not to cash it. She said that they would pay the rent via certified funds instead. However, the next day Brocuglio called again, and had completely changed her story.  In a second voice mail played for the judge in court, Brocuglio got a message that Budwey had tried to cash the check, and was notified that the police were now involved. In both calls, she alluded to getting a lawyer to go after Budwey, but now denies knowing of any check, implying that Budwey stole or forged it. 

Brocuglio also claimed that Budwey had agreed to waive the rent for December and January, but the documentary evidence directly contradicted that testimony. 

Brocuglio claimed to the judge that they were ready, willing, and able to pay the rent, but that a dispute that arose with Brocuglio’s nominal “partner” in the business, Melissa Janiszewski, had tied up the bank account. Janiszewski spoke to me in court and disputed this claim, stating that she had no signing privileges on the account, was not named on the account, and that Brocuglio and Valenti had deliberately kept her in the dark about the business’ finances. It was also revealed that Janiszewski, a legal co-owner in the Valenti’s venture, was not named on the lease. Since there’s a money judgment arising out of that lease, she’s rather lucky in this respect, but it indicates that as early as the formation of the business, Valenti and Brocuglio appeared to be conspiring to use Janiszewski as an unwitting pawn in a scheme to run up credit with no intention of repayment. Instead, an old DBA of Terry Valenti’s dating back a decade, the sex-toy-shop-sounding “Desires Unlimited” was listed on the lease as DBA Valenti’s Restaurant. However, a DBA is merely a business name – it is not a legal entity. That’s why the name of a person or corporation precedes the letters “DBA” on legal documents. In this case, however, regardless of the illegality of one DBA doing business as another DBA, Lori Brocuglio signed the lease as a personal guarantor. 

In a dramatic twist in the middle of the trial, Terry Valenti, who looked quite different without his facial hair and bandanna, was escorted from the courtroom by deputies and did not return. Mr. Valenti was apprehended by the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office on a felony warrant for forgery originating from Midland County, Texas. After losing his job at Captain Hiram’s in Florida, Valenti moved to Texas, where he cooked at a retirement community in Odessa. Valenti stands accused of forging an ex-girlfriend’s name on a Power of Attorney and title, to fraudulently transfer a motor vehicle for his benefit. Mr. Valenti was led out while Ms. Brocuglio stood at trial with her lawyer, and they were advised of Mr. Valenti’s unexpected departure during a break in the proceedings. He awaits extradition proceedings in the Niagara County Jail

After the proceedings, Mr. Budwey suggested that the Valenti defendants waive any right to retrieve belongings from the restaurant property, and that Budwey would in turn waive the money judgment. For his part, Budwey was happy to have his building back, in the hopes that he can now re-rent it to a less dramatic, more competent tenant. Brocuglio and Valenti had boasted of taking Budwey to Supreme Court for damages relating to his alleged self-help and constructive eviction measures, but with Valenti on his way to Texas and Brocuglio now with a $5000+ judgment over her head, and being behind on the rent at her residential apartment in Eden, it is unknown whether any such action will be pursued. 

Sources who contacted me yesterday add to the story – in running their business, Valenti and Brocuglio used fake social security numbers. When one vendor investigated the Valenti’s operators in an effort to secure fees owed, they discovered that staff – when paid – was paid cash or by business check without required withholdings. They also found that Valenti and Brocuglio had a scheme in the works to use the time between service of the notice to quit and the eviction trial to gut the building and auction off all the contents – Budwey’s “self help” prevented that scheme from taking place, but that Valenti had apparently retained an auctioneer for that purpose. 

Valenti’s restaurant is no more. It leaves behind a trail of cheated vendors and ex-partners. From the documents shown in court, it is safe to presume that it was deceitful not only in its operation, but even in its very foundation. I don’t know whether this is a unique situation, or one that is common in every place, all the time. In the end, Valenti’s taught us that lying isn’t a good business plan, and that it doesn’t take much to operate a reasonably successful red sauce joint in a small Niagara County city, as long as you treat your patrons and employees with respect, and serve decent food at a reasonable price. 

The whole saga (so far) is available here, with an innocuous takedown of a Janice Okun “review”, updated hereherehereherehere, here, and here.)

 

The End of Valenti’s Restaurant

Yesterday afternoon, North Tonawanda City Court Judge William Lewis awarded Frank Budwey a warrant of eviction against Desires Unlimited d/b/a Valenti’s Restaurant, and a money judgment for $5,200 in unpaid rent, plus $500 in costs and attorney’s fees.  Valenti’s has 30 days to appeal. 

The unusually long and contentious eviction trial took place over two days, and ended one of the more bizarre restaurant stories in recent memory. Just five short weeks ago, veteran Buffalo News restaurant critic Janice Okun lauded the volume of Valenti’s portions and booths, awarding it 2 1/2 stars. In that review, Okun repeated boasts that co-owners Terry Valenti and Lori Brocuglio had made about Valenti’s work history, including a wild claim that Valenti had defeated Bobby Flay on the TV program Iron Chef America with an award-winning dish of sea bass stuffed with artichokes and parsnips – quite possibly the most exotic “haute cuisine” Valenti could imagine. 

But Valenti’s had bigger problems than just a cook with a false resume. Although Budwey had waived the rent for part of October and all of November, he fully expected payment for December and January at $3,000 per month. By late December, Valenti’s still owed that month’s rent, and was losing purveyor accounts for non-payment. Valenti and Brocuglio paid Budwey $300 around that timeDoctored receipt, and a dispute arose at trial whether they paid $500 or $1500 in cash in early January. The court found that Valenti’s had, in fact, paid $500, because Budwey presented contemporaneous evidence of the cash deposits in both his business ledger and his bank records. He claimed that Lori Brocuglio, who admitted writing “payment in full” on the receipt also doctored it to read $1,500 instead of $500.  

The legal issue is that accepting money as “payment in full” would have potentially bound Budwey to that figure for rents then due and owing. The judge found, however, that other communications from clearly showed that he did not intend to be so bound. Around the same time the receipt was given, a Valenti’s check was made out to Frank “Budway” for $3,000.  Much of Tuesday’s trial centered around how Budwey got the check, and who wrote it. Budwey said either Lori or Terry gave it to him, and he took it to M&T, where he discovered that it would not clear. Budwey then turned the check over to the authorities, and Brocuglio awaits trial on misdemeanor charges of knowingly passing a bad check. 

Here is an example of a check that Brocuglio admits to having written: 

Compare that to the disputed $3,000 rent check that took up so much testimony and argument at trial: 

The mis-spelling of Budway’s name matches Brocuglio’s clumsily constructed Facebook page from last week. 

In rendering his decision, Judge Lewis said that “Brocuglio’s claims fly in the face of the testimony and documents”. He found that it was disingenuous for her to suggest that Budwey forged the check.  Brocuglio likely didn’t realize that Budwey had kept two voice mails she left for him in early January. In the first message, which was played for the judge in court, Brocuglio acknowledges that Terry Valenti had given the check to Budwey, and asks him not to cash it. She said that they would pay the rent via certified funds instead. However, the next day Brocuglio called again, and had completely changed her story.  In a second voice mail played for the judge in court, Brocuglio got a message that Budwey had tried to cash the check, and was notified that the police were now involved. In both calls, she alluded to getting a lawyer to go after Budwey, but now denies knowing of any check, implying that Budwey stole or forged it. 

Brocuglio also claimed that Budwey had agreed to waive the rent for December and January, but the documentary evidence directly contradicted that testimony. 

Brocuglio claimed to the judge that they were ready, willing, and able to pay the rent, but that a dispute that arose with Brocuglio’s nominal “partner” in the business, Melissa Janiszewski, had tied up the bank account. Janiszewski spoke to me in court and disputed this claim, stating that she had no signing privileges on the account, was not named on the account, and that Brocuglio and Valenti had deliberately kept her in the dark about the business’ finances. It was also revealed that Janiszewski, a legal co-owner in the Valenti’s venture, was not named on the lease. Since there’s a money judgment arising out of that lease, she’s rather lucky in this respect, but it indicates that as early as the formation of the business, Valenti and Brocuglio appeared to be conspiring to use Janiszewski as an unwitting pawn in a scheme to run up credit with no intention of repayment. Instead, an old DBA of Terry Valenti’s dating back a decade, the sex-toy-shop-sounding “Desires Unlimited” was listed on the lease as DBA Valenti’s Restaurant. However, a DBA is merely a business name – it is not a legal entity. That’s why the name of a person or corporation precedes the letters “DBA” on legal documents. In this case, however, regardless of the illegality of one DBA doing business as another DBA, Lori Brocuglio signed the lease as a personal guarantor. 

In a dramatic twist in the middle of the trial, Terry Valenti, who looked quite different without his facial hair and bandanna, was escorted from the courtroom by deputies and did not return. Mr. Valenti was apprehended by the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office on a felony warrant for forgery originating from Midland County, Texas. After losing his job at Captain Hiram’s in Florida, Valenti moved to Texas, where he cooked at a retirement community in Odessa. Valenti stands accused of forging an ex-girlfriend’s name on a Power of Attorney and title, to fraudulently transfer a motor vehicle for his benefit. Mr. Valenti was led out while Ms. Brocuglio stood at trial with her lawyer, and they were advised of Mr. Valenti’s unexpected departure during a break in the proceedings. He awaits extradition proceedings in the Niagara County Jail

After the proceedings, Mr. Budwey suggested that the Valenti defendants waive any right to retrieve belongings from the restaurant property, and that Budwey would in turn waive the money judgment. For his part, Budwey was happy to have his building back, in the hopes that he can now re-rent it to a less dramatic, more competent tenant. Brocuglio and Valenti had boasted of taking Budwey to Supreme Court for damages relating to his alleged self-help and constructive eviction measures, but with Valenti on his way to Texas and Brocuglio now with a $5000+ judgment over her head, and being behind on the rent at her residential apartment in Eden, it is unknown whether any such action will be pursued. 

Sources who contacted me yesterday add to the story – in running their business, Valenti and Brocuglio used fake social security numbers. When one vendor investigated the Valenti’s operators in an effort to secure fees owed, they discovered that staff – when paid – was paid cash or by business check without required withholdings. They also found that Valenti and Brocuglio had a scheme in the works to use the time between service of the notice to quit and the eviction trial to gut the building and auction off all the contents – Budwey’s “self help” prevented that scheme from taking place, but that Valenti had apparently retained an auctioneer for that purpose. 

Valenti’s restaurant is no more. It leaves behind a trail of cheated vendors and ex-partners. From the documents shown in court, it is safe to presume that it was deceitful not only in its operation, but even in its very foundation. I don’t know whether this is a unique situation, or one that is common in every place, all the time. In the end, Valenti’s taught us that lying isn’t a good business plan, and that it doesn’t take much to operate a reasonably successful red sauce joint in a small Niagara County city, as long as you treat your patrons and employees with respect, and serve decent food at a reasonable price. 

The whole saga (so far) is available here, with an innocuous takedown of a Janice Okun “review”, updated hereherehereherehere, here, and here.)

 

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