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April 2, 2018

Buffalo News: After Maziarz Probe, a Question: What Happened to Campaign Funds?

For five years, federal, state and county prosecutors combed through the campaign finance records of former State Sen. George D. Maziarz, looking for evidence of crimes.

FBI agents scoured campaign funds and interviewed Maziarz's staff, campaign treasurer and his political associates about hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign spending.

No one has been charged with stealing a dime.

After years of review, a question remains: What happened to hundreds of thousands of dollars of questionable spending flagged by the state Board of Elections for prosecutors to review?

Maziarz accuses his former chief of staff and campaign treasurer, and a few lower-level staff members, of stealing more than $350,000 in political contributions to his campaign. 

State and federal prosecutors passed on the case, however. So did the Erie County District Attorney's Office.

But Maziarz, who pleaded guilty last month to an unrelated misdemeanor election law violation, is not giving up. His defense attorneys hired forensic auditors to trace where his campaign funds ended up. The audit described more than $650,000 in checks and debit card purchases as "questionable."

Among their findings: More than $18,600 in campaign money was spent on school activities and sports teams associated with the children of his chief of staff and campaign treasurer. More than $42,000 was spent at Target. Thousands were spent on Time Warner Cable bills at the treasurer's house. About $8,300 was spent on photos sent to Shutterfly, an online publishing service.

The state Board of Elections in 2015 also flagged 329 checks made payable to cash, large numbers of unitemized transactions and campaign finance statements that falsely reported or failed to report numerous expenditures.

Read the full article, featuring Gabe Nugent, partner, here.


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