LOCKPORT – The businesses that Kenneth Heitzenrater and his wife started with money stolen from a now-deceased neighbor will go up for bids next month.
A sheriff’s sale will be held March 13 for the building at 6817 Ridge Road, Newfane, to obtain money toward a nearly $600,000 restitution bill Heitzenrater owes to the estate of Matthew Pollack.
Heitzenrater, 51, pleaded guilty in October 2012 to ripping off Pollack through misuse of a power of attorney, leaving the elderly man destitute before he was admitted to an assisted living facility.
Pollack, who suffered from dementia, died Feb. 24, 2013, at age 90.
Jill M. Plavetzki, a Lockport attorney who served as Pollack’s court-appointed guardian, said Heitzenrater agreed in a court stipulation signed at the same time as his guilty plea to sell the Ridge Road building by October 2013, but he didn’t do so.
The building housed Ken’s Eats and Treats and Heartland Quilts; the latter business belongs to Heitzenrater’s wife, Tara. Heitzenrater said in court at his Jan. 10, 2013, sentencing that he started the businesses with stolen money.
The couple formerly lived next door to Pollack on Quaker Road in Barker. Pollack, who never married, signed a will in 2002 leaving his home and an adjoining vacant lot “to my friend and neighbor, Kenneth Heitzenrater.”
The remainder of his estate was to go to Pollack’s sister-in-law, Dolores Pollack, who lives in Wilmington, Del.
The will was revised in 2010, the same year Pollack signed a power of attorney giving Heitzenrater control of his affairs, to give Heitzenrater half of Pollack’s money as well as the house and lot.
However, Plavetzki said those wills have been ruled invalid, as Heitzenrater was forced to sign a document after his guilty plea renouncing any claim to the estate. And at any rate, the 2002 will lacked a signature from one of the two listed witnesses.
According to court records, the executor of the estate is Pollack’s niece, Katherine Minutella, also of Wilmington.
Plavetzki said the 2012 court stipulation also requires Heitzenrater to sell his current home on Hartland Road in Somerset in 2017, the year after his youngest child graduates from high school.
Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas placed Heitzenrater on five years’ probation, passing up the option of sending him to prison for up to four years, so he could pay the restitution.
The judge ordered a minimum payment of $1,300 a month. William Collins, a Niagara County Probation Department supervisor, said Heitzenrater has been making those payments.
William Ilecki, the attorney for Pollack’s estate, said the money from the sheriff’s sale will go to the estate and will count toward Heitzenrater’s restitution tab.
The winner will have to pay not only the bid price but the unpaid taxes on the property. Tammy Upton, chief tax clerk in the County Treasurer’s Office, said $9,283 in delinquent county and town taxes from 2013 are still owed. The 2014 tax bill is still out, too, but hasn’t been ruled late yet.
Plavetzki said once the auction is completed, a partial distribution of money probably will be made to Minutella and to Delores Pollack.
The Ridge Road site includes a one-story building and 5.6 acres of land. The property has an assessed valuation of $207,000.
“He thought it was worth a heck of a lot more,” Ilecki said. It is has been listed with a $399,900 asking price.
“I think it’s worth a lot more than it’s assessed at, but we will see,” Ilecki said.
Sgt. Cory Diez of the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office Civil Division said the auction will begin at 10:30 a.m. March 13 in the Civil Division lobby at the Sheriff’s Office.