Longtime Town of Niagara Supervisor Steven C. Richards has been indicted on criminal charges in connection with a public corruption probe conducted by the State Attorney General’s Office and Buffalo FBI agents, sources close to the case told The Buffalo News late Wednesday.
The state charges involve allegations of illegal use of town workers, town materials and town equipment, according to three sources, who declined to be more specific and spoke on the condition that they would not be named.
The indictment, which relates to a probe that dates back at least 18 months, so far is sealed from public view. It will not be officially made public until a judge unseals the document.
Richards, 60, a popular vote-getter now in his fifth term as town supervisor, could not be reached to comment. His attorney, Rodney O. Personius, said he has heard rumors that an indictment is imminent but, so far, no official confirmation.
His client vehemently denies any wrongdoing, Personius told The News.
“So far, we have not received any official word,” Personius said Wednesday. “We are waiting to find out whether the grand jury has taken any action. … We should find out either this afternoon or sometime tomorrow.”
Richards has been under investigation by the FBI and Public Integrity section of the State Attorney General’s Office for about 18 months, The News reported Sept. 4.
During that time, FBI agents visited town offices, either to pick up documents or question town employees, on at least four occasions, town officials told The News.
About 20 town workers – one-fifth of the town’s workforce – recently appeared before a grand jury that has been hearing evidence in the case.
Those who received subpoenas to appear before the grand jury included Richards and Town Police Chief H. James Suitor.
At least some of the investigation is centered on allegations that town workers, using town equipment, did some work at Richards Motor Service, a Town of Niagara auto repair business operated by Richards and his family, sources close to the case said.
First elected in November 1995, Richards has been elected supervisor more times than any person in the town’s 201-year history. He ran without opposition in his last election.
Personius said that he, on Richards’ behalf, has spoken repeatedly with investigators in the case. He said he has responded to all the questions that were raised about Richards’ conduct.
“All I can tell you is that we have provided what we feel are good answers to the questions that have been raised in the investigation,” Personius said. “Until we see some kind of indictment papers, if there are any such papers, our position is that he has done nothing improper.”
The State Attorney General’s Office and the Buffalo FBI office had no comment on the case Wednesday afternoon.
Supporters of Richards, including State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, have called Richards an honest, outspoken public official and have said that he is the victim of false allegations made by other town officials who do not like him.
The sources who disclosed the indictment to The News said they insisted on anonymity because they were not officially authorized to disclose the information.