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Toohey Gets 33-Month Federal Term To Think About Lewiston Land Grab

Tim Toohey is sentenced.

Disbarred attorney Timothy Toohey, 66, of Lewiston, has been sentenced to spend 33 months in federal prison.

He was sentenced last week by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Arcara for a guilty plea of embezzling proceeds from a sale of 251 acres of Lewiston farmland to the Seneca Gaming Corp.

The land was developed into the Hickory Stick Golf Course.

Toohey also admitted filing a false tax return.

As part of a 2010 plea deal, Toohey agreed to cooperate with the FBI's investigation.

Prosecutors said Toohey provided “substantial assistance in the investigation and prosecution of other persons who have committed offenses."

Toohey faced maximum sentences of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the embezzlement charge, and three-years and a fine of $100,000 on the tax evasion charge.

In addition to his prison sentence, Toohey was ordered to pay restitution of $540,000 to the Seneca Nation of Indians and $62,821 to the Internal Revenue Service.

In 2002, Lewiston lawyer Michael Dowd formed Old Creek Development LLC to aid the development of farmland owned by Lewiston residents Charles Boos and Joseph Deck.

After an initial deal fell through, Toohey contacted Dowd and the vice chairman of the Seneca Gaming Corp. Board, Bergel Mitchell III, to try to arrange a sale.

Mitchell helped persuade the Senecas to buy the land for $2.1 million. Dowd arranged to buy the property from Boos and Deck for $1.4 million.

In pleading guilty, Toohey admitted that during negotiations, he and Mitchell entered into an arrangement where each would receive a portion of the sale proceeds and conceal that fact from the Senecas.

On February 19, 2005, the Tribal Council passed a resolution to purchase the land in Lewiston for a golf course at a price "not to exceed $2.1 million."

A year later, Dowd, through Old Creek Development LLC paid $1.4 million for the land to the two property owners and the Town of Lewiston.

On the same day, Dowd, through Old Creek Development, conveyed title to the land to the Seneca Gaming Commission for $2.1 million.

Dowd then paid $248,000 to Mitchell, $90,000 to Mitchell's wife, Rachel, and $202,000 to Toohey.

Boos learned he had been swindled.

He confronted Dowd who, allegedly, told him that Toohey and others were paid as consultants.

In September, 2008, FBI agents raided Dowd's office. Through investigation, including an examination of the paper trail and interviews with Toohey, agents investigated Mitchell and Barry E. Snyder Sr., the Seneca Nation president.

It was alleged money from the golf-course sale went to purchase votes in Snyder’s 2008 bid for the Seneca Nation presidency.

In February 2011, a federal grand jury indicted Mitchell, 37, of Gowanda, on charges of bribery, theft by an officer or employee of a gaming establishment on Indian land, wire fraud, conspiracy and eight counts of money laundering. The theft and wire fraud charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $1,000,000; the bribery and money laundering charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, while the conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of five years.

Mitchell pleaded not guilty. His trial is set for June 2014.

Several members of the Seneca Nation were in the courtroom to watch as Toohey told the judge, "I consider my life now a sinkhole of regret.”

The Seneca Tribal Council formally banished Toohey from their lands in 2010.

The 18-hole Hickory Stick course opened in June 2010.

Besides being once a lawyer, Toohey was a decorated Vietnam War veteran and a Democrat insider who become parliamentarian of the State Assembly.

Back in 2006, Judge Arcara sentenced him to a year in prison after he pleaded guilty to tax evasion.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Dec 03, 2013