|Reiter loads up George Wolf's truck with free fill... and away we go...
Lewiston NY- The Niagara Falls Reporter has learned that the NYS Comptroller's office, now conducting an audit in the Town of Lewiston, is focused on two things: Theft of gas by former Supervisor Steven L. Reiter and where more than $1.2 million went while Reiter controlled an LDC Corp. that was supposed to develop Joseph Davis Park.
The Reporter tried to reach Reiter over the weekend, offering him a variety of options for interviews.
He declined to return our repeated calls.
The Reporter has previously detailed that Reiter was caught on camera stealing gasoline on seven occasions during a nine week period in 2012, each time filling up three, five gallon gas containers for use in personal vehicles.
The Reporter estimates that during the last 14 years, Reiter may have stolen $25,000 worth of gasoline from Lewiston taxpayers.
He is suspected of stealing sewer pipes from the Sewer Department, picnic tables from the Highway Department, copper piping from Joe Davis Park and scrap metal from the Highway Department.
We learned that, while other towns sell their scrap metal, Reiter gave it away for free to George Wolf (a Lockport scrapper).
A snow plow went missing. A chainsaw, a trimmer and a weed whacker were found in Reiter's wife's tool shed.
In his defense, in November, Reiter made restitution of $500 for the 107 gallons of gas he was caught stealing by the FBI in 2012 and told the Reporter, in an earlier interview, "Do I feel like I abused my authority? No, not really. My honest opinion, I think we might have actually saved (the town) money."
Meantime, stories of Reiter keep flooding in by email and by phone to the Reporter. It seems every other person has a Reiter story and that his alleged stealing was an open secret throughout town. It was no secret that he was feared by most. Even today, people telling the story insist that their names not be mentioned, fearing retaliation by Reiter or other town officials.
Although Reiter has declined to tell his side of it, we are going to tell some of the stories we have been told, and leave it to the reader's discernment to determine whether the stories are true or not. Or if there is a hidden agenda.
Our invitation remains open to Reiter, including a mutually taped interview, which can be transcribed verbatim and posted on our website so he can be assured of not being misquoted or taken out of context.
In any event, here are a few of the stories we were told.
** Reiter was spotted, according to a source, carrying gas home and putting it in his mother's garage near her restaurant.
**One man recalled how Reiter, when he was in charge of sewer and water for the town, stole gravel and dumped it in his mother's restaurant's parking lot - some 22 years ago.
** Another story, coming from a well known businessman, is how Reiter dug a drainage ditch four feet deeper than plans called for. He filled excess dirt into trucks owned by George Wolf who, at the time, was demolishing houses in Niagara Falls and needed dirt to fill up basements.
"They were getting $400 for a truckload of dirt," said the source. "They took load after truckload. After the ditch was dug, stone was needed, and Reiter used to split the loads of gravel, 'one for you, two for me.'"
** Reiter was seen by witnesses stealing town stone, as he drove down Indian Hill in a town truck, and filled his late father's pole barn, just 2/10ths of a mile from town hall, on Rt. 104., with stolen stone.
"I got so damn mad you could see what they were doing," said one purported witness, who provided us with pictures. "I grabbed one of the officials at city hall and he didn't want to know from nothing. I took him outside and said, 'you see what that no good bastard is doing right now? He's stealing the stone."
** Reiter is alleged to have stolen pipe off jobs, and, because one homeowner caught him red handed on video tape, stealing 11 loads of stone, he threatened to go to the attorney general. The town, at taxpayer's expense, was forced to replace the stone and pipes he stole. But the matter was hushed up.
**On another occasion, 10 years ago, Reiter allegedly removed asphalt from a certain Republican leader's driveway and illegally dumped it behind the sewer plant. After the state got involved, the Republican leader was forced to reimburse the town for services on his property. The town kept the matter quiet.
**Of more recent vintage, another allegation is that Reiter had his personal vehicle, a gray, 2006 Dodge Dakota, fixed at Coppins Service Center, on Center St, and told the owner to send the bill to the town for payment. The owner, innocently enough, sent the bill, as instructed by the supervisor of the town. It was paid. This, if true, is a provable theft and within the statue of limitations. The comptroller's office is said to be aware of this alleged theft.
** The truck in question, by the way, had an interesting fate. Not long after it was allegedly repaired at taxpayer expense, on Saturday evening, Nov. 27, 2010, the Dodge Dakota was parked at a tavern called Tin Pan Alley.
Reiter went inside, but decided to leave the keys inside the car, along with his license, credit cards and purportedly $150 in cash and the doors unlocked.
Around 9 pm he went out and found his truck missing and reported it stolen.
By Monday, the vehicle was recovered at the Modern Disposal clay pits on Pletcher Road.
According to Lewiston Police Officer Alan Gansworth's official report, "Upon arrival, patrol found the vehicle burned out completely while stuck on a small clay hill….There was no evidence left behind by the driver of the vehicle."
The vehicle was towed by Coppins.
Reiter filed an insurance claim for his destroyed automobile. The insurance company, a source said, smelled a rat. After all, nothing was stripped from the car. It was just taken to a remote place and burnt after he left the keys in it?
Absent proof of insurance fraud, however, the company paid, and shortly thereafter, Reiter purchased a two seat sports car.
How much of these stories (and space allowed us to tell less than half of them) are true is anybody's guess. We reported them in part to demonstrate that Reiter stories are widespread in town, cover a significant period of time, and show a pattern. They came from a wide array of sources, most of whom were seemingly unrelated to each other.
When the Comptroller's investigation is completed, if there is a finding of missing gasoline or missing money, the case will likely be referred to the state Attorney General’s Office for possible prosecution.
More significant than gas in terms of dollars and cents, the comptroller's office is said to be taking a hard look at what was accomplished at Joe Davis: a partially paved parking lot, some grass seed, a few workers, a fuel tank filled, consulting and design fees, against more than $1.2 million in expenditures.
Where did the money go?
Was it all legitimate?
Time will tell.