Tonawanda News

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January 11, 2013

Contractor avoids prison for theft

Tonawanda News — LOCKPORT — A Barker contractor who took more than $500,000 from an 90-year-old man will spend the next five years on probation. And possibly longer to pay back restitution. 

Kenneth C. Heitzenrater, 50, Hartland Road, will pay back the $550,686 in restitution at a rate of $1,300 a month, following sentencing Thursday in Niagara County Court. He was looking at a maximum of four years in state prison.

Niagara County Judge Sara S. Farkas kept Heitzenrater out of prison because she said he needed to work so to pay back the restitution amount. She warned him that she still could send him to prison if he doesn’t pay back the money.

Heitzenrater said he’ll have a hard time doing that given the publicity his case has generated and the detrimental effect it’s had on his business.

”I pretty much lost everything because of the newspaper. My construction business is practically nothing. I got to find other work. I don’t know how I’m going to find a job, being a felon,” Heitzenrater said.

Farkas told Heitzenrater he would just have to do any work he could find.

Heitzenrater has signed a civil judgment, acknowledging that he owes $624,002 to the victim. If there’s a default, it all becomes due, said William Ilecki, the victim’s civil attorney.

Assistant District Attorney Heather A. DeCastro said Heitzenrater drew the attention of Barker Police a couple of years ago by bragging openly in the village that he was a millionaire. The department started investigating and got the District Attorney’s Office involved shortly thereafter.

DeCastro gave a PowerPoint presentation Thursday, which showed photos of the victim’s modest lifestyle. That was in strong contrast to Heitzenrater’s, which DeCastro showed purchases including a Chevy Camaro, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles and businesses Heitzenrater started.

In October, Heitzenrater pleaded guilty to fourth-degree larceny, a class E felony.

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