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Lawyer pleads guilty to embezzlement

Thomas J. Barnes, 55, of Buffalo, has pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Chief Judge William M. Skretny to a felony charge of embezzlement from an employee pension benefit plan.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine or both.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango, Barnes, a lawyer, admitted that he embezzled and personally used money belonging to the Franbilt Inc. 401(k) Plan. On April 15, 2005, the defendant purchased Franbilt, which was an industrial design and fabrication company in Lockport. On Jan. 27, 2006, the defendant became a trustee of the plan, responsible for holding in trust and investing plan assets for the sole benefit of the plan participants and their beneficiaries.

From Feb. 2, 2006 until Franbilt closed in January of 2007, the defendant embezzled $69,894.51.

Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 1.