NIAGARA FALLS -- Mayor Paul A. Dyster was in Albany on Wednesday for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's State of the State speech.
But as he was finding out specifics about the governor's pledge to offer $1 billion to companies who build in the Buffalo area, a familiar scene was taking place back home:
Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for the second time in two-and-a-half years, were showing up at Niagara Falls City Hall.
Wednesday's appearance centers around tax records from the One Niagara building, which used to house the offices of the Occidental Chemical Co. and has been known by locals for years as the "flashcube."
The building has been a source of controversy for years, especially after plans for an underground aquarium stalled, leaving a large hole in front of the property. The latest issue centers around a tax dispute with the city -- first by Buffalo developer Frank Parlato, who owned the building until 2010, and now by Lewiston attorney Paul A. Grenga and his ownership group.
The city claims Grenga and his group owe $1.7 million in property taxes, interest and penalties assessed by the city, its school district and Niagara County. Grenga claims the building was unfairly assessed.
Dyster speculated the investigation had something to do with the unpaid back taxes, while One Niagara spokesman Tony Farina said the FBI's probe was "totally unrelated" to the building's current owners. He confirmed that FBI and IRS agents interviewed the current owners Wednesday.
When agents showed up to deliver a grand jury subpoena for the tax records at City Hall, they probably didn't have a hard time finding the place. Agents have investigated officials there for years, most recently (and pictured left) in a July 2009 raid that led to felony charges against Falls plumber John J. Gross Jr.
The next year, a different federal investigation landed former Mayor Vince Anello in jail. He was recently released from federal prison.
Details about the latest FBI investigation were scarce Wednesday night, but Dyster said federal agents requested tax payment records from One Niagara dating back to 2004.
"We're happy to comply, and should be able to do so swiftly," Dyster said.
--News Niagara Reporter Charlie Specht