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Toys R Us suspect pleads guilty to charges

BLASDELL — United States Attorney William Hochul Jr. announced that Bernard Grucza, 38, of Elma pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a person subject to a domestic violence order of protection, before Chief U.S. District Court Judge William Skretny. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Lynch, who is handling the case, said that the defendant made false written statements to Big Daddy Guns, in order to obtain a Ruger .380 caliber pistol. The defendant possessed the pistol between July 13 and Oct. 16, 2013, despite being the subject of a restraining order issued by the Elma Town Court.

In addition, Grucza made false statements to special agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that he had destroyed the pistol and thrown out the parts when he had not, Lynch said.

As part of his plea, the defendant admitted to having stolen more than $200,000 worth of merchandise and cash from his employer, Toys R Us. Grucza then sold the merchandise on eBay™. The plea agreement require the defendant to pay restitution to Toys R Us, in the amount of $223,000.

The plea is the result of an investigation by the ATF, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Thomas Cannon; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Erie County Sheriff’s Department, under the direction of Sheriff Timothy Howard and the Hamburg Police Department, under the direction of Michael Williams.

Sentencing is scheduled for 11 a.m. on July 23.

Grucza had pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of Toys R Us Assistant Manager Lawrence Wells III on April 7, before Judge Penny Wolfgang, and had waived his right to appeal his conviction. He admitted to stabbing Wells with a knife last June. He is scheduled to be sentenced for that crime on May 19.

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