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Federal agents seize materials from City Hall development office

Nick Lippa

Agents with the FBI, IRS and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development were at Buffalo City Hall Wednesday conducting a search of the offices of the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency.

"Our understanding is that court authorized activity has taken place at a BURA office. At this time we have no further information," said city spokesman Michael DeGeorge, in a statement.

The probe reportedly involves an investigation into public corruption. Agents were stationed outside Room 315 of City Hall, where the Office of Strategic Planning is located.

An FBI spokesperson told WBFO agents talked to people at the BURA office, but said the purpose was for information gathering and those people are not necessarily suspects in a criminal investigation.

No arrests have been made. Late Tuesday afternoon agents wheeled out three large carts holding boxes of materials seized from the office, covered with a blue tarp.

The OSP, headed by Executive Director Brendan Mehaffey, coordinates with the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency and the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation, two development agencies. BURA was started in 1966 and disperses federal funds to impoverished neighborhoods.

“The majority of affordable housing going up, BURA has had a hand in it in some way, so that’s its main mission. But there is a loan program, there is a program for emergency repairs on differently-abled people’s homes who qualify, and then some technical assistance for developers, especially if they’re doing affordable housing,” Common Council President Darius Pridgen explained.

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Bruce speculated on what federal authorities could be looking for.

“All of the bank records and accounting records and whatnot of this Urban Renewal Agency. Then they’ll be looking probably at the bank accounts and tax returns of the people who work there. And then obviously people got money from that organization, so they’ll start looking at them and they’ll start looking for any transaction that looks a little odd, that smell," Bruce said

This story is developing and will be updated.