The Buffalo News published a story on July 5 concerning Frank Parlato’s sentencing – which is currently scheduled to take place at 12:00 Noon on Monday, July 31st.
As character letters go, the ones for Frank Parlato Jr. come from about as diverse and devoted mix of supporters as can be found to weigh in on a criminal tax case.
An Albany woman recalled how he provided her a place to stay when she was on the run with her child from a cultlike group called Nxivm: “He saved our lives, literally.”
A disabled Vietnam War veteran said he “would have had to return to the streets” without Parlato’s mentorship.
An 82-year-old Niagara Falls woman living with her two German shepherd service dogs and her two parrots said he “has no need to keep in touch with me, but he does. That says a lot.”
The letters of support filed in U.S. District Court provide an interesting look into the life of the 68-year-old former real estate developer who publishes an opinion-based website in Niagara Falls.
People across the country extolled his past investigative work that helped expose Nxivm, a purported self-help organization near Albany whose leader was eventually sentenced to life in prison for sex trafficking and forced labor, among other charges. They also cited Parlato’s struggles during his nearly eight-year federal prosecution that led to an 18-count indictment, including fraud and money laundering charges, and an eventual plea to a single felony count of failing to file a tax form….
[The article goes on to discuss the case – which we will analyze in another post.]
‘He helps anyone’
Ahead of his sentencing on July 20, Parlato counts on 78 letters from his family, friends and supporters to help persuade the judge to keep him out of prison.
“They’re really different from so many different aspects of life and about so many different things that he’s done,” Greenman said. “They tell a better story than we can tell.”
A West Coast martial artist and fight choreographer under scrutiny after a Hollywood film said Parlato’s reporting put his reputation “in a true light.”
“He was like the father I never had,“ another woman wrote, recounting how Parlato counseled her, gave her a job and invited her to family dinners as she struggled to raise two children as a single mother.
Also among the letters is one from Parlato’s ex-wife, Deb Matte, who praised him as a good husband “who treated me well” despite “incompatibility issues.”
More than a decade after their divorce, she worked with him on the development project he’s most associated with, the One Niagara tourist center. Parlato had an ownership interest or managed the One Niagara building between 2004 and 2017. After taking over the mostly vacant office building, he filled in a 40-foot hole next to it that had become a blight.
“One Niagara went from nothing to probably one of the most, if not the most successful, retail venues in Niagara Falls,” Matte said in her letter.
But it’s the people he helped – not development projects – that she and the others mostly wrote about.
“He helps anyone who needs help unconditionally, no strings attached,” Matte wrote. “I’ve just honestly never met anyone like that. Never.”
That sentiment emerged as a common theme in the letters.
“Those letters are filled with acts of kindness, charity and benevolence to others less fortunate than him,” Paul Cambria Jr., his other defense attorney, said in a sentencing recommendation. “He has always been available for people in need. His guidance in counseling through the years to so many individuals perhaps tells more whom he is than from any other source.”
The unsupportive letters
The court should consider letters submitted by those other than Parlato’s supporters, the prosecutors replied when the judge asked them for input on how to handle the letters.
In his court filing Friday, Parlato said the letters are from individuals he wrote about in his investigative posts.
“The individuals may not have liked what I wrote about them, which resulted in the letters, but the information was true,” Parlato said….
The story refers to 78 letters of support. Here is a link to those letters.
Here are a few photographs of the development project, One Niagara, referenced in the story.