Bills Williams’ new home windfall for scam victims
Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams has a new home, and
at least 53 new fans.
By closing on a $2 million deal to purchase a mansion in
suburban Buffalo, the Bills’ high-priced free-agent addition is
also helping a group of creditors recoup a portion of the $3.1
million they were cheated out of by the home’s former owner.
”It was a windfall,” said William F. Savino. He’s a
Buffalo-based attorney representing 53 people who had their money
taken by former personal injury lawyer Kenneth Bernas, who was
convicted in 2010 of larceny and identity theft.
Bernas, who has been disbarred and is serving a 2 1/3- to
seven-year jail sentence, used some of the money he stole to build
the five-bedroom, 9,000-plus square-foot, four-car garage home in
2005. He’s been ordered to repay $1.8 million.
Savino said his clients will get close to $500,000 from
Williams’ purchase, with the rest of the money going toward the
mortgage and other fees.
The Buffalo News first reported Williams’ purchase earlier this
Williams targeted buying the mansion shortly after signing a
six-year contract potentially worth $100 million with the Bills in
free agency in March. He’s one of the NFL’s premier pass-rushing
specialists, and spent his first six seasons with the Houston
Texans, who selected Williams with the No. 1 pick in the 2006
It’s unclear whether Williams was familiar with home’s former
owner’s legal troubles, but he was aware that he was purchasing the
home out of receivership. Williams wasn’t available for comment on
his new home, but had said earlier this week that he was in the
process of completing a purchase and planning to move in before the
start of training camp, which opens at the end of next month.
State judge John Michalek was credited by Savino for speeding up
the process to meet a deadline set by Williams.
The home, set on a five-acre lot, is not far from the Bills
facility and cost nearly $4 million to build. Williams was so
interested in buying the property that he exceeded the $1.99
million asking price to beat out several other offers.
Williams is an avid outdoorsman and also owns homes in Houston
and his native North Carolina.
”I didn’t know that anything like this would happen until I got
a call that Mario had an interest in the mansion,” Savino said.
”It’s good news for the victims. They didn’t deserve this from
someone they trusted.”
The proceeds from the sale means the victims will have been
repaid nearly $1 million, Savino said. And that doesn’t include the
$1 million the victims received from the New York State Lawyers
Fund for Client Protection.