ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) - 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 week.
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 draft.
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.