Wednesday, September 23, 2020

State Senator Gustavo Rivera Honors Evonne Capers as the 2020 Woman of Distinction for the 33rd Senate District


Held at the New York Botanical Gardens, the ceremony recognized Ms. Capers long-standing leadership in Senator Rivera's district 

At a small ceremony at the New York Botanical Gardens, State Senator Gustavo Rivera presented Evonne Capers with the 2020 Women of Distinction award. Each year, the New York State Senate honors outstanding women across New York State who are leaving an indelible mark within their communities while setting an example for future generations of New Yorkers. 

Ms. Capers moved to the Bronx at a young age where she served as a proud postal worker for 25 years until her retirement. Throughout the years, Ms. Capers became an active member in her community. She started by joinign the Twin Parks NE II Tenant Association and eventually became its President due to her steadfast leadership and determination. She then joined the Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA) New Settlement, a Bronx-based not-for-profit with a 23-year track record of revitalizing neighborhoods, building community, and facilitating positive youth development. She also became a member of Tenants and Neighbors, a grassroots organization that helps tenants build, protect, and access affordable housing opportunities. In June 2014, Ms. Capers joined Community Board 6. Since then, she has worked on several of the Community Board's committees, served in multiple positions, and now proudly serves as its Chair. 

"I am proud to present Ms.Evonne Capers with this year's New York State Senate Woman of Distinction award for the 33rd Senate District. Ms. Capers has vocally advocated to protect affordable housing in our neighborhoods while fighting for tenants' rights, and as Community Board 6 's current Chairperson, she continues to selflessly build bridges to solve the most pressing issues impacting our communtiy. Ms. Capers is an integral member of my district and I am incredibly grateful to count with her leadership and support. The Bronx is a better place because of her hard work," said State Senator Gustavo Rivera.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez Calls for Increased Funding for Schools and Childcare Across New York


 Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez released a statement advocating for additional school funding, as schools begin to re-open despite parent and teacher concerns around COVID-19 safety protocols and staffing in many of our cities schools.

"After hearing from parents and school staff across the district, it’s clear that there’s significant evidence to suggest that schools are not safe to re-open. Poorly ventilated and unsanitized classrooms, ambiguous or ineffective health screening, COVID testing and contact tracing protocols, and severe staffing shortages, on top of COVID cases in at least 55 schools, all indicate we are not ready to re-open. At the same time, working parents desperately need relief from full-time childcare and work. But we do not actually have to choose between unsafe schools and childcare for parents. I’m calling on Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo to raise revenue to fund universal childcare programs, significantly increase staffing at schools, and fund the infrastructure improvements, including ventilation, that our school buildings need to be safe. In June, the Mayor pushed for a budget that cut more than $700M from schools, but cut almost nothing meaningful from NYPD. The state still owes NYC schools $3.9B in Foundation Aid funding. We are in this situation because we have balanced our budgets on the backs of students for decades. 

Staff at NYC schools have worked tirelessly since the start of the pandemic to provide the best education they can with very few resources. They deserve all of our gratitude and appreciation, but they also deserve the resources they need to succeed. Our kids and communities deserve for us to get this right."


In a time of deep budget cuts due to a great loss of revenue, we have to ask Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez this question.

Where do you expect the mayor and governor to find the extra money needed when every area in the budgets of the city and state are being asked to cut spending?

Perhaps the needed monies can come from the federal government in any one of the many funding streams already available?

Bronx Progressives Virtual Meeting - Wednesday, September 330th 2020 at 6:00pm


Join Fellow Progressives for our September Meeting!

When: Wednesday, September 30th, 6pm
Greetings Bronx Progressives Members!
How are you all? Hope this email finds you all well, and that your loved ones are healthy and safe during the pandemic. As I write this, I am reminded that several long months have passed by since we’ve last held a meeting. So much has happened since not only in our own personal lives, but as a society. This health crisis has changed us forever!
With that said, Bronx Progressives has been on hiatus since the pandemic broke out, and because of other internal challenges we’ve been facing as a group. At this moment we find ourselves in a very difficult and painful situation of deciding what is the future of Bronx Progressives. Do we disband it or create a plan of action to reactivate the group? 
Join us, Wednesday, September 30th at 6pm, to take part in this crucial discussion about the future of Bronx Progressives. Your feedback and participation are crucial!
We will also have a special guest joining us. Sochie Nnaemeka, Working Families Party NYS Director, will be joining us to chat about the upcoming elections, and the Working Families Party.
We will also discuss the upcoming election on November 3, and how to plan your vote.
When: Wednesday, September 30th at 6pm

***This meeting is ADA accessible and is a safe space for all races, religions, sexes, gender identities, ages and beliefs***



 Mayor de Blasio today announced the City will expand furloughs to all managerial and non-represented City employees. This announcement expands on the announcement made last week of a week of furloughs for Mayor’s Office employees between October and March. These expanded furloughs will impact nine thousand employees and save $21 million.

“I know this is difficult news for the dedicated public servants of our City,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “But we are forced to make these difficult decisions as we face a massive budget shortfall with no help in sight. We need Washington and Albany to step up. We need a federal stimulus and we need long term borrowing.”


The City is facing an enormous budget challenge, a $9 billion toll on City revenue, and has already cut $7 billion from the budget between February and the Fiscal Year 2021 Adopted Budget announced in June. The City continues to work with labor groups to find savings and prevent layoffs.


The Administration has made historic moves to make the City fiscally responsible and prepared for adversity, including:

  • Increased reserve levels every year and increased general reserve to record levels
  • Created first ever Capital Stabilization Reserve
  • Achieved billions of dollars in savings every year, even when revenue was strong
  • At the height of the pandemic, achieved the largest savings plan of this Administration ($5.8 billion in FY20 and FY21 and $1.7 billion recurring)
  • Saw our bond rating increased last year due to strong fiscal management
  • Created New York City’s first-ever Rainy Day Fund.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces $11.5 Million Settlement With Biotech Testing Company For Fraudulent Billing And Kickback Practices


Bio-Reference Laboratories, Inc. Admits to Improperly Billing Government for Hospital Inpatient Testing and Donating Cost of Medical Software to Physicians Based on Volume of Business

 Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Scott J. Lampert, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (“HHS OIG”), and Leigh-Alistair Barzey, Special Agent in Charge of the Northeast Field Office of the U.S. Department of Defense - Office of Inspector General’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service (“DCIS”), announced today an $11.5 million settlement of a False Claims Act case against BIO-REFERENCE LABORATORIES, INC. (“BRL”), a New Jersey-based biotechnology company that provides molecular and diagnostic tests.  The settlement resolves claims that from 2009 to 2012, BRL fraudulently billed federal healthcare programs for testing conducted on hospital inpatients that should have been billed to the hospitals instead, and that BRL knowingly donated the cost of electronic medical records software to physicians’ offices throughout the country based solely on the volume of business generated by those practices, in violation of the False Claims Act and the federal Anti-Kickback Statute.  Under the settlement approved by U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels, BRL will pay $11,500,960.00 to the United States to resolve the fraudulent billing and kickback claims.  BRL also made extensive admissions regarding the company’s conduct.  

Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “Bio-Reference Labs received millions of dollars from federal healthcare programs through its fraudulent billing and kickback schemes.  The company knowingly and recklessly billed the government for tests it should have billed to the hospitals instead, and provided kickbacks to doctors in order to induce them to order more tests.  Our Office will continue to hold healthcare providers accountable when they engage in fraud and other illegal conduct.” 

HHS Special Agent in Charge Scott Lampert said:  “The irresponsible behavior by Bio-Reference Labs compromised the integrity of the Medicare program, and wasted millions of taxpayer dollars.  Working with our law enforcement partners, HHS-OIG will continue to ensure that healthcare providers that do business with federally funded health care programs do so in an honest fashion.”

DCIS Special Agent in Charge Leigh-Alistair Barzey said:  “Fraudulent billing and kickback schemes threaten the integrity of TRICARE, the Defense Department's healthcare system for military members and their families.  Today’s settlement is the result of a joint effort and it demonstrates the DCIS’s ongoing commitment to work with the USAO-SDNY and HHS-OIG to investigate and prosecute companies that seek to fraudulently profit at the expense of federal health care plans.” 

As alleged in the Complaint filed in Manhattan federal court:

Fraudulent Billing Practices & Kickback Scheme

From 2009 through 2012, BRL knowingly and willfully billed Medicare and Tricare for certain testing performed for hospital inpatients that should have been paid by the hospitals themselves.  As a result, BRL received reimbursement from Medicare and Tricare for tests that the federally funded programs had already paid for, because hospitals receive payments for all items and services provided to the patient under the inpatient prospective payment system (“IPPS”), unless an exemption applies, which is inapplicable here.

In addition, in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute, BRL knowingly and willfully offered and paid remuneration, in the form of a percentage of the cost of electronic medical records software, to physicians based on the volume of business generated by those physicians in order to induce them to use BRL’s services.  The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits medical service providers, such as testing facilities, from paying any remuneration to providers in order to induce them to refer medical services.

As part of the settlement approved today, BRL admitted, acknowledged, and accepted responsibility for the following conduct:

            Inpatient Testing Claims

  • From 2009 through 2012, BRL billed Medicare and Tricare for certain testing (i) listed on the Clinical Lab Fee Schedule (“CLFS”) and (ii) performed on beneficiaries who were hospital inpatients at the time of service. 
  • Specifically, from 2009-2012, approximately 2.51% of all of BRL’s Medicare and Tricare billing originating from hospitals consisted of testing performed on hospital inpatients and listed on the CLFS.
  • For example, from 2009-2012, BRL did not bill Triad of Alabama/Flowers Hospital in Dothan, Alabama (“Triad”), for any inpatient testing.  As a result, from 2009-2012, BRL improperly billed Medicare and Tricare for approximately 2.51% of all testing BRL performed for Triad and its associated pathology practices on behalf of Medicare or Tricare beneficiaries.
  • In 2009, BRL’s requisition form – the form BRL provided to hospitals to order tests for their patients – did not contain any place for a hospital to indicate whether the patient was an inpatient or an outpatient.  But as of at least January 2010, BRL management had a clear understanding of the necessity to bill hospitals – and not Medicare or Tricare – for testing performed on hospital inpatients and listed on the CLFS.  Indeed, on January 27, 2010, the Director of Genpath Accounts Receivable wrote to management, “I’m afraid that we can end up billing Medicare for hospital patients.”  Nevertheless, the requisition forms remained the same, and through at least 2012, BRL billed Medicare and Tricare for hospital inpatient testing listed on the CLFS.

            Software Cost Donations

  • In addition, from 2009 through 2012, BRL provided a percentage of the cost of electronic medical records transition software (“EMR Software”) to physicians’ offices based on the volume of business generated by those offices. 
  • Specifically, from 2009 through 2012, BRL engaged in a practice – at the direction of its management – entitled the “3 to 1 calculation,” meaning that BRL conditioned the provision of payment for EMR Software to physicians’ offices on whether a physician’s office would generate revenue equal to three times the value of the EMR Software BRL provided. 
  • For example, on January 24, 2009, a BRL employee, in an email to BRL management, applied the 3 to 1 calculation to a particular physician’s office and suggested that BRL provide the payment for EMR Software, but noted, “You find the legal way to say that.  I don’t feel they will make us put it in writing.” 
  • Similarly, on January 7, 2011, BRL management evaluated a BRL salesperson’s request for payment for EMR Software to a particular physician’s office, and directed that salesperson to “[b]uild volume to meet 3x rule.”
  • During this timeframe, BRL provided payment for EMR Software based on this formula to 69 separate physicians’ offices. 

BRL agreed to pay a total of $11,500,960.00 to resolve these claims: $1,396,386 to resolve the Inpatient Testing Claims and $10,104,574 to resolve the Software Cost Donation claims.  OPKO Health Inc. (“OPKO”), which merged with BRL in 2015, will serve as guarantor of BRL’s obligation to pay the settlement amount.

In connection with the filing of the lawsuit and settlement, the Government joined two private whistleblower lawsuits that had previously been filed under seal pursuant to the False Claims Act. 

Ms. Strauss thanked HHS-OIG and DCIS for their assistance with the case. 

The case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Frauds Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Byars and Ellen Blain are in charge of the case.

Antiquities Dealers Arrested For Fraud Scheme


Erdal Dere and Faisal Khan Defrauded Antiquities Buyers and Brokers by Using False Provenances to Offer and Sell Antiquities.

  Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today the unsealing of an Indictment in Manhattan federal court charging ERDAL DERE, the owner and operator of the Manhattan-based antiquities gallery Fortuna Fine Arts Ltd. (“Fortuna”), and his longtime business associate and co-conspirator, FAISAL KHAN, with engaging in a years-long scheme to defraud buyers and brokers in the antiquities market by using false provenances to offer and sell antiquities.  DERE is also charged with aggravated identity theft for his misappropriation of the identities of deceased collectors who were falsely represented to be the prior owners of the antiquities.

Federal law enforcement agents arrested DERE this morning at his residence in New York, New York.  KHAN was also arrested this morning at his residence in New Jersey.  Both DERE and KHAN will be presented later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn.      

Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “The integrity of the legitimate market in antiquities rests on the accuracy of the provenance provided by antiquities dealers, which prevents the sale of stolen and looted antiquities that lack any legitimate provenance.  As alleged, Erdal Dere and Faisal Khan compromised that integrity, and defrauded buyers and brokers of the antiquities they sold, by fabricating the provenance of those antiquities, and concealing their true history.  Now, thanks to the FBI’s Art Crime Team, Dere and Khan are in custody and facing prosecution for their alleged crimes.”

FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “Antiquities and art allow us to see a piece of history from a world that existed hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of years ago. As alleged, the men who trafficked in fake documents and used dead people’s names to bolster their lies had no care for the precious items they sold and no regard for the people they defrauded.  We are asking anyone who may have dealt with Mr. Dere or Mr. Khan to contact us at  You may have been a victim of their alleged scheme.”

According to the allegations in the Indictment[1] unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:

From approximately 2015 through September 2020, DERE and KHAN engaged in a scheme to defraud buyers and brokers in the antiquities market by providing false information regarding the provenance of antiquities they offered for sale.  Specifically, DERE and KHAN falsely claimed that various deceased collectors of antiquities were the prior owners of items being sold and offered for sale, in order to conceal the true provenance of the antiquities and the sources from which Fortuna had acquired them. 

DERE communicated the false provenances featuring the names of deceased collectors to buyers and brokers.  DERE also fabricated documents purporting to evidence the prior ownership of antiquities by the deceased collectors, and provided them to buyers and brokers, including to an auction house in New York, New York in connection with a December 2015 antiquities auction. 

KHAN assisted Fortuna in finding buyers for items from its pre-existing inventory and acquired new items, primarily in Asia, that KHAN worked with Fortuna to sell to collectors in the United States and internationally.  With KHAN’s knowledge, DERE provided false provenance information to potential buyers of items that KHAN had personally located and acquired, listing deceased collectors as the long-time owners of items which KHAN and DERE well knew had not been owned by those collectors.

DERE, 50, of New York, New York, was charged in the Indictment with wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.  The wire fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum prison term of 20 years.  The wire fraud charge carries a maximum prison term of 20 years.  The aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory sentence of two years in prison.

KHAN, 47, of Flanders, New Jersey, was charged in the Indictment with wire fraud conspiracy and wire fraud.  The wire fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum prison term of 20 years.  The wire fraud charge carries a maximum prison term of 20 years.

The statutory maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentence will be determined by the judge.     

Ms. Strauss praised the investigative work of the FBI/NYPD Joint Major Theft Task Force/Art Crime Team.  In addition, Ms. Strauss thanked authorities in Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, and France, as well as the United States Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs of the Department’s Criminal Division, the FBI’s Legal Attaché in Frankfurt, Germany, and the New York City Police Department for their assistance.    

This case is being handled by the Office’s Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprises Unit.  Assistant United States Attorney Jessica Greenwood is in charge of the prosecution.

To report information related to this case, please contact the FBI’s Art Crime Team at

The allegations in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 [1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment and the descriptions of the Indictment set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.



Victim Was College-Bound Basketball Player 

 Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark today announced that a Bronx man has been indicted on second-degree Murder and additional charges in the death of Brandon Hendricks, a 17-year-old high school basketball player who was shot by a stray bullet. 

 District Attorney Clark said, “The defendant allegedly callously fired into a group of people and ended the life of a young, promising teen. Brandon Hendricks had just graduated James Monroe High School and was set to play college basketball when he was killed on a Morris Heights street. Since his death, Brandon’s mother has channeled her grief into ardently speaking out against gun violence in our community.” 

 District Attorney Clark said the defendant, Najhim Luke, 22, of 1979 Walton Avenue, was arraigned today on second-degree Murder, first-degree Manslaughter and two counts of seconddegree Criminal Possession of a Weapon before Bronx Supreme Court Justice Lester Adler. Remand was continued and the defendant is due back in court on December 2, 2020.

 According to the investigation, on the night of June 28, 2020 at 1726 Davidson Avenue, the defendant fired shots at a group of people who had gathered for a barbecue. One of the shots struck Hendricks in his back. He was taken to St. Barnabas Hospital and was pronounced dead less than an hour after the shooting. The defendant fled the scene and was arrested on July 6, 2020 

 District Attorney Clark thanked Detective Francis Orlando of the Bronx Homicide Squad and Detective Adam Acosta of the 46th precinct.

 An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.