Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Chinese National Arrested for Allegedly Acting Within the United States as an Unregistered Agent of the People’s Republic of China

  A Chinese national was arrested in Chicago today for allegedly acting within the United States as an illegal agent of the People’s Republic of China.

JI CHAOQUN, 27, a Chinese citizen residing in Chicago, worked at the direction of a high-level intelligence officer in the Jiangsu Province Ministry of State Security, a provincial department of the Ministry of State Security for the People’s Republic of China, according to a criminal complaint and affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago.  Ji was tasked with providing the intelligence officer with biographical information on eight individuals for possible recruitment by the JSSD, the complaint states.  The individuals included Chinese nationals who were working as engineers and scientists in the United States, some of whom were U.S. defense contractors, according to the complaint.
The complaint charges Ji with one count of knowingly acting in the United States as an agent of a foreign government without prior notification to the Attorney General.  He will make an initial court appearance today at 4:00 p.m. CDT before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael T. Mason in Courtroom 2266 of the Everett M. Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in Chicago.
The arrest and complaint were announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the U.S. Department of Justice; and Jeffrey S. Sallet, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The U.S. Army 902nd Military Intelligence Group provided valuable assistance.  The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Shoba Pillay of the Northern District of Illinois, and Senior Trial Attorney Heather Schmidt of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.
According to the complaint, Ji was born in China and arrived in the United States in 2013 on an F1 Visa, for the purpose of studying electrical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.  In 2016, Ji enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves as an E4 Specialist under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, which authorizes the U.S. Armed Forces to recruit certain legal aliens whose skills are considered vital to the national interest.  In his application to participate in the MAVNI program, Ji specifically denied having had contact with a foreign government within the past seven years, the complaint states.  In a subsequent interview with a U.S. Army officer, Ji again failed to disclose his relationship and contacts with the intelligence officer, the charge alleges.
The public is reminded that a complaint is not evidence of guilt.  The defendant is presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  The charge in the complaint is punishable by a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.  The statutory maximum penalty is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.


Man Charged With Murder; He and Girlfriend Charged with Mutilating Body and Discarding Remains in Bronx Parks

  Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark today announced the indictment of two defendants in connection with the murder and dismemberment of a Bronx woman. 

 District Attorney Clark said, “In a series of horrifying acts, the victim was fatally beaten and her body was dismembered. In the ultimate degradation of a human being, her remains were put in garbage bags and discarded in two public parks. The defendants stand accused of conduct that is beyond the pale.” 

 District Attorney Clark said Daquan Wheeler, 31, was indicted on second-degree Murder, first-degree Manslaughter, second-degree Criminal Facilitation, and fourth-degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon. Ciara Martinez, 30, was indicted on second-degree Criminal Facilitation and first-degree Hindering Prosecution. Both defendants were indicted on Concealment of a Human Corpse, Tampering with Physical Evidence, and fourth-degree and fifth-degree Conspiracy. They were arraigned today before Bronx Supreme Court Justice George Villegas and remand was continued. Wheeler is due back in court on January 8, 2019 and Martinez is due back on December 20, 2018. 

  According to the investigation, on August 22, 2018 at 1006 Longfellow Avenue, where the defendants were living in an apartment, Wheeler allegedly struck the victim, Lisa Marie Velasquez, 25, in the head with a hammer, causing her death. Velasquez had gone to the apartment to aid Martinez, who was fighting with Wheeler. The defendants allegedly moved the victim’s body from the bedroom to the bathroom and cleaned the bedroom to conceal the murder. Martinez and Wheeler then allegedly placed their clothes and Velasquez’s clothes in garbage bags and took them to a park nearby, where they dumped them in the water.

  According to the investigation, the defendants then went to a hardware store and bought garbage bags and a machete. They allegedly cut up the victim’s body and placed the parts in bags, and placed some of the bags in the water off Barretto Point Park. Wheeler and Martinez then got a van and retrieved the other bags from the apartment and took them to Crotona Park, where they left them. The defendants then went back to the apartment and cleaned and painted the interior of the residence, in an effort to conceal the crime.

  On August 24, 2018, a city Parks Department worker found the bags containing Velasquez’s remains in Crotona Park and on August 28, 2018, people visiting Barretto Point Park discovered the bags containing the rest of her remains. They were matched to Velasquez, who had been reported missing.

 District Attorney Clark thanked NYPD Detective Sasha Brugal of the 42nd Precinct Squad, NYPD Detective Dominic Robinson of the Bronx Homicide Squad and the NYPD Crime Scene Unit for their work on the case.

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

New Comptroller Stringer Report: Options for Working New Yorkers Vanishing as City Lost Over One Million Affordable Apartments Since 2005

  New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer today released an updated analysis that reveals the alarming decline of affordable apartments for New Yorkers since 2005. The report, “The Gap is Still Growing: New York City’s Continuing Housing Affordability Challenge” builds off of a 2014 analysis released by the Comptroller and shows that as hundreds of thousands of new residents move to the City – not only has the total number of units failed to keep up, but the alarming drop in affordable and rent-regulated units has accelerated, with over one million affordable apartments leaving the market since 2005. This dynamic is leaving working New Yorkers with fewer affordable rental units and is fueling a growing affordable housing crisis.
Key findings from the report include:
  • Since 2005, New York City experienced a net loss of over one million apartments renting for $900 or less.
  • At the same time, the number apartments renting for $2,700 or more jumped four-fold, replacing many lost low-rent units.
  • A large portion of the decline in affordable housing comes from the erosion of rent-stabilized units, of which the city has lost 88,518 units since 2005 – more than the entire addition of new rental housing over the same period.
  • All rent figures are in inflation-adjusted 2017 dollars, further emphasizing the rising cost of renting an apartment in New York City.
“Our city is losing low-rent apartments every day, and it’s putting whole communities at risk. We have an affordable housing shortage – and this report shows how quickly the loss of affordable housing has accelerated in the last decade,” said Comptroller Stringer. “Behind these one million lost units, are countless New Yorkers – families, seniors, students and immigrants – who are working harder than ever to put a roof over their heads. We can’t let the entrance fee to the city become a luxury condo, or we will stop being the city we know and love. As our City’s economy and population continues to expand, we need to use all the tools we can to protect our communities. Lawmakers in Albany must act swiftly to eliminate vacancy decontrol and pass other common-sense rent regulation reform that will preserve our affordable housing stock and keep New York accessible for working families.”
“The Upstate/Downstate Housing Alliance is pleased to stand with NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer as he presents a report about the extreme loss of housing that is affordable for low income New Yorkers.  Across New York City, half of low income renters pay more than 50% of their income in rent.  I will say it again, tens of thousands of New Yorkers are a paycheck or emergency away from homelessness.  With the weakening of the rent laws, lack of universal rent control, and the ability of landlords of unregulated apartments to evict tenants at whim, we are raising our voices to stress the urgent need for a course correction,” said Delsenia Glover, of the Upstate/Downstate Housing Alliance’s #HousingJusticeForAll campaign.  “We are in the worse homeless crisis this state has seen since the Great Depression – there are 63,000 people sleeping in shelters each night in this city and 89,000 across the state. The Upstate Downstate Housing Alliance commends Comptroller Stringer for providing the data that shows that the time has come to put power back in the hands of the people and demand that our state legislature fix this massive crisis.”
“We are in the largest housing crisis since the Great Depression. While landlords are gutting protections for tenants, Comptroller Stringer’s report shows we are seeing massive losses of much needed affordable housing. We need Albany to pass Universal Rent Control to protect every tenant in New York,” said Jonathan Westin, Executive Director of New York Communities for Change.
“As the Comptroller’s report makes clear, New York’s rent stabilized housing stock is in serious jeopardy and Albany must act immediately,” said Judith Goldiner, Attorney-In-Charge of the Law Reform Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “This entails eliminating landlord loopholes, vacancy decontrol and the vacancy bonus, and reforming our state’s broken preferential rent system. The Legal Aid Society thanks Comptroller Stringer for bringing attention to an issue that impacts thousands of poor New Yorkers each day.”
“As he has so many times in the past, Comptroller Stringer is shining a light on just how great the need is for affordable housing in New York City,” said Jonathan Furlong, Director of Organizing at Housing Conservation Coordinators. “HCC is proud to stand with groups from the Upstate/Downstate Housing Alliance as we begin to mobilize for the renewal and strengthening of the Rent Laws in 2019,” he said.
“The city’s massive drop in affordable housing is not news to communities in north Brooklyn. Renters and communities of color have acutely suffered, while developers and landlords have benefitted immensely. CUFFH is proud to stand with Comptroller Stringer and support the Upstate/Downstate Housing Alliance’s campaign for much-needed legislative action toward universal rent control and housing justice for all youth,” said Charlie Dulik, CUFFH Youth Organizer.
“Truly affordable housing is paramount in retaining NYC residents in a time when real estate speculation and hyper gentrification is at an all time high,” said Mychal Johnson, co-founding member of South Bronx Unite and board member of the South Bronx CLT, Mott Haven-Port Morris Community Land Stewards. “Our communities can not afford the ‘affordable housing’ that is being created.”
Further findings in the updated report include:
Stark Shifts in the Housing Market
Since 2005, the rental market landscape has shifted from one predominantly consisting of lower-cost units to a market dominated by middle, and, even more so, by high-rent apartments.

  • In 2017, apartments renting for $900 or less constituted just 20 percent of all rentals, down from 74 percent of total rental apartments in 2005.
  • At the same time, the number of apartments renting for more than $2,700 shot up from just 2.7 percent of all apartments in 2005, to 13.9 percent by 2017.
Erosion of Rent-Stabilized Housing Fuels Affordability Crisis
Contributing to this broad shift toward higher cost housing over this period was a continued erosion in the inventory of rent-stabilized housing.

  • The city experienced a net loss of 88,518 units of rent-stabilized housing between 2005 and 2017.
  • More stabilized units were removed from the inventory than were added in every year except 2017, when a large number of rental units were stabilized after the renewal of the 421-a program that provides tax exemptions for constructing affordable housing.
  • High-rent vacancy deregulation – which occurs when a vacant rent-stabilized apartment legally surpasses the threshold amount of regulated rent – was the biggest contributor to the loss of rent-stabilized housing since 2005.
  • Higher thresholds for vacancy decontrol – as described above – which rose from $2,000 to $2,500 in 2011, and to $2,700 in 2015 have helped slow down the high-speed disappearance of rent-regulated units in recent years.
Subsidized Households Were Not Immune to Upward Rent Pressure
  • For Section 8 voucher holders, rent growth outpaced income growth by a rate of 3-to-1, as average contract rents increased by 29.9 percent while average household incomes rose by just 8.7 percent.
Comptroller Stringer is calling on Albany lawmakers to act swiftly on a package of rent-reform measures including eliminating vacancy decontrol, reforming major capital improvements, reforming individual apartment increases, reforming preferential rents, and ending the 20% vacancy bonus on rent stabilized apartments.
To read the full report, click here.

Borough President Diaz Jr. and Councilman Diaz Sr. Visit PS 567 The Linden Tree School

  PS 127 in Parkchester was built in 1953, and has evolved into MS 127 and PS 567. MS 127 and PS 567 are also known as the School for Global Leaders and Innovative Studies, as well as the Linden Tree Elementary School. The three story building has one floor for the elementary school, and two floors for the middle school. There is also one classroom for Pre-k children. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and the local councilman who just happens to be his father Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr. visited PS 567 to check on the investments the borough president has made at the school. New Smartboards and laptop computers were a recent addition to PS 567 by BP Diaz Jr. Principal Lisa DeBonis, her staff, parents, and the students welcomed both the Borough President and the local Councilman. 

  As the Borough President and Councilman toured PS 567 they went from room to room speaking to students who were not shy to answer them, and have a few questions of their own for the elected officials. The BP and Councilman finally arrived at the Family Homework Lab to see how family and students can work together helping the children do their homework. The ribbon cutting and other photos are below.

Above - Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. points to the local councilman he brought with him to see PS 567 who just happens to be his father Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr.
Below - Both the BP and Councilman are holding gift bags that were given to them by the students.

Above - BP Diaz stands by one of the lap top computer storage areas which are in each classroom at PS 567 that were bought with BP discretionary funds.
Below - (L - R) PS 567 Principal Ms. Lisa De Bonis, BP Diaz Jr., Assistant Principal Ms. Jamie Sorhiando, Parent Coordinator Alison Walsh, and Councilman Diaz Sr. stand in front of a new Smartboard. 

Above - A group photo with students, parents, staff, and the two elected officials.
Below - The ribbon cutting ceremony for the New Family Homework Lab at PS 567.

INCA KOLA THE GOLDEN KOLA - 5th Annual Lourdes & Luis Jardines Golf Outing

2018-Golf-Flyer copy

News From Congressman Eliot Engel


  Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following statement regarding President Trump’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly:

“America's standing in the world has plummeted so far in the last 20 months, and President Trump's blustery and bullying speech will serve only to isolate us further. As usual, the President exaggerated his accomplishments, literally drawing laughter from world leaders gathered at the UN General Assembly; offered kind words for strongmen and dictators while insulting our allies and international institutions; and, despite making ‘sovereignty’ a key theme of his speech, was silent about the greatest current threat to American sovereignty: Russia's ongoing attack on our democracy. Mr. Trump has repeated these refrains ad nauseum, but it remains deeply unsettling to see an American president stand before the United Nations—a body in which American leadership has changed the course of the world for decades—and espouse a worldview that undermines so much of what we helped build on the global stage.

“With respect to the President's threats to cut off foreign assistance, I want to remind him and Secretary Pompeo that under the Constitution, Congress determines how much we spend on foreign policy and we will continue to assert our prerogatives. But sadly, that's just a small part of the damage this Administration is doing to our leadership, values, and security. Until this Administration drastically changes course, America's standing will continue to diminish and the threats to our security will continue to grow.”


Collaborative outreach effort with Mayors For Our Lives and launch of new City website will make it easier for youth to stay informed about the latest opportunities to get civically engaged: nyc.gov/studentvoice

To mark National Voter Registration Day, Mayor Bill de Blasio teamed up with Mayors For Our Lives to register students to vote in schools across New York City. This is a continuation of an effort that began last spring which successfully registered more than 10,000 first-time student voters in New York City. Mayors For Our Lives is a national movement led by March For Our Lives that aims to register high school and college students to vote and increase civic engagement. Mayor de Blasio is a leading voice in this effort, helping to mobilize a bi-partisan group of 200 mayors from across the nation who are also participating in this effort.

The Administration also launched a new website where students can sign up to be a #DemocracyNYC leader to help register fellow students to vote and promote civic engagement in their schools. Students interested in participating in these efforts can find more information at nyc.gov/studentvoice.

“Our students are the future leaders of our country, and their voices matter as much today as they will years from now,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “They should know that their vote and civic participation at all levels of government is crucial in our effort to strengthen our democracy. Our non-partisan outreach with Mayors For Our Lives will remind them of this and mobilize countless young people to have their voices heard.”

“Our job as educators is to create active, engaged citizens who are going to change the world. By bringing voter registration into our schools and combining it with the work our teachers are doing every day, we’re making it easier for our students to have a say in the future of this City and this country. I’m proud to stand with Mayor de Blasio to support a new generation of leaders, activists, and citizens,” said Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza.

“Today’s leaders have a responsibility to make civic participation as easy and equitable as possible for every New Yorker. I am excited that we are taking the lead to proactively help New York City’s youth learn about the importance of playing a direct role in our community and democracy. We will continue using the tools at our disposal to increase participation in elections while advocating for the State to modernize archaic laws that create unnecessary barriers to voting,” said Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives J. Phillip Thompson.

“It is the responsibility of all Americans, young and old to vote. Since the march, we have traveled the country meeting, talking and listening to people of all backgrounds. While many agree with our platform to prevent gun violence, one thing we can always agree upon is that it’s in our country’s best interest to have an informed and representative electorate committed to protecting all people. We believe that the more Americans we have participating in our democracy, the better off our country. That is why we are proud of the over 200 members of Mayors For Our Lives working to empower voices in their communities by encouraging and registering them to vote.” said March For Our Lives Co-Founder David Hogg.

To kick off this outreach effort, Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza, New York City student activists – including Ramon Contreras – and Stoneman Douglas High School student activists David Hogg and Delaney Tarr visited City-As-School, a high school in Manhattan, to help register students to vote. They also joined a civic engagement discussion with City-As-School students.

As part of this outreach effort, the Administration distributed a Civics for All toolkit to all public schools that includes voter registration lesson plans for teachers; guidelines on where to access and how to fill out voter registration forms; and information on the new DemocracyNYC website where students can sign up as school leads for future voter registration drives. “The City’s Civics for All initiative includes Student Voter Registration Day (SVRD), the first-ever citywide event through which more than 10,000 students registered to vote this past spring, as well as new curricula, funding, and teacher training to promote instruction in civics and hands-on civic engagement opportunities.

The Mayor’s Public Engagement Unit also will be sending multilingual outreach specialists to 25 schools with the largest population of eligible student voters. PEU staff will be working directly with these students to help them register to vote and encourage them to sign a DemocracyNYC pledge to become a voter registration lead at their school.

This registration effort is part of Mayor de Blasio’s 10-point democracy agenda known as DemocracyNYC, which aims to increase civic engagement and strengthen democracy locally and nationally.

“New York City’s students represent the next generation of leaders and we are excited for their voices to be heard in the upcoming elections,” said Mayor’s Public Engagement Acting Director Eric Rotondi. “Our democracy works best when it’s shaped by everyone it represents and I encourage all New Yorkers – especially students who are eligible for the first time – to register to vote and cast a ballot this November.

“The Mayor's Community Affairs Unit is proud to be part of the National Voter Registration Day effort. A democracy is only as strong as the generation that will inherit it and we look forward to continue engaging young people throughout the city,” said Marco Carrión, Commissioner of the Community Affairs Unit.


We edited this as to leave out any and all comments from the elected officials Mayor de Blasio was able to find.