Sunday, February 28, 2016

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman - Equal Access For All, Holding Public Employees Accountable & More

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Ensuring Equal Access For New Yorkers With Disabilities 

The largest privately owned shopping mall owner in New York State is pledging to make its malls and centers more accessible for all New Yorkers, thanks to an agreement reached with the Attorney General’s office. The office received a complaint about various accessibility barriers at a Pyramid Management Group owned mall in Plattsburgh, and a subsequent investigation identified several issues, including improperly sized parking spaces, moveable objects in the path of travel, and steep slopes at curb ramps. The agreement requires Pyramid to retain an ADA consultant, ensure common areas at its malls meet accessibility standards, and conduct ADA training for relevant employees, among other reforms. This investigation is part of the Attorney General’s ongoing efforts to ensure accessibility at shopping malls and shopping centers across New York, which has included agreements with Vornado Realty Corporation and Kimco Realty Corp, which required more than fifty shopping centers to comply with accessibility requirements.   

Holding Public Employees Accountable

The Attorney General announced the arrest of Sean Porter, the Landside Operations Manager with the Port Authority, for allegedly failing to disclose a vacation paid for by a vendor operating at JFK airport. In 2014, Porter allegedly received over $3,000 from a cargo handling company licensed to do business at JFK to take a vacation to Florida, which included plane tickets, hotel accommodations, dining and golf. Yet Porter allegedly failed to disclose on his yearly financial disclosure statements that he received the vacation, despite the requirement that her report gifts received from the same donor in excess of $1,000.

Taking Down Fraudsters

Tyrone “Reece” Lee, the ringleader of an identity theft ring that sole over $450,000 from customers of Wachovia Bank, has been convicted following a trial in Orange County Court. Lee, who is already serving a sentence of 4 ½ to 9 years for operating a similar identity-theft scheme in Westchester County, now faces up to 20 years in prison. Evidence at trial demonstrated that Lee had his girlfriend obtain a bank teller position at Wachovia Bank in Newburgh, whom he then directed to steal customer data by searching for common names and to copy specific information, such as social security numbers and signature cards of the account holders. They were then able to access the identification information of over 200 bank account holders, and were then subsequently able to withdraw funds from the accounts. Lee also was able to withdraw funds from customers in Nassau County and New York City, and from individuals in states as far as Florida, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia. The Attorney General will continue to do everything he can to protect innocent businesses and their customers from the growing problem of identity theft.

Safeguarding Taxpayer Dollars 

The Attorney General, along with Comptroller DiNapoli and the New York State Police, secured the guilty plea of Jean Noel, the former Director of the Putnam County Department of Consumer Affairs, for stealing thousands in cash that she accepted from local contractors to resolve county-issued fines. Noel will repay the full amount that was illegally obtained, and will also pay back a portion of her salary. This case is the latest conducted as part of Operation Integrity, a joint partnership with the State Comptroller to root out waste in government, which has now returned more than $9 million in restitution to the state.

Returning Money To Non-Profits And The Public Sector

Non-profits and government entities across New York will receive over $56 million in restitution thanks to two multi-state settlements that the Attorney General has reached with Natixis Funding Corporation and Societe Generale. An investigation found that misconduct by Natixis and Societe Generale led local and state governments, as well as nonprofits, to enter municipal bond contracts at less advantageous terms. These agreements were part of an ongoing investigation into fraud in municipal derivative sales, which already yielded $350 in settlements with Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and others.

Stopping Insurance Fraud

A former NYPD officer has been sentenced to 2-6 years in in prison for perpetrating an elaborate scheme to defraud insurance companies. While he was a police officer, Jose Urena submitted a series of false auto insurance claims in order to avoid the financial costs of the high-end vehicles he purchased—vehicles he couldn’t afford. In one instance, Urena reported that his Mercedes Benz had been stolen, when he in fact he had actually given the keys to an individual to dispose of it in order to avoid payments he owed. Furthermore, Urena staged accidents and submitted claims for repairs that never occurred, allowing him to collect thousands in insurance payouts. Urena’s sentence of 2-6 years in New York County will run concurrently with the previous of sentence of 1-3 years in prison he received in Westchester County.
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