Saturday, November 12, 2016

Veterans Day Remembrance at the Rudy Macina Peace Memorial Plaza.

   The Morris Park Community Association, Knights of Columbus, Mary Queen of Peace Council, Morris Park Kiwanis, and Community Board 11, the American Legion, and Mr. Silvo Mazzes all did a wonderful job (as usual) in this years Veterans day remembrance. The national anthem and God Bless America was professionally sung by Ms. Jillian Cannata. Many veterans said what it means to have served in the armed forces, some seeing battle with their comrades in arms being killed on the battlefield. All said however that the brave soldiers who fought for this country did it so people could live a free life, and even demonstrate as some are doing. The photos will tell the rest of the story.

Above - Mr. Silvo Mazzes was the master of ceremonies for the days Veteran Day remembrance.
Below - Those on hand included the latest rookie officers of the 49th Precinct.

Above - Ms. Jillian Cannata sung the national anthem.
Below - She also sang God Bless America at the end of the Veterans Day remembrance.

Above - Father Knapp gives the invocation.
Below - Veteran Tony Signorile gives a powerful speech about democracy, and asks why people are demonstrating when the country has a new president. Note the flags flyings briskly during Mr. Signorile very emotional speech.

Above - Assemblyman Michael Benedetto gives a moving Veterans Day speech.
Below - Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj also gave a Veterans Day speech about the immigrants who built this country.

Above - It came time for the memorial reef to be placed by Mr. Al D'Angelo and Mr. Earl Menard Jr. Taps is being played in the background by the bugler. 
Below - They also place bouquets of flowers near the memorial headstones for fallen soldiers. 

A group photo of those who participated in the Veterans Day Memorial service. Over 100 people were on hand to see this touching remembrance on Veterans Day.

Friday, November 11, 2016

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Arrest Of Long Island Attorney And Operators Of “Three-Quarter” Houses On Charges Of Medicaid Fraud And Money Laundering

Attorney Anthony Cornachio, Who Controls Two New York City Drug Treatment Programs, Allegedly Paid Yury Baumblit And Rimma Baumblit, Operators Of “Three-Quarter Houses,” To Force Residents To Attend Medicaid-Funded Drug Treatment
    Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrest of attorney Anthony Cornachio, 74, of Garden City and charges against NRI Group, LLC (“NRI”) and Canarsie A.W.A.R.E., Inc. (“Canarsie”), which are Medicaid-enrolled drug treatment programs controlled by Cornachio. The Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (“MFCU”) also charged three-quarter housing operators Yury Baumblit, 66, and Rimma Baumblit, 60, of Brooklyn, and their company Back on Track Group, Inc. In papers filed in New York City Criminal Court, Kings County and New York State Supreme Court, Kings County, prosecutors allege that Yury Baumblit and Rimma Baumblit, in exchange for payments from Cornachio’s companies, forced residents of their “three-quarter” homes to either face eviction or attend NRI and Canarsie regardless of the residents’ actual need for drug treatment services. All of the residences leased by Back on Track Group, Inc. and operated by Yury Baumblit and Rimma Baumblit as three-quarter homes were located in Kings County.  During the course of this scheme, which dates back to at least 2013, Cornachio allegedly paid Back on Track Group, Inc. over $900,000.00 in illegal kickbacks.  As a result of this kickback scheme, prosecutors allege that Cornachio, through NRI and Canarsie, submitted, and caused to be submitted, at least $1.7 Million in false claims for reimbursement to Medicaid. These claims, prosecutors allege, were fraudulent because they resulted from illegal kickbacks and were often medically unnecessary.
“We allege that the defendants engaged in a deliberate scheme to exploit those struggling with substance abuse in order to line their own pockets with millions,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Medicaid cannot serve as a personal piggy bank for criminals and fraudsters who have little regard for the well-being of their fellow New Yorkers. My office will continue to uphold the integrity of the Medicaid program to ensure that our tax dollars are put towards helping our most vulnerable citizens.”
“Individuals who victimize the most vulnerable New Yorkers should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said Department of Social Service Commissioner Steven Banks. “By forcing residents to submit themselves to medical tests and treatments that in many cases they didn’t even need, these defendants have shown not only a clear intention to defraud Medicaid but also an absolute disregard for human dignity.”
In addition to the arrests, MFCU investigators executed a search warrant at Cornachio’s home in Garden City, Long Island and filed a False Claims Act and forfeiture complaint against the defendants seeking over $5 million dollars in damages plus penalties. 
Three-quarter homes in New York City are private entities that provide housing to indigent, formerly homeless individuals and those transitioning out of periods of incarceration, and are largely funded from each resident’s monthly housing allowance provided by the New York City Human Resources Administration (“HRA”). 
Anthony Cornachio, NRI and Canarsie have been charged with Grand Larceny in the First Degree, Money Laundering in the Second Degree, and violating Social Services Law § 366(d), which prohibits an enrolled Medicaid provider from paying kickbacks. Similarly, Yury Baumblit and Rimma Baumblit and their corporation, Back on Track Group, Inc. have been charged with Grand Larceny in the First Degree, Money Laundering in the Second Degree, and violating Social Services Law § 366(f), which prohibits individuals from acting in concert with an enrolled Medicaid provider and accepting the payment of kickbacks. 
Grand Larceny in the First Degree is a Class B felony with a maximum term of incarceration of twenty-five years in state prison.  Grand Larceny in the Second Degree and Money Laundering in the Second Degree are each Class C felonies with a maximum term of incarceration of fifteen years.  Social Services Law §366-f is a Class E felony with a maximum term of incarceration of four years. If convicted on all charges, the defendants each face up to 25 years each in state prison.
Cornachio is currently the village attorney for the Village of Island Park, Long Island, and a trustee of Nassau Community College.
In addition to the felony complaints filed, on Monday, the Attorney General obtained an order freezing the bank accounts and other property held by the defendants and attaching up to$5,221,649.28 of those assets.  The Attorney General obtained a temporary restraining order preventing dissipation or transfer of property controlled by defendants. 
Earlier this year, Yury Baumblit and Rimma Baumblit were indicted for a kickback arrangement they maintained with a different substance abuse treatment program. That indictment, which is currently pending in Kings County Supreme Court, charges Yury Baumblit and Rimma Baumblit with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree and other crimes; they remain incarcerated awaiting trial on that matter.
Throughout this investigation, the Attorney General has worked closely with the various city, state, and federal agencies. In particular, the Attorney General would like to thank the New York City Human Resources Administration (“HRA”) for its cooperation and valuable assistance throughout the investigation and notably the work of its Medicaid Provider Investigations & Audit Unit.  In addition, the Attorney General thanks the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, the United States Department of HHS-OIG, and the Office of New York State Medicaid Inspector General Dennis Rosen, MFCU’s partner in combatting fraud against the Medicaid program, for their assistance. 
The investigation was led by MFCU Senior Investigator Albert Maiorano, with the support of Investigator David Ryan and Supervising Investigators Dominick DiGennaro and Michael Casado under the supervision of MFCU Deputy Chief Investigator Kenneth Morgan.   The audit investigation was led by Principal Auditor-Investigator Investigator Patricia Iemma, with the support of Senior Auditor-Investigator Nicholas Thottam and Auditor-Investigator Jillian White, under the supervision of Principal Special Auditor Investigator Emmanuel Archer and NYC Regional Chief Auditor Thomasina Smith.   Investigative support was provided by Supervising Legal Assistant Wendy Dorival and Confidential Legal Analyst Kelvin Caraballo.
The criminal case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorneys General Megan Friedland and Erin Kelsh under the supervision of NYC Regional Director Christopher M. Shaw. Thomas O’Hanlon is MFCU’s Chief of Criminal Investigations–Downstate.  The civil case is being handled by Special Assistant Attorneys General Alee Scott and Christopher Y. Miller with the assistance of MFCU Civil Enforcement Chief Carolyn Ellis. MFCU is led by Director Amy Held and Assistant Deputy Attorney General Paul J. Mahoney.   
The charges filed in this case, and in the previously-filed case noted above, are accusations. The defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

A.G. Schneiderman Honors Those Who Have Served, Releases Updated Resource Guide To Keep Veterans And Servicemembers Up To Date On Their Consumer And Legal Protections

Schneiderman: Today We Express Our Gratitude For The Sacrifices Made By Our Men And Women In Uniform To Keep Our Country Safe
   In honor of Veteran’s Day, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman released an updated resource guide and website to provide veterans and active duty military personnel with information related to the education, consumer protection, and legal benefits available to them during and after active military service.  The Attorney General’s Resource Guide for Veterans and Servicemembers details numerous state and federal benefits available to those who have served in the armed forces, including housing, education, financial, and legal protections.  The updated guide and website include updates on existing laws, as well as information on additional protections and resources that have become available since the Guide was originally published in 2011.
“Today we express our gratitude for the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform to keep our country safe. We must honor their sacrifices by ensuring that our servicemembers, veterans and their families are protected here at home,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “I encourage military families to learn about the educational, housing and legal resources available to them, and to take full advantage of the benefits and protections they have earned through their service.”
The Attorney General’s Resource Guide details federal and state laws that provide benefits to those who have served in the armed forces, and includes:
  • Information on educational benefits and opportunities;
  • Information on protections related to debt, foreclosure, insurance, leases, and other contracts;
  • A comparison of federal and state benefits; and
  • Additional resources to find more information.
The updated Guide includes information on the recent United States Department of Defense Rule, which expands the coverage of the federal Military Lending Act (MLA), and provides additional protections for servicemembers in their consumer credit transactions, including a 36% interest rate cap, additional disclosures regarding the borrower’s payment obligation, and a ban on mandatory arbitration.  These provisions, except with respect to credit cards, became effective October 3, 2016.  The Guide also highlights a new provision of the New York State State Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act, which provides, as of July 21, 2016, additional protections for servicemembers who need to terminate contracts with telecommunications, television and internet service providers or health clubs because they have been ordered to report to military service.
Along with the Guide, the Attorney General’s website provides links to press releases about issues affecting military families and an updated list of additional resources.
Additionally, the Attorney General’s office will be conducting new fraud prevention presentations for veterans across the state. Visit our website to request a presentation.
In September 2016, demonstrating his dedication to issues affecting military families, Attorney General Schneiderman announced a multistate settlement with retailer USA Discounters, also doing business as USA Living and Fletcher’s Jewelers, to resolve the state’s claims of deceptive trade practices against the company.  The deceptive practices included targeting servicemembers and hooking them into deceptively usurious loans, false advertising and illegal collection practices.  The company would also sue servicemembers out of state where they were unable to defend the action, ultimately taking default judgments against them.  The approximate value of the restitution to consumers in New York State is $1.8 million.

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Settlements With Vietnam Veteran’S Charity And Its Founder For Squandering Millions In Donations

Investigation Found That The Charity Spent The Majority Of Its Millions In Contributions On Paying Professional Fundraisers And Insider Expenses
Charity To Permanently Close And Pay Damages; President And Founder Returns Severance, Pays Damages, Issues Apology, And Is Banned Nationwide From Handling Charitable Assets
Schneiderman: This Organization Took Advantage Of The Good Will Of Millions, Yet Failed To Fulfill Nearly All Of Its Promises To Help Those Who Have Sacrificed For Our Nation
    Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office has reached settlements resolving investigations into the National Vietnam Veterans Foundation, which also operated as the American Veteran Support Foundation (the “NVVF”), its former President and Founder, John Thomas Burch, Jr. (“Burch”), and its Vice President, David Kaufman (“Kaufman”). NVVF has operated nationwide since 1992 and began soliciting in New York in approximately 2008.  By 2014, NVVF was collecting nearly $9 million nationwide from its fundraising campaigns, soliciting small dollar donations from the public through direct mail and phone calls -- purportedly to help Vietnam Veterans.  Nearly all of the money raised through its direct mail campaigns was instead used to pay its fundraisers.  For example, in 2014, $7.7 million of the $8.6 million raised was used to pay NVVF’s fundraisers.  The fraction that actually made it to NVVF was further reduced by a pattern of abuse, mismanagement and misspending by NVVF’s former President, Burch.
“There is nothing more shameless than exploiting military veterans in order to enrich oneself.  The actions of this charity and its founder are appalling,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.  “This organization took advantage of the good will of millions, yet failed to fulfill nearly all of its promises to help those who have sacrificed for our nation.  This settlement sends a clear message that charities will not get away with fleecing donors in New York.”
“VA employees are held to high standards and are afforded a special public trust to execute their duties properly for the benefit of veterans and the American people,” said Michael J. Missal, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General. “The VA OIG's investigation found that Mr. Burch engaged in conduct prejudicial to the Government, and misused his position and government equipment for his own personal enrichment. As a lawyer for VA with ethical, fiduciary, and professional obligations, his conduct is particularly disturbing and repugnant.”
As part of the settlement, Burch paid $100,000 to the Attorney General, most of which will be re-directed to charities actually helping veterans.  Burch also repaid his severance pay received from NVVF and will cooperate with ongoing investigations into others associated with NVVF and its fundraisers.  Burch will also be subject to a permanent nationwide bar on access to charitable assets or decision-making.
Burch issued an apology to donors of NVVF and to Vietnam Veterans whom he exploited in order for fundraisers to collect money.  Burch also admitted that NVVF had paid 90% of its donations to its fundraisers and admitted to deceptively marketing how solicited money would be spent.   In the settlement, Burch admits to the Attorney General’s findings and to his misconduct, including the following:
  • Burch used NVVF funds to pay for foreign and domestic travel, frequenting night clubs in the Baltimore area on a nearly weekly basis, ordering excessive and expensive food and drink at the country’s top restaurants and lavishing gifts on women;
  • Burch financed this lifestyle with his own credit cards and then submitted receipts to NVVF’s bookkeeper for reimbursement.  Burch’s expense reimbursements to NVVF describe fictitious meetings or NVVF business with individuals that were not present or did not exist.  For example, in 2012 Burch spent approximately $800 in one night frequenting night clubs and hotels in the Baltimore area.  Burch described the nature of these expenditures on the Foundation’s expense reimbursement form as “work on homelessness” and “veteran issue”;
  • Burch, who was in charge of the NVVF’s discretionary “Emergency Assistance Program,” awarded significant amounts of cash to a handful of women, all of whom were born after the Vietnam War ended.  Six of those women received over $10,000 and one over $20,000; and
  • In addition to Burch’s salary at NVVF, Burch reimbursed himself for life and medical insurance, pharmaceutical and medical expenses, parking for his two private automobiles in downtown Washington, D.C., where he worked, telephone, fax, internet, and building security services at his home, memberships, conference fees, and subscriptions.
For its part, NVVF will cease fundraising in New York as of June 2016 and will cancel its registration to solicit donations in New York and initiate steps to dissolve in its home state by the end of this month.  
Kaufman, NVVF’s Vice President, will be subject to a permanent nationwide ban on handling charitable assets going forward and agreed to cooperate with the ongoing investigation into those associated with NVVF.  Kaufman will remain as Vice President only to assist with NVVF’s orderly dissolution and distribution of the NVVF’s assets subject to the Attorney General’s approval. 
The Foundation and Kaufman admitted that NVVF had made false filings with the Charities Bureau, including failing to disclose the identity of the fundraisers that operated on its behalf in New York, all fees associated with its fundraising activities, and the Foundation’s top independent contractors.  NVVF and Kaufman also admitted that much of NVVF’s money was not spent in the way NVVF described in its solicitations – to immediately provide Vietnam Veterans in need with fundamental benefits such as food, shelter, hygiene and money for phone calls.  Instead, thousands of dollars were spent by NVVF on purported consultancies and studies to be performed by friends or relatives of NVVF directors which work product was never released to the public, and on travel for its board of directors, including a trip to Normandy, France, in 2014.
Agreements can be found here and here.
The full text of the Foundation, Kaufman and Burch’s admissions are available here and here.  The full text of Burch’s apology is available here.
This investigation into NVVF highlights the importance of AG’s Charities Bureau’s annual Pennies for Charities report, which reveals that charitable donations obtained by many professional fundraisers are largely spent on fundraising and administrative expenses, with only a small fraction left for charitable work. The latest Pennies for Charities report may be accessed here
The A.G.’s Tips for Charitable Giving are available here.

Comptroller Stringer: City Economy Accelerated in Third Quarter, But Signs of Weakness Persist

City’s economy grew 2.6 percent, slightly lower than 2.9 percent growth in national Gross Domestic Product 

Private sector earnings were sluggish while City saw weaker personal income tax growth

City unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 5.5 percent

    New York City’s economy expanded in the third quarter of 2016, with growth slightly below national Gross Domestic Product expansion of 2.9 percent, according to the latest Quarterly Economic Update released today by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. The report found that the City’s economy grew 2.6 percent during the late summer and early autumn of 2016.
Although the City’s economic growth picked up the pace, concerning trends have persisted since the beginning of the year. In the third quarter, 26,800 private sector-jobs were created, but most new jobs – 14,300, or 53.4 percent of all growth – were in low-wage industries, which pay an average wage of about $42,000. Mid-wage jobs grew by 13,700, more than double the 6,900 of these jobs added in the second quarter. The City lost 1,100 high-wage jobs, the second consecutive quarterly drop – which has not happened since 2009.
Despite the growth in private-sector jobs, the unemployment rate increased slightly in the third quarter, growing from 5.2 percent to 5.5 percent citywide. In addition, New York City’s personal income tax revenues grew just 0.6 percent on a year over year basis, compared to an 8.7 percent year-over-year rise between the third quarters in 2015 and 2014. That’s as estimated tax payments – a reflection of non-wage income like capital gains and rental income – fell 9.6 percent. Jobs in the construction industry also declined for the first time in three years, falling 3.6 percent in the third quarter.
Commercial real estate, however, improved during this time period. While the Manhattan office vacancy rate increased to 9.1 percent from 8.9 percent a year ago, new leasing totaled 6.9 million square feet in the third quarter, which is 5.8 percent higher than the third quarter of 2015. That increase follows four consecutive quarters of contraction. The residential housing market had more mixed results, as prices in Manhattan rose, but the number of home sales fell.
Venture capital investment in the New York City metro area declined for the second consecutive quarter but performed better than the national trend. While total venture capital investment in the U.S. fell 36.4 percent and investment in Silicon Valley fell 43.5 percent, the New York City metro area saw a decline of 28.5 percent to $1.4 billion.
“While New York City’s economy continues to expand, we’re seeing areas of concern emerge – areas for which we have to prepare and plan,” New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer said. “Is this a reason for alarm now? No. But if some of these trends continue next quarter or farther down the road, should we be concerned? Probably. As I’ve said, when times are good, we have to make smart, strategic investments and properly save for when tougher times arrive. That’s something we must consider as we watch these numbers closely over the coming months.”
Released every quarter, the Comptroller’s Quarterly Economic Update examines a broad range of data that reflect current economic conditions in New York City. The report also highlights relevant national indicators. Though numbers can change significantly from quarter to quarter, they can be used to inform what could be potential long-term trends. This quarter’s report was prepared just prior to the Presidential Election.  Findings include:
City’s economic growth accelerated, after a quarter of slower growth
  • Real Gross City Product – a measure of the City’s overall economic growth – expanded at an estimated annual rate of 2.6 percent, a full percentage point higher than last quarter.
  • This rate of growth was slightly below the national GDP, which grew 2.9 percent in the third quarter of 2016.
Strong private-sector job growth returned
  • New York City’s employers got into gear in the third quarter, adding 26,800 jobs. This is more than double the 10,400 jobs that were added in the second quarter.
  • These new jobs were split evenly between low-wage and medium-wage industries, which added 14,300 and 13,700 jobs, respectively.
  • The fastest-growing industry remained leisure and hospitality, which has seen seven years of uninterrupted growth. In the third quarter, this industry added a record 12,800 jobs. Education and health services also saw robust job growth, adding 8,200 jobs.
  • The construction industry, on the other hand, experienced its first decline in three years, contracting 3.6 percent in the third quarter.
Unemployment rate inched up, while hourly wages saw some growth
  • Despite the growth in private-sector jobs, the unemployment rate increased slightly, from 5.2 percent to 5.5 percent citywide.
  • Average hourly earnings for a private-sector employee in New York City grew 1.1 percent from the same time last year to $34.01. Average hourly earnings had grown 3.8 percent in the third quarter of 2015 over the same period in 2014.
Personal income tax collection growth remained weak
  • Personal Income Tax revenues – an indicator that reflects both wages and non-wage income and serves as a proxy for total personal income – rose 0.6 percent year-over-year to $2.2 billion.
  • Personal income taxes withheld from paychecks, which reflect trends in employment and wages, grew 2.2 percent to over $1.7 billion in the third quarter. Estimated tax payments – a reflection of non-wage income like capital gains and rental income – fell 9.6 percent compared to a year ago, hitting $460 million.
Venture capital investment fell nationwide, but New York City fared better than most
  • Year-over-year, total venture capital investment in the United States fell 36.4 percent to just $10.6 billion in the third quarter of 2016.
  • The New York City metro area saw a decline of 28.5 percent compared to the same time last year. While this is a substantial decline, other areas faced larger decreases.
  • Over the same time period, venture capital investment fell 78.3 percent in Upstate New York and 43.5 percent in Silicon Valley.
New commercial leasing expanded, bucking a year-long decline
  • New commercial leasing activity totaled nearly 7 million square feet in the third quarter, up 5.8 percent from the same time last year. This marks the first increase after four quarters of year-over-year declines.
  • This activity was concentrated in Midtown, where 5.1 million square feet was newly leased. Midtown South saw one million square feet of new leasing activity and Downtown saw 850,000 square feet of new leasing activity.
Residential real estate prices continued to increase
  • The average home sale price in Manhattan rose 17 percent from a year ago to over $2 million, and the average price per square foot rose 13 percent to $1,692.
  • These Manhattan prices were skewed higher by new developments. The median sales price of a new development almost doubled to $4 million in the third quarter, while the median price of resold homes rose only 2.6 percent to $950,000.
  • In Brooklyn and Queens, housing prices and sales both increased. In Brooklyn, the average sales price rose 14.8 percent to $983,511, while in Queens the average sales price rose 7.6 percent to $561,966.


Defendant Took Photo With Victim’s Severed Head

  Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark today announced that a Bronx man has been convicted of second-degree Murder for killing his mother and dissecting her body. 
  District Attorney Clark said, “The defendant fatally stabbed his mother and then chillingly took photos with her mutilated corpse. A jury has found him guilty of these horrific acts and now he faces many years in prison.” 
  District Attorney Clark said the defendant, Bahsid McLean, 26, of 645 Westchester Avenue, was convicted by a jury on Nov. 4, 2016 of second-degree Murder and one count of Public Health Law 4210-A (Unlawful dissection of the body of a human being) after a nearly month-long trial before New York Court of Claims Justice Jeanette Rodriguez-Morick. McLean faces up to 25 years to life on the murder charge when he is sentenced on December, 5, 2016. 
  According to trial testimony, on February 25, 2013, McLean stabbed his mother, Tanya Byrd, 45, to death in her Morrisania apartment. He proceeded to dissect Byrd’s body and took photos with her severed head. He discarded her remains in garbage bags inside suitcases, which he dumped throughout his neighborhood after telling a friend he wanted to take the trash out. 
  The case was investigated and prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Aaron Kaplan, Deputy Chief of the Domestic Violence Bureau, and Amy Omens, under the supervision of Amy Litwin, Chief of the Domestic Violence Bureau. 


Statement from Mayor Bill de Blasio

“Today we honor and give thanks to the brave men and women who have served and continue to serve our nation. These are men and women who answered the call of duty and who have traveled to the ends of the globe to protect freedom at home and abroad. For this sacred sacrifice, the 8.5 million Americans who call New York home will forever remain in the debt of their service.”

Statement from Brigadier General Loree Sutton (Ret.), Commissioner of the Department of Veterans’ Services

“The Department of Veterans’ Services honors the veterans of our beloved City and nation by strengthening the democracy and freedoms for which they have fought to protect – and for which our active duty military service members and families continue to defend every day. On this Veterans Day, we join all New Yorkers – veterans, their loved ones and the civilians who support them – in honoring those who have raised their right hand to defend our nation’s freedoms. The greatness of our country is truly a function of the goodness of our citizens, working together to achieve a more perfect union. We firmly believe that veterans and their families are extraordinary civic assets whose tested strengths and enduring commitment to service continue to reinforce the resilience of our communities and will greatly contribute to defining this next chapter of our nation’s history. To this end, the Department of Veterans’ Services and I proudly devote ourselves to improving the lives of each and every veteran in New York City, their families and their communities – today and every day. There simply is no greater privilege.”

The Department of Veterans’ Services has made tremendous strides in their first year as an agency by focusing on their three lines of action: Housing and Support Services; Integrative Health and Community Resilience; and Education, Employment and Entrepreneurship.

Housing and Support Services
Over the past few years, City agencies, landlords, and nonprofits and private partners have banded together to help end veteran homelessness in New York City. Together they have:

  • Ended chronic veteran homelessness.

  • Reduced overall veteran homelessness by over 90 percent in the last five years and 70 percent in the last two years alone.

  • Built a rapid rehousing system for veterans that has reduced veterans’ length of stay in shelter by 50 percent.

The work doesn’t end there. The City’s commitment to ending veteran homelessness isn’t just about housing all of the veterans that are currently homeless – it’s also about doing all that the Administration can to decrease the number of veterans that become homeless and, for those that do, have a system and resources in place that can rapidly rehouse them.

This past year, City agencies have worked together with community partners to build out a network of prevention and aftercare support for veterans that the City housed. This includes:

  • Dedicating a team of clinical social workers at DHS to work with veterans that need additional support once housed.

  • Establishing an interagency working group with the VA and public and private partners to develop and implement best practices for homeless prevention work and identify and fill any gaps in the system.

  • Launching the Veteran Transition Assistance Program at DVS, an aftercare program that assists both the veterans that have been recently housed and the landlords that have housed them.

Integrative Health and Community Resilience
The VetsThriveNYC Integrative Health Program is the veteran-focused complement to the First Lady’s ThriveNYC Mental Health Roadmap. The program includes the VetsThriveNYC City-wide consortium and the Core4 integrative health model, which incorporates clinical treatment, community holistic services, connection to peer social support and engagement through cultural initiatives, education and the arts. Access to VetsThriveNYC resources and services will be coordinated through the DVS portal VetsConnectNYC, a comprehensive service network comprised of 80 service providers.

Education, Employment and Entrepreneurship
As part of the agency’s first year priorities, DVS committed to creating satellite offices that serve as an accessible venue for veterans who may find it difficult to leave their borough to access services. Currently, DVS has established offices in Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx and Northern Manhattan with Brooklyn to follow. Many veterans identify that navigation is one of the barriers to accessing services. By establishing satellite offices in the outer-boroughs, DVS is working with borough leaders to better serve the City’s 200,000 veterans in their own communities, sending a powerful message to veterans that the City will go the distance to ensure they receive the resources they need. 

Bronx Chamber of Commerce Salutes Six Veteran Heroes at our Veterans Recognition Luncheon and Bronx H.I.R.E. Veterans Jobs & Resource Fair

Assemblymember Michael Blake - Join us as I preach on Sunday


At this time where we need healing, reflection and unity, I invite you to join us on this Sunday as I preach at the 114th church anniversary service at Epworth United Methodist Church at 830 Concourse Village East in The Bronx, NY at 11 a.m. EST
We need to come together.  We also need to plan next steps in our lives.
We need to have our spirits strengthened.  All of us.

I hope to see you this Sunday at 11am.
Yours in Service,
Assemblymember Blake 

Assemblymember Michael Blake
837 Washington Avenue 3k
Bronx NY 10451

Bronx Jewish Community Council - Breakfast of Champions Wed. Nov. 30th

Help us keep our food pantry full! 

Tickets for the breakfast can be 
purchased at our NY Charities Page
We need your journal ads by Friday, 
November 18! Looking forward to 
seeing you on November 30.
Visit our Website: 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Gun License “Expediter” Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court To Bribery In Connection With NYPD-Issued Gun Licenses

   Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that ALEX LICHTENSTEIN, a/k/a “Shaya,” pled guilty to bribery and offering a bribe in connection with his efforts to pay bribes to obtain gun licenses through the New York City Police Department’s (“NYPD”) License Division.  LICHTENSTEIN pled guilty before United States District Judge Sidney H. Stein today. 
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:  “As he admitted today, Alex Lichtenstein acted as a corrupt gun ‘expediter,’ bribing police officers to obtain gun licenses, offering thousands of dollars per license.  In a recorded conversation, Lichtenstein bragged of using his NYPD connections to obtain 150 gun licenses.  This type of corruption not only undermines public confidence in law enforcement, but it undermines public safety.  And it cannot be tolerated.  I thank the FBI and the NYPD for their dedication and commitment to this case and this important investigation.”           
According to the Complaint and Indictment filed in Manhattan federal court and statements made during the plea proceeding:
LICHTENSTEIN is a member of the Borough Park Shomrim, a volunteer, ostensibly unarmed, Orthodox Jewish patrol society whose mission includes combating criminal activity and locating missing people.  LICHTENSTEIN ran a business charging clients thousands of dollars to expedite their gun license applications.  LICHTENSTEIN charged his clients as much as $18,000 per gun license.
In April 2016, LICHTENSTEIN approached an officer for the NYPD and offered the officer cash bribes in order for the officer to help LICHTENSTEIN obtain gun licenses for LICHTENSTEIN’s customers from the NYPD’s License Division.  The License Division is responsible for reviewing, investigating, and approving or disapproving all applications for gun licenses in New York City.  The License Division receives approximately 5,000 applications for gun licenses per year.  LICHTENSTEIN told the officer that he charged customers thousands of dollars to help obtain License Division approval for their gun license applications, and that he was able to get the licenses approved using his own connections in the License Division, although those connections had recently cut him out. 
The officer did not agree to assist LICHTENSTEIN, and reported the encounter to the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau (“IAB”).  Working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) and IAB, the officer set up and recorded a meeting with LICHTENSTEIN, at which LICHTENSTEIN offered the officer $6,000 per license application that the officer could help get through the License Division.  In that recorded meeting, LICHTENSTEIN told the officer that he had obtained gun licenses for approximately 150 individuals in the past, and that his customers needed his services because the License Division would otherwise reject applications “for the biggest stupidity,” such as a history of moving violations.  LICHTENSTEIN boasted that he was able to use his connections in the License Division to “expedite” the application process, i.e., to forego the full investigation typically conducted before the NYPD License Division approves or disapproves an application.  The officer asked LICHTENSTEIN if his previous connections in the License Division were making money, to which LICHTENSTEIN responded, “now they cut down, now nobody’s making money.”
In fact, LICHTENSTEIN had substantial connections to a sergeant in the License Division, David Villanueva, who had worked at the License Division for more than a decade.  A Commanding Officer at the NYPD with whom Villanueva was friendly introduced LICHTENSTEIN to the License Division and Villanueva in or about 2013.  From that introduction through early 2016, LICHTENSTEIN spent significant time at the License Division with Villanueva, often on a near daily basis.  From at least 2012 through 2016, LICHTENSTEIN gave Villanueva cash bribes and other benefits to pay for Villanueva’s work in expediting and approving gun license applications for LICHTENSTEIN’s clients.  Richard Ochetal, a police officer who worked under Villanueva, did first-level review of many of these applications and was instructed to approve them.  Ochetal was compensated in the form of some of the cash that LICHTENSTEIN gave to Villanueva.  Villanueva[1] is currently charged in a case pending before Judge Stein, and Ochetal pled guilty to accepting bribes in exchange for the approval of gun license applications, and is cooperating with the Government in the investigation.
In reviewing and approving applications for LICHTENSTEIN’s clients, Villanueva and Ochetal omitted some of the required checks, such as criminal history checks, and in other instances ran checks only after they approved licenses.  They also approved applications despite red flags that, had they not been bribed, may have led those applications to be rejected.  For example, they approved applications of individuals with prior arrests and previous allegations of domestic violence.  In addition, Villanueva and Ochetal approved applications for licenses to carry firearms, which require certain business-related justifications, in scenarios were there was no real business justification for the request.  A review of the applications of LICHTENSTEIN’s clients reveals that Villanueva and Ochetal were able to secure licenses for those clients often within weeks, whereas the process normally takes months to, in some instances, over a year.  Villanueva and Ochetal did this for LICHTENSTEIN’s clients because of the cash payments coming from LICHTENSTEIN, as well as other benefits, such as limousine rides, bottles of liquor, and a wine tour.
LICHTENSTEIN, 44, who now resides in Pomona, New York, has pled guilty to one count of bribery, which carries a maximum term of 10 years in prison, and one count of offering a bribe, which carries a maximum term of 10 years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the FBI and the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau, and noted that the investigation is continuing.  
This case is being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Kan M. Nawaday, Russell Capone, Martin S. Bell, and Lauren Schorr are in charge of the prosecution.