Saturday, December 10, 2016

Queens Man Charged In Manhattan Federal Court With Sale Of Artwork Stolen From Prominent New York Collection

   Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today a complaint charging LEON ZINDER with the interstate sale of stolen property in connection with his theft and attempted sale of more than a dozen works of art.  ZINDER was arrested this morning at his home in Forest Hills, Queens, and will be presented this afternoon in Manhattan federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Katherine H. Parker. 
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:  “As alleged, Leon Zinder stole works of art worth more than $600,000 from his employer and then sought to sell them through a flea market in Manhattan.  This Office, working with our law enforcement partners at the FBI, have helped recover and return countless works of stolen art and artifacts to their rightful owners.  And today, we do so again, as well as seeking to hold the alleged thief accountable.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said:   “As we allege in our case, Leon Zinder stole African tribal and Native American art from his employer over a two year period then fabricated stories of the pieces coming from a storage-unit close-out sale or from an elderly widow in Arizona to establish a consignment sale relationship with an unsuspecting art dealer.  This case was brought forward to the FBI by an art dealer who started to realize these stories were too good to be true.”
According to the allegations in the Complaint[1]:
From approximately July 2010 through April 2012, LEON ZINDER was employed as an art handler by a New York-based company (the “Company”) that manages an extensive art collection consisting of thousands of individual artworks, including an extensive collection of Native-American and African ethnographic artwork.  During that time, ZINDER stole at least 13 works of art from facilities maintained by the Company. 
Beginning in approximately September of 2015 through October 2016, ZINDER sold, or attempted to sell, the stolen artwork through a consignment relationship with an art dealer who conducted his business through an outdoor flea market in lower Manhattan (the “Dealer”).  As part of his efforts to sell the stolen artwork, ZINDER falsely claimed he had obtained the works from both the elderly widow of a sheriff in Phoenix, Arizona, and from a storage-unit close-out sale.
In total, ZINDER attempted to sell at least 13 works of art through the Dealer, worth more than $600,000.  This included at least three items that ZINDER had stolen from the Company’s Greenwich, Connecticut, facility and transported to Manhattan: a Fang Reliquary Guardian Head statue valued at approximately $85,000; a Native American mask valued at approximately $75,000; and a Pende mask valued at approximately $5,000.
Eventually, the Dealer became aware that several of the artworks he had helped ZINDER to sell had been reported stolen by the Company.  At that point, the Dealer contacted the FBI and began assisting in the subsequent investigation, including turning over the majority of the stolen works to the FBI.
ZINDER, 48, of Forest Hills, Queens, is charged with one count of interstate sale of stolen property, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the defendant’s gross gain or twice the victim’s gross loss resulting from the defendant’s conduct, whichever is greater.  The statutory maximum penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by the judge.
Mr. Bharara thanked the FBI’s Art Crime Team for its outstanding work on this matter.
Anyone with information relevant to this investigation is asked to contact the FBI’s Art Crime Team at (212) 384-1000 or
The case is being handled by the Office’s Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Noah Falk is in charge of the case.

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

Chief Financial Officer Of Furniture Company Sentenced To Two Years In Prison For Accounting Fraud Against Bank, And Gas City, Indiana

   Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that NORMAN D’SOUZA, the former chief financial officer and vice president of finance of a New Jersey-based furniture wholesaler and retailer (“Company-1”) and an Indiana-based furniture manufacturer affiliated with Company-1 (“Company-2”) (collectively, the “Companies”), was sentenced yesterday to two years in prison for orchestrating a fraudulent scheme to obtain $17 million in loans from a commercial bank based in New York, New York (the “Bank”), and $1 million in municipal loans from Gas City, Indiana (the “City”).  D’SOUZA and his co-conspirators obtained this financing by making false statements and providing false and fraudulent documents concerning the Companies’ financial condition.  D’SOUZA pled guilty on April 1, 2016, before U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams, who imposed yesterday’s sentence.  
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:  “Norman D’Souza repeatedly misrepresented the financial condition of two companies to deceive a bank and a municipality into lending the companies millions of dollars.  He will now spend time in a federal prison for his crimes.”
According to the allegations contained in the criminal information to which D’SOUZA pled guilty, other documents filed in Manhattan federal court, and statements made in court proceedings:
From 2011 until September 2014, Company-1, through D’SOUZA and others, fraudulently induced the Bank into lending Company-1 millions of dollars by repeatedly making false and misleading statements about Company-1’s financial condition.  D’SOUZA falsely inflated Company-1’s sales and accounts receivable on “borrowing base certificates” and in financial statements that D’SOUZA provided to the Bank pursuant to loan agreements.  D’SOUZA used those falsely inflated sales and accounts receivable to mislead the Bank about Company-1’s true financial performance, which enabled Company-1 to secure and draw down a $17 million revolving credit facility from the Bank.  Company-1 ultimately defaulted on the loans issued by the Bank in September 2014.  At that time, the outstanding balance of the loans was approximately $16.99 million.
Separately, in 2012, the City offered loans and other financial incentives to Company-2 in return for Company-2’s agreement to operate a furniture factory in the City and employ local residents.  To secure this arrangement, among other things, D’SOUZA falsely inflated Company-2’s sales figures in financial statements provided to the City.  The false financial statements misled the City about Company-2’s true financial performance and enabled Company-2 to secure and draw down more than $1 million in loans from the City.  Company-2 ultimately defaulted on the loans issued by the City in September 2014, causing approximately 60 City residents to lose their jobs.  At that time, the outstanding balance of the loans was $1 million/
In addition to his prison term, D’SOUZA, 50, of Monmouth Junction, New Jersey, was sentenced to two years of supervised release, and ordered to pay forfeiture and restitution, both in the amount of $12,256,871.48.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward A. Imperatore is in charge of the prosecution.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Charges Against Two Individuals In Connection With Bribery And Kickback Scheme To Secure Business From A Nonprofit Health Organization

   Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Philip R. Bartlett, Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”), announced the unsealing of charges today against NIMESH PATEL, a former information technology employee at a large national nonprofit organization (the “Society”) and DILIP VADLAMUDI, the owner of an information technology outsourcing company located in Indiana, for engaging in a bribery and kickback scheme.  PATEL was arrested this morning in New Jersey, and was presented today before United States Magistrate Judge Katharine H. Parker.  VADLAMUDI was arrested this morning in Indiana, and was expected to be presented US v. Patel and Vadlamudi indictment.pdftoday before a Magistrate Judge in Indianapolis. 
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:  “As alleged, the defendants conspired to defraud a national nonprofit organization.  Patel allegedly abused his position at the nonprofit to funnel millions in fees to Vadlamudi’s company in exchange for hundreds of thousands in kickbacks.  Thanks to the investigative work of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the defendants’ alleged fraud scheme has been put to an end.”
USPIS Inspector-in-Charge Philip R. Bartlett said:  “These individuals took advantage of their business relationship by devising a scheme to ‘fatten their wallets,’ while having no regard for the victimized nonprofit organization.  Postal Inspectors will always be on the forefront of bringing criminals to justice for their greedy misdeeds against the American public.”
As alleged in the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:[1]           
The Society is a large nonprofit health care organization with national headquarters in Westchester, New York.  PATEL was employed as a senior director in the information technology group at the Society.  During the time PATEL worked at the Society, he signed acknowledgements of its conflict-of-interest policy, which prohibited employees from soliciting or accepting payments from any individual or organization that had business with the Society.  VADLAMUDI owned a company headquartered in Indiana (“VADLAMUDI Company-1”) that, among other things, acted as a temporary staffing company for information technology (“IT”) professionals.  VADLAMUDI Company-1 had a contract with the Society pursuant to which Society employees, including PATEL, were authorized to hire temporary employees on behalf of the Society from VADLAMUDI Company-1.
From in or about October 2012 through in or about September 2014, PATEL hired numerous temporary IT employees from VADLAMUDI Company-1, which caused the Society to pay VADLAMUDI Company-1 millions of dollars in fees.  During that same time period, VADLAMUDI paid PATEL approximately $274,000 in kickbacks.  PATEL and VADLAMUDI exchanged emails regarding this kickback scheme.  For instance, on a regular basis PATEL and VADLAMUDI exchanged spreadsheets listing the names of VADLAMUDI Company-1 temporary IT employees hired by the Society, along with a kickback amount calculated per employee.
In order to make payments to PATEL, VADLAMUDI used a bank account associated with a different company he controlled to transfer approximately $274,000 to the bank account for a shell corporation set up by PATEL.  PATEL used that money for his personal expenses, including $80,000 toward a down payment on his residence and over $100,000 transferred into his personal bank account.
When the Society conducted an investigation into allegations of bribery and kickbacks in the IT department in the fall of 2014, PATEL falsely denied receiving money from VADLAMUDI.
PATEL, 45, of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, and VADLAMUDI, 45, of Carmel, Indiana, are both charged in three counts: one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud; one count of conspiring to violate the Travel Act; and one count of conspiring to commit money laundering.  Counts One and Three each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  Count Two carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Bharara praised the work of the USPIS.   
This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Cooper is in charge of the prosecution.   
The allegations contained 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 description of the Indictment set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

A.G. Schneiderman Announces $19.5 Million Multi-State Agreement With Bristol-Myers Squibb To End Deceptive Advertising Practices And Off-Label Promotion Of Drug Used To Treat Schizophrenia

   Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today a $19.5 million multistate agreement with Bristol-Myers Squibb (“BMS”) arising from alleged improper marketing and promotion of the drug Abilify. New York’s share of the settlement is $788,774.  Abilify is one of several second-generation antipsychotic prescription drugs, commonly referred to as “atypical antipsychotics,” that were originally used to treat schizophrenia.  The agreement is signed with 41 other State Attorneys General and the District of Columbia.
“Drug companies should not market their drug for off-label uses or make claims that are not supported by scientific evidence,” Attorney General Schneiderman said.  “Consumers must be able to rely on their doctor’s advice for medication without having to worry about drug companies manipulating their advertising to promote their products at the expense of patients.”  
Abilify is the brand name for the prescription drug aripiprazole.  It was originally approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) for the treatment of schizophrenia in 2002.  Since then, the FDA has approved various formulations of Abilify for other indications. 
In a complaint filed today in New York County Supreme Court, Attorney General Schneiderman alleges that BMS engaged in off-label marketing, which is the promotion of drugs for uses that are not FDA approved.  BMS improperly promoted Abilify for pediatric use and for use in elderly patients with symptoms consistent with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  In fact, in 2006, Abilify received a “black box” warning stating that elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis who are treated with antipsychotic drugs have an increased risk of death.  The complaint further that BMS violated state consumer protection laws by misrepresenting and minimizing risks of the drug including metabolic and weight gain side effects and by misrepresenting the findings of scientific studies.
The consent decree contains strong injunctive terms prohibiting BMS from:
  • Promoting Abilify for off-label uses;
  • Making false or misleading claims about Abilify;
  • Compensating health care providers for merely attending a promotional activity for Abilify;
  • Promoting Abilify by highlighting selected symptoms instead of diagnoses without reference to the FDA-approved indications;
  • Using medical education grants, including Continuing Medical Education  grants, or any other type of grant to promote Abilify;
  • Rewarding health care providers with grants based on their prescribing habits;
  • Providing samples of Abilify to health care providers whose clinical practices are inconsistent with Abilify’s FDA-approved label.
States participating in the settlement include: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. 

A.G. Schneiderman Announces $1.6 Million Settlements With Auto Dealerships That Illegally Charged Thousands Of Customers For Hidden Purchases

Settlements Conclude Investigations By A.G. Finding Dealerships In Staten Island And Floral Park Unlawfully Charged More Than 2,500 Consumers For Undisclosed Products, Services Costing Up To $2,000 Per Consumer; Dealerships Must Pay Restitution, Barred From Selling ‘After-Sale’ Items 
Since 2015, A.G. Schneiderman Has Obtained More Than $17 Million In Restitution, Penalties For More Than 22,000 Consumers Illegally Charged By Auto Dealerships For Hidden Products, Services
  Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the settlement of a lawsuit against SG Hylan Motors Corp., a Staten Island dealership doing business as Staten Island Honda and Staten Island Nissan (collectively “SG Hylan”) and a separate settlement with Best Auto Outlet, Inc. (“Best Auto”) located in Floral Park.  The SG Hylan settlement resolves a lawsuit filed by the Attorney General in July 2016, which alleged that these auto dealerships unlawfully sold “after-sale” products and services, including credit repair and identity theft protection services, to over 2,300 consumers, sometimes exceeding a cost of $2,000 per consumer.  The settlement requires SG Hylan to pay $1.5 million in restitution to these consumers. The agreement with Best Auto, which returns $115,000 in restitution to consumers, concludes an investigation into this dealership for similar misconduct – alleged unlawful sale of credit repair and identity theft prevention services, and other “after-sale” items to over 200 consumers. 
“When consumers shop for a car, they deserve an honest and fair negotiation – and not to be misled by deceptive dealerships looking to saddle customers with hidden costs,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “My office will continue to investigate and hold accountable any auto dealers trying to pad their pockets by charging fees for undisclosed products and services that consumers do not need and did not ask for.” 
Each agreement requires payment into a restitution fund to be distributed to consumers with CFI contracts. SG Hylan must also pay $100,000 in penalties, and Best Auto must pay $10,000 in penalties.
Under the settlements, the dealerships are prohibited from:
  • Selling, offering to sell or marketing credit repair and identity theft services in connection with the sale or lease of a vehicle;
  • Selling, offering for sale, or providing to consumers any after-sale product or service unless, prior to such sale, certain material terms, including price, are disclosed verbally and in writing;
  • Misrepresenting the price of the vehicle in final lease or sale contracts;
  • Failing to provide consumers with sales or lease agreements that clearly and conspicuously itemize each after-sale product or service and its price.
These settlements are part of the Attorney General’s initiative to end the practice that automobile dealers call “jamming,” or charging consumers for hidden purchases. In 2015, Attorney General Schneiderman announced a settlement with Credit Forget, Inc., the company that purported to provide the credit repair and identity theft protection services. Since 2015, the Attorney General has settled with 11 dealerships for amounts totaling over $17 million in restitution and penalties. Over 22,000 consumers have been eligible for restitution under these settlements. 
The settlements include the following dealerships:
  • Paragon Auto Dealership:  a group of automobile dealers in Queens and Westchester counties, including Paragon Honda, Paragon Acura, and White Plains Honda
  • Plaza Auto Dealership: a group of dealers located on Nostrand Avenue, Brooklyn, including, Plaza Toyota-Plaza Scion, Plaza Hyundai, Plaza Honda and Acura of Brooklyn
  • Manfredi Auto Dealership:  a group of dealers located on Hylan Blvd, Staten Island, including Manfredi Fiat and Fiat of SI, Manfredi Mitsubishi, Manfredi  Kia, Manfredi Hyundai, Manfredi Cadillac, Manfredi Chrysler Jeep & Dodge, Manfredi Fiat Inc., S.I. Toyota, Manfredi Toyota and Manfredi Scion, Manfredi Subaru, Manfredi Mazda and Staten Island Subaru
  • Koeppel Auto Dealership: a group of dealers located in Jackson Heights, Long Island City and Woodside, Queens, including Koeppel Nissan, Inc.; LK Automotive Enterprises, LLC. d/b/a Koeppel Subaru, KL Auto Enterprises LLC. d/b/a Koeppel Mazda and Koeppel Volkswagen, Inc.
  • I. Autoworld, Inc. d/b/a Generation Kia: located in Bohemia, Long Island
  • Nissan 112:   located in Patchogue, Long Island
  • Huntington Honda, Honda of New Rochelle and New Rochelle Toyota: located on Long Island and in Westchester counties
  • Westbury Jeep Dodge and Fiat of Westbury: located in Westbury, Long Island
  • Security Auto Sales, Inc. d/b/a Security Dodge: located in Amityville, Long Island
The office is continuing to investigate a number of other New York auto dealers that sold or sell after-sale services without the knowledge and consent of consumers. 
Consumers who believe they have been jammed with unwanted products or services in connection with a vehicle lease or purchase or who were sold Credit Forget It’s credit repair or identity theft protection services are urged to file complaints online or call 1-800-771-7755.

Statement from New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer on the Tragic Explosion at a Bronx Homeless Shelter

  “This stirs up incredibly difficult emotions. What heartbreaking news. It’s another tragic day for the city, with more tragic news for those who need our help most.
“We’ve lost two more of our youngest, most vulnerable New Yorkers. It comes as the homeless population has just reached yet another record high, and the number of children in the DHS system is soaring. We have to do better.
“We will ask questions and work to get answers about what happened here—transparency is key. But for now, these children are in my family’s thoughts. It’s a sad day.”

Following Tragedy, Comptroller Stringer Calls on the City to Create a Roadmap to Tackle Homelessness

After promising to phase out both “cluster sites” and commercial hotels, the City is making little progress on both 
With over 13,000 open violations, "cluster site" shelters remain dangerous for our children
Department of Homeless Services dramatically escalating the use of commercial hotels, costing hundreds of millions of dollars
  Following the tragic death of two children in the Bronx yesterday, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer today called for the City to release a roadmap to solving the homelessness crisis.
“I am outraged by the deaths of these children. What a horrifying loss. My heart goes out to this family in this time of unimaginable pain,” New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer said. “I’m calling on the City to release a roadmap to tackle our homeless crisis. Cluster sites are known to be dangerous. Hotels are extraordinarily expensive and provide limited services. These options make no sense. That’s why we need a clear, transparent, public plan. While I know that progress will take time, we cannot continue to accept the status quo. The City promised to end its reliance on both of these forms of shelter – and we are no doubt trending in the wrong direction.”
As the deaths of two young children in the Bronx yesterday highlighted, “cluster sites” – buildings that have a mix of renters and DHS clients – can be extremely dangerous for homeless families. Many of these rooms are within buildings owned by notoriously bad landlords, a problem the City has known about for years. Currently, cluster sites not previously identified for closure have more than 13,000 open violations – including nearly 1,000 that are “high priority” and especially dangerous.
Currently, roughly 280 of the over 600 buildings that are used to house homeless New Yorkers – or 42 percent – contain cluster sites for families with children. At 720 Hunts Point Avenue, the location of yesterday’s tragedy, there are over 60 open HPD and DOB violations.
In January 2016, the City pledged to phase out thousands of units in the cluster program within three years. Yet, the city has made minimal progress towards that goal and the public has no timelines or milestones upon which to judge the agency’s approach.
New data also shows DHS’ use of commercial hotels is soaring. Because of a lack of a roadmap, in the letter to HRA Commissioner Steven Banks, Comptroller Stringer outlined his deep concerns with greatly expanding the approved capacity for hotel use:
  • 2,629 hotel units for families with kids.
  • 225 hotel units for adult families.
  • 1,075 beds for single adults.
  • The total cost of the most recent hotel escalation: over $217,000,000.
New cost numbers show the soaring price-tag for commercial hotels:
  • Commercial hotel units cost about $6,600 per month, or almost $79,000 per year – nearly double the cost for any other shelter type.
  • Yet, often, commercial hotel shelters have more limited services than other types of shelter, like child care service for families.
  • These hotels are also known to be less secure than traditional shelters.
  • Furthermore, hotel units lack kitchens and provide less privacy – making them inappropriate for families to live in long-term.
Comptroller Stringer also questioned if DHS had a comprehensive plan to address our City’s homelessness crisis. He specifically asked the City to answer:
  • How the City plans to phase out the use of “cluster site” shelters by the end of 2018, and if it was on track to do so;
  • If, given DHS’ request to dramatically expand the use of commercial hotels, the Administration’s policy was still to end using this type of shelter.
  • Whether the City had offered security services to every commercial hotel used as a shelter, what those services entail, if the hotels had accepted, and if the City had stopped using any hotels that declined security services.
Over the last year, audits, investigations, and reports from Comptroller Stringer’s office have highlighted deplorable shelter conditions, the use of unsafe commercial hotels to house the homeless, and unregulated shelter-based childcare centers that put children at risk.

Friday, December 9, 2016


Assemblyman Marcos Crespo and Senator Ruben Diaz worked to secure  $3 Million in funding for New York City Housing Authority Improvements

    Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo, Chair of the Assembly Puerto Rican Hispanic Task Force and member of the Speaker’s Anti-Poverty Working Group has announced that thanks to funding he helped secure through the 2016-17 State Budget, residents of housing developments in the Bronx will be receiving new appliances.  The upgrade to new appliances comes a few weeks before Christmas, Hanukkah and end of year celebrations.

According to Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo: “I am proud to be able to deliver critical funding for the developments in my district including providing over $500,000 for new appliances for the residents of Stebbins and Bronx River housing developments.”

In addition, Assemblyman Crespo said: “This is part of my ongoing work to improve our communities and quality of life for all its residents.  Safe, decent and affordable housing is the bedrock to achieving such goals.”  

“These investments in Stebbins-Hewitt and Bronx River Houses will improve quality of life for hundreds of residents,” said NYCHA General Manager Michael Kelly. “Brand-new appliances, like stoves and refrigerators, will improve residents’ kitchens and cooking experiences for the long term. We thank the Assembly Member for his commitment to strengthening these communities with these in-home upgrades.”

Norma Saunders, President of the Bronx River Houses Tenant Association made the following remarks: "They say that when you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect towards others. This quote is exactly who Assemblyman Marcos Crespo and Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr. represents They are providing new appliances for our seniors in both senior buildings at Bronx River Houses. This is much needed and much appreciated by the seniors and the Resident Association."

Ray Serrano President for the Resident Association of Stebbins Hewitt said: "It was definitely a pleasant surprise to our residents from Stebbins Hewitt Houses to receive new stoves and refrigerators this week. As resident leader I appreciate the fact that NYCHA with the help of Marcos Crespo recognize that the stoves and refrigerators we previously had in our apartments or substandard. One of our residents stated "the stove I had previously had two burners that did not light and I was constantly worried if there was a gas leak. Now I do not have to worry about that. I guess I could call it an early Christmas gift. Thanks NYCHA for stepping up!”

Under the Leadership of Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie, the Assembly Majority fought hard to secure much needed capital funding for the public housing developments owned and operated by New York City House Authority (NYCHA). 

While the residents of Stebbins – Hewitt are already in the process of receiving the delivery of new appliances, On Friday, December 9th at 3:30PM, Assemblyman Crespo, and NYCHA staff met with the residents of 1350 Manor Avenue of the Bronx River Houses Senior Buildings to announce their delivery schedule.

Above and Below - Assemblyman Marcos Crespo went to the residents with NYCHA officials to personally let the residents know that they were to receive a new stove and refrigerator providing the appliances had not been already replaced in the past five years. The residents thanked Assemblyman Crespo for his help, while informing him of other problems at the houses that the assemblyman and his staff will look into.

2016 New Year's Eve Party in the Heart of Times Square


  "The cluster homeless shelter program has been broken for a long time and should have been eliminated years ago," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. "There is an undeniable homelessness crisis in this city, and the city must initiate an aggressive reform in the shelter system to provide humane, clean and safe spaces for our most vulnerable residents during a difficult time.

“This is why Councilmember Rafael Salamanca will be introducing legislation, at my behest, to prevent the City of New York from leasing space in buildings that have outstanding C-level violations or stop-work orders; including hotels, motels, cluster-sites, and shelters; used for the purpose of housing homeless individuals or families.

“I will continue to work with all of my partners in government to identify the bad actors in our shelter system, in order to protect our most vulnerable residents.”


  I wanted to speak for a couple of minutes about the tragedy our city experienced yesterday in the Bronx. And I visited the apartment where the two children passed away – Ibanez and Scylee – two-year-old and one-year-old – and it is very painful to see that. My heart goes out to this family – to the parents who have lost their two children. I can only imagine that pain. Two beautiful children – there were photos on the walls; drawings on the wall. It was a very – clearly a warm, and loving household, there is no question about that.

And the loss that we all feel here – I was with the precinct commander and some of the detectives from the precinct – everyone felt the sort of [inaudible] silence looking at this room  and sensing the loss that this family had experienced. And it was really hard to talk about. And I have to tell you, there’s going to be a very full investigation – rigorous investigation to figure out what happened here. NYPD is doing an investigation – of course, the Department of Homeless Services and our Housing Department – HPD – are investigating as well.

But what we know so far suggests an extraordinary an unprecedented accident – something that we – no one that I have talked to so far in any agency has ever seen anything like this. Steve Banks, who has so much history – for 30 years worked with the homeless and [inaudible] leading experts on building [inaudible] for New York City – no one has ever seen anything like this. And we need to understand what happened here. We do not see any precedent in anything that has happened before. This was a freak accident, a series of painful coincidences that led to the loss of these children. HPD went through the building and the adjoining building. They apparently have an adjoined boiler system – went through, went to every apartment last night, did not find anything [inaudible]. They restored the heat as a result. There were no specific complaints that we knew of that would have indicated anything like this. There had been an inspection of this apartment last month. We are trying to put the pieces together, but so far cannot understand how something like this could happen.

 I think a very natural question – should New Yorkers be concerned about their radiators? What I can tell you is, again, we have no history of something like this specific incident. We will – if there is anything we learn from the investigation we are going to make it the public immediately, obviously, that would tell people to take a precaution, but so far just appears to be an extraordinarily unusual and particular incident – but horribly, horribly tragic.

  The valve that every radiator has – something happened with that valve. We do not know if it was something wrong with the manufacturer of that unit. We do not know if it was altered in some way. Something unusual was going on. That’s what we have to figure out, but somehow the valve – even though it was a low pressure system. I just talked to deputy commissioner [inaudible] who was there himself and again is an expert on repairs in apartment buildings – the low pressure system – the boiler was in another building, there was nothing that indicated the valve coming off, but apparently somehow it came off and steam came out in an extraordinary quantity. We don’t know how or why. It has nothing to do with the rest of the surface of the radiator. It’s just the valve.

Community Board 7 Christmas Tree Lighting

  Hundreds of people came to hear local elected officials and several Community Board 7 members gathered on the stage, the chorus of PS 20 sing holiday songs, the lighting of the CB 7 Christmans Tree, and welcome Santa. Above Barbara Stronzer Chair of the CB 7 Parks Committee welcomes everyone.

Above - Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz tells of the wonderful time of year it is for him, and is glad to be at the CB 7 tree lighting as he has for many years now.
Below - Councilman Andrew Cohen echoes the remarks of Assemblyman Dinowitz as this now has become a yearly event for him also.

Above - Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj tells everyone why this tome of the year is special to him, as he is able to attend many tree lightings and holiday events in his district. 
Below - The Chorus of PS 20 sing several holiday songs before the tree is lit.  

Above - The Cb 7 Christmas looks nice, but something is missing.
Below - Santa arrives to light the Christmas tree.

The Christmas tree is lit.

Council Member Andrew Cohen Announces Selection of New “District 11 Community Activist of the Month”

  At the 50th Police Precinct Council meeting last night Councilman Andrew Cohen presented his first Community Activist of the Month Award to Ms. Elisha Bird of Riverdale for her 'Traffic Safety Advocacy Efforts. Ms. Bird was injured while crossing a busy Kingsbridge intersection and has advocated for safer crossings at the intersection for all who cross at the intersection of Riverdale Avenue and West 231st Street where she was injured.

  “I am thankful that DOT heeded our request to introduce traffic calming measures at this busy location,” said Council Member Cohen. This will help students, teachers, and commuters in the Kingsbridge area. He added, “Elisha Bird is one of many individuals in the district who are my eyes and ears on the ground. I am grateful to her and others who bring dangerous conditions to my attention, so I can constantly suggest improvements to DOT.  I will continue to work with my colleagues and DOT to improve pedestrian safety at every dangerous intersection in my district. For her efforts in this key task, it is fitting that Elisha Bird be honored as District 11 Community Activist of the Month.”

Mounted PEP officers spotted on Mosholu Parkway

Two Parks Enforcement Officers on horseback can be seen traveling along Mosholu Parkway as they patrol Van Cortlandt Park including the stretch of parkland that runs along both sides of Mosholu Parkway.  The PEP officers are mainly used as a deterrent against any criminal action in the park or along the parkway. 

Above and Below - The PEP officers let their horses bring them back to VCP as the horses know the route they travel. You can click on the photos to enlarge them for more detail.

74th Accident This Year At Broadway and West 230th Street Ths Year

  Traffic at the intersection of Broadway and West 230th Street came to a halt for about 20 minutes as fire and police department personal had to clear a two car accident on Wednesday afternoon. As you will see in other photos about the two cars involved, one had some body damage, while the other had major front end damage. The cause of the accident - both drivers being in the same place at the same time. 

Above - Firemen survey the scene checking if any hazardous liquids from the two cars have leaked onto the roadway, such the anti-freeze/coolant in a car radiator.
Below - One fireman gets into the red Toyota to move the car to the side of the road. This car seems not to have to much damage to it.

The second car a ford however seems to have front end damage. Firemen were able to move this car to the corner also so traffic could once again flow after about a twenty minute shutdown of the intersection northbound on Broadway. There were no reported injuries at the accident site. This was the 74th reported accident to the police at this intersection dubbed the worse intersection on Broadway in the Bronx. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

U.S. Attorney Sues Landlord For Refusing To Allow Disabled Tenant To Keep An Assistance Animal

Lawsuit Follows Determination by Department of Housing and Urban Development that Landlord Engaged in Discrimination on the Basis of Disability

  Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States has filed a lawsuit against 111 EAST 88TH PARTNERS, a partnership, for violating the Fair Housing Act.  The Government alleges that 111 EAST 88TH PARTNERS discriminated against a disabled tenant, Gregory Reich, by failing to permit a reasonable accommodation of the tenant’s psychiatric disability.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “We have repeatedly filed lawsuits of this sort, and will continue to do so, until housing providers understand that the Fair Housing Act plainly allows tenants with disabilities to keep assistance animals.” 
As alleged in the Complaint filed in Manhattan federal court:
Reich is a statutory lessee of an apartment in a building located at 111 East 88th Street, New York, New York.  Reich suffers from depression and a personality disorder, and has long suffered from chronic kidney disease.  In March 2015, Reich was diagnosed with end stage renal disease, which led to a significant deterioration of his mental health and a reduced capacity to care for himself.  On June 18, 2015, Reich requested a reasonable accommodation to keep an emotional support dog based on updated medical information related to his recent diagnosis of end stage renal disease.  Reich attached letters from his physician and his therapist.  In response, 111 EAST 88TH PARTNERS requested that Reich provide copies of all of the therapist’s notes from his sessions with Reich from May 2014 through present, and copies of Reich’s medical records and medical history.  111 EAST 88TH PARTNERS also reserved the right to have Reich examined by a physician it had selected, and to require Reich, his physician, and his therapist to appear to answer questions under oath relating to Reich’s disability and accommodation request. 
Believing that 111 EAST 88TH PARTNERS’ requests for medical information were so burdensome as to constitute a denial of the reasonable accommodation request, Reich filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”).  Upon investigation, HUD determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that the Fair Housing Act had been violated.  Thereafter, 111 EAST 88TH PARTNERS elected pursuant to the Fair Housing Act to have HUD’s determination resolved in federal court.
In these circumstances, the Fair Housing Act authorizes the Department of Justice to commence an action in United States District Court on behalf of Reich.  The Complaint seeks declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief for Reich.
Mr. Bharara thanked HUD for its efforts in the investigation.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Arrests Of Operators Of Retail Heroin Store

Drug ring conspired to sell heroin out of a retail storefront in Newburgh, NY

  Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Angel Melendez, Special Agent in Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in New York (“HSI”), and George P. Beach II, Superintendent of the New York State Police, announced the arrest of VICTOR M. RIVAS, EDWARD CARDONA, JULIO A. DAVILA, and RONALD L. MATIAS a/k/a “Ronald Louis” stemming from a narcotics conspiracy to establish a retail heroin-selling organization.  VICTOR M. RIVAS was arrested at his home in Newburgh, New York, and MATIAS was arrested at a motel in Newburgh.   CARDONA and DAVILA were arrested at the retail shop at 427 Broadway in Newburgh.  They will be presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Margaret Smith in White Plains federal court.
Law enforcement officers also executed search warrants on several locations where they believed the organizers were storing narcotics.  They seized a brick containing a substance that appeared to be heroin from behind the shop, and approximately $250,000 in cash from a storage unit used by the defendants.  Law enforcement also recovered a quantity of a substance that appeared to be heroin from DAVILA that was on his person when he was arrested.
VICTOR R. RIVAS, was also charged.  He is currently incarcerated on state charges and will be transported to federal custody to face the federal narcotics conspiracy charges.  
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:  “As alleged, these defendants blatantly sold heroin from a storefront on a main street in Newburgh, New York.  By flouting the law and selling heroin like newspapers or lottery tickets, the Complaint alleges, they also helped fuel the tragic epidemic of opioid abuse that is devastating so many of our communities.”
HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Angel Melendez said:  “This organization allegedly operated daily selling drugs out of their store while posing as a legitimate business. Using fake storefronts has been a way for criminals to hide in our neighborhoods while poisoning our communities.  Whether it’s a sham barber shop or a bogus sports store, there is no place to hide.  HSI and its law enforcement partners continue to work tirelessly, day and night, to find these drug pushers and take them off our streets.”
New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said:  “Once again, a strong law enforcement partnership has brought down an illegal narcotic operation.  State Police members each day see the harmful effects of heroin on individuals, families and our neighborhoods.  A drug like heroin destroys communities and puts lives at risk.  I applaud our members and our partners for their strong police work.  We will continue to work together to make our communities safer from crime.”
According to the Complaint[1] unsealed today in federal court:
Since January 2016, law enforcement agents have been involved in an investigation of a narcotics trafficking organization (the “Organization”) run by VICTOR M. RIVAS, with the assistance of CARDONA, DAVILA, VICTOR R. RIVAS, and MATIAS that operates in and around Newburgh, New York, and specifically at a storefront location at 427 Broadway in Newburgh that alternately operates as a soccer shop and a barbershop (the “Soccer Shop”). 
During this investigation, undercover New York State Police officers (the “UCs”) and confidential sources (the “CSs”) conducted dozens of controlled buys of heroin at the Soccer Shop from several of the defendants.  In aggregate, from January 2016 to November 2016, the UCs and CSs purchased approximately 515 glassine envelopes of a substance sold as, and later determined to be heroin, at the Soccer Shop.  Ten glassine envelopes typically contain approximately 0.25 grams of heroin.
Law enforcement officials believe that the Organization distributed well over 1 kilogram of heroin from January 2016 through November 2016.  That belief is based, in part, on:  (i) the fact that, on the numerous occasions when the UCs and CSs sought to purchase heroin from the defendants, the heroin was readily available; (ii) the UCs and CSs frequently observed other customers of the Organization inside the Soccer Shop purchasing heroin; (iii) surveillance footage from a camera facing the Soccer Shop indicated that the Organization operated daily from approximately 5:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and that a steady stream of customers tended to enter the shop while it  was open and remain inside for only a few minutes each; and (iv) the observations of the UCs and CSs, as well as recorded audio and video surveillance, which indicate that the Soccer Shop is not engaged in any legitimate business as a barbershop, sports shop, or otherwise.  During the course of this investigation, the only business observed to be conducted inside the Soccer Shop was the illegal sale of narcotics.
VICTOR M. RIVAS, 51, of Newburgh, CARDONA, 33, of Newburgh, DAVILA, 26, of Newburgh, VICTOR R. RIVAS, 28, of Newburgh, and MATIAS, 35, are each charged with one count of conspiring to violate the narcotics laws of the United States, by conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 1 kilogram and more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of heroin.  The charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case 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 thanked the Drug Enforcement Administration and the City of Newburgh Police Department for their assistance with this investigation.  He added that the investigation is continuing.
This case is being handled by the Office’s White Plains Division.  Assistant United States Attorneys Jacqueline C. Kelly and Allison Nichols are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Complaint 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 Complaint and the description of the Complaint set forth below constitute only allegations and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Surinamese Man Sentenced In Manhattan Federal Court To More Than 11 Years In Prison For Conspiring To Import Cocaine

  Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that EDMUND QUINCY MUNTSLAG, a citizen of Suriname, was sentenced yesterday in Manhattan federal court to 135 months in prison for conspiring to import cocaine into the United States.  MUNTSLAG was convicted on March 22, 2016, after a four-day jury trial before former U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin.  Sentence was imposed yesterday by U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:  “Edmund Muntslag conspired to create a drug route for hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from his home country of Suriname to the streets of New York City.  Thanks to the outstanding work of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Muntslag will join co-defendant Dino Bouterse in serving a long sentence in a federal prison.”
According to the allegations contained in the Indictment, other documents publicly filed in Manhattan federal court, and the evidence introduced at trial:
In 2013, MUNSTLAG, along with co-defendant Dino Bouterse, the son of the President of Suriname who declared himself the head of that country’s Counterterrorism Unit, conspired to sell hundreds of kilograms of cocaine to a purported Mexican cartel for importation to the U.S. In furtherance of this conspiracy, Bouterse supplied to individuals that he and MUNTSLAG believed to be representatives of the cartel, but who in fact were confidential sources working at the direction and under the supervision of the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), with genuine Surinamese passports bearing false identification information. 
Approximately three weeks later, MUNTSLAG received $60,000 in cash as a payment to allow a 10-kilogram “test load” of cocaine to pass through the airport in Paramaribo, Suriname, where it was to be loaded onto a commercial airline flight concealed inside luggage.  Thereafter, MUNTSLAG worked with corrupt airport employees in Suriname to send the 10-kilogram test load to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, from where MUNTSLAG and Bouterse believed it would be further transported and sold by the purported cartel in New York, New York. MUNTSLAG and Bouterse expected to receive proceeds from the sale of the cocaine in New York, and also expected to send additional, 100-kilogram cocaine shipments to the purported cartel using a similar method upon the successful completion of the test load. 
The cocaine was seized by Trinidadian law enforcement officers, in coordination with agents of the DEA, in Port-of-Spain on July 27, 2013.  MUNTSLAG was arrested in Port-of-Spain on August 29, 2013, and Bouterse was arrested in Panama City, Panama, on August 29, 2013.
MUNTSLAG was convicted of conspiring to import five kilograms and more of cocaine into the United States.  In addition to his prison term, MUNTSLAG, 33, of Suriname, was ordered to pay a $100 special assessment.
On August 29, 2014, Bouterse, 43, also of Suriname, pled guilty to attempting to provide material support to Hezbollah, a Foreign Terrorist Organization; using and carrying a firearm or during and in relation to a drug-trafficking crime; and conspiring to import five kilograms and more of cocaine into the United States.  On March 10, 2015, Bouterse was sentenced principally to a term of 195 months in prison.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding efforts of the Special Operations Division of the DEA.  Mr. Bharara also thanked the DEA’s Miami Field Division, Panama City Country Office, Port-of-Spain Country Office, and Bogota Country Office; the Government of Trinidad and Tobago; and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs.