Saturday, December 17, 2016

Westchester Square Tree Lighting and Toy Giveaway

  It was a bitter cold Friday evening, but about 100 people were at Westchester Square to see the tree lighting and visit Santa in his local workshop to receive a free toy to the children on hand. The Westchester Square BID along with Assemblymen Mark Gjonaj and Michael Benedetto, Tom Messina of Congressman Crowley's office, local merchants, CB 10 Vice Chair John Marano, Santa's Elves and Reindeer were on hand. 

Above - All stand in front of the tree before it is lit, as everyone awaits santa's arrival.
Below - A lovely lit tree is now behind the group with Santa.

Above - Santa's Elves prepare the workshop for Santa and all the children.
Below - Rudolph arrives to tell the Elves Santa is about to arrive. 

Above - A group photo of Santa, the elected officials, merchants, and Santa's helpers, but someone is missing.
Below - Assemblyman Michael Benedetto is now in the photo after drinking some delicious hot chocolate which was provided with fresh baked cookies. 

Above and Below -Children then came in to sit on Santa's lap and receive a free toy.

Above - Another child sits on Santa's lap then receives a toy.
Below - Santa asks this young lady what she wants for Christmas.


  NYC Council Member Andy King Expresses Satisfaction Of January Date Set For Departmental Trial for NYPD Officer Richard Haste

“While I am extremely grateful that a date has been set for the departmental trial of Officer Richard Haste, it is my hope that the process, based upon the facts, will result in justice with Haste and the other officers being held accountable for their actions. This is long overdue, it was nearly five years ago when Ramarley Graham was killed,” said Council Member Andy King.


  At a press conference yesterday Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the first 5,000 families in NYCHA housing to receive free Tablets and mobile Internet service. Statements are below with photos. It must be noted that when the mayor took questions this reporter asked why can you give free tablets and Internet service, but residents in NYCHA houses must wait over five years for necessities like a stove or refrigerator. I also asked about the condition of the curbs after streets are milled for repaving, and damaged by the contractors. The mayor replied that the second part of my question about curbs was off topic, and as for the stoves and refrigerators he went into how NYCHA has an eighteen billion dollar backlog of repairs, blaming the federal government for not putting in its fair share of funding into public housing. 
   Reporters such as Marcia Kramer from Channel 2 News then asked about the fine by the Campaign Finance Board, and two investigations into dealings which involved the mayor. Mayor de Blasio said that the question was off topic and he was not going to answer it, and after the third reporter asked the same question the mayor said he was not taking anymore questions and quickly left the room. 

$2 million in tablets and discounted mobile internet service provided by T-Mobile complement Wi-Fi networks under construction in public housing communities in all five boroughs and the New York Public Library’s Mi-Fi hot-spot loan initiative, advancing the City’s goal of achieving universal affordable internet access by 2025 

  Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro today announced in partnership with T-Mobile that families living in public housing in the Bronx will receive 5,000 new tablet computers connected to T-Mobile’s high-speed data network. As part of this commitment, T-Mobile will also become a national stakeholder in the Obama Administration’s ConnectHome initiative. Beginning in January, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) will distribute the tablets – valued at $159 each – to qualifying families with children under 19 years old..

“Increasing internet access across the city is not just a noble goal – it’s a necessary one. These days, the internet is virtually a requirement for people searching for jobs or students doing homework. We are thrilled to find one more way to boost access in the Bronx – and we’re thankful to our partners at T-Mobile and HUD for helping to make this happen,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“The ConnectHome program is providing children and families the tools they need to stay competitive in this 21st century global economy,” said U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. “With this new commitment to ConnectHome, T-Mobile and the City of New York are making a meaningful impact to close the digital divide for thousands of New York public housing residents.”

This investment is part of the de Blasio Administration’s commitment to expanding internet access, which recognizes that high-speed internet is no longer a luxury but a critical service that must be affordable to all city residents. 

The tablets come preloaded with apps and links connecting users to City services and directories, including the award-winning MyNYCHA app, the 311 app, the New York Public Library’s SimplyE app, ACCESS NYC,, and links to information on IDNYC and local computer centers. T-Mobile will provide free introductory training for recipients. In addition, the New York Public Library will expand digital literacy and mobile tablet training programs at nearby branches in the Bronx, which will help New Yorkers learn about computer and internet basics, social media, protecting online information and privacy, career development, coding, and more.

T-Mobile has committed $2 million in devices and discounted service for this initiative and the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications is overseeing and will be funding the two years of discounted high-speed mobile data for these tablets at a cost of $1.2 million. Eligible developments and the schedule for distribution events, including T-Mobile tablet trainings, will be announced in January 2017, when residents will be able to register for the tablets online or through a phone hotline. NYCHA will also distribute flyers to eligible residents prior to the opening of registration.

Nearly 26 percent of households in the Bronx have no internet at home and no mobile internet plan – well above the citywide rate of 19.8 percent. This commitment will bring affordable, high-speed internet access to more NYCHA households in the Bronx. The tablet distribution complements the Administration’s $10 million investment in building wireless networks that serve public housing residents in the Queensbridge, Red Hook and Mott Haven, Jefferson and Stapleton Houses communities, which the Mayor and Secretary announced last year. Free Wi-Fi service launched this week for the first section of the Queensbridge Houses.

Above - Mayor Bill de Blasio listens to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro about public housing in the city and the needs of the families.
Below - Bailey Benson holds her new mobile Internet accessible phone from T-Mobil. 

Above - the Benson family poses with the mayor and Secretary Castro and the new tablet given to the family.
Below a close up of Mayor de Blasio as he is about to bolt the press conference after the third question about the CFB fine and questions of investigations of him.


Friday, December 16, 2016

DNC Vice-Chair R.T. Rybak endorses Michael Blake to succeed him as a DNC Vice-Chair

  Today, the Michael Blake for DNC campaign announced that Blake has secured the endorsement of former Minneapolis Mayor and current DNC Vice Chair, R.T. Rybak.

In announcing his endorsement of Blake to succeed him as Vice-Chair, Rybak cited the need for new progressive leadership in the party, saying:

“In 2008, it was my pleasure to work side by side with Michael in the Minnesota Presidential primary for then-Senator Barack Obama. Together, we mobilized communities across the state, from union families to Somalian Americans, to millennials, to take action and support the President’s candidacy. I saw firsthand his ability to put together coalitions and identify strategic paths to victory. Mike is exceptionally prepared to help Democrats win local elections and harness our diversity than Michael Blake.”

Accepting the endorsement, Blake said, “I’m honored to have R.T.'s support not just for my candidacy, but for our campaign's vision of a Vice-Chair dedicated to winning local elections.”

Blake served as a White House liaison for state and local elected officials and led African-American & Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises outreach. As a two-time campaign aide to President Obama including serving as Michigan Deputy State Director in 2008 where the campaign won all seven down ballot campaigns for their coordinated campaign effort.  In 2012 he served as the National Deputy Director of Operation Vote, the constituency vote effort for the campaign that helped win nine out of ten battleground states

Blake announced his candidacy last week, focusing on the party’s need to identify, train and help candidates win local elections and embrace our party's diversity. Under the theme of "Leadership for Tomorrow" Blake laid out plans to Build our Bench, Strengthen our Party, and Embrace our Future.

Blake is a graduate of New York City public schools and Northwestern University, where he earned his degree in Broadcast Journalism before embarking on a career in public service. As a campaign manager, he's helped win several local elections and flip the Michigan house to Democratic control. He is currently a member of the New York State General Assembly.



  New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the appointments of two senior strategy and communications aides. Andrea Hagelgans will now serve as Senior Advisor for Strategic Planning, where she will be charged with crafting the architecture of key mayoral policy initiatives and communications strategies. Michael Casca has been appointed Communications Director, a post vacated by Hagelgans, responsible for mayoral and agency communications and event coordination.

Hagelgans has served in City Hall since May of 2014. She was instrumental in the development of communications strategies behind high-profile policy speeches, State of the City addresses, budget announcements, the rollouts of universal pre-K and paid parental leave, and the city’s response to Ebola. Prior to joining the de Blasio administration, Hagelgans worked as a communications consultant and as a senior strategist for Planned Parenthood, where she helped lead the successful effort against the Komen Foundation’s attempt to defund the health care organization.

Casca comes to City Hall after serving as deputy communications director for Senator Bernie Sanders and director of rapid response for Sanders’ presidential campaign. Casca has also served as an aide to U.S.Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota. Casca will be starting his new role in January.

“Andrea and Michael are supremely talented public servants who bring years of experience meeting some of the most demanding strategic and communications challenges government can face,” said Mayor de Blasio. “Our administration’s ability to listen to and engage New Yorkers in communicating our work is at the core of our commitment to help build a fairer New York – founded on the principle that our city only succeeds if everyone has the opportunity to share in our progress. I’m confident Andrea and Michael will serve New Yorkers with the professionalism that has defined their public service.”

“I have been fortunate enough to be involved in many of our administration’s toughest and most important communications challenges,” said Senior Advisor Andrea Hagelgans. “I continue to be inspired by the mayor’s vision for a fairer New York City with shared progress for communities across our five boroughs. I am looking forward to finding creative and compelling ways to build on our policy successes and share the administration's work in the most dynamic, competitive media market in the world.”

"I am grateful to the mayor for the opportunity to serve 8.5 million New Yorkers. I believe in Mayor de Blasio’s vision to tackle income inequality and ensure the city works for everyone,” said Communications Director Michael Casca. I look forward to working hard with the talented team in City Hall to lift up the voices of working people fighting every day to make ends meet."

Chief Judge DiFiore and Mayor de Blasio Announce Opening of New Summons Court in Lower Manhattan

$20 Million Investment in Streamlined Architectural Design Part of Larger Effort to Improve Quality of Justice in City’s Summons Process

   Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced the opening of a state-of-the-art court facility in lower Manhattan that will handle Criminal Court summonses issued in Manhattan and Brooklyn, as well as summonses issued citywide for building and fire code violations. The Chief Judge presided over a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new court, a $20 million renovation funded by the City that includes a dedicated entrance, new lobby, and an extensively renovated 40,000 square foot space on the 16th floor of the 40-story, landmark David N. Dinkins Municipal Building at Once Center Street comprising three courtrooms and a spacious back office area to accommodate the Court’s administrative operations.
Relocating the Summons Court to a modern, streamlined facility is a major step forward in a more comprehensive plan to improve the summons process. Launched as a partnership between the court system and the Mayor’s Office in 2014, this project is improving the quality of justice for New Yorkers by making the summons process easier to understand and navigate. To date, this initiative has redesigned the paper summons form to make it simpler to read and understand; created a text message reminder system to ensure that defendants do not miss their court appearances; and offered online payment options and more flexible court appearance dates and times, among other enhancements.
The new facility, formerly occupied by New York City’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), has been revamped to expedite the flow of traffic and enhance case processing in the high-volume Summons Court. The redesign incorporates many high-tech elements, from an electronic check-in system that will reduce wait times to acoustical features to help ensure proper sound levels in the courtrooms and other areas.
New York court facilities are provided and operated by the cities and counties they serve, with the court system’s Office of Facilities Planning offering architectural and other guidance relating to the design, renovation and construction of court facilities as well as services supporting their day-to-day management and operations. The Municipal Building is owned by the City of New York. The building where the Summons Court was previously located, at 346 Broadway in Manhattan, was sold by the City to a private corporation. 
Summonses in New York City are issued by over 40 certified agencies, including the New York City Police Department, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the New York City Fire Department. The new Summons Court will house the citywide summons operation’s central receiving unit, where authorized agencies deliver summonses issued throughout the five boroughs. The unit separates the summonses by borough and appearance date, then checks them for serious defects that would prevent their being docketed, before forwarding them to the appropriate borough to be reviewed for legal sufficiency prior to the scheduled arraignment date. In 2015, over 330,000 summons filings were processed by the central receiving unit.
“Having modern, clean and secure court facilities is integral to the Judiciary’s vital mission. This beautiful new Summons Court, designed for optimal efficiency and navigability, will enable us to better serve the justice needs of the people of this great City, providing a dignified environment that fosters respect for and confidence in our justice system. I want to extend my gratitude to the Mayor’s Office, the City’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services, the Criminal Court of the City of New York and the courts’ Office of Facilities Planning for their collaboration and support, to which we owe the successful transformation of this space into a highly functioning courthouse,” said Chief Judge DiFiore. 
            “Trust is the foundation of public safety, and the principles of legitimacy – respect, fairness, transparency and voice – are the cornerstones of the City’s work to ensure every New Yorker has confidence in the justice system. Design is a key piece of building trust: whether it is creating an open and welcoming courtroom, reducing wait times or providing clear explanations of the process. The Mayor and the City are grateful to the Chief Judge for her leadership and the Office of Court Administration for its partnership in suffusing the design of the structure and process of the new Summons Court with the principles that advance our joint goals of improving the quality of justice for all New Yorkers,” said Elizabeth Glazer, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.
           “This new court facility demonstrates Mayor de Blasio’s commitment to the fair and equitable administration of justice. DCAS is proud that we delivered this project on time and under budget,” said DCAS Commissioner Lisette Camilo. 
The new Summons Court, which will open for business on Monday, December 19, is expected to average 250 to 400 visitors daily.

State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., Councilman Rafael Salamanca, and New York State Republican Chair Ed Cox Toy Giveaway

Former Senior Executive From Universal Forest Products Sentenced In White Plains Federal Court To 50 Months In Prison For Fraudulent Kickback Scheme

  Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that ROBERT LEES, a former senior executive of Universal Forest Products, Inc. (“UFP”), was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Karas to 50 months in prison for conspiracy, mail fraud, money laundering, and making false statements in a loan application.  LEES was found guilty by a jury on May 20, 2016, after a seven-day trial before Judge Karas.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:  “Robert Lees, a senior executive at Universal Forest Products, defrauded both HUD and a mortgage lender, causing millions of dollars in losses.  With the jury verdict earlier this year and today’s sentence, Lees has been held accountable for his crimes.”
The evidence at trial proved that, in 2009, Michael Barnett, a real-estate developer, hired JK Scanlan Company, Inc. (“Scanlan”), to be the general contractor on Vineyard Commons, a senior housing community in Ulster County.  In 2009, Scanlan entered into falsely inflated contracts with Shawnlee Construction, LLC (“Shawnlee”), a subsidiary of UFP for which LEES had responsibility, to be the subcontractor on Vineyard Commons responsible for framing and rough carpentry.
In 2009, a private lender (the “Mortgagor”), agreed to provide financing to Vineyard Commons, which financing would be insured by HUD.  The Mortgagor and the borrower agreed that the proceeds would be disbursed incrementally after the borrower submitted draw requests based upon its completion of phases of the project.
On January 19, 2009, Shawnlee provided Scanlan a final bid to supply labor and materials for Vineyard Commons.  In March and April 2009, representatives of UFP – including LEES – Shawnlee, and Scanlan entered into an agreement by which UFP and Shawnlee agreed to provide labor and materials in an amount approximately $865,000 greater than the final bid.  LEES and others intended for the approximately $865,000 difference between the final bid and the inflated contract price to be returned to Barnett as a kickback, and further intended that the Mortgagor would unwittingly finance the kickback by disbursing HUD-insured funds on the basis of inflated draw requests.
In early 2009, Scanlan’s owner agreed to provide Barnett and Vineyard Commons with a million-dollar loan.  In order to obtain this loan, Barnett informally pledged the anticipated $865,000 kickback to Scanlan’s owner as collateral.
In June 2009, Barnett needed additional funds in order to secure HUD-insured financing from the Mortgagor.  UFP provided a $650,000 letter of credit to the Mortgagor.  Barnett informally pledged the anticipated approximately $865,000 kickback to UFP as collateral, even though it was already pledged to Scanlan’s owner.
On July 2, 2009, Barnett and others provided HUD with a written estimate of the cost of Shawnlee’s work (the “Final Framing Price”) that exceeded Shawnlee and UFP’s actual price for labor and materials by approximately $865,000.
Beginning in July 2009, and continuing until January 2012, Barnett and Scanlan submitted contractor’s requisitions (the “Contractor Requisitions”) on forms provided by HUD to the Mortgagor, which the Mortgagor then sent to HUD.  These Contractor Requisitions included a certification by a representative of Scanlan that “all the information stated herein, as well as any information provided in the accompaniment herewith, is true and accurate.”  Each of these forms set forth the Final Framing Price as the actual cost of rough carpentry.  Each month, the Mortgagor disbursed HUD-insured funds on the basis of the Contractor Requisitions.  UFP set aside the “extra” from the Shawnlee/Scanlan contract in an accrual account falsely labeled as a rebate accrual.
In January 2010, LEES agreed with Barnett to pay Scanlan’s owner $200,000, which payment they understood would be guaranteed by part of Barnett’s interest in the approximately $865,000 difference between the contract price and the actual price for labor and materials provided by Shawnlee and UFP.  Barnett sought this payment, and LEES agreed to make this payment, as a partial payment of Barnett’s obligation to Scanlan’s owner.  LEES arranged for UFP to send a $200,000 check to a company controlled by Barnett that was not involved in the development of Vineyard Commons – which would then pass the money on to Scanlan’s owner.  On January 15, 2010, UFP issued a check for $200,000 to Barnett’s company and mailed it from Michigan to Barnett in Dutchess County, New York.
On January 20, 2010, Barnett sent to Scanlan’s owner in Massachusetts a $200,000 check that he drew on the account into which Barnett had deposited the check he received from UFP.
Later in 2010, Barnett sought a $5 million loan from UFP.  Among other incentives, Barnett offered to surrender the remainder of his kickback to UFP, allowing UFP to take that money into its own profit.  With LEES’S encouragement, UFP issued the loan to Barnett.
The developer of Vineyard Commons defaulted on the loan after the project failed.  HUD assumed the loan and sold the project, losing $28 million.
In addition to the prison sentence, LEES, 62, of Lititz, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to three years of supervised release.  Judge Karas also ordered LEES to forfeit $865,000 in ill-gotten gains and to pay $865,000 in restitution.
LEES’s co-defendants have been convicted.  Barnett pled guilty on January 19, 2016, to conspiracy, and was sentenced by Judge Karas on October 26, 2016, to 37 months in prison.  DiCello pled guilty on April 20, 2016, to conspiracy, mail fraud, money laundering, and making false statements in a loan application, and is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Karas on January 19, 2017.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding efforts of HUD-Office of Inspector General.

Former Minister Of Mines For The Republic Of Guinea Charged With Receiving And Laundering $8.5 Million In Bribes From Chinese Companies

  Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Leslie R. Caldwell, the Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, and William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced that MAHMOUD THIAM was arrested in Manhattan this morning on money laundering charges stemming from his scheme to launder $8.5 million in bribes that THIAM received from senior representatives of a Chinese conglomerate.  The charges allege that THIAM used his official position as Minister of Mines for the Republic of Guinea to facilitate the award to the Chinese conglomerate of exclusive and highly valuable investment rights in various sectors of the Guinean economy.  THIAM was presented today in Manhattan federal court before Magistrate Judge James C. Francis. 
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Mahmoud Thiam, a former high-ranking official of Guinea, allegedly used his position to accept millions in bribes from a Chinese conglomerate and laundered the money through New York.  Thiam, a U.S. citizen, will now face justice.” 
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell said: “Former Minister Thiam is accused of enriching himself at the expense of the people of the Republic of Guinea. We cannot allow the United States to be a safe haven for the spoils of official corruption.  The department is committed to pursuing both those who pay bribes, and also the corrupt officials who receive them.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney, Jr. said: “Today’s action shows that the FBI, along with our partners, is committed to investigating all levels of corruption. The United States will be relentless in its efforts to uphold fair, equal and competitive markets.  The actions of a few who use corruption for personal gain will not be tolerated.”         
According to the Complaint[1] unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
MAHMOUD THIAM, a United States citizen who was Minister of Mines and Geology of the Republic of Guinea in 2009 and 2010, engaged in a scheme to accept bribes from senior representatives of a Chinese conglomerate and to launder that money into the United States and elsewhere.  In exchange for these multimillion-dollar bribe payments, THIAM used his position as Minister of Mines to facilitate the award to the Chinese conglomerate of exclusive and highly valuable investment rights in a wide range of sectors of the Guinean economy, including near total control of Guinea’s significant mining sector.  
In order to receive the bribes covertly, THIAM opened a bank account in Hong Kong (the “Hong Kong Account”) and misreported his occupation to the Hong Kong bank to conceal his status as a public official in Guinea.  Upon receiving the bribes, THIAM transferred millions of dollars in bribe proceeds from the Hong Kong Account to, among other things, THIAM’s bank accounts in the United States; a Malaysian company that facilitated and concealed THIAM’s purchase of a $3,750,000 estate in Dutchess County, New York; private preparatory schools in Manhattan attended by THIAM’s children; and at least one other West African public official.   
To further conceal the unlawful source of the bribery proceeds that THIAM transferred from the Hong Kong Account to banks in the United States, THIAM lied to two banks based in Manhattan and on tax returns filed with the Internal Revenue Service regarding the bribe payments, his position as a foreign public official, and the source of the funds in the Hong Kong Account.  In total, THIAM received approximately $8.5 million in bribes from the Chinese conglomerate. 
THIAM, 50, of Manhattan, is charged with two counts of money laundering, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 15 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 praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI. 
The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant United States Attorney Elisha J. Kobre and Assistant Chief Tarek Helou, Senior Trial Attorney Jason Linder and Trial Attorney Sarah Edwards of the Fraud Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division are in charge of the prosecution.

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

Bronx Tax Preparer Sentenced For Preparing And Filing False And Fraudulent Tax Returns

  Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that CHRISTOPHER AHERN was sentenced today to 30 months in prison for preparing and filing false and fraudulent tax returns that claimed more than $4.7 million in credits and expenses.  AHERN pled guilty on July 5, 2016, before United States District Judge Deborah A. Batts, who imposed today’s sentence.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:  “Christopher Ahern used his clients’ tax returns to bilk the IRS of more than $3 million in fraudulent credits, pocketing more than a million dollars in fees.  But because of the investigative efforts of the IRS, Ahern’s dishonest business is closed.”
According to the allegations in the Information to which AHERN pled guilty, other documents filed in Manhattan federal court, and statements made in court proceedings:
AHERN, owned and operated a tax preparation business called Get My Refund Fast, located in the Bronx, New York.  From 2012 through 2013, AHERN’s business prepared and submitted to the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) nearly 5,000 tax returns.  These tax returns were false and fraudulent in that they claimed education credits to which the clients were not entitled.  The IRS issued approximately $3 million pursuant to the false and fraudulent returns AHERN filed.  AHERN received more than $1.5 million in fees from his clients for preparing and filing the fraudulent returns. 
In addition to his prison term, AHERN, 40, of Little Neck, New York, was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $3 million in restitution.
 Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the IRS, Criminal Investigations. 

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Indictments Of 13 Individuals With Alleged Ties To Genovese Organized Crime Family For Illegal Loan Shark And Gambling Activities

Defendants Allegedly Operated Illegal Off-Shore Gambling Ring And Trapped Victims With High Weekly Usurious Loan Payments 
Two Defendants Also Allegedly Sold Tens Of Thousands Of Untaxed Cigarettes In New York State 
Schneiderman: No Matter How Complex Or Clever The Scheme, We Will Continue To Work With Our Law Enforcement Partners To Take Down Traditional Organized Crime
    Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and New York City Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill today announced the arrests and indictment of thirteen individuals on charges stemming from the alleged operation of lucrative loan sharking and gambling activities closely controlled by the Genovese Organized Crime Family.
“Operation Shark Bait” was a long-term investigation into the alleged loan sharking and bookmaking activities of alleged Genovese “made member” Salvatore DeMeo and alleged Genovese ‘associates,’ or ‘non-made’ members, Gennaro Geritano, Eugene Orefice and Anthony “Buckwheat” Giammarino, among others. A series of early morning arrests conducted by Attorney General Schneiderman’s Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) and the New York City Police Department’s Criminal Enterprise Investigations Section (CEIS), capped a long-term investigation dubbed “Operation Shark Bait.” Based on the evidence obtained throughout the course of the investigation, the Attorney General's Office secured two separate indictments from a Kings County grand jury, charging a total of thirteen individuals on felony charges. The investigation also uncovered a multi-state untaxed cigarette operation.
“Loan sharks shamelessly saddle their victims with outrageous loan rates that are impossible to repay. These defendants allegedly went to great lengths to trap their victims with exorbitant rates, all while evading our gambling laws and taking offshore bets,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “No matter how complex or clever the scheme, we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to take down traditional organized crime.”
“Despite these Genovese members continued attempts to evade detection, our investigation revealed millions in offshore sports betting, lucrative loan sharking, and tax evasion,” said Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill. “My thanks to our detectives and the State Attorney General for their work on this case.”
Throughout the investigation, intercepted conversations revealed the hierarchy and alleged criminal activities of the Genovese crime family enterprise.  According to the charges, an illegal sports gambling operation was run through an offshore wire room in Costa Rica – – that handled wagers on various college and professional sports. This gambling operation generated millions of dollars’ worth of wagers.
In addition to bookmaking, the Enterprise Corruption indictment also charges six defendants in a pattern of loansharking activities whereby victims were charged exorbitant weekly loan rates which effectively created a high cost debt trap upon any individual who received such a loan. The Enterprise Corruption charge alone carries a maximum penalty of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison.
Two defendants, Gennaro Geritano and Mario Leonardi, were also charged in a second indictment which alleges the defendants evaded both state and city excise taxes through a combined sale of more than thirty thousand unlawfully stamped cigarettes within New York City in violation of the New York State Tax Law.
Sales of untaxed cigarettes deprive the state of millions of dollars in lost cigarette tax revenues, hurt law-abiding small businesses, and undercut public health measures designed to discourage smoking.  Packs of cigarettes sold in New York City must bear a joint New York City/New York State tax stamp and only a licensed stamping agent can possess and affix the tax stamps on the cigarette packs. Neither Gennaro Geritano nor Mario Leonardi were authorized to sell tobacco products in New York City or New York State.
The defendants charged today are:
  • Salvatore DeMeo (76), Brooklyn, NY
  • Eugene Orefice (48), Monroe Township, NJ
  • Gennaro Geritano (62), Brooklyn, NY
  • Anthony Giammarino (65), Brooklyn, NY
  • Joseph Tommasino (52), Staten Island, NY
  • Thomas Alexiou (55), Brooklyn, NY
  • Rocco Maglione (46), Brooklyn, NY
  • Windsor Lewis (66), Brooklyn, NY
  • Mario Leonardi (76), Odenville, AL
  • Vincent Taliercio (65), Brooklyn, NY
  • Jackie Charlton (53), Brooklyn, NY
  • Michael Epstein (48), Brooklyn, NY
  • John Giglio (55), Staten Island, NY
The Attorney General would like to thank Acting Kings County District Attorney Eric Gonzalez for his cooperation in this matter and, additionally, Kip Brailey, Tansey Brent, and John Yaros of the Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes and Enforcement Network (FinCEN) for their assistance throughout this investigation.
The charges against the defendants are merely allegations. All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

NYPD DEPUTY INSPECTOR INDICTED FOR SEXUAL ABUSE Keith Walton Allegedly Abused Police Officer Under His Command in 49th Precinct

   Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark today announced that NYPD Deputy Inspector Keith Walton has been indicted on first-degree Sexual Abuse and other charges for grabbing the private area of a police officer and making her do the same to him inside the 49th Precinct stationhouse, where he served as commanding officer. 

   District Attorney Clark said, “The defendant allegedly sexually abused an officer who was under his command, in the police stationhouse where they serve and protect the public. By his degrading behavior, he abused the trust of his officers, as well as that of the residents of the 49th Precinct in the Bronx.” 

    District Attorney Clark said the defendant, Keith Walton, 44, was indicted on three counts of first-degree Sexual Abuse, Official Misconduct, two counts of Forcible Touching, three counts of third-degree Sexual Abuse, and second-degree Harassment. He was arraigned today before Bronx Supreme Court Justice Steven Barrett and released. He is due back in court on February 7th . If convicted of the top charge, he faces up to 2 to 7 years in prison. 

    According to the investigation, on November 6, 2016 at 1:15 p.m., Walton allegedly called the officer into his office in the 49th Precinct stationhouse at 2121 Eastchester Road and sexually abused her. Walton also allegedly threatened the officer. 

   The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Meagan Powers and Brian Connor of the Public Integrity Bureau, under the supervision of Omer Wiczyk, Deputy Chief of the Public Integrity Bureau, and Wanda Perez-Maldonado, Chief of the Public Integrity Bureau, under the overall supervision of Stuart Levy, Deputy Chief of the Investigations Division and Jean T. Walsh, Chief of the Investigations Division. District Attorney Clark thanked Joseph Muroff, Chief of the Child Abuse/Sex Crimes Bureau, and the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau for their assistance. 

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

Morris Park Christmas Tree Lighting

  At the corner of Morris Park and Haight Avenues this Christmas tree sits waiting for children, elected officials, Santa, and others to arrive from the Peace Plaza tree lighting.

Above and Below - Children from the PS 83 Chorus sing various holiday songs as they wait for the arrival of Santa to help light the Christmas tree. Notice how dark it is already as this started at 5 PM.

Above - Santa arrived by a horse drawn carriage to Morris Park Avenue.
Below - With very short speeches just thanking the students and everyone else who showed up as the temperature dropped even more the Morris Park Christmas tree was light. You can see the difference from an unlit tree to this very nice looking fully lit tree.

You can see Senator Klein, Assemblymen Gjonaj and Benedetto, District leader Joe McManus, and the Precinct commander standing with Santa with the lit Christmas tree in the background.

Christmas Tree Lightings -Peace Memorial Plaza Pelham Parkway and Morris Park-

  It was the 22nd annual Christmas tree lighting at the Memorial Peace Plaza for State Senator Jeff Klein who was joined by Assemblymen Mark Gjonaj and Michael Benedetto, as well as the Chorus os PS 105 who sang several songs until Santa came to help light the Christmas tree. 

Above - The PD 106 Chorus sang several holiday songs for those who braved the cold like the happy children who got to show off their talent. 
Below - State Senator Jeff Klein welcomes everyone to the tree lighting, introduces his fellow legislators Assemblymen Mark Gjonaj and Michael Benedetto as he thanks the PS 105 chorus for the wonderful songs. 

Above - Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj lets his senior member of the assembly Assemblyman Benedetto speak first, as both assemblymen kept their speeches very short due to the very cold weather.
Below - Santa dropped in to help light the tree here as he says hello to the children.

Santa, the elected officials, the chorus os PS 105, and others gather in front of the Christmas tree for one big group photo. It was then off to Morris Park for most, and the next tree lighting.

2016 Year in Review - Bronx Chamber of Commerce

2016 Year in Review
Professional Achievement
Completing my first year as the new President & CEO of The Bronx Chamber of Commerce has been exciting, challenging and rewarding. I enthusiastically lead this prominent organization to reach historic success for the direct benefit of the current and future membership. I developed and expanded membership to the Chamber and enhanced strategic partnerships with other organizations and companies for our mutual benefit.
Planning, coordinating and implementing successful programs and events is one of my many strengths. The Bronx Chamber of Commerce has sponsored, hosted or co-sponsored over 65 workshops, seminars and networking events for members, non-members and businesses in The Bronx since January 2016. Each event was well attended and feedback from attendees and participants was very positive. I promote and encourage networking and business card exchanges at every setting. I firmly believe: "You never know where your next big deal is going to come from".
The positive messages and promotion of the events resonated in the business community. Successful professionals are drawn to other successful professionals and want to be affiliated with organizations that are professionally managed. I reached out to my over 13,000 Outlook contacts; 5,800 contacts on LinkedIn and additional contacts on Facebook to attend events and join the Bronx Chamber of Commerce. Due to my experience, integrity and reputation, they responded. Over 100 new companies joined the Bronx Chamber of Commerce in the past 12 months. I am very encouraged that membership will significantly increase over the next 5 years.
Project with the Greatest Impact
Based on my experience and understanding of how to manage and strategically grow an organization, I strongly believe it requires a current and up to date database and Membership Directory. While many organizations have replaced a printed or hard copy directory with an electronic or on-line version, I am an advocate of both the printed hard copy and the electronic version of the directory.
Without the luxury of time, I prefer to utilize the experience of other professionals in similar positions rather than attempting to "reinvent the wheel". I visited with neighboring Presidents and CEOs of Chambers of Commerce to examine how they operate regarding programs, services and membership directory. I requested and received a number of proposals from publishers to produce the first annual membership directory for the Bronx Chamber of Commerce.
My personal preference was to work with Rich Martinelli of Today Media. The Board of Directors of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce unanimously approved the Today Media proposal at their March 2016 meeting.  I was delighted to announce and promote that we have entered into a partnership with Today Media (publishers of the Brooklyn, Yonkers Chamber of Commerce and Westchester Business Council Directory) to produce the 2017 Bronx Business Directory & Resource Guide or the Bronx Chamber of Commerce.

I clearly see an important need and service being fulfilled by producing the 2017 Bronx Business Directory & Resource Guide. There is a lot of excitement and very positive comments from current and new members that have recently joined. They see and understand the value and benefit of the printed directory. The 2017 Bronx Business Directory & Resource Guide will list all members alphabetically and by category for referrals and new business contacts. The Directory will also feature important resource information.

Major businesses and institutions in The Bronx also believe in the concept and value of the Bronx Business Directory and have committed significantly with their advertising dollars. Some of the confirmed 2017 advertisers include: Active Staffing Services; American Maintenance; Apple Bank; Berkeley College; Bronx Lebanon Hospital; Castle Hill Recycling; Certified Alarm Tech Systems Inc.; Children's Corner Learning Center; Cottam Heating & Air Conditioning; Country Bank; F & F Insurance Services; Flushing Bank; Fordham University; Hutchinson Metro Center; ISE Office Plus; Law Offices of Joseph A. Romano PC; Manhattan College; Marriott Residence Inn; Metro Optics Eyewear; MetroPlus Health Plan; Monroe College; Mosholu Montefiore Community Center; New York Yankees; Pisacano Eye Surgery & Laser Specialists; Premier Facility Management; Rand Commercial; Ridgewood Savings Bank; Rite Check Cashing; Rooter Plus Plumbing & Heating; Stop & Stor New York's Self Storage; The Woodlawn Cemetery; and Tompkins Mahopac Bank.

Supercharging Productivity in 2017

Membership in 2017 will significantly increase with the printing of the 2017 Bronx Business Directory & Resource Guide delivery date of the end of January 2017. The Directory will be distributed to more than 2,000 member businesses, new businesses, and select governmental offices. It will also be distributed at Bronx Chamber of Commerce events throughout the year.

Companies and businesses that were not included will join the Bronx Chamber of Commerce and will make sure that they do not miss out on future editions. Advertising in the 2018 Bronx Business Directory & Resource Guide will also significantly increase due to the exposure and benefit it brings to the Bronx businesses and institutions and the referral business for small and mid-sized companies. I can easily predict that company advertising will more than double for the 2018 edition.

Greater participation from the membership will emerge from the expanded list of committees of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce. Serving on committees is an excellent way to network and meet potential new customers; contribute directly to the work of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce; interact with fellow members to share ideas and common interests; further the Chamber's objectives for Bronx businesses and the borough through its promotion, support and advocacy initiatives.

We have a place for all professionals including serving on any one of 9 committees such as: Business Development; Bylaws; Events; Finance; Legislative; Membership; MWBE; Technology & Social Media; and Young Professionals Network.

Emerging trends driving investment and development in 2017

As I stated when I accepted the position of President & CEO of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce over 1 year ago, "We are witnessing a renaissance in our great borough that is unprecedented. Together, we will grow the Chamber, enhance its influence and further improve the image of "The Bronx"!

My staff and I recently participated at the New York Business Expo (NYXPO) at the Jacob Javitz Convention Center in Manhattan. Thousands of business owners, entrepreneurs, and professionals from throughout the greater New York metropolitan region attended the full day event of excellent seminars, workshops and trade show exhibitors. I love trade shows and networking. I spoke to hundreds of people. What I found most remarkable was that no one had anything negative to say about The Bronx! I only heard positive comments and questions about investment and development opportunities.

I am very excited to be a leader in the continuing renaissance in our great borough and the Bronx Chamber of Commerce.I look forward to your active membership and meeting you at some of our upcoming networking events. My vision is for our Bronx Chamber of Commerce to be one of the most influential and successful organizations in Bronx County. It will happen with our successful Annual Bronx Business Directory & Resource Guide and inclusive organization.
Helping you grow your Bronx Business is our Goal!
Nunzio Del Greco
President and CEO
Bronx Chamber of Commerce
"The Network For Business Success"
1200 Waters Place, Suite 106
Bronx, NY 10461
"You never know where your next big deal is going to come from"!