Friday, December 23, 2016

U.S. Attorney Files Civil Rights Suit Against Bronx Developer To Remedy Pattern And Practice Of Inaccessible Design And Construction Of Apartment Buildings

  Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against ABRAHAM STRULOVITCH to require him to remedy conditions at two rental complexes in the Bronx and in Orange County to make them accessible to people with disabilities and to ensure that two rental complexes currently under construction by STRULOVITCH in the Bronx will be accessible.  
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “The Fair Housing Act’s accessibility provisions were enacted to ensure that people with disabilities have the same access to housing as everyone else.  With today’s lawsuit, we seek to ensure that Strulovitch fixes the current inaccessible conditions at Riverdale Parc and Bluestone Commons as well as at his ongoing construction projects.  This Office will continue to use all available tools to enforce the FHA’s promise of accessibility for people with disabilities.” 
The Fair Housing Act’s (“FHA”) accessible design and construction provisions require multifamily housing complexes constructed after January 1993 to have basic features accessible to persons with disabilities.  According to the allegations in the Complaint, STRULOVITCH has engaged in a pattern and practice of discriminatory conduct, as evidenced by the numerous inaccessible conditions at Riverdale Parc, a 54-unit rental complex in the Riverdale section of the Bronx designed and constructed in 2014, and Bluestone Commons, a 70-unit rental complex for senior residents in Maybrook, New York, designed and constructed in 2015.  The inaccessible conditions alleged include, for example, an excessively high threshold at the main entrance to Riverdale Parc, as well as insufficiently wide doorways within the rental units at both Riverdale Parc and Bluestone Commons.  Other inaccessible conditions include excessively high thresholds to balconies within the rental units at Bluestone Commons and inaccessible locations of thermostats or other environmental controls in the rental units at Riverdale Parc and Bluestone Commons.
The Complaint further alleges that STRULOVITCH currently is actively involved in designing and constructing two other rental complexes in the Bronx – 640 West 238th Street and 3707 Blackstone Avenue – that will contain a total of more than 90 rental units.  In the Complaint, the United States also seeks a court order requiring STRULOVITCH to take steps necessary to ensure that both 640 West 238thStreet and 3707 Blackstone Avenue will be constructed in compliance with the Fair Housing Act’s accessibility requirements.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Li Yu, Jacob Lillywhite, Jessica Jean Hu, and Natasha Teleanu are in charge of the case.
This blog has been chronicling the building of the 640 West 238th Street since the demolition of the one story house on the lot. The developer has had nothing but a lack of respect and no concern to the community, and now we know why. The developer during the building of 640 West 238th Street has been caught on camera not abiding by rules of New York City permits which were issued, and has ruined West 238th Street and the formerly nice island that is in the middle of the street in front of West 238th Street. Just check the archive section of this blog for the many reports and photos of the building of 640 West 238th street.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces $30 Million Settlement With Total Call Mobile For Defrauding Government Program Offering Discounted Mobile Phone Services To Low-Income Consumers

Total Call Mobile Admits to Seeking and Receiving Reimbursement for Tens of Thousands of Ineligible Consumers and Agrees to Cease Participating in the Government Program

   Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Travis LeBlanc, Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) Enforcement Bureau Chief, announced today a $30 million settlement of a civil fraud lawsuit against TOTAL CALL MOBILE, LLC (“TOTAL CALL”), for defrauding the Lifeline Program, a federal government subsidy program that offers discounted mobile phone services to eligible low-income consumers.  TOTAL CALL, based in Gardena, California, has enrolled Lifeline subscribers in 19 states and territories.  The United States’ Complaint alleges that Total Call, with the knowledge and involvement of its affiliate, co-defendant LOCUS TELECOMMUNICATIONS, LLC, and their shared corporate parent, co-defendant KDDI AMERICA, INC., knowingly submitted false claims for federal payments by seeking reimbursement for consumers who did not meet Lifeline eligibility requirements.  As part of the settlement, TOTAL CALL admitted and accepted responsibility for conduct alleged in the Complaint, including seeking reimbursement for tens of thousands of ineligible consumers, and agreed to no longer participate in the Lifeline Program.  The payment also resolves an administrative investigation conducted by the FCC, and the FCC has entered into a separate administrative agreement with TOTAL CALL as part of this global settlement.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:  “By routinely looking the other way while its sales agents repeatedly engaged in obvious fraud, Total Call Mobile undermined the goals and depleted the resources of a federal subsidy program designed to provide discounted phone services to low-income individuals.  While it certified its compliance with FCC rules, Total Call enrolled and claimed federal payments for tens of thousands of consumers who did not qualify for the program.”
FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc said:  “We have no toleration for fraud.  This unprecedented $30 million settlement along with a permanent ban from the Lifeline Program affirms our commitment to pursue the strongest sanctions for those who defraud or abuse the Universal Service program.  We thank our partners at the Department of Justice for working with us to make sure that companies that commit fraud are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
To be eligible for the Lifeline Program, a consumer must have income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participate in one of a number of specified federal, state, or Tribal assistance programs.  Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (“ETCs”), such as TOTAL CALL, receive monthly federal payments for providing discounted phone services to qualified consumers.  As a condition of receiving these payments, an ETC must comply with regulations established by the FCC, which, among other things, require the implementation of policies and procedures for ensuring that enrolled subscribers are eligible for the program and that households do not receive more than one Lifeline phone.  ETCs must certify their compliance with Lifeline rules as part of an annual reporting requirement and with each monthly request for payment.
As alleged in the Complaint filed in Manhattan federal court:
TOTAL CALL relied primarily on in-person sales events to enroll consumers in the Lifeline Program.  The company contracted with “master agents,” who in turn hired “field agents” to engage in face-to-face marketing at public events and spaces.  These field agents were expected to enter electronically a consumer’s demographic information and capture images of the consumer’s proof of identification and proof of eligibility for the Lifeline Program (e.g., Medicaid card, food stamp card).  TOTAL CALL had access to the information entered by the field agents. 
TOTAL CALL, with the knowledge and involvement of the other defendants, engaged in a widespread practice of seeking federal reimbursement for consumers who did not meet Lifeline’s eligibility requirements.  TOTAL CALL field agents employed a range of fraudulent enrollment practices, including repeatedly using the same eligibility proof to enroll multiple consumers, tampering with identification or eligibility proof documentation, intentionally altering the way consumer information was input so as to avoid the detection of duplicate subscriber enrollments, and submitting false consumer addresses and social security numbers.  Although TOTAL CALL’s managers were notified that high volume field agents were engaging in blatantly fraudulent enrollment practices, TOTAL CALL continued to approve and seek federal reimbursement for consumers enrolled by these agents.
In addition, defendants failed to implement effective procedures and systems for preventing the enrollment of duplicate or otherwise ineligible Lifeline subscribers.  In many instances, even a cursory review of the submitted information and documentation or a straightforward search of the existing customer database would have shown that an application was faulty and should be denied.  However, to maximize enrollments and meet its aggressive sales targets, TOTAL CALL approved applications with little or no scrutiny, and then submitted grossly inflated reimbursement requests with false certifications of compliance with Lifeline rules.
Today, U.S. District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff approved a settlement stipulation to resolve the Government’s claims against the defendants.  Under the settlement, defendants are required to pay approximately $22.54 million to the United States, and to forego payment of approximately $7.46 million in Lifeline reimbursements claimed by TOTAL CALL but held by the Government pursuant to a prior FCC Order.  Further, TOTAL CALL has agreed to cease providing Lifeline services by December 31, 2016, and not to participate in the Lifeline Program in the future. 
As part of the settlement, TOTAL CALL admits, acknowledges, and accepts responsibility for the following conduct:
  • TOTAL CALL failed to implement effective policies and procedures to ensure the eligibility of the subscribers for whom TOTAL CALL requested reimbursement for Lifeline discounts, as required by Lifeline rules.
  • For much of the period from September 2012 to May 2016, defendants allocated insufficient staff and resources to verifying the eligibility of Lifeline subscribers, and failed to adequately screen and train the field agents. 

  •  Hundreds of TOTAL CALL field agents engaged in fraudulent practices to enroll consumers who were duplicate subscribers or who were otherwise not eligible for the Lifeline Program.  TOTAL CALL failed to put in place effective mechanisms to oversee the conduct of field agents and detect and prevent field agent abuses. 
    • Certain field agents repeatedly used the same benefit program eligibility proof to enroll multiple consumers.  Agents frequently enrolled several different individuals by submitting an image of the same improperly obtained program eligibility card or, in some instances, a fake program eligibility card. 
    • Certain field agents slightly altered the way in which a subscriber’s demographic information was input to avoid having TOTAL CALL identify the application as a duplicate. 
    • Certain field agents tampered with identification or program eligibility cards, and intentionally transmitted blurry or partial images of the documentation, to try to conceal the fact that the information on the documentation did not match the subscriber’s actual name or the other information on the Lifeline application. 
    • Certain field agents provided their own signature, printed their own name, or wrote a straight or curvy line where the prospective subscriber’s signature was supposed to appear on Lifeline applications. 
    • Certain field agents submitted false consumer addresses and social security numbers to enroll duplicate or otherwise ineligible subscribers.  
  • At the time that TOTAL CALL submitted many of its monthly remittance requests, TOTAL CALL knew that its policies and procedures for reviewing Lifeline applications, verifying consumer eligibility, conducting duplicate checks, and detecting duplicate subscribers were deficient.  
  • TOTAL CALL sought and received reimbursement for tens of thousands of consumers who did not meet the Lifeline eligibility requirements.
In connection with the filing of the lawsuit and settlement, the Government joined a private whistleblower lawsuit that had previously been filed under seal pursuant to the False Claims Act.
Mr. Bharara thanks the FCC’s Office of Inspector General and the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau for their investigative efforts and assistance with the case.

Annual Bronx Chanukah Menorah Lighting

  While this event takes place at the Bronx County Courthouse, due to construction the Annual Chanukah lighting was moved this year to the Riverdale This year Chanukah falls on Saturday night which happens to be the same day as Christmas Eve. Rabbi Greenberg of the Bronx Jewish Community Council said that the Bronx tradition dates back to 1987 with then Bronx Borough President Freddy Ferrer. The photos should tell the rest of the story.

Above - The SAR Academy Elementary School Choir anxiously awaits their chance to sing.
Below - The Choir sang several songs including both national anthems of the United States and the State of Israel.

Above - You can see the smiles on the students as they sing.
Below - Ms. Arlene Salmon of the BJCC was the Mistress of Ceremonies.

Above - Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
Below - Congressman Eliot Engel.

Above - Rabbi Greenberg says the Chanukah prayer.
Below - Rabbi Greenberg helps Bronx BP Diaz light the first candle.

Above - Congressman Engel lights one of the candles.
Below - Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz lights another candle.

Senator Diaz Welcomes All to Participate in the Christmas Eve Humanitarian Relief Effort To Be Held In Bronx County

Senator Reverend Ruben Diaz  welcomes individuals, community organizations and companies to participate in the  “Christmas Eve Humanitarian Relief Effort” to help flood victims in the Dominican Republic on Saturday, December 24, 2016 from 12PM–4PM on Southern Boulevard and Aldus Street in Bronx County.

Leaders for the "Christmas Eve Humanitarian Relief Effort" hope to receive donations such as non-perishable food, clothing, medical supplies and financial contribution to send to flood victims in the Dominican Republic.

This effort has been coordinated by Senator Rev Ruben Diaz, the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization, Radio Vision Cristiana International, the Dominican Republic Presidential Liaison Committee for USA Ministers presided by Bishop Nicolas Angustia, Livery Taxi Industry Committee, Salcedo Cargo Express, Super Canal Caribe Television, Radio Cantico Nuevo, Inc., NYPD 41st  Precinct, and elected officials.


Secret Snowflake, a holiday initiative spearheaded by NYC Service in partnership with four City agencies, will provide gifts for children and youth served by NYC Family Justice Centers, foster care or the shelter system.

  The de Blasio Administration today announced that it is supporting more than 1,300 children and youth with crucial necessities and toys this holiday season through the Secret Snowflake initiative.

In 2016, Secret Snowflake mobilized 900 City and private sector employees to answer 1,300 hand written letters from children and youth in need and provide them with gifts this holiday season, doubling the number of children served through letters last year. In addition, 10 organizations, including Greenlight Bookstore and Eeboo Toys, contributed over 2,000 in kind donations such as books, toys and school supplies. These donations are distributed to City agency partners to supplement letters and serve additional children.

“The holidays are a great time for us as New Yorkers to count our blessings and share our gratitude with others,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The Secret Snowflake Holiday initiative is making this season brighter for hundreds of children and youth across our City, and it reminds us of how powerful we are when we work together. I want to thank the hundreds of New Yorkers who answered letters this year and the many organizations that have contributed in-kind donations to make this possible.”

“Sharing the joy of the holiday season with children around New York City is one of the ultimate highlights of this time of year,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Through the Secret Snowflake program, hundreds of young people throughout the five boroughs will have their celebrations brightened by our dedicated civil servants and contributors. The work of the Office of Mayor de Blasio, NYC Service and partner organizations serves as a model for the giving spirit this festive month should instill in all of us, and I thank them for their commitment to even the youngest of New Yorkers.”

“By leveraging the spirit of service during the holidays, Secret Snowflake brings New Yorkers together to support hundreds of children and youth in need,” said Chief Service Officer Paula Gavin. “NYC Service is so honored to continue leading this initiative and we are grateful for the partnership and support from our City agencies, businesses and every day New Yorkers across the City that helped make this the most successful year of Secret Snowflake yet.”

The Secret Snowflake is led by NYC Service in partnership with the Administration for Children’s Services, the Department of Homeless Services, Department of Social Services and the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence.

Additionally, NYC Service coordinates with City employees, including the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, which engages the diplomatic community in service. This year, participants included representatives from the Consulates General of Australia, Belarus, Denmark, Germany, Lebanon, Singapore, Sweden, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates. Representatives from the Permanent Missions of Chile, France, Germany, Kuwait, Singapore, Switzerland, the United States, the Delegation of the European Union as well as staff from across the United Nations also participated.

Through the Secret Snowflake Holiday initiative, NYC Service actively recruits corporate partners such as Brookfield, HBO, The New York Times and Yelp to answer hand written letters from children in need.

NYC Service also uses the holiday season to involve local businesses in Secret Snowflake. Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn joined the initiative this year and engaged their customers and publishers in a holiday book drive that raised nearly 500 books that will supplement answered letters and serve additional children.

Over the last three holiday seasons, Secret Snowflake has mobilized a total of 1,548 New Yorkers to answer letters and provide gifts for over 2,200 children and youth. The initiative has also helped collect over 3,000 in-kind donations from organizations across the City to supplement letters and serve additional children.

2016 Corporate Partners (Employees Answered Letters)

  • Brookfield
  • HBO
  • Maggie Vision Productions
  • New York City Football Club
  • The New York Times
  • Yelp

2016 In-Kind Donors

  • Akashic Books
  • Eeboo Toys
  • Europa Editions
  • Greenlight Bookstore
  • Harper Collins
  • HBO
  • Mayor’s Office of International Affairs
  • Penguin Random House
  • Soho Press/Soho Crime

“The holidays are a great opportunity to show our generosity to hundreds of children in foster care and their families,” said Former Commissioner of the NYC Administration for Children’s Services Gladys Carrión. “Secret Snowflake encourages New Yorkers to take the time to make a child feel special. I am proud to partner with NYC Service and other City and private agencies in giving back to our youth in care.”

“NYC Service’s ‘Secret Snowflake’ is instrumental in connecting donations made in the spirit of the season to New Yorkers who need it most,” said Commissioner to the Department of Social Services Steven Banks. “We thank NYC Service for its commitment to work with us to improve the lives of homeless New Yorkers.”

“The Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence is proud to take part in Secret Snowflake,” said Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence Cecile Noel. “This program embodies the best values of New Yorkers and is a shining display of generosity around the holidays. We are grateful to the many donors throughout the City who have helped bring gifts and smiles to hundreds of underserved children whose lives have been affected by domestic violence. The families at the NYC Family Justice Centers that benefit from Secret Snowflake are very grateful for the kindness they receive, and more importantly, to be able to bring joy to their children during this festive season.”

52nd Precinct Council Meeting Special Guest

  At last night's 52nd Precinct Council there was a special guest. Santa Claus was among the crowd, but it was Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark who was the special guest who described her first year as Bronx DA. DA Clark described her accomplishment of making the DA's office vertical, meaning that one Assistant DA covers a case from start to end as opposed to several different Assistant DA's in the past. 

  Also at the meeting was State Senator Gustavo Rivera, who gave a brief detail of what he expects to see in the upcoming new year in the State Senate. The Precinct commander went over the crime stats, which he said have declined slightly over the past year in the 52nd Precinct. He also said however that the biggest problem seems to be robberies where thieves come in through unlocked or unsecured windows on fire escapes. He added that this may happen when you are not home, and in some instances when people were at home. There was cheer, food, and a good time had by all who attended.

Above - Bronx District Attorney Darcl Clark speaks to the crowd.
Below - State Senator Gustavo Rivera gives his take on the upcoming new year for the State Senate.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Charges Executive Of Axact In $140 Million Diploma Mill Scam

   Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Philip R. Bartlett, Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”), and William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today the filing of a criminal Complaint charging UMAIR HAMID, a/k/a “Shah Khan,” a/k/a the “Shah,” with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft in connection with a worldwide “diploma mill” scheme that collected at least approximately $140 million from tens of thousands of consumers.  As alleged, HAMID and his co-conspirators made false and fraudulent representations to consumers on websites and over the phone to trick them into enrolling in purported colleges and high schools, and issued fake diplomas upon receipt of upfront fees from consumers.  HAMID was arrested on December 19, 2016, and was presented yesterday in federal court in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:  “As alleged, while promising the rewards of a higher education, Umair Hamid was actually just peddling diplomas and certifications from fake schools.  Hamid allegedly took hefty upfront fees from young men and women seeking an education, leaving them with little more than useless pieces of paper.”
USPIS Inspector-in-Charge Philip R. Bartlett said:  “Mr. Hamid took advantage of the aspirations and dreams of thousands wanting a college education by devising a scheme to issue college coursework, degrees and certifications not worth the paper they were printed on. Postal Inspectors and their law enforcement partners will spare no resource to bring these scammers to justice, protecting those striving for higher education and opportunities.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “Thousands of people’s hopes were crushed as this alleged diploma mill scheme came crashing down.  Victims took at face value the lies Hamid and his co-conspirators are alleged to have sold them.  Today, we’re rewriting the lesson plan.”           
According to the allegations contained in the Complaint filed today in Manhattan federal court[1]:
The Axact Scheme
HAMID, using the aliases “Shah Khan” and the “Shah,” and others operated a massive education “diploma mill” through the Pakistani company “Axact,” which has held itself out as one of the world’s leading information technology (“IT”) providers.  Working on behalf of Axact, HAMID and others made misrepresentations to individuals across the world, including throughout the United States and in the Southern District of New York, in order to dupe these individuals into enrolling in supposed high schools, colleges, and other educational institutions.  Consumers paid upfront fees to HAMID and his co-conspirators, believing that in return they would be enrolled in real educational courses and, eventually, receive legitimate degrees.  Instead, after paying the upfront fees, consumers did not receive any legitimate instruction and were provided fake and worthless diplomas.              
Axact promoted and claimed to have an affiliation with approximately 350 fictitious high schools and universities, which Axact advertised online to consumers as genuine schools.  During certain time periods since 2014, Axact received approximately 5,000 phone calls per day from individuals seeking to purchase Axact products or enroll in educational institutions supposedly affiliated with Axact.  At least some of those consumers appeared to believe that they were calling phone numbers associated with the respective schools.  When consumers asked where the schools were located, sales representatives were instructed to give fictitious addresses. 
Once a consumer paid for a school certificate or diploma that falsely reflected a completed course of study, Axact sales agents were trained to use sales techniques to convince the consumer that the consumer should also purchase additional “accreditation” or “certifications” for such certificates or diplomas in order to make them appear more legitimate.  Axact, through HAMID and his co-conspirators, falsely “accredited” purported colleges and other educational institutions by arranging to have diplomas from these phony educational institutions affixed with fake stamps supposedly bearing the seal and signature of the U.S. Secretary of State, as well as various states and state agencies and federal and state officials. 
HAMID’s Role in the Scheme
HAMID served as Axact’s “Assistant Vice President of International Relations.”  While based in Pakistan, HAMID was involved in managing and operating online companies that falsely held themselves out to consumers over the Internet as educational institutions.  Among other things, HAMID made various false and fraudulent representations to consumers in order to sell fake diplomas.  At HAMID’s direction, the websites of purported “schools” (1) falsely represented that consumers who “enrolled” with the schools by paying tuition fees would receive online instruction and coursework, (2) sold bogus academic “accreditations” in exchange for additional fees, (3) falsely represented that the schools had been certified or accredited by various educational organizations, and (4) falsely represented that the schools’ degrees were valid and accepted by employers, including in the United States. 
As a further part of the scheme, HAMID and a co-conspirator (1) opened bank accounts in the United States in the names of shell entities, effectively controlled by HAMID, which received funds transferred by consumers in exchange for fake diplomas, (2) transferred funds from those bank accounts to bank accounts associated with other entities located elsewhere in the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and Canada, at the direction of HAMID, and (3) opened and operated an account with Paypal, the online payment service provider, to collect and distribute consumer funds obtained in connection with their fraudulent scheme.
In or about May 2015, Axact was shut down by Pakistani law enforcement, and certain individuals associated with Axact were prosecuted in Pakistan.  Nevertheless, after May 2015, HAMID resumed his fraudulent business of selling fake diplomas to consumers in the United States for upfront fees based upon false and fraudulent representations.  Most recently, HAMID traveled to the United States in order to open a bank account that he has used to collect money from consumers he defrauded. 

HAMID, 30, of Karachi, Pakistan, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and two counts of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the FBI and Postal Inspection Service.  Mr. Bharara noted that the investigation remains ongoing.
If you believe you were a victim of this crime, including a victim entitled to restitution, and you wish to provide information to law enforcement and/or receive notice of future developments in the case or additional information, please contact the Victim/Witness Unit at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, at (866) 874-8900.  For additional information, go to
The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Edward A. Imperatore and Noah D. Solowiejczyk are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is 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 herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Former Portfolio Manager At The New York State Common Retirement Fund Charged In “Pay-For-Play” Bribery Scheme

  Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today the unsealing of an Indictment charging NAVNOOR KANG, the former Director of Fixed Income and Head of Portfolio Strategy at the New York State Common Retirement Fund (“NYSCRF”), and DEBORAH KELLEY, a managing director of institutional fixed income sales at a New York-based broker-dealer (“Broker-Dealer-1”), with participating in a “pay-for-play” bribery scheme involving the NYSCRF.  KANG was arrested today in Portland, Oregon, and will be presented later today before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Portland.  KELLEY is expected to surrender today to authorities in San Francisco, California.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken. 
Mr. Bharara also announced today the unsealing of charges against GREGG SCHONHORN, a vice president of fixed income sales at a New York-based broker-dealer (“Broker-Dealer-2”), who pled guilty and admitted to his participation in the scheme. 
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:  “Today, we allege a classic, quid-pro-quo bribery scheme at the New York State Common Retirement Fund, the third largest pension fund in the country.  Navnoor Kang, a former portfolio manager at the fund, allegedly steered billions of dollars of business to broker-dealers who bribed him with luxury vacations, high-priced watches, drugs, cash, and more. The hard-earned pension savings of New Yorkers should never serve as a vehicle for corrupt, personal enrichment. The intersection of public corruption and securities fraud appears to be a busy one, but it's one that we are committed to policing.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “Instead of upholding his fiduciary duty, Kang was allegedly paid in bribes for diverting business to two separate brokerage firms.  When it comes to retirement funds, fixed-income investments are often thought of as a reliable choice.  Members of the New York State Common Retirement Fund likely also relied on the belief that the man directing their investments was an honest public servant. Unfortunately, as alleged, that is not the case here today.”
According to the allegations in the Indictment[1] and Information, which were unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
The NYSCRF was a pension fund administered for the benefit of public employees of the State of New York.  The third largest pension fund in the United States, the NYSCRF held approximately $184 billion in assets in trust for a total of more than one million retirees and other beneficiaries.
From January 2014 through February 2016, KANG served as Director of Fixed Income and Head of Portfolio Strategy for the NYSCRF.  In that capacity, KANG was responsible for investing more than $53 billion in fixed-income securities and was entrusted with discretion to manage those investments on behalf of the NYSCRF.  KANG owed a fiduciary duty to the NYSCRF and its members and beneficiaries, and was required to make investment decisions in their best interests and free of any conflict of interest.  New York State law and NYSCRF policies prohibited KANG and other NYSCRF employees from receiving any bribes, gifts, benefits, or consideration of any kind.
The Scheme to Steer NYSCRF Fixed-Income Business in Exchange for Secret Bribes
From 2014 through 2016, KANG, KELLEY, and SCHONHORN participated in a scheme to defraud the NYSCRF and its members and beneficiaries, and to deprive the NYSCRF of its intangible right to KANG’s honest services.  The scheme involved, among other things, an agreement among KANG, KELLEY, SCHONHORN, and others to pay KANG bribes – in the form of entertainment, travel, lavish meals, prostitutes, nightclub bottle service, narcotics, tickets to sports games and other events, luxury gifts, and cash payments for strippers and KANG’s personal expenses – in exchange for fixed-income business from the NYSCRF.  Such bribes – which totaled more than $100,000 – were strictly forbidden by the NYSCRF, and were paid secretly and without any disclosure to the NYSCRF and its members and beneficiaries concerning the conflicts of interests inherent therein. 
In exchange for the bribes paid by KELLEY, SCHONHORN, and others, KANG used his position as Director of Fixed Income and Head of Portfolio Strategy at the NYSCRF to promote the interests of KELLEY, SCHONHORN, and their respective brokerage firms.  KANG, in exchange for the bribes he received, agreed to steer fixed-income business to Broker-Dealer-1 and Broker-Dealer-2.  In fact, KANG steered more than $2 billion in fixed-income business to Broker-Dealer-1 and Broker-Dealer-2, from which KELLEY, SCHONHORN, and their respective employers earned millions of dollars in commissions from the NYSCRF.  In so doing, KANG, with the knowledge and approval of KELLEY and SCHONHORN, breached his fiduciary duty to make investment decisions in the best interest of the NYSCRF and its members and beneficiaries, and free of conflict, and deprived the NYSCRF of its intangible right to KANG’s honest services.
As the bribes paid by SCHONHORN to KANG increased, so too did Broker-Dealer-2’s fixed-income business with the NYSCRF.  The value of the NYSCRF’s domestic bond transactions with Broker-Dealer-2 skyrocketed from zero in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013, to approximately $1.5 million in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2014, to approximately $858 million in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2015, and to approximately $2.378 billion in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2016.  Broker-Dealer-2 became the third largest broker-dealer with which the NYSRCF executed domestic bonds transactions for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2016, having not even been on the approved list in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013.  As the NYSCRF’s third largest broker-dealer in this asset class, Broker-Dealer-2 brokered approximately eight percent of the total value of the NYSCRF’s domestic bond transactions – a figure greater than that of all but two of the major international banks and brokerage houses on the list.  Similarly, the value of NYSCRF’s domestic bond transactions with Broker-Dealer-1 increased from zero in the fiscal year ending March 1, 2014 to approximately $156 million in the fiscal year ending March 1, 2015, and to approximately $179 million in the fiscal year ending March 1, 2016. 
KANG’s trades resulted in the payment of millions of dollars in commissions to Broker-Dealer-1 and Broker-Dealer-2, of which KELLEY and SCHONHORN personally earned approximately 35 to 40 percent.
The Obstruction of Justice
In late 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) opened an investigation into the entertainment and benefits that KELLEY had provided KANG, and the SEC subpoenaed both KANG and KELLEY for their testimony.  In advance of their testimony, KANG and KELLEY agreed to align their stories and testify falsely before the SEC in order to conceal their scheme.  In late 2015 and early 2016, KANG and KELLEY each falsely testified under oath before the SEC about expenses KELLEY had paid for KANG.  Moreover, after a federal grand jury investigation was opened, KANG instructed SCHONHORN to testify falsely before the grand jury, and KANG admitted that he had hidden relevant evidence. 
KANG, 38, of Portland, Oregon, and KELLEY, 58, of Piedmont, California, are charged with the offenses set forth in the chart attached to this release.  
On December 15, 2016, SCHONHORN, 45, of Short Hills, New Jersey, pled guilty in Manhattan federal court before Judge Paul G. Gardephe to six counts: conspiracy to commit securities fraud; securities fraud; conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud; honest services wire fraud; bank fraud; and conspiracy to obstruct justice in the SEC investigation.  Count One carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.  Counts Two, Three, Four, and Six each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  Count Five carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.  The charges also carry a maximum fine of $5 million, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. 
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 investigative work of the FBI and noted that the investigation is continuing.   He also thanked the SEC, which filed civil charges against KANG, KELLEY, and SCHONHORN in a separate civil action today, and the Office of Inspector General for the Office of the New York State Comptroller.
The charges were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.  With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices, and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud.  Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations.  Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants.  For more information on the task force, please visit       
This case is being handled by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Edward A. Imperatore and Joshua A. Naftalis are 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.
Count Charge Defendant Maximum Penalties
1       Conspiracy to Commit Securities Fraud (18 U.S.C. § 371)   NAVNOOR KANG DEBORAH KELLEY 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense
2       Securities Fraud (15 U.S.C. §§ 78j(b) & 78ff; 17 C.F.R. § 240.10b-5; 18 U.S.C. § 2) NAVNOOR KANG DEBORAH KELLEY 20 years in prison and a $5,000,000 fine or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense
3       Conspiracy to Commit Honest Services Wire Fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1349) NAVNOOR KANG DEBORAH KELELY 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense
4       Honest Services Wire Fraud (18 U.S.C. §§ 1343 and 1346) NAVNOOR KANG DEBORAH KELLEY 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense
5       Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice in the SEC Investigation (18 U.S.C.  § 1512(k) NAVNOOR KANG DEBORAH KELLY 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense
6       Obstruction of Justice in the Grand Jury Investigation (18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2)) NAVNOOR KANG     20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense
[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.


Defendant Will Register as Sex Offender Following Release 
  Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark today announced that a Bronx man has been sentenced to four to 12 years for the sex trafficking of a Manhattan teen who was forced into having sex with several men after running away from home. 
  District Attorney Clark said, “The defendant preyed upon this young girl’s trust and forced her into prostitution using violence and intimidation. Thankfully, she was able to escape him and help bring him to justice. His plea ensures he will be on the Sex Offender Registry.” 
  District Attorney Clark said the defendant, Raymond Johnson, 29, of 2350 Valentine Avenue, was sentenced on December 20, 2016 by Bronx Supreme Court Justice Robert Neary to four to 12 years. Johnson pleaded guilty to the first charge on the indictment of Sex Trafficking on Oct. 31, 2016.
  According to the investigation, in April 2015, Johnson offered the teen a place to stay after she had an argument at home. On the second day, he forced the girl, now 18- years-old, into commercial sexual work out of his Valentine Ave. apartment. The teen was able to escape after a month of abuse. On February 10, 2016, following a joint investigation between the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD Vice, Major Case/Human Trafficking unit, Johnson was arrested for sex trafficking and related offenses. 
  The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Lauren DiChiara of the Child Abuse/Sex Crimes Bureau under the supervision of James Goward, Chief of the Criminal Enterprise Bureau, and Joseph Muroff, Chief of the Child Abuse/Sex Crimes Bureau. District Attorney Clark also thanked Detective George Munoz of the NYPD Vice, Major Case/Human Trafficking Unit.

Happy Holidays from the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park


  Happy Holidays from all of us at the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park.  We hope you and your family have a safe and happy holiday season.  Van Cortlandt Park is beautiful in the winter and we hope to see you out in the Park soon.  

FVCP Staff

Warmest Wishes from the FVCP Staff
Pictured from the left to right: John Butler, Sara Kempton, Christina Taylor and Alex Byrne


  Years of efforts by elected officials and community stakeholders to revitalize the business climate and housing prospects in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx have now paid off.

The realty marketplace StreetEasy, which combines and publishes listings from hundreds of metro NYC brokers, today predicted Kingsbridge would be 2017’s hottest NYC neighborhood, stating that the neighborhood “long overshadowed by Riverdale,” its neighbor to the west, is where “apartment shoppers are expected to turn their attention in the coming year.”  StreetEasy’s ranking of Kingsbridge as the hottest neighborhood in the five boroughs was based on a series of key performance indicators, including rising rentals and sales prices, population growth, and customer interest in listings in the area.

Council Member Andrew Cohen and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. have long advanced business improvements to make the Kingsbridge-Broadway retail corridor more appealing.  They convened a working group which studied local conditions and issued a report. In fall 2017, Council Member Cohen announced funding for aesthetic improvements to the streetscape, through two City Council initiatives.

The area has already attracted other large anchor retail stores, including BJ’s and Bob’s Discount Furniture, as well as desirable establishments like Starbucks, Blink Fitness, and Smashburger.    

Council Member Cohen said:  “It took years of hard work and collaboration by elected officials and community organizations to spur the development of Kingsbridge/Broadway as a destination for shoppers. Now, the interest of New Yorkers seeking to buy or rent real estate here has taken off, as well.  Kingsbridge has great transportation options and proximity to Manhattan, as well as numerous Bronx cultural and recreational sites. It’s fantastic for the area to receive this recognition from StreetEasy.”        

“Kingsbridge is an amazing neighborhood, and has seen considerable interest from developers of all types in recent years. It is no surprise that Kingsbridge is being recognized as possibly the hottest neighborhood in New York City," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “My office will continue to work with local stakeholders to bring new resources to this burgeoning Bronx neighborhood.”


  Since the launch of HOME-STAT in March 2016 through October, the new initiative has helped 690 street homeless individuals transition from the streets through connecting them to permanent housing or transitional housing options, such as safe havens. HOME-STAT remains the most comprehensive street homeless outreach initiative in any major national city. It has doubled the number of street homeless outreach staff members working to connect individuals to the resources they need to place them in housing, and has expanded outreach services into indoor spaces such as libraries and hospitals.

“HOME-STAT has already proven to be an essential lifeline for connecting individuals living on the street, and the hidden homeless who have historically evaded outreach, to the housing and services they need,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We will continue to generate innovative solutions and make strategic investments to improve our ability to identify and serve homeless New Yorkers.”

Increasing staff members and resources has meant that street homeless outreach workers can connect with more individuals living on the street and offer expanded, personalized case management services:

·           The City’s by-name list of street homeless or formerly street homeless clients is now at 2,976.
·           The list includes 1,373 people with whom HOME-STAT outreach workers are still working to bring off the street, an increase of 512 since March.
·           The remaining 1,603 were formerly street homeless and are now in either permanent or transitional housing or still receiving care to help them stay off of the street and in housing.

HOME-STAT is based on the premise that homelessness is a citywide problem that requires a citywide solution – a one-size-fits-all approach is insufficient as individuals that are living on the street present complex challenges. Many have fallen through available safety nets, and experienced trauma that may make outreach more complicated. HOME-STAT focuses on connecting with each individual living on the street to begin establishing trust and building relationships that will help nonprofit service providers bring them indoors. It also provides aftercare services, continuing to work with individuals who receive placements to ensure they receive the support they need and stay off of the street. 

Other HOME-STAT accomplishments include:

·         Increasing the number of street outreach workers from 191 to 387 (a 103 percent increase). They do the hard work of talking to street homeless individuals and gaining their trust.
·         Expanding case management services to now provide this help to anyone living on the street, rather than first requiring individuals to be homeless for a certain number of months to be eligible for these critical services.
·         Bringing street homeless outreach indoors by forming partnerships with libraries and hospitals to connect with homeless individuals who have historically evaded street homeless outreach workers by using indoor public spaces as de facto shelters. 
·         Creating continuity for the homeless individuals on the streets and public accountability for the City agencies that serve them through a new citywide case-management and case-conferencing model.
·         Increasing the tools outreach workers need to bring homeless individuals off the streets, including 284 Safe Havens already opened or in process for a new total of 813.
·         Using the daily canvassing of key areas and the most extensive quarterly count in the country to help make sure as many people on the street as possible are identified and offered services. 
·         Publishing daily and monthly dashboards online for the public, alongside other data quality and transparency measures.

“HOME-STAT recognizes that each individual living on the street has a story and faces unique challenges, and it uses targeted resources to help meet these individuals where they are. It takes an average of almost five months of intensive contact by outreach workers to bring street homeless individuals into transitional housing and more than a year for permanent housing,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks.

“HOME-STAT offers a first-ever opportunity to pull the camera back for a wider angle on who is on the street and how best to meet their needs,” said Mayor’s Office of Operations Director Mindy Tarlow. “HOME-STAT allows outreach workers to expand their engagement with individuals before they become chronically homeless, and broadens the participation of multiple agencies in providing services and bringing systemic solutions to the table.”

As part of HOME-STAT, the City has committed to bringing on 500 additional safe haven beds, 284 of which have already been secured, bringing the current total to 813. According to the most recent daily data report, 717 of these beds are currently in use. Safe Havens are an essential tool for helping outreach workers bring people in from the streets and can be used as a stepping stone to help clients get from the street to shelter or transitional or permanent housing.

Through new partnerships with 35 public library branches and nine hospitals across the city, HOME-STAT helps street homeless outreach staff members locate and provide services to the hidden homeless. Historically, many street homeless individuals have used these public locations as de facto shelters, evading outreach workers who respond to individuals on the street. Based on their initial success, the City will work to continue to grow these partnerships.

HOME-STAT has also increased transparency on homelessness in New York City through the publication of an online dashboard containing figures updated daily, monthly and quarterly. HOME-STAT quarterly counts and the City’s annual HOPE count data indicate there are about 2,700 people living on New York City streets. HOME-STAT’s outreach teams continue to engage these individuals and work to bring them onto their caseloads. The HOME-STAT daily and monthly dashboards are available through the NYC Mayor’s Office of Operations website

2016 Quarterly Counts
Number of People Located
Winter (HOPE)

“While HOME-STAT has provided immediate impact in terms of additional funding for staffing and resources, its long-term affect will be most felt in the individualized approach it promotes for the clients we serve,” said BronxWorks Homeless Outreach Team Program Director Juan Rivera. “HOME-STAT has heightened accountability and improved outcomes. The additional resources maximize the chances of success of every individual we work with. The initiative promotes collaboration between City agencies and not-for-profit partners that reduce obstacles and improve service delivery to our clients. No one wants to be homeless, especially when the temperature dips. HOME-STAT connects our clients to essential resources and permanent housing.”

"We appreciate the City and State's collaborative efforts to help unsheltered New Yorkers, and we ask that all New Yorkers work with us to help the people we serve come in from the cold," said BRC Executive Director Muzzy Rosenblatt.