Saturday, February 4, 2017
Former Treasurer Of Patterson Fire Department Sentenced To 33 Months In Prison For Embezzlement And Filing False Tax Returns
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that ALBERT MELIN, the former treasurer of the volunteer Patterson Fire Department (“PFD"), was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Nelson S. Roman to 33 months in prison for fraud and tax charges arising out of his embezzlement of more than $1.1 million from the PFD.
I had the Pleasure of attending the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition today which was held at the Monroe College Jerome Avenue Campus. Almost twenty years ago I was associated with the NWBCCC while I was the Co-President of School District 10's President's Council. While the NWBCCC was formed in 1974 to respond to the wave of arson that threatened the entire Bronx then. Its mission was (and still is) to unite diverse people and institutions to work for Economic Democracy and racial justice through intergenerational community organizing. NWBCCC is working on its 43rd year of helping Bronx residents develop visionary leadership, build community power, and revitalize their neighborhoods.
Twenty years ago the Bronx was returning from its darkest days of the arson fires, and the NWBCCC was there to help people find housing, and to revitalize the housing that had been run down or abandoned. the other key issue then was education, which seems to have taken a backseat today to other problems such as health, energy, transportation, and weatherization. Maybe it was the change to Mayoral Control of the public schools, but it seemed that education is still a much needed priority to the people the NWBCCC serves to me.
After some budget business, and the election of a new Board of Directors the NWBCC got down to question the elected officials on hand. They included new Congressman Adriano Espaillat, a representative from Congressman Jose Serrano's office, State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Assemblyman Jose Rivera, Assemblyman Victor Pichardo, a representative of Assemblyman Michael Blake, Councilman Andrew Cohen, Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, Councilman Ritchie Torres, and a representative of Councilman Andy King. There were also answers to some questions from State Senator Jeff Klein who could not attend. The photos below should tell the rest of the story.
Above - NWBCCC longtime member and Treasurer Ms. Margret Groake welcomes new Congressman Adriano Espaillat to the meeting.
Below Congressman Espaillat would later be joined by State Senator Gustavo Rivera and Assemblyman Victor Pichardo.
Above - The new Board of Directors for the NWBCCC for 2017
Below - Mr. Yorman Nunez of the NWBCCC hosted the questioning of the elected officials as you see Congressman Espaillat answering the first question on affordable housing.
Above - State Senator Gustavo Rivera quietly answers a question on a bill to reduce the maximum amount of time a student can be suspended. Senator Rivera answered that he needs to read the entire bill before voting to pass it.
Below - Assemblyman Jose Rivera stood up next to Mr. Nunez, as the assemblyman clutched a NWBCCC t-shirt while rousing the crowd with a statement before saying that he would support the bill.
Above - Councilman Andrew Cohen answers a question on North Bronx Central Hospital by saying that he is 100 percent behind keeping the city hospital open and fully functioning as it is today.
Below - Councilman Ritchie Torres also answers the same question, but is worried since he say the property is owned by Montefiore Hospital.
A look at the huge crowd at the NWBCC annual meeting.
Former Financial Adviser At Global Bank Charged In Manhattan Federal Court With Multimillon-Dollar Scheme To Defraud Clients
Barry Connell Allegedly Made Misrepresentations to the Bank and Stole at Least $5 Million of his Clients’ Funds
Funding Adds To Nearly $650,00 Provided By AG’s Office To Support The New York Botanical Garden’s Clean Water Program
Botanical Garden’s Use Of “Green Infrastructure” To Eliminate Pollution Seen As Model For Others Along River
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today that his office is providing $215,000 to The New York Botanical Garden to support the Garden’s use of “green infrastructure” to eliminate water pollution discharges to the Bronx River. This funding, which will allow the Garden to replace a paved parking area with a “porous” one that reduces storm water runoff, adds to the almost $650,000 in project funding that the Attorney General’s office has invested in the program through its Bronx River Watershed Initiative.
Green infrastructure – natural systems, like wetlands, or engineered systems, like porous pavement, that mimic them – captures, stores, and treats storm water that would otherwise run off the Garden’s property, carrying with it pesticides, fertilizers, and other pollutants into the adjacent waterbodies. Because green infrastructure relies on more natural systems, it can be more cost-effective, sustainable, and environmentally-friendly than wastewater treatment plants and other traditional infrastructure.
“Now more than ever, local leadership is crucial to ensuring the protection and improvement of our environment,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “The New York Botanical Garden is leading efforts to reclaim the Bronx River through environmentally-friendly approaches to eliminating water pollution. I am proud to support the Botanical Garden’s work and, through our Bronx River Watershed Initiative, join local efforts throughout the Bronx and Westchester County focused on bringing new life to the Bronx River.”
“We are grateful to the Attorney General’s office for again recognizing The New York Botanical Garden’s efforts to improve water quality and on-site detention, and to reduce stormwater runoff into the Bronx River,” said Gregory Long, Chief Executive Officer and The William C. Steere Sr. President of NYBG. “The investment in this green infrastructure project will help us continue to serve as proud stewards of this 250-acre urban oasis. We thank Attorney General Schneiderman and his staff for their support of our mission to preserve NYBG’s National Historic Landmark landscape and our shared environment so that our neighbors and visitors may benefit from this natural resource for generations to come.”
The Bronx River flows for roughly 23 miles through southern Westchester and the Bronx and has a long history of pollution. While considerable progress has been made in recent years toward reclaiming the river, these efforts are still hampered by a number of lingering problems, including poor water quality. A principal cause of the Bronx River’s water quality problems is storm water runoff – rainwater and snowmelt that flows over impervious surfaces and into waters, picking up raw sewage, litter, gas and oil, pesticides, fertilizers and other harmful pollutants along its path.
Through its “Sustainability and Climate Change Program,” the New York Botanical Garden has been actively revising its design, construction, and maintenance practices to address pressing environmental issues, including water pollution. To this end, the Garden is incorporating green infrastructure improvements into the planning, design, and construction of all new or renovated projects throughout its 250 acres in order to reduce the volume of, and improve the quality of the remaining, stormwater runoff entering into the Bronx River.
The $215,000 in project funding being announced today adds to the almost $650,o00 in support previously provided by the Attorney General’s office from its Bronx River Watershed Initiative to projects central to the Garden’s Sustainability and Climate Change Program. In these projects, a variety of green infrastructure approaches have been used to capture, store, and treat polluted stormwater from the Garden’s historic Stone Mill area and Horticulture Operations Center. In total, the Attorney General’s Bronx River Watershed Initiative has invested about $865,000 in the Garden’s clean water program.
The Garden’s Sustainability and Climate Change Program provides a model for how institutions, local governments, businesses, and private landowners in the Bronx River watershed can use green infrastructure to reduce water pollution. Its public education and outreach efforts, which call attention to these green infrastructure practices, also serve as a model for advancing efforts to protect and improve water quality. NYBG’s ability to educate the public is substantial, as it draws over one million visitors per year from a local, national, and international audience.
The funding provided to The New York Botanical Garden is a portion of the monies obtained by the Attorney General’s Office through its Bronx River Watershed Initiative. That initiative yielded settlements with the Yonkers Raceway Corporation, the City of Yonkers, the City of White Plains, the Village of Scarsdale, the City of Mt. Vernon and the Town of Greenburgh, all of which were polluting the river with untreated sanitary sewage discharges from their stormwater sewers.
All told, the Bronx River Watershed Initiative has dedicated more than $6.4 million to support local efforts in the Bronx and Westchester Counties focused on restoring water quality in the waterway by controlling storm runoff and snow melt. With matching funds, the initiative is bringing over $15.2 million through 21 local entities for 32 projects that combat principal causes of the Bronx River’s continuing water quality problems. With the funding announced today, all of the Initiative’s funds have now been allocated.
A.G. Outlines Impact Of Spectrum-Time Warner Cable's Alleged Fraud In Western NY, Issues Consumer Alert To Assist New Yorkers In Choosing The Best Internet Service
Consumer Alert Follows A.G. Schneiderman’s Announcement Of Lawsuit Against Spectrum-Time Warner Cable That Alleges Company Failed To Deliver The Reliable And Fast Internet Access It Promised To Subscribers Across The State
Spectrum Has Over 570,000 Subscribers In Western New York, AG's Office Received More Than 300 Complaints
Suit Seeks To Compensate Spectrum-Time Warner Cable Subscribers For Five Years Of Broken Promises And Damages And Restitution That Could Be Worth Upwards Of Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued a consumer alert today to provide New Yorkers with tips for selecting the best internet service plan. This consumer alert follows the Attorney General’s announcement yesterday of his office’s lawsuit against Charter Communications Inc. (“Charter”) and its subsidiary Spectrum Management Holdings, LLC, (f/k/a Time Warner Cable, Inc.,) (together, “Spectrum-TWC”) for allegedly conducting a deliberate scheme to defraud and mislead New Yorkers by promising internet service that they knew they could not deliver.
With over 570,000 subscribers in the Western New York region, Spectrum-Time Warner Cable is the largest supplier of internet service in the state. The complaint alleges that since January 2012 Spectrum-TWC’s marketing promised subscribers who signed up for its internet service that they would get a "fast, reliable connection" to the internet from anywhere in their home. But a 16-month investigation by the Attorney General’s office – which included reviewing internal corporate communications and hundreds of thousands of subscriber speed tests – found Spectrum-Time Warner subscribers were getting dramatically short-changed on both speed and reliability.
“Reliable internet is vital for millions of New York families and businesses,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “As alleged in our complaint, our sixteen month investigation found that Spectrum-Time Warner Cable's 2.5 million subscribers in New York were repeatedly cheated into paying more internet speeds the company knew it would not provide. That's just wrong. I encourage consumers to read our tips to ensure they don't pay extra for speed their provider just cannot deliver."
The Attorney General’s Office looked into thousands of complaints from New York subscribers, including more than 300 from Western New York.
The suit alleges that subscribers’ wired internet speeds for the premium plan (100, 200, and 300 Mbps) were up to 70 percent slower than promised; WiFi speeds were even slower, with some subscribers getting speeds that were more than 80 percent slower than what they had paid for. As alleged in the complaint, Spectrum-TWC charged New Yorkers as much as $109.99 per month for premium plans could not achieve speeds promised in their slower plans.
Today’s consumer alert will provide consumers with a guide to asking the right questions in order to determine the appropriate internet plan for their households needs. When choosing an internet plan, consumers ask the following:
- What will you be using the Internet for?
- How much speed do you really need?
- What equipment do you need?
- How much speed are you actually getting?
Internet Service Providers (“ISPs”) offer a variety of speeds that are measured in “megabits per second” (“Mbps”) from as low as 6 Mbps to upwards of 100, 200 or even 1,000 Mbps. Internet users should consider how they’ll be using their internet and what speeds are recommended for these internet applications.
Consumers should also consider whether they’ll need a modem and/or router to connect to the internet in their home and ensure that it’s compatible with their ISP’s network. Keep in mind that as technology evolves, modems and routers will need to be able to handle more and more speed. The AG’s investigation also found that Spectrum-TWC executives knew that the company’s hardware and network were incapable of achieving the speeds promised to subscribers, but nevertheless continued to make false representations about speed and reliability. The investigation further revealed that while Spectrum-TWC earned billions of dollars in profits from selling its high-margin internet service to millions of New York subscribers, it repeatedly declined to make capital investments necessary to improve its network or provide subscribers with the necessary hardware.
Finally, consumers should check to see what speed they’re actually receiving, rather than relying on the promises of their Internet service provider. There are a number of online tools that can help check your speed:
If you’re not receiving the speed you’re paying for, find out why and call your Internet Service Provider. The problem may be as simple as needing to move your router to a better location in your house. Or it could be an issue that only your provider can fix such as performing maintenance on its network.
“New York consumers care deeply about the quality and cost of their broadband internet service,” said Chuck Bell, Programs Director for Consumers Union. “In the 21st Century, broadband internet is an essential telecommunications service that New Yorkers rely on to be informed citizens, to advance their knowledge and learning, to keep in touch with family, to pay bills and arrange for health care, to name just a few vital uses. Consumers Union asked our New York state members about the quality of their internet service last year, and over 650 people quickly responded by taking a broadband speed test and sending the results to the Attorney General. The bottom line is that consumers deserve to get the broadband speeds they are paying for, and that are touted in company marketing claims and advertising. We are extremely pleased that Attorney General Schneiderman and his staff are fighting for consumers on this issue, by investigating customer complaints, and holding internet providers accountable for what they promise.”
"The Attorney General's detailed allegations of widespread false advertising and deceptive practices by Spectrum-Time Warner Cable in marketing and providing high speed broadband service are highly disturbing," said NYPIRG General Counsel Russ Haven. "In 2017, access to broadband is essential for connecting with the world. It's fundamental that consumers are entitled to get what they're promised when they plunk down their hard-earned money for products and services."
As the complaint alleges, Spectrum-TWC continues to underserve their subscribers by failing to make the capital investments necessary to live up to their promised speeds. These investments would include substantially upgrading Spectrum-TWC’s network capability and replacing large numbers of deficient modems and wireless routers that subscribers currently pay Spectrum-TWC up to $10 per month to rent.
The complaint specifically alleges a series of false and misleading practices by the company over the course of several years, including:
Spectrum-TWC Misled Subscribers By Falsely Promising Speeds It Knew It Would Not Deliver
The complaint alleges that since at least 2012, Spectrum-TWC represented to its New York subscribers that they could get fast and reliable Internet access. However, the company knew that these promises were impossible to keep for several reasons. First, Spectrum-TWC leased deficient modem equipment to subscribers that could not deliver the promised speeds. Second, in addition to the equipment failures, Spectrum-TWC’s network was overloaded and could not consistently deliver the speeds it promised to subscribers. That was because Spectrum-TWC did not design the network to reliably deliver the promised speeds. Moreover, the complaint alleges that Spectrum-TWC decided to cut costs by not fixing the equipment and network failures. To mask its misconduct, the complaint alleges that Spectrum-TWC rigged test results.
- During the Relevant Period, Spectrum-TWC leased deficient cable modems to over 900,000 subscribers in New York that could not deliver the advertised speeds. As of February 2016, Spectrum-TWC still charged over 185,000 New Yorkers, or roughly 7% of its 2.5 million active subscriber base at the time, $10 a month for deficient modems that, in its own words, were “not capable of supporting the service levels paid for.”
- The results of numerous tests from multiple Internet speed measurements confirm that Spectrum-TWC delivered to subscribers on Spectrum-TWC’s fastest speed plans only a third to a half of the download speeds—sometimes even less—than they had paid for.
Spectrum-TWC Misled Subscribers By Promising Wireless Connectivity That It Knew It Would Not Deliver
The complaint alleges that since at least 2012, Spectrum-TWC promised its subscribers go-anywhere wireless connectivity in their homes. However, the company knew that the wireless routers provided to subscribers could not deliver the promised speeds or service.
- As of February 2016, Spectrum-TWC supplied over 250,000 subscribers on 200 Mbps and 300 Mbps plans deficient WiFi routers that Spectrum-TWC knew could not deliver speeds above 100 Mbps.
- Separately, Spectrum-TWC ignored its own engineers and promised subscribers a home WiFi experience that was beyond the technical limits of its equipment and WiFi technology.
Spectrum-TWC Misled Subscribers By Promising Fast, Reliable Access to Online Content That It Knew It Would Not Deliver
The complaint alleges that since at least 2012, Spectrum-TWC represented to their subscribers that they would get fast, reliable access to content online like Netflix and gaming. However, Spectrum-TWC knew that it could not deliver on this promise because of the state of interconnection points in the transmission of online content. Specifically, the company was aware of, and sometimes deliberately created, bottlenecks at interconnection points, which resulted in slowdowns and disruptions to subscribers’ service.
- Spectrum-TWC knew that bottlenecks in its network would result in many subscribers routinely experiencing the very hallmarks of a poor Internet connection—slowdowns, lag time, buffering and interruptions, yet its marketing specifically promised that they would avoid when streaming videos, playing online games and accessing other online content.
But these executives traded on the fact that most subscribers had a limited choice of Internet service providers and that the technical complexity of deducing the problems would make it difficult for subscribers to pin the blame on the company.
The New York-based cable operator, originally known as Time Warner Cable, is currently rebranding itself as “Spectrum” throughout the state. Spectrum-TWC provides Internet service to approximately 2.5 million households/subscribers in New York State, and the complaint covers the subscription plans of almost 5 million subscribers over the relevant period.
In its filing, the New York Attorney General’s Office is seeking restitution for New York consumers as well as appropriate injunctive and equitable relief to end Spectrum-TWC’s longstanding deceptive practices.
A.G. Submits Motion To Intervene And Proposed Complaint To Join Eastern District Of NY Lawsuit Detailing President Trump’s Intent To Discriminate Against Muslims, Chaotic Implementation Of The Order, And The Profound Harm Caused To NY’s Families, Economy, And Institutions
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today filed a motion to join a federal lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s immigration Executive Order. As the complaint states, Attorney General Schneiderman “brings this action to protect the rights of New York residents; the economic welfare, health, and well-being of its citizenry; and the interests of New York’s employers, hospitals, and educational institutions.”
“Our proposed complaint describes how President Trump’s executive order is not only unconstitutional and fundamentally un-American, but also how it does profound harm to our families, our economy, and our educational and health care institutions,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “President Trump’s intent to discriminate against Muslims is clear. We will continue to use every tool at our disposal to fight this discriminatory ban and protect all those caught in the crossfire of its chaotic implementation.”
The motion was filed in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York.
The Proposed Complaint’s central allegations include the following:
Intent to Discriminate Against Muslims
The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause forbids the government from favoring or disfavoring particular religions.
As Attorney General Schneiderman’s proposed complaint describes, President Trump has made many statements demonstrating his intent to discriminate against Muslims on the basis of their religion, including by banning the entry of Muslims into the United States. The proposed complaint also describes comments from President Trump and his surrogates after signing the Executive Order, which made clear the restrictions were targeted to Muslims, including Rudolph Giuliani’s January 28th statement:
“I’ll tell you the whole history of it. So when [President Trump] first announced it, he said ‘Muslim ban.’ He called me up. He said, ‘Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.’ . . . . And what we did was, we focused on, instead of religion, danger — the areas of the world that create danger for us.”
Conflicting and Changing Interpretation and Implementation
The proposed complaint goes on to describe the conflicting and changing interpretations and implementation of President Trump’s executive order by the federal government, including as it relates to lawful permanent residents and dual nationals. The “sweeping breadth and lack of clarity” of the order has resulted in inconsistent implementation by immigration authorities — and has jeopardized the health and safety of the families caught up by these uncertainties.
Profound Harm to New York
New York is home to over 4.4 million foreign-born residents (22.5 percent of the state’s population), including 15,000 people born in one of the seven affected countries. The Attorney General’s proposed complaint alleges that the Executive Order has “significantly harmed the overall health and well-being of New York and its people, as well as its business interests and economy.”
As the proposed complaint describes, the travel ban adversely affects various business sectors, institutions and individuals in New York State.
- The Executive Order hampers work in the fields of technology, computers, and engineering. For example, the proposed complaint highlights the story of an Iranian who is a vice president for an engineering firm, a teacher at Columbia University, and a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. — but who has been forced to cancel professional travel because he fears that the travel ban will prevent him from re-entering the United States.
- The Executive Order hurts New York’s educational institutions and prevents New York students from continuing their studies. The proposed complaint notes that the travel ban stifles the open exchange of knowledge, ideas, and scholarship between New York educational institutions and affected countries, and cites the extraordinary number of international students enrolled in the state’s many universities. Students from the seven affected countries are estimated to contribute $30.4 million a year to New York State’s economy. The complaint highlights the stories of a number of students whose studies have been interrupted by the travel ban.
- The Executive Order hinders the provision of health care in New York State. New York relies on physicians from around the globe to provide health care and to train the next generation of medical professionals, including at New York’s critical “safety-net” hospitals, which serve high-needs communities. Dozens of resident physicians in New York City alone are affected by the Executive Order. For example, a second-year resident at Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn was recently denied entry back into the U.S. when he attempted to leave Sudan after a family visit.
- The Executive Order impedes life-saving medical research in New York State. Individuals from the countries designated in the order are currently engaged in critical medical research in New York, which is being undermined by the ban. The proposed complaint highlights the stories of various Ph.D students, such as an Iranian-Canadian dual citizen studying at Cornell University Medical Center and currently conducting cutting-edge leukemia research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
- The Executive Order will negatively affect New York’s financial sector. New York is the global hub of the finance industry. The complaint describes public statements made by the CEOs of major financial institutions— including Jamie Dimon of J.P. Morgan Chase, Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, and Michael Corbat of Citigroup—on the potential impact of the order.
- Finally, the Executive Order directly harms families. The proposed complaint includes a number of stories of people in New York whose families have been hurt by the ban, including a 75-year-old woman from Libya who has Parkinson’s Disease and was detained at JFK Airport after returning from a visit to her dying sister in Libya; and an Iranian Ph.D student at Columbia Business School, who must now choose between completing his degree and being with his wife who was visiting her parents in Iran when the Executive Order was signed and is now unable to return.
The proposed complaint requests that the Court declare that the Executive Order as a whole, and each of its specific provisions, violates federal law and is otherwise unconstitutional; and prevent President Trump and his administration from implementing or enforcing the order, and from detaining, barring, or removing any individual from the U.S. pursuant to the order.
The lawsuit was originally filed by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale University, the Urban Justice Center, and the National Immigration Law Center.
Friday, February 3, 2017
MAJOR DISTRIBUTORS OF HEROIN AND FENTANYL IN BRONX AND NORTHEAST AMONG 32 PEOPLE INDICTED IN INTERNATIONAL SCHEME
53 Lbs. of Heroin Intercepted Last Weekend; Brings Total to More Than 103 Lbs. of Heroin & Fentanyl--Worth $22 Million—Seized;
Bronx DA’s Office Also Suing Defendants for $10.5 Million in Alleged Proceeds; Drugs From Honduras & Mexico Transported Across U.S. By Long-Haul Truckers
Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark today announced that more than 103 pounds of heroin and fentanyl have been recovered in a joint investigation by the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, the New York City Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration that has resulted in the indictment of 32 people for Operating as a Major Trafficker and other charges. The defendants are also being sued for $10.5 million in profits of their alleged drug enterprise.
The scheme brought heroin and fentanyl from Honduras through Mexico to Los Angeles, where long-haul truck drivers picked it up and transported it to the New York area in tractor-trailers carrying legitimate cargo.
District Attorney Clark said, “We have dismantled a major network, prevented over 100 pounds of these devastating drugs from reaching our streets, and the defendants face charges carrying a life sentence. We have also filed a civil suit against the defendants for $10.5 million, to seize some of the profits they allegedly reaped in their repugnant trade. “This operation spanned three countries and trafficked drugs 5,200 miles. No matter. We will go wherever investigations take us to eradicate this scourge that has destroyed lives here in the Bronx and across the nation.”
New York City Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said, “The New York City Police Department is fully committed to addressing the heroin health crisis afflicting our region. The dedicated work of our investigators, prosecutors and federal law enforcement partners were brought to bear during this long-term investigation, targeting and dismantling an allegedly lucrative trafficking operation with ties well beyond our borders. These indictments should affirm to anyone engaging to the destruction of lives through the sale of heroin that, regardless of how sophisticated their operation might be, the NYPD is always poised to aggressively and successfully disrupt them.”
Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt said, “Every day in New York City, two people fatally overdose from heroin and/or fentanyl. Today’s drug traffickers moonlight as bath tub chemists by mixing heroin with compounds strong enough to kill an elephant. They keep the price low, the purity high and monopolize on the users’ physical dependence on opioids. Heroin and fentanyl are the nation’s number one drug threat and distribution networks like Alvarez’ are responsible for the proliferation of this health crisis throughout the Northeast.”
District Attorney Clark said the defendants are charged in a 72-count indictment with second-degree and fourth-degree Conspiracy, Operating as a Major Trafficker, and variously charged with first and third-degree Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance and first, second, third and seventh-degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance. Twenty-two of the defendants were arrested, and so far 10 have been arraigned before Bronx Supreme Court Justice Steven Barrett. Two were already incarcerated. If convicted of Operating as a Major Trafficker, the defendants could face life in prison.
The investigation, dubbed “Operation Open Market,” began in February, 2016, when the NYPD Bronx Gang Squad began investigating flagrant crack cocaine selling on McClellan Street and Grant Avenue in the Concourse neighborhood of the Bronx, allegedly overseen by Steven Rivera and Daniel Rivera, who are brothers. They allegedly arranged drug sales and supplied narcotics to street-level dealers, identified as Juan Santiago, Kareem Hogan, Antoin Ramirez and Harvey Gonzalez.
Police soon determined that people were coming from out-of-state to buy heroin there, and that the defendants were running a wholesale heroin and cocaine trafficking network, allegedly supplied by defendants Jason Alvarez, Viannet Espinal and Joel Velazquez. Alvarez with his family runs Celia’s Restaurant on Fordham Road, where he was seen on surveillance allegedly conducting transactions for the narcotics operation.
Defendants Steven Gonzalez and Gina DiBacca, of Worcester, MA, allegedly purchased $33,500 worth of heroin a month for at least eight months and took it to Worcester, where they sold it for four times the price they paid in the Bronx.
Alvarez allegedly procured the heroin and fentanyl, arranging for the drugs to be brought from Honduras through Mexico and to the Los Angeles area. He arranged for truck drivers to pick them up and transport them across the country to the east coast.
On June 8, 2016, 10 kilograms of fentanyl and 12 kilograms of heroin — together worth $14 million in street value — were seized in the Bronx from a car driven by defendant Mariano Guzman from Sugarloaf, PA, a small town off Interstate 80. On December 27, 2016, a kilogram of fentanyl was seized from a livery car whose passenger, defendant Hector Taveras, had just picked it up from Espinal.
Drug Enforcement Administration agents seized $920,000 in cash during the investigation.
Working with the DEA, investigators monitoring wiretaps learned that two truck drivers would be picking up shipments in Los Angeles in mid-January. Last Saturday, January 28, 2017, one tractor-trailer driven by defendant David Arzu arrived in the Bronx, carrying 10 kilos of heroin in a wheel well. Police intercepted the other tractor-trailer in Pennsylvania, arresting the driver (who is not among the indicted defendants) and recovering 14 kilos of heroin in it.
On Tuesday, January 31, 2017, NYPD and DEA began arresting the defendants and conducting search warrants. They confiscated $32,420 cash from Alvarez' apartment in Fort Lee, NJ; a .40-caliber Ruger pistol, approximately $20,000 cash and crack cocaine from Daniel Rivera's apartment, and crack cocaine and heroin from Espinal's apartment. They also confiscated three Mercedes Benz vehicles.
District Attorney Clark also announced that her office filed a civil lawsuit today in Bronx Supreme Court suing the defendants for $10.5 million in currency and property, the alleged proceeds of their organization during the 8-month investigation. The defendants are being sued as “criminal defendants” who are criminally liable for a “pre-conviction forfeiture crime.” The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Paul Irace of the Gangs/Major Case Bureau and Christine Scaccia, Chief of the Gangs/Major Case Bureau and Deputy Chief of the Homicide Bureau. District Attorney Clark thanked Tarek Rahman, Chief of the Special Investigations Unit, and Detective Investigators T. J. Eugene and Barry Vaughn, and Chief Frank Chiara of the Bronx District Attorney’s Detective Investigators.
DEFENDANTS JASON ALVAREZ (AKA JAY), 37, Fort Lee, NJ VIANNET ESPINAL (AKA SKID), 39, Bronx JOEL VELAZQUEZ (AKA GUCCI) , 27, Bronx RONNIE ALLEGRIA, 29, Manhattan CYNTHIA ALEGRIA, 36, Bronx MARIANO GUZMAN, 45, Bronx ADAN BONES (AKA Emilio Aguillar), 24, Bayonne, NJ DAVID ARZU, 36, Bronx ARIEL LUNA (AKA HANNIBAL), 37, Bronx HECTOR LOPEZ (AKA TITO), 46, Bronx EDGAR ALVAREZ, 48, Buffalo, NY ADOLPHO VARGAS (AKA DOC), 42, Bronx HECTOR TAVERAS (AKAALBERTO TORBELLINO), 36, Bronx JACOB BERKHART (AKA BYRD), 37, Buffalo, NY STEVEN RIVERA (AKA STEVE-O), 40, Bronx DANIEL RIVERA, (AKA D-BOY), 34, Manhattan JUAN SANTIAGO (AKA GORDO), 22, Bronx KAREEM HOGAN (AKA REMO), 36, Bronx ANTOIN RAMIREZ (AKA JUNE), 35, Bronx HARVEY GONZALEZ, 54, Bronx MARVIN EASTON (AKA MILLS), 28, Bronx RALPHIE GOMEZ, Bronx CHRISTIAN MOREJON (AKA CEEZ), Bronx JOSE RAMOS, 37, Bronx STEVEN GONZALEZ (AKA STEVIE G), 38, Worcester, MA GINA DIBACCA, 32, Worcester, MA XENIA MEJIAS (AKA X), 46, Bronx JEANETTE SOTOMAYOR, 35, Bronx LUZ VARAHONA, 34, Bayonne, NJ John Doe SIR, Mexico John Doe PANCHO John Doe PUGLOSO
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.
The Trustees of the New York City Pension Funds announced that they will conduct the first-ever carbon footprint analysis of their portfolios and determine how to best manage their investments with an eye toward climate change. In the 21 century, companies must transition to a low-carbon economy, and a failure to adapt to the realities of global warming could present potential investment risks. As part of the initiative, the funds have selected two independent advisors to examine the associated short- and long-term investment risks.
Assistance will be available through the IDC’s 1 (800) 213-6385 hotline
with partners who will provide immigration services in Member’s District Offices
The Independent Democratic Conference expanded on the recent creation of its Immigrant Defense Coalition with the announcement of a new emergency hotline and partnerships with immigrant groups that will provide services in district offices. Those needing assistance with any immigration matter are urged to call 1(800) 213-6385.
Partnership organizations providing assistance through the Immigrant Defense Coalition include the Vera Institute for Justice, Northern Manhattan Immigration Coalition, New York Immigration Coalition, The Black Institute, Brooklyn Legal Services, Urban Justice Center’s Domestic Violence Project, Caribbean Women's Health, CAMBA Legal Services, American Friends Services Committee, MFY Legal Services and Central American Legal Assistance.
“We are living in a difficult time for immigrants across this country. Many are fearful of the rhetoric and actions of President Donald Trump and have questions about their rights. Today’s announcement of our new hotline gives people a place to go anonymously for answers. I encourage anyone with any question regarding immigration, no matter how big or small, to call our hotline for help and to share it with those who may need it,” said IDC Leader Klein.
“Our immigrant communities need to know that there’s a place to turn if they need help. The IDC’s launch of an emergency hotline gives everyone with concerns about the Trump administration’s immigration policies a place to get answers and assistance,” said IDC Deputy Leader David Valesky.
“We cannot stand idly by while President Trump runs roughshod over our immigrant families and the values that bind us all together as New Yorkers and, above all, Americans. I want my constituents and immigrants throughout the state to know that my door is always open and they are not alone in the fight against this administration,” said Senator Jose Peralta.
“As an immigrant and a Latina, I am heartbroken by the cruel and shortsighted immigration policy of the Trump administration. I want all of the people in my district, especially the undocumented, to know that I consider my district a sanctuary district from the reach of the federal government. In partnership with the IDC and many immigrant organizations, I will do everything in my power to help our immigrant population stay in this country, raise families and access the American Dream,” said Senator Marisol Alcantara.
“At many events I’ve attended since the impact of President Trump’s executive orders were first felt, I have heard many question where they can find help and resources. Though I hope that we can find a long term solution to these issues, I am dedicated to providing these resources now. These new services and 1-800 number will reassure those in my community that help is a quick phone call or visit to my office away,” said Senator Jesse Hamilton.
“This country was built on the backs of immigrants who came here looking for a better life for them and their families, many of them fleeing persecution. To deny them entry or support is to deny our American values etched in stone on the Statue of Liberty. The IDC and I will continue to fight to fund programs that aid immigrants and ensure that any person who needs help or resources knows that my office door is open to assist them. To the immigrants of Queens, and all of America, know that my office will always advocate on your behalf, even if the President requests otherwise,” said Senator Tony Avella.
“I have serious concerns about the policies coming from President Trump and his unchecked power in a Republican dominated Congress. This initiative and the funding the IDC is fighting for will put a check back on the unjust and un-American actions being taken in Washington that threaten the wellbeing of hard-working immigrant families. Now, whether you face deportation or simply want to know your rights, there will be a number to call, free of charge” said Senator David Carlucci.
“The administration’s poorly written and hastily issued executive order left many in our immigrant communities confused and looking for answers. The IDC’s established emergency hotline will provide guidance and help to those who need it,” said Senator Diane Savino.
IDC member offices will provide expanded immigrant services through partner organizations, such as assistance with visas, green cards, deportation issues and questions regarding actions by the federal government. Members will also be distributing literature throughout their districts with the 1-800-213-6385 hotline as well as additional information and helpful numbers from partner organizations.
Members are currently developing workshops to coincide with the Immigrant Defense Coalition initiative that will be held within the next two weeks in their districts.