Wednesday, May 8, 2019

New York State Senate Democratic Majority Stands Up To President Trump

  The Senate Democratic Majority passed legislation today that will have a major impact, nationally and in New York State, by holding the President Donald Trump accountable. The bills passed by the Senate allow New York State to release any state tax returns requested by Congress and authorize state authorities to prosecute someone even if they receive a Presidential reprieve, pardon or other form of clemency. 

”This President and his administration have repeatedly shown a true hostility to  the rule of law and Presidential customs,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. ”No person is above the law and New Yorkers, as well as all Americans, deserve transparency from their elected officials at every level of government. I commend Senators Hoylman and Kaminsky for their leadership on these important bills.” 

The legislation advanced by the Senate Majority includes:

  • Trump Taxes: This bill, S.5072-A, sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman, will allow New York State officials to release state tax returns in cooperation with Congressional investigations by authorizing the Commissioner of the Department of Taxation and Finance to furnish state tax returns upon written request of the chairperson of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, or the Joint Committee on Taxation.
  • Double Jeopardy: This bill, S.4572, sponsored by Senator Todd Kaminsky, will allow New York state prosecutors to bring charges against people who have received presidential pardons, or other forms of clemency, in certain circumstances. This bill only applies in situations where the President had a conflict of interest in the case; for example, where the person pardoned is related to the President, or had previously worked for the President. 

Bill Sponsor, Senator Brad Hoylman, said, “Today, the New York State Senate voted to do its part to assist Congress in fulfilling its oversight responsibilities by passing the TRUST Act, allowing the State Tax Department to cooperate with congressional committees requesting New York State tax returns. I am grateful to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Senate Revenue and Budget Chair Brian Benjamin, my colleagues in the Senate, and to my partner in the Assembly, David Buchwald. We must ensure that Congress can’t be blocked in their attempts to hold even the highest elected officials in the land accountable to the American people.”

Bill Sponsor, Senator Todd Kaminsky, said, “Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report provided disturbing, new evidence of the President’s plan to improperly use the pardon power to help his associates and undermine the rule of law. As former federal corruption prosecutor, I am pleased the Senate will take up my legislation to close the Double Jeopardy loophole and crack down on corruption. No one — not even the President and his inner circle — is above the law, and I urge the Assembly to pass this vital piece of legislation in an expeditious fashion — justice demands no less.”

Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris said, “No person is above the law, including the President of the United States. I am proud to support these proposals to send a message that New York insists on accountability and transparency no matter how powerful one is.” 

Senator Alessandra Biaggi said, “Right now, our democracy and a government that is actually of, by and for the people is at risk. The only way to preserve our precious ideals is to uphold the rule of law and hold everyone accountable for their actions.”


NYC Care to launch in the Bronx on August 1

  Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled the NYC Care card, the key to quality and affordable health care for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who cannot afford or are ineligible for insurance. When NYC Care launches in the Bronx on August 1, residents will be able to use their NYC Care Card to receive their own doctor, get preventative screenings and tests, and connect to a 24/7 service to help make appointments.

An estimated 300,000 New Yorkers are currently ineligible for health insurance, including people who can’t afford insurance and undocumented immigrants, and will be able to enroll in NYC Care. The $100 million program – one of two major components of the City’s Guaranteed Care commitment – will be fully implemented across all five boroughs by the end of 2020, making it as easy as possible for New Yorkers to get the health care they need.

     Mayor de Blasio with an NYC Care Card in his hand

“In New York City, we know health care is a human right, which is why we're making that right a reality,” said Mayor de Blasio. “We’re on track to guarantee health care for every single New Yorker. Access to quality and affordable health care is one of the biggest burdens working people face. Now they won’t face it alone.”

“Today’s announcement affirms New York City’s commitment to ensure that every New Yorker has access to the health care they need – which of course includes mental health,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “When we fail to invest in wellness and prevention, we pay the price in dollars spent and lives damaged. New York is pioneering a better, more inclusive approach and will continue to lead the nation in providing behavioral health services to every person in our city.”

Mayor de Blasio announced a series of milestones toward implementing Guaranteed Care in NYC:
·         New NYC Care Card, which will provide each member with a dedicated doctor, access to a 24/7 customer service line to make appointments, and clear copays that are affordable to each individual member.
·         New NYC Health + Hospitals doctors hired in the Bronx to serve approximately 10,000 patients expected to enroll in NYC Care in the first six months.
·         New Executive Director for NYC Care, Marielle Kress, who was instrumental in the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) successful expansion of Medicaid in states across the country.
·         Access to 24/7 pharmacy services in the Bronx, launching on August 1, that will provide NYC Care members with easy access to affordable medication.
·         GetGoveredNYC, the City’s health insurance outreach and enrollment initiative, has enrolled more than 19,000 New Yorkers into coverage in 2019, a 19 percent increase from the same time period last year.

“When I was appointed, one of my first tasks was to financially stabilize and transform NYC Health + Hospitals into a health care delivery system built for the 21st century landscape,” said Dr. Herminia Palacio, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services. “It’s upon the achievements of the last three years that we are now poised to lead the charge and make the Mayor’s vision of Guaranteed Care a reality for all New Yorkers. We are excited about the progress made towards preparing for the launch of NYC Care, and look forward to providing New Yorkers without access to health insurance a key the City’s health care.”

“The Mayor’s Guaranteed Care commitment is a significant investment in the health and future of New York City – there is nothing else like it,” said Dr. Mitchell Katz, President and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals. “For NYC Care, the health system is investing in new primary care doctors in the Bronx, launching a new customer service system, and preparing for our new members and patients at our clinics and hospitals. Every New Yorker has the right to health care and now they will.”

In January 2019, Mayor de Blasio announced the launch of the largest, most comprehensive initiative in the nation to guarantee health care for every New Yorker. When fully implemented, New York City will ensure the estimated 600,000 New Yorkers currently without insurance are connected to health care – including NYC’s Public Option, MetroPlus – or have direct access to the nation’s largest public health care system through the NYC Care program.


Mayor de Blasio announced the appointment of Marielle Kress as Executive Director of NYC Care. A native New Yorker, Kress brings more than a decade of experience in policy management, operations and advocacy related to complex health care programs. Previously, she played a critical role in the successful expansion and modernization of the Medicaid program under the Obama Administration. As the Executive Director, Kress will be responsible for the strategic rollout, operations and implementation of NYC Care. She started in this role on May 6.

“For far too many people, health care feels like a luxury and a privilege rather than a basic human right,” said Marielle Kress, Executive Director of NYC Care. “I am excited to be joining the extraordinary team at NYC Health + Hospitals and I am especially honored to be leading the NYC Care program that will guarantee every New Yorker access to the health care they deserve.”

“I relied on Marielle’s judgment and expertise while overseeing the implementation of complex and historic changes to the Medicaid program,” said Cindy Mann, former Deputy Administrator of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP services within CMS during the Obama Administration. “Marielle brings energy, passion, and deep dedication to serving the most vulnerable members of our society. I’m confident she will provide the leadership needed to ensure that health care is a basic right for all New Yorkers.”

NYC Health + Hospitals is actively preparing for a successful launch of NYC Care in the Bronx this summer. NYC Health + Hospitals will hire seven doctors to serve the estimated 10,000 patients expected to enroll in NYC Care in the first six months. Since the program guarantees a dedicated primary care provider for all members, the new hires will help manage the expected increase in demand for services.

Additionally, the Mayor revealed the design for the NYC Care card. The blue and orange card features the city skyline as part of the NYC Care logo and the tagline “Your Key to the City’s Health Care.” All members will receive this card, which will be the key to providing members with valuable information about their dedicated doctor, a 24/7 customer assistance line where they can access an operator to help answer questions, and clear information about copays that are affordable to individual members. NYC Care’s logo “Your Key to The City’s Health Care” is a joint effort between City Hall and Area 23, an FCB Health Network company. This is the first project assigned by NYC’s Creative Council, recently formed to advise and provide the city with creative solutions. Susan Credle, FCB’s Global Chief Creative Officer, is a founding member of the council.


As part of the its mission to ensure every New Yorker has access to quality, affordable health care, the City doubled down on its outreach to connect eligible New Yorkers to health insurance options that fit their needs.

·         GetCoveredNYC
GetCoveredNYC, the City’s health insurance outreach and enrollment program, has enrolled 19,942 New Yorkers in health care coverage from January through March 2019, more than half of the Mayor’s stated goal of enrolling 31,000 New Yorkers by July 2019. Since the Mayor signed Executive Order 40Connecting New Yorkers to Health Insurance, GetCoveredNYC has collaborated with 34 City agencies on outreach and enrollment opportunities that make it easier for New Yorkers to determine their eligibility for coverage, especially outside of the annual Open Enrollment Period, and sign up for insurance.

Since its creation in 2016, GetCoveredNYC – which is overseen by the Mayor’s Public Engagement Unit – has now helped more than 160,000 New Yorkers enroll in the New York State’s ACA health insurance marketplace. About 2.5 million New York City residents are now insured through the state’s insurance marketplace as of January 2019, according to the New York State Department of Health’s county-level data on health insurance enrollment.

·        MetroPlus, the City’s Public Option
MetroPlus today also launched its latest public awareness campaign, “Health Care is Your Right. Not a Privilege.” The campaign will be seen through the end of June on subway cars, bus shelters near NYC/Health + Hospitals locations, ethnic and community-based print media, and featured at other venues across New York City, including Brooklyn Cyclones games. The ads will be available in eight languages, including English, Spanish, Chinese, Bengali, Haitian Creole, Polish and Russian.

MetroPlus provides affordable health insurance that connects insurance-eligible New Yorkers to a network of providers that includes NYC Health + Hospitals’ 70 patient care sites, including 11 hospitals. MetroPlus serves as an affordable, quality option for people on Medicaid, Medicare, and those purchasing insurance on the exchange.


·         Eligibility DeterminationNYC Care will be open to anyone who has lived in New York City for six months or longer and does not have an affordable insurance option or who is ineligible for insurance.
·         New 24/7 customer assistance operation: Starting August 1, NYC Care members will have access to a 24/7 customer assistance line where they ask questions about NYC Care and speak to an on-call clinician for all of their needs, including prescription refills. Members will also be able to schedule appointments at convenient times and will have assistance to help navigate members through the NYC Health + Hospitals system.
·         Expanded pharmacy hours: NYC Care patients will have 24/7 access to medications in the Bronx starting Aug. 1. This includes expanded hours at all NYC Health + Hospital pharmacy locations in (NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi, NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln, and NYC Health + Hospitals/North Central Bronx). Until now, uninsured patients have been limited to NYC Health + Hospital pharmacy access during business hours, which makes it challenging for patients to get their medications if they are at work.
·         Outreach with Community-based OrganizationsTo reach eligible New Yorkers, NYC Health + Hospitals is partnering with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. The health system will invest $450,000 to partner with community-based organizations in the Bronx to reach New Yorkers eligible to participate in NYC Care. This money will fund up to 15 full-time outreach workers, or the part time equivalent, who will conduct direct, grass-roots outreach to targeted population in a culturally appropriate and sensitive manner and make appointments with NYC Care enrollment staff.

“In January Mayor de Blasio made a huge commitment to New Yorkers to guarantee affordable and direct access to healthcare right here in our City. Today we are so happy to stand alongside our Mayor and his administration as we make meaningful progress and fulfill this wonderful promise. We welcome the appointment of the Director of NYC Care and the new NYC Care Card will go a long way not only for its practical purpose but as a symbol that all New Yorkers are welcome and valued in our City. It will truly be New Yorkers' key to health and wellness. We look forward to working with the administration to get the word out about this initiative which has the potential to literally save lives,” said Theo J. Oshiro, Deputy Director of Make the Road New York. 

"We are optimistic about the progress to make timely, high-quality care available to all Bronx residents this summer," said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. "As long as health insurance discrimination against immigrant communities persists in New York State, programs like NYC Care represent a critical improvement in helping uninsured New Yorkers get more patient-centered care. We look forward to continuing to work with Health + Hospitals, city officials, and trusted community-based organizations to get NYC Care off on the right foot." 

“The significant increase in enrollments this year in light of the federal government’s efforts to sabotage the ACA is a testament to GetCoveredNYC’s innovative outreach strategies and our partner agencies’ work to reach uninsured New Yorkers,” said Director of the Mayor’s Public Engagement Unit Omar Khan. “All New Yorkers, regardless of income or immigration status, should have access to quality health care, and we look forward to partnering with NYC Care to make that a reality.”

“Health care is a right for all, not a privilege for only those who can afford care,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “The City guarantees care for all New Yorkers, regardless of your family's income or immigration status. Reliable access to affordable and quality health care services is a must for everyone to maintain optimal health.”

Above - First Lady Charlene McCray speaks about how the new NYC card will help people get the out reach that they need. 
Below - Marielle Kress, Executive Director of NYC Care.

Michael A. Blake - I’m Running For Congress to Stand Up Against Corruption and Injustice

Today’s decision by the Trump administration to assert executive privilege over the entire Mueller Report and millions underlying pages of evidence as retaliation against the House Judiciary Committee is exactly why we need to elect members of Congress who refuse be silent against injustice. When President Trump said, “I could have fired everybody. I could have fired Mueller. I could have fired anybody that I wanted to fire,” he made it clear that he will continue to obstruct justice with disregard for the rule of law. We need transparency and justice for the American people. If you #BelieveInTheBronx, we ask for your contribution.


Jury Found Defendant Guilty of Murder

 Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark today announced that a Bronx man has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for stabbing a 41-year-old man in 2016. 

 District Attorney Clark said, “The defendant viciously swung the knife at the victim 13 times in a matter of 10 seconds, stabbing and slashing him several times. The victim leaves behind a 9-year-old daughter.” 

 District Attorney Clark said the defendant, Joseph Taveras, 30, of 906 Simpson Street, was sentenced today by Bronx Supreme Court Justice Margaret Clancy to 25 years to life in prison. A jury found the defendant guilty of second-degree Murder on November 15, 2018.

 According to the investigation, on the night of April 25, 2016, the defendant stabbed the victim, Ricardo Romano, 41, of the Bronx, causing his death. The incident happened when Romano stopped in front of the building the defendant lived in, which is located in the neighborhood the victim previously resided. Romano was arguing loudly with an individual who lived in the building when the defendant came out of the premises with a kitchen knife. Taveras stabbed Romano twice in the chest, once in the arm and slashed him twice in the head. The victim was taken to Lincoln Hospital where he died shortly afterwards.

 The defendant was arrested on June 24, 2016.

 District Attorney Clark thanked Cristina Fragola, Deputy Director of the Crime Victims Unit, and NYPD Detective Gregory Casvikes of the 41st Precinct.


19 People Indicted for Trafficking Cocaine Sold In Bronx, And Club Drugs Sold At Nightspots Throughout City 

  Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark, New York City Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill, Homeland Security Investigations New York Special Agent in Charge Angel M. Melendez and Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Raymond Donovan today announced that 19 people have been indicted on charges related to trafficking cocaine and club drugs in the city. During the investigation, 176 pounds of cocaine with a street value of almost $3 million were recovered. 

 District Attorney Clark said, “We will stop traffickers of any illicit drugs that devastate lives and neighborhoods. These defendants allegedly distributed large amounts of cocaine sold on the streets of the Bronx, and peddled dangerous ‘date rape’ drugs that wind up in bars and nightclubs. As always, I stand ready to work with my local and federal law enforcement partners to target drug dealers.” 

 Commissioner O’Neill said, “The NYPD, and its partners, are committed to eradicating drug trafficking in the City of New York. These are serious charges, and bringing those who commit these acts to justice is dangerous work. I commend the NYPD investigators, DEA Agents, Homeland Security Investigators, and the members of the Bronx District Attorney’s Office for their work in this significant case.”

 Special Agent in Charge Melendez said, “This is a case of street dealers joining forces to corner the market for cocaine on the street and in clubs around the city. This high profit business simply seeks to exploit the vulnerabilities of those addicted, while seeking new customers in the club scene. Removing this amount of cocaine off the streets reduces the number of potential overdoses by the thousands. Law enforcement understands the importance of removing these drug pushers from the community, and will continue to partner in investigations to arrest and prosecute those individuals.”

 Special Agent in Charge Donovan said, “This criminal network profited off the sale of cocaine and MDMA to mid-level drug traffickers, street dealers, and users throughout New York City. Illicit drug trends come and go, but in New York, heroin and cocaine have always been the headline drugs of choice. Ever since fentanyl hit the streets, traffickers have been creating their own trends. The mixture of heroin and fentanyl has become public health’s most potent enemy; and evident in recent statistics, the mixture of cocaine and fentanyl is following in its footsteps. Because of DEA intelligence, increased cocaine production in Colombia, and larger cocaine loads like the 80 kilograms seized in this case, New Yorkers should be warned that the cocaine of older times is deadlier today: CDC studies show that 40% of cocaine deaths in 2016 involved fentanyl. I applaud our law enforcement partners on their diligent work throughout this investigation.”

 District Attorney Clark said the defendants are variously charged in three indictments totaling 227 counts of various degrees of Criminal Sale and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance and Conspiracy. Two of the defendants are charged with Operating as a Major Trafficker, which carries a minimum of 15-25 years to maximum of life in prison if convicted. Fourteen of the defendants were arrested in a takedown on May 1, 2019. Twelve have been arraigned before Bronx Supreme Court Justice John Carter, two are awaiting arraignment and five have not been apprehended yet

 According to the year-long investigation by the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, NYPD Bronx Gang Squad, Drug Enforcement Administration and Homeland Security Investigations, the defendants trafficked large quantities of cocaine, which they sold in bulk to distributors, and which in turn was sold in $10 and $20 packets, sometimes in crack form, on Valentine Avenue between the Grand Concourse and East 187th Street.

 One indictment charges 10 people with the cocaine operation, with Alvon Pierre and Elvis Gomez charged with Operating as a Major Trafficker. On February 28, 2019, investigators seized 176 pounds (80 kilos) of cocaine in a vehicle and packed in suitcases in an apartment on 191st Street in Flushing, Queens that is connected to Pierre and co-defendant Robert Nieves. On December 31, 2018, in the Bronx, $135,000 was seized from a secret compartment in Gomez’ Saturn SUV.

 Another indictment charges five people with distributing MDMA (Ecstasy), Alprazolam (Xanax) and Ketamine. These controlled substances frequently turn up at clubs and nightspots throughout the city. According to the indictment, two of the defendants conspired to import pills from overseas, via international mail. Authorities in Brussels, Belgium intercepted 1.25 pounds of pure controlled substances before they could reach their destinations in the Bronx and Manhattan.

 District Attorney Clark thanked NYPD Detective Luke Maddock of the Bronx Gang Squad for his work in the investigation. 

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

Defendants Arraigned 
Kaharey Jeffers, 26, Yonkers, N.Y. 
Devin Rivera, 19, Bronx 
Rafael Guerrero, 28, Bronx 
Benny Phillips, 27, Bronx 
Audy Monzon, 32, Bronx 
Robert Nieves, 41, Queens 
Alvin Pierre, 44, Queens
Jose Guity, 20, Bronx 
Michael Ortiz, 21, Bronx
Nicolas Beltre, 39, Manhattan 
Eladio Polanco, 21, Manhattan 
Kevin Aldebot, 25, Bronx

Not Arraigned Yet 
Jonathan Davila, 20, Bronx 
Shawn Wilson, 31, Bronx

Defendants Not Apprehended 
Elvis Gomez, 34, Bronx 
Frank Almanzar, 37, Manhattan 
Salathiel Mora, 39, Manhattan 
David Monet, 40, Queens 
Brandon Santaella, 21 Bronx

Queens Immigration Attorney Sentenced To Five Years In Prison For Operating Asylum Fraud Scheme

  Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that ANDREEA DUMITRU, a/k/a “Andreea Dumitru Parcalaboiu,” an immigration attorney based in Queens, New York, was sentenced to five years in prison in connection with her operation of a scheme to submit fraudulent asylum applications to United States immigration authorities.  DUMITRU was convicted on November 19, 2018, of asylum fraud, making false statements to immigration authorities, and aggravated identity theft following a two-week trial before U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who imposed today’s sentence.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Using lies and forgery, Andreea Dumitru, an immigration attorney, cheated the nation’s asylum program.  For her crimes, Dumitru will now spend five years in prison.”
According to the Superseding Indictment, other filings in Manhattan federal court, and the evidence presented at trial:
Between 2013 through 2017, DUMITRU operated a scheme to submit fraudulent I-589 Forms in connection with applications for asylum.  Specifically, DUMITRU submitted more than 100 applications in which she knowingly made false statements and representations about, among other things, the applicants’ personal narratives of alleged persecution, criminal histories, and travel histories.  DUMITRU deliberately fabricated detailed personal stories of purported mistreatment of her clients, forged her clients’ signatures, and falsely notarized affidavits. 
In addition to the prison term, DUMITRU, 43, of Queens, New York, was sentenced to one year of supervised release, and was ordered to forfeit $157,500.
Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of Homeland Security Investigations and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and thanked the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review for their assistance.

U.S. Attorney’s Office Announces Conviction Of Christian Dawkins And Merl Code For Bribing NCAA Division I Men’s College Basketball Coaches

  Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today the conviction of CHRISTIAN DAWKINS and MERL CODE for conspiring to bribe various NCAA Division I men’s college basketball coaches.  DAWKINS was additionally found guilty of a substantive count of bribery.  The defendants were convicted after a two-and-a-half week trial before U.S. District Court Judge Edgardo Ramos. 

DAWKINS and CODE were both previously convicted for their roles in a scheme to defraud an Adidas-sponsored university by funneling payments from Adidas to the family of a high-school college basketball player and then concealing those payments from the school.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Today, Christian Dawkins and Merl Code were found guilty a second time for their roles in corrupting the world of college basketball, in this case for conspiring to bribe multiple Division I men’s basketball coaches.  And while their convictions mark the culmination of the criminal charges announced by this Office in September 2017, they should also make clear to those who might be tempted to engage in the sort of misconduct these prosecutions have only begun to expose:  that bribery is a crime, one this Office is prepared to charge criminally and prosecute to the full extent of the law.”
According to the allegations contained in the Complaint, Indictment, Superseding Indictment, and evidence presented during the trial in Manhattan federal court:
Overview of the Scheme
DAWKINS and CODE agreed to pay bribes to various NCAA Division I men’s college basketball coaches in exchange for those coaches’ exerting their influence over the student-athletes that they coached in order to retain the services of DAWKINS and a new sports management business (the “Dawkins Company”) that he had recently started.
Prior to founding the Dawkins Company, from 2015 until May 2017, DAWKINS worked for a major sports agency recruiting high school and college basketball players as clients.  In connection with his work for the sports agency, DAWKINS paid bribes to Lamont Evans, who at the time was an assistant coach at the University of South Carolina, in order for Evans to exert his official influence over student-athletes he coached to retain the services of the sports agency that employed DAWKINS.  DAWKINS subsequently introduced Louis Martin Blazer III, a financial advisor who, unbeknownst to DAWKINS, was cooperating with the Government, and Munish Sood, another financial advisor, to Lamont Evans in order for them to continue paying bribes to him.
In May 2017, DAWKINS was terminated from his job at the sports agency and started the Dawkins Company with Munish Sood and another investor who, unbeknownst to DAWKINS, was an undercover law enforcement officer (“UC-1”).  In order to recruit future clients, DAWKINS proposed, among other things, paying bribes to coaches at various NCAA Division I universities so that these coaches would steer their student-athletes to retain the services of the Dawkins Company.  DAWKINS thereafter proposed paying bribes to Emanuel “Book” Richardson, an assistant coach at the University of Arizona.  Soon thereafter, DAWKINS arranged for Richardson to travel to New York City in order to receive a $5,000 cash bribe.  Weeks later, Richardson requested an additional $15,000 from DAWKINS, which Richardson said he would use in order to secure the commitment of a top high school basketball player to attend the University of Arizona, who Richardson would then steer to retain the services of DAWKINS and his company.  DAWKINS arranged for UC-1 and Sood to pay Richardson an additional $15,000 cash bribe in New Jersey in July 2017. 
In June 2017, DAWKINS introduced Sood, UC-1, and Blazer, among others, to MERL CODE, who at the time was a consultant for Adidas, in order for CODE to work with the Dawkins Company to recruit future clients.  During the initial meeting, DAWKINS, CODE, Sood, Blazer, and UC-1 discussed, among other things, CODE’s ability to identify and connect the Dawkins Company with corrupt college basketball coaches willing to accept money.  At the end of the meeting, CODE received a $5,000 cash payment from UC-1 on behalf of the Dawkins Company. 
In July 2017, DAWKINS and CODE discussed by telephone, among other things, CODE introducing UC-1 to various men’s college basketball coaches at an upcoming recruiting event in Las Vegas, Nevada, and that CODE would be paid $5,000 for each men’s college basketball coach that he introduced to DAWKINS and UC-1.  CODE later sent a text message to DAWKINS containing a list of coaches that CODE had set up meetings with in Las Vegas, including the dates and times of each of the meetings, for the purpose of DAWKINS and his company arranging to bribe them.  In advance of the meetings, CODE advised UC-1 and DAWKINS that they should tell the coaches they would meet with that they would be available to provide them with money in the future, including with respect to any future financial needs these coaches had in connection with recruiting. 
In Las Vegas, several coaches received cash bribes during their meetings with DAWKINS in exchange for agreeing to use their influence to steer players on their teams to the Dawkins Company.  In particular, Anthony Bland, an assistant coach at the University of Southern California, and an assistant coach from Creighton University -- two of the coaches that were on the list of meetings that CODE sent to DAWKINS by text message -- met with DAWKINS, UC-1, and Blazer in Las Vegas in July 2017 and accepted cash bribes.  During the meeting in Las Vegas, Bland accepted a cash bribe and confirmed that he would use his influence to steer student-athletes at the University of Southern California to retain the Dawkins Company.  During the same trip to Las Vegas, DAWKINS, Blazer, and UC-1 also met with a third coach from Texas Christian University and paid this coach a cash bribe, as well. 
After these meetings, and consistent with the bribery scheme, DAWKINS continued to discuss with these corrupt college coaches players that they could steer to DAWKINS and his new company.  For example, in August 2017, Bland, facilitated meetings between DAWKINS, Sood, and the family members of a then-current student-athlete on the University of Southern California men’s basketball team, as well as a family member of a different student-athlete who was a rising freshman planning to play for the University of Southern California men’s basketball team the next season.  During a meeting on the campus of the University of Southern California in August 2017, Bland also informed DAWKINS and Sood that if they continued to fund payments to family members of University of Southern California men’s college basketball players and recruits that Bland would use his position as an assistant coach in order to influence these players to retain the Dawkins Company.  
DAWKINS, 26, of Atlanta, Georgia, and CODE, 45, of Greer, South Carolina, were each convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.  DAWKINS was also convicted of a substantive bribery count, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.  Christian Dawkins and Merl Code were acquitted of the other charges in the Indictment.  Both defendants will be sentenced before the Hon. Edgardo Ramos at a future date.
Mr. Berman praised the work of the FBI and the Special Agents of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Rashan Michel Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court To Bribing Former Division I Men’s Basketball Coach Chuck Person

Michel, an Atlanta-Based Business Owner, Facilitated Bribes To a Former Auburn University Men’s Basketball Coach In Order To Secure College Basketball Players As Clients For Both Michel And a Financial Adviser

  Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that RASHAN MICHEL, the owner of a bespoke clothing business in Atlanta, Georgia, pled guilty in Manhattan federal court today to agreeing to facilitate bribes from a financial adviser to Chuck Connors Person (“Person”), a former Auburn University men’s basketball coach.  The bribes were provided in exchange for Person using his influence over Auburn basketball players to retain MICHEL’s services and the services of the financial adviser paying the bribes.  MICHEL pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska.   

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As he admitted today, Rashan Michel was paid to facilitate bribe payments from a financial adviser to college basketball coaches.  His corruption of the system was significant but, sadly, far from unique.  Indeed, in the last year this Office has convicted nine defendants in connection with fraud or bribery in the world of college basketball.  We will continue to pursue those who offer or take bribes to influence student-athletes without regard to their interest.”
 According to the Complaint, the Indictment, statements made in court, and publicly available documents: 
In the fall of 2016, MICHEL, the founder and operator of a clothing store that specialized in making bespoke suits for professional athletes, met a financial adviser and business manager who, unbeknownst to MICHEL, was providing information to law enforcement (“CW-1”).  MICHEL told CW-1 that MICHEL could introduce CW-1 to several college basketball coaches, including Person, who was then a men’s basketball coach at Auburn University, who would be willing to accept bribes from CW-1.  MICHEL and CW-1 agreed to offer such bribes in return for the coaches’ agreeing to exert their influence over student-athletes to retain the services of Michel and CW-1 once the student-athletes entered the National Basketball Association (“NBA”).  
In November 2016, MICHEL, who had a preexisting relationship with Person, arranged a meeting in Auburn, Alabama, to introduce CW-1 to Person and to broker the arrangement between CW-1 and Person whereby CW-1 would provide bribes to Person.  At that meeting, in exchange for bribes, Person agreed to exert his influence over certain student-athletes Person coached at Auburn University to retain the services of CW-1 and MICHEL once those players entered the NBA.  Over the next several months, in exchange for the bribes described above, Person did, in fact, arrange a meeting among CW-1, MICHEL and an Auburn student-athlete in Manhattan.  At that meeting, Person falsely touted CW-1’s qualifications as a financial adviser and business manager without disclosing that Person was, in fact, being bribed to recommend CW-1 to the student-athlete.  In connection with the bribery scheme, Person also steered the parent of a second student-athlete to CW-1.
In addition to brokering the bribery scheme with Person, MICHEL also solicited and received for himself tens of thousands of dollars in payments from CW-1 in exchange for introducing CW-1 to Person, and for promising to introduce CW-1 to other basketball coaches at NCAA Division I universities to engage in a similar bribery arrangement.  Ultimately, MICHEL did introduce one member of a university athletics department to CW-1 for the purpose of engaging in a similar scheme.  Working with MICHEL, CW-1 made payments to that individual, who in turn attempted to steer the parent of a student-athlete to CW-1.
In all, CW-1 paid more than $91,500 in bribes to Person, and paid MICHEL $24,000 for his role in the scheme.
MICHEL, 44, of Atlanta, Georgia, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.  As a condition of his plea, MICHEL agreed to forfeit $24,000.  The charge carries a maximum term of five years in prison.  The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge.  Sentencing is scheduled for September 18, 2019, before Judge Preska.
Mr. Berman praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Special Agents of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Attorney General James Announces Taxi Operator In Contempt Of Court For Cheating Asylum Seekers Fleeing To The Border

Christopher Crowningshield, Owner of Northern Taxi and Chris’ Shuttle Service, violated AG’s order to stop overcharging vulnerable persons fleeing New York for the Canadian border 

  Attorney General Letitia James today announced a guilty plea in a contempt of court proceeding that found that Christopher Crowningshield was illegally taking advantage of asylum seekers. Crowningshield, the owner of Northern Taxi and Chris’ Shuttle Service, routinely overcharged vulnerable asylum seekers who were using his company for transportation to the Canadian border. In May 2017, a court order obtained by the Attorney General’s Office prohibited him from taking financial advantage of these individuals. The Attorney General’s Office found that Crowningshield violated that order and continued to overcharge passengers. Yesterday, Crowningshield pleaded guilty to civil and criminal contempt of court and was fined $10,000 and sentenced to serve three weekends in jail. 

“Immigrant communities are scared and it is unconscionable that business owners would try to take advantage of that fear to line their own pockets,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “Not only did Christopher Crowningshield repeatedly swindle these vulnerable individuals, but he then violated a court order strictly prohibiting him from engaging in the same predatory behavior. We will never tolerate individuals that profit from fear or disrespect the law.” 
Attorney General James presented Supreme Court Judge Mark Powers with affidavits showing that Crowningshield and Chris’ Shuttle Service charged as much as $100 per person or $300 per family for cab rides from the bus station in Plattsburgh to the Roxham Road border crossing into Canada. The filings also showed that Crowningshield’s cabs failed to conspicuously post fares as required by New York State law and a consent judgment agreed to by Crowningshield and the Attorney General in 2017. 
Beginning nearly two years ago, Crowningshield was prohibited by court order from charging more than $92.50 for the half hour trip from Plattsburgh to the border, regardless of the number of passengers in his taxis. However, investigators from the Attorney General’s Office, posing as asylum seekers, were charged many times that amount. The court order also required Crowningshield to keep detailed records of his drivers’ trips to the border and to regularly notify the Attorney General of the fares being charged. Crowningshield did neither of these. Instead, he tried unsuccessfully to skirt these court mandates by changing the name of his company from Northern Taxi to Chris’ Shuttle Service. 
Judge Powers ordered Crowningshield’s $10,000 civil contempt penalty to be paid to the Attorney General’s Office for use by the Office to deal with immigration and asylum issues. He ordered Crowningshield to serve three weekends in the Clinton County Jail beginning May 18.   

Comptroller Stringer Reveals Substantial Performance Improvements at DOF Following Multiple Audits of SCRIE Property Tax Abatement Credits

DOF performance improvements followed accepting recommendations from a prior audit that found widespread inadequate controls of tax abatement credits

  New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer released an audit of the New York City Department of Finance’s (DOF) management of its property tax abatement credits (TACs) as part of the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption Program (SCRIE) that found the agency successfully implemented wide-ranging recommendations of a prior Comptroller’s Office audit by implementing reforms of its procedures for determining eligibility of tenants to participate in the SCRIE program. Between July 2009 and November 2010, an audit by the Comptroller’s Office revealed DOF issued more than $11.8 million in TACs on behalf of 3,801 deceased tenants with a subsequent audit in 2012 finding that DOF had retrieved approximately $9.8 million in inappropriately issued TACs.

This latest audit concluded that DOF adequately worked to ensure that TACs offered landlords equivalent subsidy on their property taxes to account for SCRIE-eligible tenants. It also found that DOF effectively revoked ineligible tenants’ benefits, retrieved TACs from landlords upon the passing of tenants, and correctly processed benefit takeovers in an effort to comply with the Comptroller’s previous audits of the agency’s practices. Based on these successful reforms, the audit recommended that DOF continue its trajectory of fine-tuning its policies and procedures to promote good government and transparency.
“This is why we scrutinize and ask the tough questions, and it’s a shining example of the positive change induced by our audits and our oversight work. Any time we can prevent waste and improve quality of services for New Yorkers, it’s a win-win,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “I commend DOF for implementing our recommendations and working to ensure that these benefits are used appropriately and tax dollars aren’t wasted.”
Following an audit period that reviewed a period spanning July 1, 2016 through February 28, 2018, in which DOF issued more than $239 million in new TACs on behalf of 58,279 tenants, Comptroller Stringer’s audit found that:
  • DOF developed clearly defined policies and procedures for agency staff, particularly those who administer the SCRIE program.
  • The agency instituted reforms in which responsibilities were divided up by different staff in varying departments by the various stages of the SCRIE program such as receipt and processing of applications, issuance of TACs, and review of appeals.
  • DOF staff matched the names of SCRIE recipients with those deceased based on the Social Security Administration Death Master File (SSADMF) index on a monthly basis to determine whether credits were issued to deceased New Yorkers.
  • DOF paid $13,944 in TAC benefits on behalf of six tenants whose incomes exceeded the required $50,000 threshold, of which $5,267 was retrieved by the agency, with the remaining $8,677 unable to be retrieved.
  • DOF has also implemented a control within its electronic processing system to be able to identify when an applicant’s income exceeded the allowable threshold to receive the rental subsidy.
To read Comptroller Stringer’s audit of DOF’s improved policies and procedures, click here.

Community Board 9 Social Services Committee Meeting re: Men's Shelter 2008 Westchester Avenue

  The main item on the Social Services Committee agenda Tuesday may 7th was the proposed men's shelter at 2008 Westchester Avenue. Representatives of Samaritan Village and the Department of Homeless Services were on hand to answer questions by committee members. 

District Manager William Rivera went through the timeline which began on February 22th 2019. The various meetings with and without the elected officials. CB 9 Chair Nick Himdian, had many questions for DHS representative (and former Councilwoman) Annabelle Palma, some of which she could not answer. One question was the cost to the city of the nine year contract with Samaritan Village, That question is very important because Samaritan Village said that it would have seventy-one workers at the men's shelter, and former Councilwoman Palma should of had that information for the board and the public. She also could not answer two other questions looking unprepared for the meeting with CB 9. It appeared Palma was getting no help from Samaritan Village representatives as they only answered questions that were directed at them. 

Why State Senator Luis Sepulveda was involved when the proposed shelter many wanted to know, since the proposed shelter is in State Senator Alessandra Biaggi's district. Senator Biaggi was not involved in any meetings, and only issued a statement of support for the shelter. The next and last step in the process will come at the full Community Board 9 meeting Thursday May 16th, the location has not been announced as of yet.

Above -  L - R BXCB 9 Chair Nick Himdian, CB9 DM William Riveraand Social Services Chair Rosemary Ordonez-Jenkins.
Below - A totally unprepared Annabelle Palme and DHS staff.