Friday, August 16, 2019

Fourth Manhattan Doctor Pleads Guilty To Accepting Bribes And Kickbacks From Pharmaceutical Company In Exchange For Prescribing Fentanyl Drug

  Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that JEFFREY GOLDSTEIN, a doctor who practiced in Manhattan, pled guilty today to conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute, in connection with a scheme to prescribe Subsys, a potent fentanyl-based spray, in exchange for bribes and kickbacks from Subsys’s manufacturer, Insys Therapeutics.  GOLDSTEIN pled guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry B. Pitman.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As he admitted today, Jeffrey Goldstein, a Manhattan doctor who owned a private medical office on the Upper East Side, prescribed his patients Subsys, a powerful fentanyl drug, in exchange for nearly $200,000 in bribes and kickbacks from the drug’s manufacturer, Insys, as well as various other items of value, including all-expenses paid visits to a Manhattan strip club.  Goldstein is the fourth doctor to plead guilty in this case and his admission of guilt once again demonstrates that this Office will hold any physician accountable when that physician’s medical judgment is compromised by the corrupting influence of money.  That is particularly so when the drug that is being prescribed is a dangerous opioid like fentanyl.  This case should stand as a warning to the New York medical community that if you take bribes from pharmaceutical companies in exchange for prescribing – whether in the form of Speaker Program fees or otherwise – this Office will hold you to account for placing your own interests above those of your patients.”
According to the allegations contained in the Indictment against GOLDSTEIN and filings in related proceedings:
The Insys Speakers Bureau
Subsys, which is manufactured by Insys, is a powerful painkiller approximately 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.  The FDA approved Subsys only for the management of breakthrough pain in cancer patients.  Prescriptions of Subsys typically cost thousands of dollars each month, and Medicare and Medicaid, as well as commercial insurers, reimbursed prescriptions written by GOLDSTEIN.
In or about August 2012, Insys launched a “Speakers Bureau,” a roster of doctors who would conduct programs (“Speaker Programs”) purportedly aimed at educating other practitioners about Subsys.  In reality, Insys used its Speakers Bureau to induce the doctors who served as speakers to prescribe large volumes of Subsys by paying them Speaker Program fees.  Speakers were supposed to conduct an educational slide presentation for other health care practitioners at each Speaker Program.  In reality, many of the Speaker Programs were predominantly social affairs where no educational presentation about Subsys occurred.  Attendance sign-in sheets for the Speaker Programs were frequently forged by adding the names and signatures of health care practitioners who had not actually been present.
GOLDSTEIN’s Participation in the Scheme
GOLDSTEIN was a doctor of osteopathic medicine who owned a private medical office on the Upper East Side.  GOLDSTEIN received approximately $196,000 in Speaker Program fees from Insys in exchange for prescribing large volumes of Subsys.  After GOLDSTEIN began prescribing a competitor painkiller, Insys pressured him to stop doing so and switch patients to Subsys, which GOLDSTEIN did. 
GOLDSTEIN also received other items of value from Insys in order to induce him to prescribe.  For example, Insys employees took GOLDSTEIN and Todd Schlifstein, who co-owned a private medical office with GOLDSTEIN, to a Manhattan strip club where Insys spent approximately $4,100 on a private room, alcoholic drinks, and “lap dances” for GOLDSTEIN and Schlifstein.  GOLDSTEIN also arranged for Insys to pay for the annual holiday party for his private medical office.
In 2014, GOLDSTEIN was approximately the fifth-highest-paid Insys Speaker nationally. He was the sixth-highest prescriber of Subsys in the last quarter of 2014, accounting for approximately $809,275 in overall net sales of Subsys in that quarter.
GOLDSTEIN, 49, of New Rochelle, New York, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.  The maximum potential sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.  GOLDSTEIN is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Wood on January 22, 2020 at 2:00 p.m.
Mr. Berman praised the investigative work of the FBI, and thanked the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Inspector General for its participation in the investigation.

Former Leader Of Violent Kenyan Organized Crime Family Sentenced To 25 Years In Prison For Narcotics, Weapons, And Obstruction Offenses

Akasha Crime Family Leader Baktash Akasha Abdalla Sought to Import Large Quantities of Heroin and Methamphetamine into the United States, Conspired to Possess Machineguns and Destructive Devices, and Participated in Bribery Scheme in an Unsuccessful Effort

  Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that BAKTASH AKASHA ABDALLA, a/k/a “Baktash Akasha,” was sentenced to 25 years in prison for conspiring to import and importing heroin and methamphetamine, conspiring to use and carry machineguns and destructive devices in connection with their drug-trafficking crimes, and obstructing justice by paying bribes to Kenyan officials in an effort to avoid extradition to the United States.  The defendants were provisionally arrested in Kenya on November 9, 2014, after providing 99 kilograms of heroin and two kilograms of methamphetamine to confidential sources acting at the direction of the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”).  Their bribery scheme was thwarted on January 29, 2017, when the defendants were expelled from Kenya and DEA agents brought them to the U.S.  AKASHA ABDALLA previously pled guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Katharine H. Parker, and U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero imposed today’s sentence.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Baktash Akasha led a massive drug trafficking organization responsible for shipping tons of finished narcotics, and the ingredients to make tons more, around the world.  Akasha, along with his brother, ensured that their enterprise operated with impunity for nearly 20 years by eliminating and intimidating rival drug traffickers with violence and murder, and bribing Kenyan government officials to avoid extradition to the U.S.  Akasha was once one of the world’s most prolific and violent drug traffickers, but today’s significant sentence of 25 years in prison all but guarantees he will never profit from the illicit drug trade again.”
According to the Superseding Indictment, other court filings, and statements made during court proceedings[1]
AKASHA ABDALLA and his brother, Ibrahim Akasha Abdalla, a/k/a “Ibrahim Akasha” (together, “the defendants”) operated a sprawling and lucrative international drug-trafficking organization, which distributed multi-ton quantities of narcotics including hashish, ephedrine, methamphetamine, and methaqulone—a Schedule I controlled substance commonly referred to in Europe, South Africa, and elsewhere as “Mandrax” or “mandies,” and in the U.S. as “Quaaludes.”  For almost two decades, BAKTASH AKASHA ABDALLA acted as the leader of the Akasha Organization, and Ibrahim Akasha Abdalla functioned as his brother’s deputy.  The defendants engaged in acts of violence to protect the reputation of the Akasha Organization and their drug-trafficking business.  For example, in 2014, the defendants kidnapped and assaulted a rival drug trafficker in Kenya named David Armstrong.  The defendants helped orchestrate the murder in South Africa of an associate of Armstrong, who was known as “Pinky” and was shot approximately 32 times in the street.  The defendants subsequently participated in an altercation at a public shopping mall in Kenya with an Armstrong associate named Stanley Livondo, during which Ibrahim Akasha Abdalla threatened Livondo with a pistol in the mall. 
By early 2014, the defendants and other members of the Akasha Organization started to work to import ton quantities of methaqualone precursor chemicals into Africa in order to fuel the illicit pills’ production in South Africa.  The defendants used the proceeds of their methaqualone-related business to pursue other illegal ventures, including efforts to import ephedrine that was produced illegally by Avon Lifesciences in India, so that the Akasha Organization and others could manufacture methamphetamine in Africa.  In connection with these methamphetamine-production efforts, the defendants aligned the Akasha Organization and other associates with co-defendant Muhammad Asif Hafeez, a/k/a “Sultan,” and worked together to establish a methamphetamine-production facility in Mozambique.  But the defendants, Hafeez, and other co-conspirators were forced to abandon their plan after law enforcement authorities seized approximately 18 tons of ephedrine from an Avon Lifesciences factory in Solapur, India, including several tons of ephedrine that the defendants and Hafeez planned to use to manufacture methamphetamine in Mozambique.
Over the course of several months beginning in March 2014, during telephone calls and meetings in Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya, the defendants agreed to supply, and in fact did supply, multi-kilogram quantities of heroin and methamphetamine to individuals they believed to be representatives of a South American drug-trafficking organization, but who were in fact confidential sources (the “CSes”) working at the direction and under the supervision of the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”).  The defendants negotiated on behalf of the Akasha Organization to procure and distribute hundreds of kilograms of heroin from suppliers in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region and to produce and distribute hundreds of kilograms of methamphetamine, which they understood would ultimately be imported into the U.S. 
During a meeting in Mombasa, Kenya, in April 2014, BAKTASH AKASHA ABDALLA introduced a CS via Skype to one of his heroin suppliers in Pakistan, who said he could provide 420 kilograms of 100 percent pure heroin—which he called “diamond” quality—for distribution in the U.S.  Thereafter, in June 2014, a co-defendant began discussing with the CSes his ability to procure methamphetamine precursor chemicals and to establish labs to produce methamphetamine for importation to the U.S.  In a meeting in Mombasa in September 2014, BAKTASH AKASHA ABDALLA introduced another co-defendant as a narcotics transporter from Afghanistan who moved ton quantities of narcotics using ships.  BAKTASH AKASHA ABDALLA and a co-defendant also described Hafeez to the CSes as one of the top drug traffickers in the world. 
In September and October 2014, Ibrahim Akasha Abdalla personally delivered one-kilogram samples of methamphetamine and heroin to the CSes in Nairobi on behalf of the Akasha Organization.  In early November, Ibrahim Akasha Abdalla personally delivered an additional 98 kilograms of heroin to the CSes in Nairobi on behalf of the Akasha Organization.  A few days later, Ibrahim Akasha Abdalla also delivered another kilogram of methamphetamine.  In the course of these preliminary transactions, the Akasha Organization provided a total of 99 kilograms of heroin and two kilograms of methamphetamine to the CSes, and agreed to provide hundreds of kilograms more of each.
The defendants, along with Gulam Hussein and Vijaygiri Anandgiri Goswami, were provisionally arrested by Kenyan Anti-Narcotics Unit officers on November 9, 2014, in Mombasa, Kenya, prior to another planned meeting with the CSes.  At the time of the provisional arrests in Kenya, 500 kilograms of heroin brokered by Hafeez were being transported through international waters to the defendants in Africa.  The defendants directed the ship to return to the Afghanistan/Pakistan region rather than risk interdiction upon arrival.  Following the arrests and during pending extradition proceedings, the defendants continued to distribute ton quantities of narcotics.  They used some of the drug proceeds to bribe Kenyan officials— including judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers—in an effort to avoid extradition to face the charges against them in the U.S.    
On January 29, 2017, the Kenyan government expelled the defendants, and the DEA brought them to the Southern District of New York for prosecution. 
In addition to the prison term, BAKTASH AKASHA ABDALLA, 41, was ordered to pay a $100,000 fine. 
Hafeez was provisionally arrested in London in August 2017, and the U.S. has requested his extradition from the United Kingdom.  Ibrahim Akasha Abdalla pleaded guilty to the same drug-trafficking, weapons, and obstruction offenses as BAKTASH Akasha Abdalla, and is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Marrero on November 8, 2019.
Mr. Berman praised the outstanding efforts of the Special Operations Division of the DEA, Bilateral Investigations Unit.  Mr. Berman also thanked the DEA Dubai Country Office, the DEA Nairobi Country Office, the DEA Pretoria Country Office, the DEA New Delhi Country Office, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, Kenya’s Anti-Narcotics Unit, Kenya’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Kenya’s Director of Criminal Investigations, local Nairobi law enforcement officers, and the Government of Kenya.
The charges contained in the Indictment against Muhammad Asif Hafeez, a/k/a “Sultan,” are merely accusations, and Hafeez is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
[1] The descriptions set forth below of conduct by co-defendant Muhammad Asif Hafeez, a/k/a “Sultan,” constitute only allegations, and all descriptions should be treated as allegations with respect to Hafeez.

Brooklyn Man Sentenced To 57 Months In Prison For An Account Takeover And Money Laundering Scheme Affecting Tens Of Thousands Of Victims

  Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that JASON MICKEL ELCOCK, a/k/a “Prezzi,” was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to 57 months in prison for engaging in a decade-long scheme to steal personal and financial information from tens of thousands of individuals and businesses and unlawful possession of a firearm, resulting in a loss of more than $1.1 million to banks and online retailers.  ELCOCK pled guilty on March 12, 2019, to wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, and unlawful possession of a firearm.  U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero imposed sentence earlier today.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “The theft and exploitation of our online data by perpetrators hiding in the weeds of the Internet is becoming all too common.  This Office is committed to identifying, exposing and prosecuting cyber thieves wherever they may be found.”
NYPD Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill said:  “As criminals move to the digital frontier, law enforcement is following. In this case, the NYPD is proud to have teamed with its FBI partners to bring this insidious criminal scheme to a close.”
According to the Complaint, the Indictment, the Superseding Information, statements made in court, and publicly available documents:
Between 2008 and 2018, ELCOCK, co-defendant Shoshana Marie McGill, and other co-conspirators participated in a scheme to defraud banks and e-commerce retailers by using stolen personal identifying information (“PII”), bank account information, and credit and debit card data from tens of thousands of individuals and businesses for personal financial gain.  ELCOCK and his co-conspirators acquired PII and financial account data in part by buying the information from criminal websites.  They also hacked into victims’ email accounts to steal personal information stored in those accounts, into victims’ online bank accounts to download copies of their checks, and into victims’ digital password vaults to pilfer their usernames and passwords.  ELCOCK then monetized the stolen data in various ways, including by: (1) using the stolen credit card information to buy merchandise and services from e-commerce retailers for resale or for personal use; (2) using stolen PII to open new lines of credit in his victims’ names without their permission; (3) transferring money electronically out of victims’ bank accounts; and (4) creating and cashing fraudulent checks issued against victims’ bank accounts.  Among other things, ELCOCK and McGill used the fraud proceeds to make a down payment on a Mercedes Benz, buy Rolex watches, electronic goods and designer clothing, and take trips to high end resorts.  In addition, ELCOCK sold a portion of the stolen bank account data, along with check-making supplies, to other co-conspirators in exchange for a cut of the value of the checks that those co-conspirators successfully cashed.  ELCOCK laundered the bulk of his criminal earnings through bank accounts belonging to other co-conspirators, including McGill. 
As part of the fraudulent scheme, ELCOCK also transferred phone numbers and changed email addresses that were linked to victims’ bank and online shopping accounts, to different phone numbers and email addresses that he and McGill controlled.  In some cases, ELCOCK also changed victims’ email account passwords or deleted activity alerts from their hacked email accounts.  In these ways, ELCOCK prevented his victims from receiving text and email notifications regarding unauthorized transactions, to make the criminal scheme harder to detect.  ELCOCK’s decade-long scheme caused banks and retailers to lose more than $1.1 million, and imposed burden and stress on countless individual victims, as they had to take steps to regain access to their phone numbers and email accounts, file police reports, notify credit agencies, cancel lines of credit, and dispute unauthorized purchases.
Law enforcement officers seized from ELCOCK’s residence a 9-millimeter pistol, ammunition, a bill counter, Rolex watches, multiples laptops, tablets and smartphones, and designer clothing, shoes, and handbags, among other things. 
In addition to the prison term, ELCOCK, 34, of Brooklyn, New York, was sentenced to three years of supervised release.  He was also ordered to forfeit $1,111,893 and his interest in two bank accounts and certain merchandise stashed at his residence, and pay restitution. 
McGill pled guilty on January 3, 2019, to conspiring to commit money laundering and was sentenced on June 13, 2019, by Judge Marrero to five years’ probation, including 90 days in a community re-entry facility and six months’ home confinement.  She was also ordered to forfeit $1,081,893 and her interest in three bank accounts and various merchandise.
U.S. Attorney Berman praised the outstanding work of the FBI and the New York City Police Department

News from Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez


Last weekend saw six traffic fatalities, almost all involving excessive speeds; With a similar weekend weather forecast, NYPD will strengthen enforcement down to the precinct level

  The New York City Police Department and the Department of Transportation (DOT) today issued an alert that with beautiful weather forecast for this weekend, the Vision Zero “Warm Weather Weekends” safety campaign would be in effect. This weekend’s weather forecast calls for sunny days with highs in the 80s on both Saturday and Sunday, very similar to last weekend’s weather – when New York City saw six fatalities in five different crashes in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx.  Preliminary investigations show that most of last weekend’s crashes involved motorists or motorcyclists traveling at excessive speeds.   

 “The NYPD is stepping up its enforcement of speeding drivers this weekend,” said NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan. “Tragically, last weekend showed us that the blatant disregard of our speed laws are directly resulting in lives lost and families forever damaged. Our officers will be working to target this dangerous driving behavior. The NYPD is committed to Vision Zero; we expect all motorists to drive safely, and hold accountable all those that do not.”

“With the Warm Weather Weekends campaign in full effect and after seeing far too many tragedies this year, we and our Vision Zero partners are taking strong preventive action,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “Last weekend, we saw once again the unmistakable and dangerous results of speeding, with several horrible crashes.  Our message to New Yorkers for this coming beautiful weekend could not be simpler: we want you to get out there and enjoy this weekend -- including at the final Saturday of our Summer Streets event.  However, if you are driving a car or riding a motorcycle, please do so safely.”
Drivers should expect heightened enforcement this weekend, from NYPD Highway Patrol and local precincts, each of which now has its own speed detection equipment. Officials will remind drivers that they should continue to obey the speed limit, turn slowly and yield to pedestrians. They will also be calling on drivers to “Look twice for motorcycles,” while reminding motorcyclists – who ride in greater numbers over weekends – to make sure they have the right licensure and registration and avoid risky passing between vehicles.

About Vision Zero:
In 2014, New York City became the first City in the United States to implement Vision Zero. Through a combination of enforcement, education and engineering, New York City made dramatic changes that have helped drive down fatalities for five consecutive years, bucking national trends. To maintain progress, since the beginning of 2019, New York City has released a Vision Zero Year 5 Reportas well as a major update to its Pedestrian Safety Action Plans.  In July, to address an upturn in cyclist fatalities, the Mayor released the Green Wave plan, which further expands these efforts.

For more information about the de Blasio Administration’s Vision Zero initiative, please see


Senator Rivera urges Governor Cuomo to Release Critical Funding for Family Planning Providers Before some are Forced to Close their Doors 

  "Two weeks ago, Public Health Solutions announced that it would close its two family planning clinics in Brooklyn. This decision is a clear example of the dangers to our State's public health posed by the Trump administration's gag rule on the Title X Family Planning Program.

As a result of this action, thousands New Yorkers, especially those in low-income neighborhoods, will see their health and overall well-being jeopardized. They will not be able to access the quality and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services they need. 

New York State has the resources to fight back and ensure that these centers continue to provide comprehensive and quality healthcare to New Yorkers. I urge the Governor to release the $16 million in state funds authorized during the budget to support family planning providers in the event of lost federal Title X funding. The immediate release of this life-saving funding will demonstrate New York's long-standing leadership on reproductive rights. We must act now and release this funding."

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr - Bronx Summer Concert Series at Orchard Beach August 18


Nonprofit organizations providing critical services to New Yorkers will receive advance payments at the beginning and every year of their contracts to improve their fiscal stability

  Mayor de Blasio announced today that the Administration has delivered on the commitment to improve the human service contracting process resulting in 90 percent of all fiscal year human service contracts submitted for registration across the City’s health and human services agencies. The streamlined approval process has cleared a longstanding backlog of human service contract registrations that has delayed payments to social services providers.

These changes reflect the Mayor’s long-standing commitment to invest in nonprofit providers, resulting in a historic turning point to increase the fiscal stability of organizations that deliver critical services for New Yorkers.

“Our nonprofit partners are vital for delivering high-quality human services to communities throughout the city,” saidMayor de Blasio. “These providers invest their time and expertise with our City agencies to identify solutions for long-standing contracting challenges. That value can be seen across the city.”

Streamlining contract registration ensures that nonprofits receive timely payments for services, and are eligible to receive a 25 percent advance on their contract budget. Advance payments made at the beginning of the contract term supports fiscal wellbeing for nonprofits. During the first weeks of the current fiscal year, eligible nonprofits have received more than $700 million dollars in advance payments for service delivery.

The City’s Health and Human Service agencies implemented a new policy for timely contract registration of July 1 contracts following a recommendation from the Nonprofit Resiliency Committee, a public-private partnership launched by the Administration in 2016.  The policy change has demonstrated strong success already with ACS, DFTA, DHS, DOHMH, DOP, HPD and HRA having 90 percent of contracts ready for registration with the Comptroller’s Office on time.    

The Nonprofit Resiliency Committee has advance other important successes. The launch of the Health and Human Services Cost Policies and Procedures Manual, made New York City the first major city in the country to develop a standard approach to defining health and human service costs, as well as setting uniform policies and procedures for the reimbursement of indirect rates. 

Additionally, all City human service agencies have adopted a centralized electronic system (HHS Accelerator) to streamline the collection, review and approval of contracting, invoicing and audit documentation. By using a standardized digital invoicing system, providers are paid within six days, on average, allowing for greater financial stability. 

The City’s investments to date in the nonprofit sector have totaled over $600 million, and have supported wage increases for employees – including a minimum wage of $15 per hour and a 9 percent increase, funding for indirect rates, and rate enhancements for several critical programs such as homeless shelters, Beacon youth centers, and case management for senior centers. In this fiscal year, the City deepened its commitment by agreeing to increase reimbursement for human services providers’ indirect rates, which typically cover administrative overhead costs.

These actions build on the Administration’s launch of the Nonprofit Resiliency Committee (NRC) in September 2016, which represented a substantial change in the City’s approach to working with nonprofit service providers, resulting in a fuller and more collaborative partnership. The NRC is chaired by the Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services – most recently Dr. Herminia Palacio – and managed by the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services (MOCS). 

“At DSS, we fight poverty and support low-income New Yorkers 24/7/365—and we don’t do this work alone. Every day, we work in close collaboration with essential non-profit service providers to deliver on our legal and moral obligations as a City, and we're proud of the progress we've made with them to continually strengthen that collaboration,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “Through the reforms we’ve implemented, including integration of DHS and HRA under the Department of Social Services, we’ve been able to address years of contracting backlogs that we inherited, improve timeliness of contracting, and streamline the process for providers. Along with our quarter-billion dollar investment in these partners to raise their rates and implementation of model shelter budgets to standardize costs and services, we’re making good on our commitments to right-size this work stream once and for all.” 

“In the two years managing the Nonprofit Resiliency Committee, I’m proudest of the bridge built between City Hall and the human services community,” said Jennifer Geiling, Executive Director of the Nonprofit Resiliency Committee, Deputy Director, Mayor’s Office of Contract Services.  “Together we have made it easier and faster to do business with the City and are making significant investments in strengthening nonprofit organizations.”

 “The Nonprofit Resiliency Committee has helped deepen collaboration between City government and its nonprofit partners, and produced concrete changes to City practices in areas like funding, program development, and contracting – all in recognition that nonprofits must be strong in order for their services to be effective,” said Matthew Klein, executive director of the Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity. “Our office looks forward to continuing our work with the NRC to ensure that service providers can deliver high quality programs that benefit all New Yorkers, and especially our most vulnerable residents.”

Team AOC - Tell your member of Congress: “No trips to Israel until ALL members of Congress can go”

We stand with Rashida and Ilhan. Yesterday, Israel officially banned both of these incredible progressive leaders from entering the country — all because they’ve taken up the fight for human rights.

Any leader who truly valued democracy would welcome Ilhan and Rashida into their country with open arms. As rightfully elected members of Congress, disrespecting them is akin to disrespecting all members of Congress.

It’s obvious that Trump had a hand in this. Immediately after the announcement, he went on another Twitter tirade to capitalize on the brazenly extreme move:

That’s why AOC is standing in solidarity with Ilhan and Rashida by refusing to go to Israel until every member of Congress is given the same treatment. Will you sign your name to demand that your member of Congress do the same?
Democracies don’t ban leaders from other democracies from entering their country. This not only undermines the diplomatic relationship between our two countries, but also undermines Congress’ right to oversight.

Since we give Israel billions of dollars every year, our leaders should have the ability to see what’s going on there — not just the leaders who Netanyahu agrees with.
As Trump exports his bigotry across the world, we must remain united against its effects. We must stand with Ilhan and Rashida.

Team AOC

As someone who cares about parks in your borough, we invite you to join us at Bronx Parks Connections. We have an exciting line-up of speakers including NY State Senate Women of Distinction Honoree, Borough Commissioner Iris Rodriguez-Rosa. We hope to see you there!

Mix and mingle with community leaders, hear from NYC Parks staff, and get the latest resources from local organizations. Meet your outreach coordinator, enjoy networking over a complimentary lunch, and get plugged into the community of dedicated volunteers in the Bronx. 

At this workshop, we will discuss:

  • The latest resources and staff here to support you
  • Tips on effective outreach and communications 
  • Ways your park group can highlight the history & culture of your neighborhood 
  • Inspiring stories from community leaders in the Bronx 
Saturday, August 24, 2019
11:00 am - 2:00 pm
Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture
450 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10451

Partnerships for Parks is a joint program of City Parks Foundation and NYC Parks that supports and champions a growing network of leaders caring and advocating for neighborhood parks and green spaces. We equip people and organizations with the skills and tools needed to transform these spaces into dynamic community assets.

Attorney General James Fights Unlawful And Immoral Block Of Asylum Seekers

  Attorney General Letitia James joined a multistate coalition in opposing the Trump Administration’s attempt to illegally limit immigrants' access to the asylum process. Under the rule, individuals entering the United States at the southern border, except in limited circumstances, are no longer able to seek asylum unless they applied for and were denied protection in at least one country they traveled through prior to their arrival. In a comment letter filed today, the coalition urge the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to rescind the policy.

“The Trump Administration has been relentless in its efforts to deny refuge to those who need it most,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. “Turning children and families away from our border is literally a matter of life or death for these individuals who are fleeing danger. America has always stood as a beacon of hope and we will continue to fight back against these disgraceful and inhumane policies.”
In the comment letter, the coalition maintains that, among other things, the rule violates both the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and the Administrative Procedure Act. Under the INA, any foreign national may apply for asylum upon their presence or arrival to the United States. These asylum protections were built on the principles of the 1951 Refugee Convention, which sought to mitigate some of the horrors visited upon refugees during and after World War II. The INA sets forth very specific circumstances under which an individual can be barred from asylum, and provides protections for particularly vulnerable groups. In promulgating the rule, the Trump Administration failed to provide adequate notice or articulate a reasoned explanation, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.
Additionally, the rule will have a particularly negative effect on unaccompanied children, LGBTQ applicants, and women asylum-seekers, for whom applying for asylum in a third country is extremely dangerous. In fact, recognizing the rule is likely contrary to law and a federal court has already halted its initial implementation.
In submitting the comment letter, Attorney General James joins the Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.


  Margaret Garnett, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Investigation (“DOI”), announced today the arrest of a City Department of Sanitation (“DSNY”) worker on charges of taking New York State license plates from the trash, affixing them to his car and accumulating more than $17,000 in parking or traffic violations and in unpaid E-ZPass tolls and fees. The license plates in question were found on the defendant’s car parked outside the Brooklyn District garage where he worked. The Office of Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez is prosecuting the case. DOI initiated its investigation after receiving a complaint from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.

 JASON RIVERA, 45, of Staten Island, N.Y., is charged with Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, and Obstructing Governmental Administration in the Second Degree, a class A misdemeanor. Upon conviction, a class D felony is punishable by up to seven years in prison and a class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year’s incarceration

 DOI Commissioner Margaret Garnett said, “Misusing New York State license plates, ignoring traffic and parking violations, and failing to pay tolls are crimes that will result in arrest and prosecution. These kinds of crimes undermine the government’s ability to do its job and maintain a standard of safety on the roads. These offenses are particularly egregious when committed by a City employee who used his job as a means to commit the crime, according to the charges. I thank our law enforcement partners who worked this investigation with DOI, specifically the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and the City Department of Finance.”

 According to the criminal complaint, RIVERA found the New York State license plates in 2016 and gave them to an unknown friend to use on a vehicle. In 2017, the plates were returned to the defendant, who affixed them to his car. While on the defendant’s car, City Department of Finance records showed that the license plates accumulated 72 parking or traffic violations, totaling $5,500; and E-Z Pass records showed $1,793.50 in unpaid tolls and $10,600 in unpaid fees. At the time of the violations and unpaid tolls, the license plates were not registered to the correct vehicle, or any vehicle for that matter, thereby thwarting the ability of the related agencies to properly collect these fines and fees.

 RIVERA has been employed by DSNY since August 2006 and is currently receiving an annual salary of approximately $77,300

 Commissioner Garnett thanked the Office of the Brooklyn District Attorney, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, and the City Department of Finance for their assistance on this investigation, and the City Department of Sanitation for its cooperation.

 A criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.


Defendant Pleaded Guilty to Strangulation

 Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark today announced that a Rikers Island inmate has been sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree Strangulation in the 2018 death of a fellow inmate.

 District Attorney Clark said, “In an unprovoked attack in front of several people, the defendant approached the 35-year-old victim and put him in a chokehold, triggering a fatal asthma attack. This was a senseless death. We must continue to do all we can to make our jails safe for anyone who must be there.” 

 District Attorney Clark said the defendant, Artemio Rosa, 28, an inmate at Rikers Island, was sentenced to eight years in prison by Bronx Supreme Court Justice Steven Hornstein. Rosa pleaded guilty to first-degree Strangulation on July 24, 2019. 

 According to the investigation, on July 9, 2018 in the Anna M. Kross Center on Rikers Island, the defendant approached fellow inmate Casey Holloway and put him in a chokehold for approximately 30 seconds. This caused Holloway to have an asthma attack, and the victim was pronounced dead at the scene shortly afterwards.

 District Attorney Clark thanked the New York City Department of Correction and the New York Police Department for their assistance in the investigation.

Congressman Adriano Espaillat Statement on the Decision to Deny Members of Congress from Entering Israel

  Congressman Adriano Espaillat released the following statement in response to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to deny Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI-13) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN-05) entry into Israel:

“As a co-chair of the Latino-Jewish Caucus and a member of the Foreign Affairs committee, I strongly disagree with the Israeli government’s decision to deny entry to my colleagues, Congresswoman Omar and Congresswoman Tlaib, and condemn President Trump for encouraging this politically biased decision,” said Congressman Espaillat.

“While I may not share all of my colleagues’ opinions on these issues, this action flies in the face of our values as a nation, which Israel has long said it shares. Criticism should not be silenced and this attempt to close off dialogue undermines the ability to attain mutual understanding.

“I have traveled to Israel in my official capacity and found it a valuable and educational experience, where I learned first-hand of Israel’s challenges and how it works to protect its citizens’ security. Only through person-to-person dialogue and shared leaning can we bring together people of varied perspectives in order to promote peace for both Israelis and Palestinians. That is precisely why the Israeli government should encourage the visit of the first two Muslim American women in Congress, rather than prevent it.

“I strongly urge the Israeli government to reverse this decision and allow Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar to continue with their travel.”


Families will now have one form and one deadline for middle and high school admissions

  Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza announced a shorter, easier, and more transparent process for students applying to enter middle and high school for the 2020-21 school year. Now, there will only be one application round and deadline for families to keep track of. All admissions processes will have one round, from 3-K to high school. Students will be placed on a waitlist for each school listed higher on their application than the school to which they are offered admission, informed of their spot on the waitlist, and immediately offered admission off these waitlists as seats become available.

“Parents have enough on their platetangling with bureaucracy to get their child into school shouldn’t add to the load,” said Mayor de Blasio. “We are changing the middle and high school application processes so families don’t have to go through the gauntlet just to get a placement. There will be one application round and one deadline to make everyone’s lives easier.”

“We’ve heard from families and educators that they want a simpler, more transparent, and more accessible system of school choice, and today we’re taking a step forward,” said Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza. “This common-sense change will make a real difference for families across the five boroughs, and improve our middle and high school choice process for years to come.”

The DOE is eliminating the second application rounds for middle and high school. The main round application process and timeline will remain the same, with middle and high school applications opening in October with a December deadline. Students will receive their offer in March. Families can still appeal for travel, safety, or medical hardships; if families have any hardship, they will be able to access in-person support at Family Welcome Centers, rather than wait to participate in a second process. The waitlists will open after offers are released and will be a simpler, clearer process for families, increasing:          
·         Transparency:  By knowing their waitlist position, families have a better understanding of their chances of getting into a preferred school option in the event that seats become available.
·         Ease: This is a shorter process that requires less paperwork. Rather than having to complete a second application and wait weeks—often into May or June—for a second decision or offer, families will complete one process, receive one offer, and receive any additional offers based on waitlist position.
·         Consistency:  Families will now have one admissions system at all grade levels, with the changes to the middle and high school process making it more similar to the elementary school admissions process. Currently the elementary school process has one round, and the middle and high school processes have two rounds with different names; now, families will not need to learn a different process each time a child applies to a new school—allowing them to focus on school options and not process.

There will be a robust set of resources available to schools and families to ensure educators and families have information about the changes being implemented, and the DOE will engage families once school is back in session. Schools will have resources to support families, and Family Welcome Center staff will be fully trained in these new processes to help guide and support families. The DOE will also share information at middle and high school fairs this fall, and update the website and family-facing materials.

Information will be distributed to all principals and throughout the fall, the DOE will conduct training for school staff on the application process. In February and March, the DOE will provide targeted, in-depth training on waitlist management and systems.