Tag Archives: comptroller

Audit finds city high school placement flawed


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Rosa Kim

The city’s high school placement system denied a handful of youngsters a chance at being admitted to a competitive Queens school, a comptroller’s audit found.

Four middle school students were not ranked last year for possible enrollment at Townsend Harris High School’s Intensive Academic Humanities even though they were eligible, according to City Comptroller John Liu.

“Our audit confirmed what many frustrated parents and students have long suspected — the city’s high school placement process is often unfair and deeply flawed,” Liu said.

Students who apply to Townsend Harris — a screened school which accepts students based on past performance over where they live — must have stellar attendance, at least an overall 90 average and a standardized seventh grade reading and math score in the 90th percentile before they are considered, its website said.

The four students in the audit had met those requirements, Liu’s office said, although their names and scores could not be disclosed.

Students can apply to up to 12 high schools and order their choices by preference before the city’s Department of Education (DOE) enters their picks into an enrollment program.

If applicants meet the high school’s criteria, they are ranked on a list for possible enrollment. The screened institutions then offer seats to top scoring students in the system.

But the DOE’s “arbitrary and unfair” placement process, Liu said, did not rank nearly 2,000 eligible students who applied to five screened city schools last year. It ranked about 300 ineligible applicants instead.

“Applying to high school is an important and stressful enough experience for students and parents,” Liu said, “and it must not be left to a sloppy and random system like the one our audit found.”

DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia said high school admissions transparency has never been greater. More than 75 percent of the 70,000 annual high school applicants land in one of their top three school choices, he added.

“This report goes out of its way to ignore the enormous strides we have made to provide information to families and implement a clear, fair high school choice process,” Puglia said. “As always, we have more work to do and appreciate the recommendations for how to improve high school admissions.”

Townsend Harris officials did not return calls for comment.

Nearly 5,300 students applied for 270 seats at the school’s competitive humanities program last year.

The DOE did not say whether the four students in the audit were notified of the glitch.

 

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Audit finds Department of Buildings is ‘incapable of improving itself’


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

The city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) is falling down on the job.

“The Buildings Department is just dysfunctional and incapable of improving itself,” said Comptroller John Liu. “Its inability to perform basic tasks … bode poorly not just for the department, but for residents and neighborhoods too.”

A recent audit by the comptroller’s office found the DOB is slow in responding to complaints, and has not improved or resolved problems found in earlier audits.

A 2009 audit found DOB inspectors failed to gain access to nearly 40 percent of properties they received complaints about in 2008. The department also sought warrants for less than one percent of inaccessible properties and did not follow up on vacate orders.

Since then, the rate of failed inspection attempts has more than doubled, according to a new audit. The department also only partially implemented a handful of 14 recommendations made in the last audit, Liu said.

But a DOB spokesperson said many recommendations in the report have already been implemented. The department has also launched citywide safety campaigns, a task force to inspect illegal dwellings and “undercover investigations” to target illegal apartments for rent.

“The department is doing more than ever to combat the dangers of illegal conversions,” the spokesperson said. “The department has aggressively targeted illegal apartments most at-risk for fire — with a vacate rate nearly five times greater than before.”

Roughly 20,000 complaints, mostly from Queens, regarding illegal conversions get fielded through the department annually, the DOB said.

But grievances about illegal conversions garner a B rating on the DOB’s priority-arranged scale of complaints — the same level earned by improper fencing, exposed elevator shafts and malfunctioning boilers.

Illegal conversions have been the root of many fire-related deaths at home, including a 2011 blaze that killed one and injured five in Woodside.

 

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Comptroller Liu delivers State of the City


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Raising the minimum wage, providing free college tuition and ending corporate welfare were among the myriad of topics touched on during Comptroller John Liu’s State of the City speech last week.

After a pre-speech show featuring a children’s choir, interpretive dancers and violinists, the presumptive mayoral hopeful delivered his second State of the City speech this year which focused heavily on ways to aid the city’s working and middle classes to a packed room at John Jay College on Thursday, December 20.

“If we are serious about narrowing the wealth gap we need to have the courage to pay all people a livable minimum wage,” Liu said.

The comptroller said due to the city’s high cost of living, the effective minimum wage in the five boroughs was less than $4, the lowest in the country. Liu called for the current $7.25 an hour rate to be raised over five years to $11.50.

Ensuring more residents graduate from high school and college is one way for more residents to earn a decent living, the comptroller said.

Currently, four out of five high school students in the city do not graduate from college, according to the comptroller. Skyrocketing tuition costs is one reason behind the high number of students without a bachelor’s degree. Liu suggested offering the top 10 percent of students at public schools free tuition at any CUNY school.

“The offer of free tuition would help motivate students and elevate CUNY, one of our city’s most valuable gems, to the level of a competitive prize,” said Liu. “It would also be a lifesaver for many working families who are struggling to send their kids to college.”

Madison Square Garden also found itself in Liu’s crosshairs during the talk.

“Why has Madison Square Garden been awarded a $15 million a year real-property tax exemption?” Liu asked.

Eliminating tax breaks and corporate welfare handed out to big companies would raise hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the city, Liu said. More than $250 million was handed out last year to a handful “of lucky and well-connected businesses,” he said.

While big businesses enjoy tax breaks, many smaller businesses struggle under the weight of taxes and fines. Liu unveiled a series of proposals to reduce taxes and fines by $500 million for small businesses. Fines doubled over the past decade, Liu said.

“While fines are sometimes a necessary evil to protect public safety and health, they should not be used just to generate revenue for the city,” he said.

Former Comptroller Alan Hevesi released after 20 months in prison


| brennison@queenscourier.com

File photo

After serving 20 months behind bars for a pay-to-play scandal, former city and state Comptroller Alan Hevesi was released from prison with more than two years remaining on his sentence.

The disgraced politician received the maximum four-year sentence in April 2011 after pleading guilty to corruption charges involving the state’s pension fund. Hevesi accepted $1 million worth of gifts in exchange for investing more than $250 million in a pension fund run by Elliott Broidy.

Hevesi, who had been serving his time at the Mid-State Correctional Facility in Oneida County, was granted his freedom by the parole board last month and will remain on parole until April 2015.

“My entire family is very happy he is coming home,” said Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi, one of Alan’s three children. “We have missed him.”

The 72 year old was successful in his second appearance before the parole after being denied his release last year.

Hevesi told the board during his parole hearing in November that during his first year in prison he was in denial and attempted to minimize his transgressions.

“Maybe this is wrong, but I willfully turned away from [the crimes] and decided not to inquire, I allowed it to happen and that is why I am in prison and that is why I did not challenge it, because, you know what, I am guilty,” he said.

Weprin fined for comptroller campaign violations


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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A state legislator was penalized thousands of dollars after the city determined his run for comptroller was fraught with violations.

According to the city’s Campaign Finance Board (CFB), Assemblymember David Weprin owes $28,184 in total penalties and $325,561 in public funds repayments for a dozen violations his failed election campaign for comptroller committed in 2009.

The offenses include accepting over-the-limit contributions and donations from corporations and unregistered political committees, the CFB said. The campaign also failed to file daily pre-election disclosure statements, did not provide bank statements and did not report or document transactions and credit card expenditures.

Weprin’s 2009 camp was fined close to $4,000 alone for making improper post-election expenditures and $100 for failing to demonstrate that spending was in furtherance of the campaign.

Jen Berkley, a spokesperson for the lawmaker, said the campaign entity and its funds no longer exist after more than three years have passed since the unsuccessful bid.

“This kind of came down to a very small amount of money, not that it shouldn’t be repaid if there is a proper entity to repay it. The issue here is that there is not,” she said. “It’s the downside to an investigation that takes close to four years. We’ll do whatever we can to accommodate and cooperate with the Campaign Finance Board.”

Weprin and his 2009 campaign treasurer are still jointly liable for settling the $28,184 debt for penalties, said CFB spokesperson Eric Friedman, even in the absence of a campaign committee.

The assemblymember will not have to repay the $325,561 in public funds out of pocket, Friedman said, but as long as he has a financial obligation to the CFB, he cannot receive public funds for another citywide election.

“We audit every campaign carefully,” Friedman said. “These are things we take very seriously, and that’s reflected in the results.”

Ex-Comptroller Alan Hevesi to be released on parole in December


| brennison@queenscourier.com

File photo

After nearly two years behind bars for a pay-to-play scandal, former city and state Comptroller Alan Hevesi was granted parole last night, the state’s Department of Corrections said.

Hevesi was successful in his second appearance before a state parole board and is scheduled to be released by December 19.  The 72-year-old will remain on probation until April 2015.

The disgraced politician received the maximum four-year sentence in April 2011 after pleading guilty to corruption charges involving the state’s pension fund.

Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi, the former comptroller’s son, said his father has been “extensively punished” for allowing himself to become corrupt.

“He let corruption flourish around him by intentionally denying what was happening in his office.  In addition to the betrayal of the public trust, my father has also taken responsibility for several lifelong patterns that have hurt his family and friends that are unrelated to what happened in the comptroller’s office,” the assemblymember said.

Hevesi has served the past 19 months at the medium-security Mid-State Correctional Facility in Oneida County.

The parole board found Hevesi would not pose a “risk of safety to the community” if released and should continue to serve his sentence on probation.

“My dad has owned and taken responsibility for his actions, he has been extensively punished for them, and now he and my entire family are closing the book on this part of our lives,” the younger Hevesi said.

 

 

Top Headlines From Around the Web


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Liu’s former campaign treasurer pleads not guilty to fraud

The lawyer for New York City Comptroller John Liu says his client may seek to be tried separately from her codefendant. Attorney Gerald Lefcourt notified a judge of the possibility Tuesday as his client, Jia ‘Jenny’ Hou , pleaded not guilty to fraud charges. Her name was added last week to an indictment returned against a New Jersey man. The man was arrested several months ago on charges he conspired to funnel illegal contributions donated by an undercover FBI agent posing as a businessman. He too pleaded not guilty Tuesday. Read More: New York Post

 

Knicks shattered over Amar’e injury

Steve Novak was crushed about Knicks teammate Amar’e Stoudemire’s lacerated left hand, explaining he thinks Stoudemire never realized the danger when he punched the glass case of a fire extinguisher after last night’s Game 2 loss to the Heat. “I feel awful for [Stoudemire] because he plays with emotion,” Novak told The Post. “And you’re walking in a hallway, and I don’t think he ever thought for a second that it was going to be glass, that it was going to shatter.” Novak said he “was right behind [Stoudemire],” though he cautioned, “but I didn’t actually see his hand. Read More: New York Post
Department of Education Outlines Social Media Policy For Teachers

The city has introduced its first guidelines for the use of social media by teachers. The Department of Education says teachers should refuse friend requests from students on their personal accounts on sites like Facebook and Twitter. They’re also being warned that their activity may be monitored and should have no expectation of privacy. Teachers will be given training sessions on the new guidelines. Education officials may also ask parents to sign consent forms before their children participate in social media activities or post their work online. Read More: NY1

 

 

Rent Guidelines Board Holds Preliminary Vote Tonight

Tenants and building owners will once again be squabbling over annual rent hikes for the city’s rent-regulated apartments as the Rent Guidelines Board holds a preliminary vote this evening at Cooper Union. Last year, the board hiked rents 3.75 percent on one-year leases and 7.25 percent on two-year leases. Tonight’s meeting is open to the public, but officials say any noisemakers that can be used to disrupt the proceedings are prohibited. Tenants rights groups and Occupy Wall Street demonstrators plan to hold a protest outside the meeting. The board’s final vote is on June 21. Read More: NY1

 

Cops probe death of baby girl on Staten Island

Police are investigating the death of baby girl on Staten Island, NYPD sources said Tuesday. Six-month-old Genesis Monge wasn’t breathing and had a 105-degree fever when her foster mother called 911 just past 10:15 p.m. Monday, sources said. Genesis was rushed from her home on Steuben St. to Staten Island University Hospital North, where doctors told police she had marks consistent with past trauma, sources said. Genesis died at 11:15 p.m. Read More: Daily News

 

Google knew Street View collected emails, passwords, personal information from millions worldwide

Google Street View had an eye on more than just city streets — it also once collected emails, passwords, Internet search histories, medical records and more from millions of people around the world, new documents show. An FCC report released Friday reveals Google spent over two years between 2008 and 2010 quietly capturing a mountain of personal information by tapping into unsecured wireless networks through its Street View cars, which drive around capturing snapshots to populate the search giant’s massive map database. Read More: Daily News

Audit finds co-op, condo property values inflated


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/PHOTOS

A series of missteps by the Department of Finance (DOF) caused drastic upward swings in co-op and condo property taxes, according to two audits released by the city’s comptroller office.

“The department failed to adequately explain significant changes it was making in the calculation of market values. What’s more, in numerous cases, they assigned arbitrary values to co-ops and condos, and in other cases made flat out errors,” said Comptroller John Liu.
According to a summary report released by the DOF this year, taxes are expected to rise by 7.5 percent for co-op owners and 9.6 percent for condo owners across the city, while owners of single-family homes will see an increase of 2.8 percent. Last year, officials said, some co-op and condo valuations saw astronomical increases as high as 147 percent.

The pair of audits, Liu said, found the agency at fault for causing upheavals in condo and co-op property values — a determining factor in property taxes — when it changed its formula for calculating them in Fiscal Year 2011-12. He also said the agency operated “in the dark” without warning the public of the consequences.

According to Liu, the DOF compounded the increases in market value by sticking many co-ops and condos with questionable values instead of comparing them to equivalent, nearby rental properties. The agency’s faulty computer system, Liu said, also led to flaws in assessments, in which a Brooklyn co-op was wrongfully compared to a parking lot, a Staten Island co-op to an adult care facility and a Flushing condo to a rental property in Far Rockaway.

At least 10 percent of all 859 co-op buildings in Queens received much higher property values than the DOF’s formula should have allowed, the comptroller said, including one co-op in Forest Hills that received a market value 227 percent higher than expected.

The DOF did not return The Courier’s calls for comment. However, according to Liu, the DOF said it ensures properties are valued properly and does not agree that properties were over-assessed or under-assessed. The agency, Liu said, agreed that “continual improvement of the modeling criteria for selection of comparable properties is appropriate.”

Breakdown of affected units by neighborhood:

BAYSIDE

14

BEECHHURST

3

BELLE HARBOR

1

CORONA

1

DOUGLASTON

6

FLUSHING-NORTH

11

FLUSHING-SOUTH

8

FOREST HILLS

3

GLEN OAKS

20

HOLLIS

2

HOLLIS HILLS

2

JACKSON HEIGHTS

2

JAMAICA

1

LITTLE NECK

3

OAKLAND GARDENS

5

QUEENS VILLAGE

1

REGO PARK

1

SOUTH JAMAICA

1

WHITESTONE

7

This Morning’s Headlines


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Late-night win brings relief for Yankees team struggling for clutch hits

This one, like its two immediate predecessors, carried the vibe of, “Well, we better beat the Orioles regularly. They’re terrible!” Yet this victory last night, 6-4 over Baltimore in 10 innings at Camden Yards, felt a little different, too. For a team eternally saddled with (and marketing) great expectations, you could sense some relief. Read More: New York Post

Wife bares hero’s stand

He died trying to be a hero. The wife of a man beaten to death outside his Astoria home in 2008 while trying to protect a neighbor from a crazed drifter yesterday told a Queens jury she begged him not to get involved. “I told him, ‘Please, please, don’t go,’ ” Dora Nowillo said of her husband Nicolas, 65. His alleged attacker, Eric Cherry, 47, faces manslaughter and assault charges. Read More: New York Post

Surfin’ US‘O’

Michelle Obama is flexing her muscle at the Rockaways’ legendary cabana clubs. The Obama administration made promoting the first lady’s “Let’s Move!” health-and-fitness campaign a criteria for winning the concessions contract for two Queens beach clubs in the Gateway National Recreation Area. The National Park Service insisted it wasn’t a case of government overreach. “These are presidential initiatives and we are part of the executive branch. Gee whiz,” said spokesman John Warren. “How can you disagree with . . . getting healthy?” Read More: New York Post

Delta Launches Construction Of New Domestic Hub At LaGuardia

Delta broke ground Wednesday on an expansion of its new domestic hub at LaGuardia Airport.Mayor Michael Bloomberg was on hand to help usher in the construction project, the largest at the airport in more than 40 years. The expanded terminal will increase service at LaGuardia by 60 percent, adding 100 new flights and 26 new destinations by this summer. flights between the airport and more than 60 cities. The airline is also investing $160 million to modernize Terminals C and D at LaGuardia and build a connector between them. Read More: NY1

 

Mayor Bloomberg is moving to regulate pay of unionized city trade workers, taking the power away from the City Controller

The Bloomberg administration is moving to seize regulatory control over close to 10,000 unionized city trade workers — yanking the power away from embattled City Controller John Liu. Officials from the city Office of Labor Relations on Wednesday contacted the unions representing city workers under some 95 job titles — including electricians, plumbers and steamfitters — to let them know about the impending switch. Since 1894, according to administration officials, the Controller’s office has set the trade workers’ pay levels based on the average earnings of their private sector counterparts. Read More: Daily News

Top Headlines From Around the Web


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

DA: Mother Will Not Be Charged In Son’s Bathtub Drowning

The Brooklyn district attorney’s office on Monday announced it has declined to prosecute the mother of an eleven-month old boy who apparently drowned in the bathtub. A spokesman with the Brooklyn district attorney’s office says while the death of Elijah Pardella was tragic and accidental, it doesn’t rise to a level of criminality. Investigators say officers were called to an apartment located at 148 Pennsylvania Avenue in East New York just after 3 p.m. Sunday and found the 11-month-old unresponsive. Sources say his mother, Angelica Huertas, 24, was giving him and another child a bath. Read More: NY1

 

 Yankees GM calls AL East ‘a toss-up’

A year after naming the Red Sox as the team to beat in the AL East, Yankees GM Brian Cashman called the division a “tossup” this season and added the Rangers should be the team to beat in the American League. “Texas is clearly the favorite in the league,” Cashman said Tuesday before the Yankees played the Mets at Digital Domain Park. “They’ve won it two straight years. But Anaheim and Detroit have made significant improvements. Read More: New York Post

Manhattan Councilman Sets Sights On 2013 Comptroller’s Race

City Councilman Dan Garodnick told supporters Monday he’s running for City Comptroller and plans to take on incumbent John Liu if necessary. In an email to supporters, Garodnick said New Yorkers have to be focused on finding ways to make city government as productive as possible without distractions. In a video message posted online Garodnick said, “We have some very difficult budgetary challenges coming down the pike. New Yorkers need an independent voice that they can trust in the comptroller’s office.” Read More: NY1

 

MTA chief says Bloomberg’s dream of extending No. 7 train to NJ is ‘not going to happen’

The No. 7 train isn’t going to New Jersey anytime soon. Mayor Bloomberg’s dream project of extending the line across the Hudson River isn’t happening anytime soon — if it ever does at all, the head of the MTA said today. The subway extension to New Jersey likely is “not going to happen in our lifetime,” MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said at a New York Building Congress forum. He added, “It’s not going to happen in anybody’s lifetime.” Bloomberg has long supported a proposal to bring the 7 train to Seacaucus, NJ, a colossal effort that would cost billions to accomplish. Read More: New York Post

 

 

Chase Banking Glitch Causes Double Charges On Accounts

If you’re seeing double charges on your Chase bank account today, the bank says it’s aware of the problem. A Chase representative says some debit transactions in our area are posting twice. The rep says it’s unclear how many people have been affected. A customer service recording is alerting account holders to the problem and says accounts will be updated today. Read More: NY1

 

One dead, two injured in Brooklyn construction collapse

A construction worker was killed today when a home under construction collapsed in Brooklyn, authorities said. Rescuers were called at 11 a.m. to 38 Frank Court in Gerritsen Beach after the building’s second story, roof and walls fell in. A 25-year-old man, who was not identified by police, was pulled from the wreckage and rushed to Lutheran Hospital. He died a short time later from his injuries, police said. Two other workers were treated at the scene for minor injuries, police said. The cause of the collapse remains under investigation. Read More: New York Post

Four more US soldiers face court martial over alleged hazing death of New York GI


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Four more US soldiers face court martial over alleged hazing death of New York GI

Four more US soldiers are facing a possible court martial over the alleged hazing death in Afghanistan of a 19-year-old fellow serviceman of Chinese descent. The recommendation from military investigators follows a preliminary hearing at Kandahar Air Field on Monday. Seven of the eight servicemen — originally charged on multiple counts, including involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide linked to Pvt. Danny Chen’s death — could now end up in the military court. Investigators are still examining the case of the eighth soldier. Read More: New York Post

Liu-nacy! Embattled comp advises pols on money

Beleaguered city Comptroller John Liu’s campaign treasurer is facing fraud charges and his entire political fund-raising operation is ensnared in a federal probe — but, without a hint of irony, the Queens pol advised City Hall yesterday on how to manage its finances. For 45 minutes, Liu testified and answered City Council questions about Mayor Bloomberg’s 2013 budget proposal, agreeing with the proposed sale of 2,000 taxi medallions to raise $1 billion. Like Bloomberg, he also opposed holding off on pension contributions to temporarily fill budget gaps, calling it “kicking the can down the road.” Read More: New York Post

Person Of Interest Sought In Death Of Chelsea Man

Police are looking to question a person of interest in connection with the death of a man in Chelsea over the weekend. Authorities released pictures, above, of the man they’re looking for in connection with the death of 57-year-old John Laubach. At this point police are not calling the man a suspect. Laubach was found dead in his apartment Friday night. Sources say his hands, feet, and mouth were bound with duct tape, and there was a towel over his face. The apartment had also been ransacked. Read More: NY1

 

In Reversal, Albany Now Supports Women’s Choice Of Birth Control

Albany is ordering health insurers not to deny women their choice of contraceptives – or face the loss of state contracts. The state issued the warning after some women on Medicaid were told to use a cheaper, generic brand instead of their regular method. It was part of a state cost-cutting measure put in place back in October. According to the rule, if the generic version failed then patients could go back to their preferred form of birth control. Read More: NY1

 

High-end madam busted for running upper East Side brothel is a suburban mom with four children

A high-end madam who boasted she used cops as security and made millions by peddling flesh — including underage girls — to rich and powerful clients has been busted after a five-year probe, prosecutors said. The Manhattan district attorney’s office indicted petite, blond, green-eyed Anna Gristina, 44, in a corruption investigation that amassed 50 to 100 hours of audio and video recordings, some showing prostitutes doing the deed, according to court records. Read More: Daily News

Second Liu campaign worker busted


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Another worker on City Comptroller John Liu’s mayoral campaign has been arrested on fraud charges.

Jia “Jenny” Hou — a 25-year-old campaign treasurer for the comptroller — was busted for illegally funneling campaign funds for the comptroller’s unofficial 2013 try for mayoral candidacy, feds said.

According to restrictions laid out by the New York City Campaign Finance Board (NYCCFB), campaign donors are only allowed to contribute up to $4,950 to citywide candidates. Prosecutors said Hou conspired to evade the limit by engaging in a fraudulent scheme that involved the use of “straw donors” — or individuals who unlawfully make political contributions in their own names with money they have received from others.

Hou, a Queens resident, is also charged with obstructing the government’s investigation. According to court records, she failed to produce “facially inculpatory documents” in response to subpoenas, while allegedly lying about producing complete documents and failing to disclose the identities of several campaign contributors.

“New York’s campaign finance laws are not optional. They ensure that all candidates operate on a level playing field and that everyone plays by the rules,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. “Today, we allege that Jia Hou, a campaign treasurer, was a central figure in a coordinated scheme to break the city’s campaign finance laws. Unlawful campaign conduct will not be tolerated.”

Hou was allegedly caught offering to reimburse an individual for donations well-above the allotted NYCCFB amount during a series of instant messages on July 14, and she also allegedly instructed campaign volunteers on how to imitate the handwriting of campaign donors on contribution forms in order to make it appear official.

Last November, Xing Wu “Oliver” Pan — Liu’s campaign fund-raiser — was arrested on similar conspiracy and wire fraud charges. According to court records, he allegedly funneled $16,000 in campaign contributions and was caught red handed by an undercover FBI agent, who posed as a businessperson interested in supporting the comptroller.

Meanwhile, Liu — a Flushing Democrat — has not been accused of any wrongdoing and has since returned nearly $50,000 collected in contributions, said a campaign spokesperson.

“I am stunned by this news about Jenny Hou,” Liu said. “These accusations against her are uncharacteristic and unexpected. Jenny is a smart, hardworking person who I hope will be treated fairly.”

Hou is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of attempting to commit wire fraud, and one count of obstruction of justice. If convicted, she could face up to 60 years in prison.

According to Martin Adelman, her attorney, Hou plans on pleading not guilty to the charges.

“She’s an idealistic young person, and working for John Liu’s campaign was a way to realize that idealism,” Adelman said. “She has tremendous respect for him.”

Fundraiser For Comptroller Liu Indicted On Federal Wire Fraud Charges


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Fundraiser For Comptroller Liu Indicted On Federal Wire Fraud Charges

City Comptroller John Liu was dealt a major blow on Wednesday as a fundraiser for his campaign, Xing Wu Pan, was indicted on federal wire fraud charges just one day before the comptroller’s first major public policy speech. Pan, also known as Oliver Pan, was arrested in November for allegedly funneled $16,000 to Liu’s likely campaign for mayor in 2013. The U.S. attorney says Pan tried to circumvent the legal contribution limit to Liu by arranging for several people to divide up a large contribution and claim the donation was their own. Read More: NY1

 

Officials Release Recording Of 911 Call Made By Suspect In Subway Bombing Plot

A 911 call made by a man accused in a subway bombing plot has been released. Adis Medunjanin was speeding along the Whitestone Expressway when he made the call in January 2010. At the time, he was under surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which had just served him with a search warrant. In the recording, Medunjanin can be heard saying, “We love death,” and “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.” Read More: NY1

 

Whitney’s family thinks ex is reaching out to daughter due to fortune: report

Bobby Brown is trying to leech onto Whitney Houston’s fortune, the late singer’s mom and other family members believe, according to a new report. Brown is attempting to get close to his daughter Bobbi Kristina, who is sole heir to his ex-wife’s estimated $20 million fortune, in a bid to get his hands on the cash, family sources told TMZ. Her mother Cissy Houston is trying to stop Brown from getting close to the 18 year old because she fears the rapper is broke and just wants to line his own pockets, according to a source. Read More: New York Post

 

Queens Teacher Had Class Contact Inmate Who Previously Faced Child Porn Charges

Officials at the Department of Education say they are looking to fire a Queens teacher who had her fifth-grade students send Christmas cards to a prison inmate who was previously been charged with possessing child pornography. The city’s special commissioner of investigation, Richard Condon, says Melissa Dean, 31, had her class in P.S. 143 at Corona, Queens send cards to John Coccarelli, who appears to have had a relationship with her. The teacher did not ask permission from parents or the school and officials say many of the cards had the children’s names and addresses on them. Read More: NY1

 

Style icon in front-row death

Beloved club and fashion maven Zelda Kaplan died after collapsing in the front row at Fashion Week yesterday at age 95. Kaplan, New York’s oldest and most beloved night owl and the woman who could famously “out-party even Paris Hilton,” collapsed at the Joanna Mastroianni show at The Studio at Lincoln Center. Witnesses said the socialite “slumped forward” as the second model came out on the runway, and she was carried out and given CPR by paramedics. An ambulance rushed her to the hospital, but she couldn’t be revived. Read More: New York Post

Queens  granny kin sue in blizzard death

The family of a Queens grandmother who died of a heart attack during the December 2010 blizzard is suing the city for failing to clear the streets, which they say delayed emergency responders. Faith Radvin and Robin Martucci claim in a suit filed yesterday that a day after the storm, their mother, Gail Radvin, 73, had a fatal heart attack. Read More: New York Post

Good Samaritan critically injured rescuing drunk man from subway tracks


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Good Samaritan critically injured rescuing drunk man from subway tracks

A good Samaritan trying to help a drunken man off the Staten Island Railway tracks was hit by a train and critically injured Sunday, officials said. Steven Santiago, 39, came across a drunk who had jumped onto the tracks to retrieve his lost shoe in the New Dorp station about 1:30 a.m., relatives and cops said. When the drunk couldn’t get back onto the platform, Santiago jumped down to help him, officials said. “He is a great man who risked his life to save someone he doesn’t even know,” said the hero’s stunned brother Edwin Santiago, 42. A Tottenville-bound train barreled into the station with both men still on the tracks. The drunk somehow avoided being hit, but Steven Santiago was taken to Staten Island University Hospital North in critical condition after the train slammed into his head, police said. Read More: Daily News

Dallas Cowboys receiver Kevin Ogletree sits at bedside of brother who was shot in Queens

Dallas Cowboys player Kevin Ogletree was holding vigil Sunday at his big brother’s hospital bedside in Queens — praying he would survive being shot in the head by a pair of bicycling gunmen, a relative said. Calvin Ogletree, 25, remained in critical condition at Jamaica Hospital Sunday night, a day after he was shot in front of his luxury car rental shop on Linden Boulevard in St. Albans. “He’s a good kid; he has a good heart,” Calvin Ogletree’s uncle, Mark Ross, told the Daily News. Read More: Daily News

Worry on Whitestone waterfront; impending sale of 13-acre parcel sparks overdevelopment concerns 

A 13-acre property in Whitestone is up for grabs — the largest single parcel of land for sale in Queens — and it’s attracting the attention of developers but also causing concern among community leaders. The former industrial site, located at 151-45 6th Road, was re-zoned for 52 one-family homes in 2008. The waterfront property comes with an additional five acres that is submerged underwater. Local leaders worried about overdevelopment in the community said they are concerned that a new owner could build many more homes or even multi-family dwellings. Read More: Daily News

Queens Broker Is Accused of Bringing Immigrants’ Ruin

For years, a self-made real estate magnate named Edul Ahmad personified the collective dreams of Richmond Hill, which is populated by many immigrants from Guyana, in South America. Ahmad drove a yellow Lamborghini, sponsored a cricket team and held white-glove parties at a lavish banquet hall that he owned. At a prominent intersection near the border of Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park, his smiling face looked down from a large billboard that promoted his real estate services. Many residents responded, taking out high-risk mortgages that they were told they could readily afford. In July, it all came crashing down. Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Mr. Ahmad, charging him with masterminding a $50 million mortgage fraud that seemed to exemplify a nationwide phenomenon of celebrated immigrant brokers who were accused of preying on their own. Read More: New York Times

Straphangers Cope With Major MTA Weekend Repairs

With the Metropolitan Transportation Authority doing maintenance and construction this weekend, 17 of the city’s 22 subway lines — the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, A, C, D, E, F, G, J, N, Q, R and S lines — are experiencing some type service disruption. For many, it was confusing, annoying and downright frustrating. Some Q train riders in Downtown Brooklyn said on Saturday night that they had it with all the weekend service disruptions. “You got to get off at one particular point in Brooklyn, switch to the bus, get back on another train and it’s not the train that we need. It’s crazy,” said one rider. Read More: NY1

Fallout over failed Queens center

A longtime board member of a politically connected Queens nonprofit resigned yesterday after The Post reported that his publicly funded group owed the Port Authority $2.7 million over its stalled plan to create a new business center. The sudden resignation of Greater Jamaica Development Corp. board member Cruz Russell, whose $173,000-a-year day job is with the PA, came as the bistate agency announced an exhaustive review of its dealings with the nonprofit over the ailing JFK Corporate Square project. Read More: New York Post

New York coalition presents redisticting maps to boost Asian-American, Latino and African-American representation

A coalition of Asian-American, Latino and African-American groups has released a new set of redistricting maps it believes will give the city’s large ethnic populations a greater voice in future elections. The so-called Unity Maps are just one proposal being sent to state lawmakers as they decide how Senate, Assembly and congressional districts in the city should be redrawn to reflect changes in the 2010 Census. A state task force is slated to release its redistricting proposal in the next week or so. Read More: Daily News

Beyonce’s hospital mates baby-bumped

Pushy parents Beyoncé and Jay-Z installed bulletproof glass and burly bodyguards at the Upper East Side hospital where their diva daughter was just born — and even booted worried moms and dads out of the neonatal intensive-care unit. The fuming other parents at Lenox Hill Hospital said they were essentially put on “lockdown” so that the pampered songstress and her party could come and go as they pleased. “They just used the hospital like it was their own and nobody else mattered,” blasted new dad Neil Coulon, who said his efforts to see his premature, newborn twins in the neonatal ICU were disrupted at least four times by the arrival of Beyoncé and her tiny rap princess, Blue Ivy Carter, over the weekend. Read More: New York Post

Liu kicked in arrears

Embattled Comptroller John Liu, the city’s chief fiscal officer, is an accused deadbeat. Con Edison and the state Tax Department have taken separate legal action against his campaign committee, People for John Liu, for allegedly failing to pay nearly $1,500 in outstanding bills and taxes, The Post has learned. Con Ed is suing in Brooklyn Civil Court for about $500 in unpaid electric bills and has sicced a collection agency on him. The delinquency covers energy usage from a campaign office that Liu rented at 1424 Fulton Street in 2008 and 2009 when he was running for his current job, records show. Con Ed filed its initial suit October 14, 2009. A second suit was filed June 25, 2010, after the bills remained unpaid. Read More: New York Post

Jackson Heights bank robbed


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Jackson Heights bank robbed

A gunman dressed in a brown UPS uniform took a female bank employee hostage as he held up a Queens branch yesterday, authorities said. The man walked into the Sovereign branch on 31st Avenue in Jackson Heights at 9:40 a.m., pressed the barrel a silver revolver into the back of the bank employee, and demanded $20,000 in large bills, said the FBI. The bandit received cash from multiple bank tellers and fled on foot with several thousand dollars. The man is in his early 30s, stands about 5-foot-7 and has a beard and dark skin, according to the FBI. Read More: New York Post

 

LaGuardia trash-smash tussle in court

Government lawyers yesterday tried to convince a federal appeals court that the city’s plan to build a trash transfer station near La Guardia Airport follows aviation-safety rules. The building will be sealed so as not to attract plane-endangering birds, said Justice Department lawyer Abby Wright. “All the trash processing occurs inside the building,” said Wright, and opponents’ claims that the building isn’t enclosed are “baseless.” A bird-plane collision was blamed for the Hudson River ditching of US Airways Flight 1547 two years ago. Read More: New York Post

 

Challenges Persist As Liu Continues Down The Campaign Trail

City Comptroller John Liu is working nonstop lately, moving from Brooklyn Borough Hall through Sunset Park and Sunnyside to a Democratic club in Flushing. On Friday, he visited the Three Kings Day Parade in East Harlem. Despite a federal investigation into his campaign account, Liu is not quitting the campaign trail.  “My primary focus as comptroller has been rooting out waste, find money that has been improperly kept or spent,” said Liu. But in November, a Liu fundraiser was accused of setting up straw donors to get over-the-limit contributions to the comptroller.  Read More: NY1

 

 

NYPD cop suspended after getting hauled off bus for alleged drunkenness

An NYPD sergeant who was hauled off a Greyhound bus in Philadelphia for alleged drunkenness has now been suspended, the Daily News has learned. Sgt. Carlos Fabara became an accidental YouTube star Dec. 27 when he refused the driver’s orders to get off the bus. Philadelphia police came to assist in removing the off-duty sergeant, who was lead away in handcuffs. A fellow passenger caught the altercation on tape and posted it to YouTube. Read More: Daily News

 

Cop’s legs crushed

A plainclothes cop’s legs were mangled last night in a horrific accident that left him pinned at the knees between two vehicles during a traffic stop in Brooklyn. The unidentified detective had pulled over a black vehicle with four men inside and was standing behind the car when a white van rammed into him, crushing his legs and leaving pools of blood in the street. “It looked real bad,” said Manny Mora, 42, owner of John Deli on the corner of Dorchester Road and Coney Island Avenue in Flatbush. Mora said he heard a loud sound from outside around 10:30 p.m. When he looked out, he saw the officer pinned between the bumper of a white van and the car the cop pulled over. Read More: New York Post

 

Day-care outrage

A high-ranking FDNY safety inspector ignored safety violations at buildings housing day-care centers in exchange for bribes, the feds said yesterday. Carlos Montoya — who formerly oversaw inspections of all city day-care centers — was arrested yesterday for the alleged misconduct, which included repeatedly certifying use of a Brooklyn warehouse for the temporary care of infants and children younger than 2. He allegedly got at least $12,000 in payments from the center’s owner, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges and is cooperating with the feds. Read More: New York Post

 

Granny horror retrial

Her first jury found her guilty of homicide. But now Lynette Caban, a lead-footed driver with a suspended license who struck and killed a grandmother in 2003, is getting a chance to beat the rap, thanks to a momentary mistake six years ago by a now-retired Manhattan judge. Caban is once again facing charges of criminal negligence for driving backward against a light through a Third Avenue crosswalk, catapulting sweet, 82-year-old Francesca Maytin to her death. Her case has bounced between two appeals courts, ultimately being set down for retrial due to errors committed by former Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Budd Goodman during the original deliberations. Read More: New York Post