Tag Archives: District Attorney Richard A. Brown

Two Queens men charged in rash of burglaries


| mhayes@queenscourier.com


Two Queens men have been arrested for a series of burglaries across the borough over the last six months.

Randolph Ardila of Maspeth and Raheim West of Long Island City are both charged with separate, various accounts of burglary, attempted burglary and criminal possession of stolen property, according to District Attorney Richard A. Brown.

Ardila, 29, allegedly acted as the lookout for several Glendale and Ozone Park attempted apartment burglaries on Feb. 21. Later, at the time of his arrest, he was allegedly carrying a blue plastic contained filled with change, which had been reported missing from the Ozone Park apartment, Brown said.

In his car, police allegedly found a box containing the cremated ashes of a tenant’s mother, reported missing from a second Ozone Park location, according to the district attorney.

West, 37, was allegedly busted on tape breaking into the Promise Christian Academy Church in Flushing and making off with over $2,000 in cash last September and is additionally accused of stealing $160 from an employee at Flushing’s Asian Community Care Management earlier this month.

The LIC resident is also a suspect in two residential burglaries in Corona and another in College Point throughout February. Pry marks on the College Point residence allegedly match those made by West’s pry bar, Brown said.

When West was arrested, police recovered the pry bar, a screw driver and work gloves from his vehicle.

Ardila faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted and was ordered held on $150,000 bail. West, who faces 28 years, is being held on $200,000 bail. The pair will return to court March 10.

 

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Queens woman admits to bogus ‘blessing scam’


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Graphic

A 50-year-old con artist has admitted to duping three Queens women out of nearly $5,000 through a phony “blessing” scam, officials said.

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said Fengluan Qin confessed Thursday to using an ancient con game to take jewelry and large sums of cash from three unsuspecting Flushing women, between 52 and 72 years old.

Qin convinced the victims to place their cash and valuables into a bag for a “blessing ritual” that would cure their families of sickness and bad luck, before swapping the bags and stealing the goods, Brown said.

Victims of the hoax have lost $1.3 million within the last year to different crews moving throughout the city, according to Inspector Brian Maguire, commanding officer of the 109th Precinct.

Out of about 50 cases citywide, more than $500,000 has been pilfered from victims in the 109th precinct alone, Maguire said.

According to Brown, the scam that targets mostly elderly immigrant women is prevalent in Asian communities nationwide.

“People should be aware that this is just one of many confidence tricks used by individuals to swindle money from vulnerable people and should not fall victim to it,” Brown said.

The district attorney’s office said Qin, a Chinese national with an expired visa, was believed to be living in Flushing, though she did not provide an address to authorities.

She pleaded guilty to grand larceny charges on December 5, Brown said. She is expected to be sentenced to one to three years in prison on December 18.

As part of the plea deal, Qin must also forfeit $4,765 in restitution and sign a confession of judgment for another $10,000.

Police are urging families to spread word of the scam to older relatives and friends.

Cops said victims, if approached, should agree with the tricksters on a meeting spot and then go home and call 9-1-1.

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Flushing man gets 25 years to life for killing over $200 debt


| mchan@queenscourier.com


A 20-year-old from Flushing was sentenced to a maximum of life in prison for killing a man over a $200 debt he owed.

Victim Laseam Hogan, 27, lent the money to Malcolm Thompson of the Pomonok Houses in 2010, according to the district attorney.

Hogan approached Thompson for his $200 in a Pomonok Houses courtyard months later on October 15, officials said. Instead of repaying his debt, then-18-year-old Thompson shot Hogan to death, according to District Attorney Richard A. Brown.

“I’ll dead you. You ain’t getting (expletive),” Thompson allegedly told Hogan before whipping out his gun, according to prosecutors.

Thompson fired bullets at Hogan’s leg and torso, then stood over him and let another three rounds hit Hogan’s torso, neck and head, according to Brown.
Thompson was sentenced last week to 25 years to life in prison, Brown said.

He was convicted in August of second-degree murder and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon after a four-week jury trial.

“The price that the defendant must now pay to settle what originally had been a minor unpaid debt is of his own doing,” Brown said. “The defendant has shown that he had little regard for human life and is deserving of the serious punishment meted out.”

 

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Howard Beach man convicted in Woodhaven sex assault


| mhayes@queenscourier.com


A Howard Beach man has been convicted following a sexual assault earlier this year.

Richard Kassebaum, 42, was working at a Woodhaven laundromat in March when he approached a female patron at about 4:30 a.m. as she exited the store, grabbed her from behind and choked her. Kassebaum then grabbed the victim’s buttocks, and after she screamed, he fled the location, according to trial testimony.

“[Kassebaum] poses a serious threat to public safety and, under the circumstances, a significant prison sentence is more than warranted,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown.

The “sexual predator” was convicted on Thursday, August 1 on first and third-degree sexual abuse and criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation. The charges followed a one-week jury trial before the borough Supreme Court.

Video surveillance from the laundromat revealed Kassebaum inside the establishment, then standing in the parking lot as the victim left. Kassebaum was then seen walking behind the woman and following her onto Woodhaven Boulevard. Video footage shortly afterwards shows Kassebaum running back and reentering the laundromat, said Brown.

Sentencing is scheduled for Thursday, August 15. Kassebaum, who has been held in jail in lieu of a $50,000 bail, faces up to seven years in prison.

 

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Teen who ran onto field at All-Star Game faces year in jail


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Screenshot via YouTube/rurbanlegend1·

The truth is that this dare landed him in hot water.

The teenager who ran onto the field during the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Citi Field as part of a Twitter dare may pay big for that error in judgment.

District Attorney Richard A. Brown announced that Dylan McCue-Masone, 18, has been arraigned on charges of interfering with a professional sporting event and third-degree criminal trespass, and faces up to a year in jail and $5,000 in penalties.

“The defendant is accused of interfering with a nationally televised sporting event and the enjoyment of the viewing public,” Brown said. “What is particularly disturbing in this case is that the incident occurred while the game was in progress and the players were on the field.”

McCue-Masone allegedly created the dare to run on the field after receiving 1,000 twitter responses, according to the district attorney.

Brown acknowledged that McCue-Masone was an excited young sports fan but said “There is no such thing as being too careful,” citing the 1993 incident when a spectator stabbed professional tennis player Monica Seles during a match in Germany.

Brown added, “Which is why my office and the operators of the various sports arenas in Queens County have zero tolerance for spectators who fail to conduct themselves responsibly at sporting events.”

The city council passed the Interference with a Professional Sporting Event Law in 2003 after fashion designer Calvin Klein stepped out onto the basketball court at Madison Square Garden in 2003 to speak with Knicks guard Latrell Sprewell during a game.

New Jersey resident John McCarthy, 38, was the first person charged under the law when he ran onto the field during a Mets game at Shea Stadium on May 4, 2004, carrying a sign that read “Howard Stern: Here’s Johnny.”

McCarthy pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight weekends in jail, fined $2,000 and ordered to serve three years’ probation, while being banned from Shea.

YouTube/rurbanlegend1

Dad arrested for allowing kids to shoot BB guns in Astoria park


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

handcuffs-with-color-web-size11111

An Astoria dad may receive more than just a slap on the wrist after allowing his children to play with loaded BB guns at a local park.

According to District Attorney Richard A. Brown, Zbigniew Pawlowski, 54, allegedly went to Ditmars Park in Astoria on Tuesday, May 7 with his two children—the elder of whom is five years old—and two BB guns.

At the park, Pawlowski allegedly loaded the guns with plastic pellets and shot one at a tree.

He then handed the guns to his children and allowed them to shoot. He also allegedly permitted his five-year-old daughter to run around the park with the BB gun, which she waved at other children, according to the DA.

“Illegal firearms, whether they be a spring-powered pistol or a more conventional deadly firearm, are a serious threat to public safety,” said Brown. “By allowing a five-year-old child to play with the loaded BB gun as if it was just a toy, the defendant is accused of recklessly endangering lives by creating a scenario that could have led to serious injury not just to his own children but innocent others who may have come in contact with the weapon.”

Pawlowski was arraigned on May 9 on charges of first- and second-degree reckless endangerment, endangering the welfare of a child, resisting arrest and violation of a New York City Administrative Code through possession of the BB gun.

Pawlowski is due to return to court in July and if convicted, the father faces up to seven years in prison.

“Times are not the same as when we grew up,” said Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. “With events like Sandy Hook, something like this can cause a panic.”

 

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Elmhurst landlord charged with renting illegal, potentially dangerous conversions


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

An Elmhurst landlord has been charged with endangering the lives of 46 residents, including 12 children, by renting them illegally converted one-and two-family houses and garages, the district attorney announced.

Landlord Segundo Chimbay, 48, has been charged in connection with renting out converted houses and garages in Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, charging tenants from $850 to $1,4000 a month.

“In addition to putting a strain on city services, such as parking, transportation, waste disposal and schools, illegal conversion endanger the lives of building residents as well as firefighters and other personnel who in responding to an emergency are confronted by a maze of rooms with no way out,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown.

The Building Department’s Quality of Life and Queens Borough Enforcement Units had found alleged illegal conditions at a two-family house at 48-14 94th Street in Elmhurst; a two-family house at 35-39 92nd Street in Jackson Heights; a two-family house at 35-41 92nd Street in Jackson Heights; and a one-family house at 40-33 Forley Street in Elmhurst.

Chimbay is presently awaiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court on charges including first-degree scheme to defraud, second-degree reckless endangerment and violation of the New York City Administrative Code for failing to comply with an order to vacate. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

“Illegal conversions can kill, and this arrest sends a clear message that property owners who create these dangerous living conditions will face serious consequences,” said NYC Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri.

In addition to the criminal charges, Chimbay has been named as a respondent in a $1.6 million civil asset forfeiture action for allegedly failing to comply with prior vacate orders and building code violations. The suit was filed in Queens Supreme Court by the District Attorney’s Special Proceedings Bureau, said Brown.

The Red Cross is temporarily relocating and providing shelter for the 46 tenants due to the reported dangerous situations at the homes, including fire hazards, illegal construction, unauthorized gas lines and many others.

 

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National Guardsman guilty in murder of girlfriend


| mhayes@queenscourier.com


He went from hero to felon.

A National Guardsman and Iraq war veteran has been convicted of second-degree murder for punching, drowning and ultimately killing his girlfriend on the beaches of Far Rockaway.

David Lynch, 33, served two tours in Iraq and was a reservist in the New York National Guard at the time of the November 2010 killing. He was convicted on Thursday, March 21.

“The defendant was trained to defend the weak and protect the innocent,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “In this case, he went against everything he was taught.”

According to trial testimony, Lynch brutally beat and drowned Althea Lewis, 45, of Springfield Gardens. In the early morning, Lynch and Lewis were on the beach having an argument. Lynch punched and bit Lewis on her head and face, threw her in the water and dragged her out by her feet, causing her head to be submerged.

Police discovered her clothed body on the beach with four puncture wounds on her face, later revealed to be from Lynch’s Army ring. The cuts were so deep that cops initially thought Lewis was shot. Ultimately, she died as a result of blunt force injury to her head and submersion in water.

“[Lynch’s] actions have irreparably shattered a family by robbing them of a loved one,” said Brown. “Conviction warrants imposition of a maximum prison sentence to punish him and protect society.”

The Supreme Court set sentencing for Monday, April 29. Lynch faces up to 25 years to life in prison.

 

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Man gets 50 years for killing pregnant girlfriend, son


| mhayes@queenscourier.com


Jimmy Humphrey admitted to murdering his pregnant girlfriend, then setting fire to her Springfield Gardens apartment and killing her two-year-old son. He now faces life behind bars.

“[Humphrey] stands convicted of first strangling the mother of his unborn child and then, without the slightest regard for human life, attempted to cover up his crime by intentionally setting fire to her home, thereby taking the life of her innocent two-year-old son,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown.

In July 2010, Humphrey, 26, said he was in his girlfriend Linda Anderson’s apartment on Anderson Road. He grabbed Anderson by the throat and shoved her to the ground. He also hit Anderson with a bottle of alcohol and used her lighter to set her couch on fire, despite knowing her son, Ayden, was sleeping inside the apartment, according to statements he made to police.

Humphrey then ran from the apartment, leaving Anderson behind with her body on fire and her son in his bedroom. After lying down for a period of time, he walked to a phone and called 9-1-1 to report the fire.

Additionally, Humphrey admitted that he knew Anderson was pregnant, but he did not want to have a family with her. He has been held without bail since July 2010, and on Wednesday, March 6 was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.

 

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Giants lineman pleads guilty to DUI in Queens court


| tcimino@queenscourier.com


This was definitely not in the playbook.

New York Giants offensive lineman David Diehl, who crashed his vehicle in Astoria in June 2012, has pleaded guilty to operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Diehl will be under court supervision for six months and must complete other court-imposed requirements prior to sentencing.

“Queens has a strict and very successful alternative sentencing program that emphasizes treatment and supervision of DUI offenders in order to prevent reoccurrences of unacceptable conduct,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown.

“However, if the defendant, who is a first-time offender, fails to comply with all the requirements imposed by the Court, then we will seek more severe sanctions.”

According to the charges, Diehl was observed at approximately 8:20 p.m. on June 10, 2012, in the vicinity of 31-31 35th Street in Astoria, by a police officer from the 114th Precinct responding to the scene of a motor vehicle accident involving a 2011 BMW and two parked vehicles. Diehl was observed by the officer to have a strong odor of alcohol on his breath, bloodshot and watery eyes, slurred speech and to be unsteady on his feet.

Diehl admitted to police that he had been driving the BMW, which had damage on its front right side. An intoxilyzer test showed a blood alcohol content reading of .182 percent – which is more than twice the legal limit of .08 percent in New York.

Diehl, 32, of New Jersey, was released on his own recognizance at the time of his arrest. He pleaded guilty this week to one count of aggravated driving while under the influence and one count of driving while impaired.

The plea is conditioned on Diehl continuing in the NFL substance abuse treatment program, that he wear a SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor) bracelet for 90 days, pay up to $1,200 in restitution to the owners of the two vehicles he damaged, participate in a Victim Impact Panel (an awareness program for first-time DWI offenders in which they hear from victims whose lives have been impacted by a drunk driver), and not drive or apply for a driver’s license until sentencing, which has not yet been scheduled.

Diehl is scheduled for the first of three compliance conferences on April 19, with the other two occurring at two-month intervals. After six months, if he has successfully complied with the sanctions and conditions imposed, then the aggravated DWI charge will be dismissed and he will be sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge on the driving while impaired charge.

 

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Man shot in Astoria liquor store


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com


A 37-year-old Astoria resident was fatally shot in a liquor store on the evening of Saturday, April 7.

Skaka Ryan was in the shop, located at 24-04 34th Avenue, at roughly 7 p.m. when he was shot in the torso and left leg by an unidentified gunman.

Police arrived on the scene following a 911 call, and the victim was transported to Astoria General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.

No arrests have been made, and police are still investigating the motive and searching for the suspect. The NYPD has yet to release a description of the shooter.

District Attorney Richard A. Brown was on the scene of the incident and said he believed the shooting was prearranged.

Sub assaults student; faces up to seven years in jail


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by David Beltran

A substitute teacher at a Flushing elementary school has been arrested for allegedly wringing the neck of a six-year-old student, officials said.

Grace Peterson-Hagendorf, 59 — a retired teacher who works as a day-to-day substitute — allegedly pushed a female student at P.S. 22 from behind before pinching and twisting her neck, court records show.

The girl suffered substantial pain, redness and swelling, and sustained a large welt to her neck from the March 7 assault, officials said. She was then taken to a local hospital where she received medical attention for her injuries.

“Schools are meant to be safe learning environments for their students,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “It is therefore difficult to comprehend that a teacher could lose all self-control and physically attack a young student in front of a room full of her friends and classmates.”

According to Margie Feinberg, a spokesperson for the Department of Education, Peterson-Hagendorf is ineligible to work pending the outcome of her case. A Flushing resident, Peterson-Hagendorf had worked at P.S. 22 twice this year, Feinberg said.

Peterson-Hagendorf is charged with second- and third degree assault, endangering the welfare of a child and second-degree harassment, according to the criminal complaint. If convicted, she faces up to seven years in prison.

Meanwhile, some parents at P.S. 22 — located on Sanford Avenue — said the incident does not reflect the otherwise safe nature of the school.

“This is a great school. I have never heard of any problems before,” said parent and P.S. 22 alumnus Jose Ramirez. “I’m in shock because it really is a good school. It’s just that there are some teachers that you hardly know.”

Peterson-Hagendorf is the ninth public school employee to be arrested since the beginning of the year. She was released on her own recognizance and is ordered to return to court on April 2, the district attorney said.

 

With additional reporting by David Beltran

 

Teacher’s aide charged with touching girls at P.S. 52


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

An elementary school teacher’s aide has been arrested for sexually abusing six female students on multiple occasions, officials said.

Brett Picou, a 30-year-old paraprofessional at P.S. 52 in Jamaica, allegedly slapped and held the buttocks of several girls, ages nine and 10, many times as they walked up the stairs or bent over to tie their shoes, the district attorney said. According to officials, Picou also moved his hands down their backs and touched their buttocks after hugging them.

The incidents took place between last November and February 15 of this year, according to the district attorney. Court records also show one case in which Picou allegedly lifted up the skirt of one female student and rubbed his fingers on her thigh.

“I am sad to report, once again, that a professional employed in our public schools has been accused of inappropriately touching his students,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “The charges in cases of this nature are disturbing on a number of different levels. When parents deliver their kids into the custody of teaching professionals, they have a right to assume that they will not be abused. The alleged actions of this defendant can never be tolerated.”

The case came to light when school personnel overheard the students talking about the incidents. School officials then immediately contacted the police, the district attorney said.

While criminal investigations remain ongoing, ripples of concern continue to spread throughout the parent body.

“I’m in shock right now. I didn’t even know that was going on,” said Shahiarra Fraser, parent of a four-year-old daughter in the school. “This worries me. It makes me want to take my child out of this school.”

Some parents told The Courier the whole thing could have been prevented if the school conducted background checks and followed up with complaints reported earlier.

Evelyn, a parent who did not want to disclose her last name, said one female student spoke up about Picou previously, but was told by school staff that she was “blowing it out of proportion.”

“I didn’t think she was lying. When a kid says something, you should listen,” Evelyn said. “That’s the school’s fault for not checking.”

Still, one parent of an eight-year-old girl — and close friend of the alleged offender — said she has and will continue to trust Picou.

“This is very shocking and very disturbing to hear, and I don’t think the accusations are true,” said Candice White, who said she has known Picou for over 10 years. “He’s not the type to do that — not to my knowledge. I trust him. After knowing him and growing up with him, I would never suspect him of doing that.”

White said Picou had just gotten married last year and is also a newly-minted father.

Still, not all parents were as trusting, and echoes of anger reverberated around P.S. 52’s playground after school hours.

“All these kids in here… he could have had any opportunity to be alone with them at any point in the school. It’s crazy,” said one parent named Kevin, who did not want to give his last name. “If that was my daughter, he wouldn’t have to worry about the police getting him. That’s disgusting.”

Picou is charged with seven counts of first-degree sexual abuse, seven counts of forcible touching, one count of second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child and six counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

P.S. 52 declined to comment, and Department of Education officials did not respond as of press time. However, The Courier has learned that school officials sent a letter to parents on February 27, informing them of the allegations. According to the letter, Picou has been suspended and removed from the school.

Parents who suspect their child may have been harmed or those who believe their child may know more information pertaining to the crimes are asked to call Principal Pough at 718-528-2238 or to immediately notify the police.

 

Racino employees charged with forging cards


| mchan@queenscourier.com


A stint of luck has run dry for two Racino employees, busted for forging fraudulent casino player cards, officials said.

Moises Jones, 29, and Rolanda Roberts, 33, have been charged with allegedly generating and distributing between 70 and 200 fraudulent casino player cards over the last seven weeks at Resorts World Casino, said District Attorney Richard A. Brown. Each card, Brown said, represents $100 in casino credit.

In statements made to casino authorities, Jones allegedly said he had been making fraudulent player cards for about a month — netting approximately $2,000 in profit — while Roberts, he said — working in concert — handed the cards to casino clients.

“Employee theft is a major concern for the gaming industry and my office,” Brown said. “In this case, the defendants took a gamble and lost — big time. They now face having felony criminal records and the real possibility of incarceration.”

Stefan Friedman, spokesperson for Resorts World, said the Racino is “working cooperatively with the authorities on this matter,” but he declined to comment further “due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.”

Jones and Roberts, respectively from the Bronx and Brooklyn, were arraigned on February 21 and were each charged with one count of fourth-degree grand larceny, 24 counts of second-degree forgery, 24 counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, 24 counts of first-degree falsifying business records and 24 counts of fifth degree criminal possession of stolen property.

If convicted, they each face up to seven years in prison.

Jones was held on $5,000 bail while Roberts was released on her own recognizance, the district attorney said. They were both ordered to return to court on March 9.

Two casino players from Brooklyn also drew snake eyes, the district attorney said, and were arrested for unlawfully using at least seven of the cards.

Sonny Vlado, 40, and Richard Ulado, 45, were each charged with one count of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, one count of petit larceny and one count of fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, officials said.

Vlado and Ulado face up to seven years in prison if convicted. They are slated to return to court on March 12.

Queens teacher had ‘pattern of inappropriate conduct’


| smosco@queenscourier.com


A teacher who had “shown a pattern of inappropriate conduct,” but was allowed to teach anyway, has been charged with sexually abusing two young boys on multiple occasions at P.S. 174 in Rego Park.

Wilbert Cortez, a 49-year-old computer teacher at William Sydney Mount School, was charged with two counts of second-degree sexual misconduct against a child and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

“These are serious accusations in which a school teacher – who should serve as a role model to students – is instead accused of using his position to gain access to children for his own gratification,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “Schools should be safe havens where students are protected from harm. These are disturbing allegations that, if true, require punishment.”

According to the criminal charges, between September 2010 and June 2011 Cortez allegedly rubbed the groin and buttocks over the pants of two young students. He pleaded not guilty to sexual abuse and endangering charges in Queens Criminal Court on February 16 and was released after posting a $50,000 bail bond.

Perhaps most disturbing is that a city investigation in 2000 found that Cortez had shown “a pattern of inappropriate conduct” at a school in Brooklyn. The report concluded that the teacher slapped two students on the buttocks on several occasion. A letter of discipline was placed in Cortez’s file – however, six months later he was transferred to P.S. 174.

In response to the incident, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott visited the school on February 17 to meet with officials and assure parents that he plans to make it easier for principals to get disciplinary records of anyone vying for a position at city schools.

“I am appalled by the allegations against Wilbert Cortez,” said Walcott. “No adult who inappropriately touches a student, in or out of school, belongs anywhere near the children we are responsible for protecting. I will do everything in my power to ensure that individuals like Mr. Cortez can be swiftly removed from our classrooms as soon as allegations surface – and be barred from teaching in our schools if those charges are substantiated.”

A spokesperson for the United Federation of Teachers said “we do not comment on current investigations.”