Tag Archives: District Attorney Richard A. Brown

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.”