Tag Archives: Eric Schneiderman

Woman scammed Queens residents out of thousands of dollars: AG


| editorial@queenscourier.com


JANAE HUNTER

A woman has been arrested and indicted after running a long-time scheme to steal from Queens residents, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Thursday.

Sonia Vertucci, 42, of New Rochelle has been charged with scheme to defraud, grand larceny and petit larceny after failing to deliver on promises she gave predominantly to immigrant clients, according to officials.

The attorney’s general’s investigation revealed that Vertucci, who recently moved from Queens, collected $38,000 in upfront cash payments for services she did not deliver on between 2012 and 2013.  Some of Vertucci’s services included providing Social Security cards and obtaining legal residency status for immigrants, and clearing tickets and license suspensions for truck drivers to help them return to work.

“Scam artists who prey on immigrants, or other hardworking New Yorkers, with false promises will not be tolerated in our state,” Schneiderman said. “No matter how elaborate their schemes, those who defraud New Yorkers will face justice.”

If convicted, Vertucci faces up to seven years or more in prison.

Anyone who believes they have been a victim of Vertucci should call the attorney general’s immigration fraud hotline at 1-866-390-2992.

 

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Nine arrested after massive cockfighting operation busted in Queens, Brooklyn


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

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Thousands of roosters were recovered and dozens of people were taken into custody after officials busted “Operation Angry Birds” wide open.

Throughout the weekend, city and state officials busted a Richmond Hill cockfighting ring, a Brooklyn pet store housing 50 birds and a farm storing as many as 3,000 roosters for future fighting. Nine felony arrests were made.

“Cockfighting is a cruel, abusive and barbaric practice that tortures animals, endangers the health and safety of the public and is known to facilitate other crimes,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, whose Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) spearheaded the raids.

After 10 p.m. Saturday, city and state officials raided a Richmond Hill cockfighting event on Jamaica Avenue, according to a police source.

Birds were bred, trained, plied with performance-enhancing drugs, had razor-sharp gaffs attached in place of their natural spurs and were locked in a small pen where they would fight to the death.

“No animal should be forced to fight to the death for human entertainment and profit,” said ASPCA President and CEO Matthew Bershadker.

The ring had operated bi-monthly since at least May, according to Schneiderman. Wagers of up to $10,000 were made on various fights.

At that same time, investigators discovered 50 roosters, in poor condition and showing physical signs of having been altered for fighting, underneath the Brooklyn pet shop. The owner, Jeremias Nieves, 74, was arrested and charged with a felony.

The three-county-wide raid ended north of the city in Plattekill, where officials raided a 90-acre farm, and the ASPCA recovered as many as 3,000 fighting birds.

The farm had been unregistered since 2010 but operated under the guise of a live poultry farm. Thousands of makeshift cages were hid in the center of the property.

Manager Manuel Cruz, 60, and farm hand Jesus Cruz, 37, were arrested and arraigned. The farm allegedly charged rent to board, feed and care for the roosters that were bred and ultimately trained for fighting all around the tri-state area and up to Massachusetts.

The multi-faceted bust is the largest cockfighting takedown in New York State history and is among the largest in national history. The ASPCA established a temporary, undisclosed location to care for the recovered birds.

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Friday: Snow this morning will give way to some clearing this afternoon. High around 15. Winds NNW at 20 to 30 mph. Chance of snow 80%. About one inch of snow expected. Friday night: Clear skies. Low around 0. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph.

NYC public schools closed Friday

All New York City public schools are closed Friday due to Snowstorm Hercules, education officials announced. Read more: The Queens Courier

Hercules flexing his muscles in first storm of 2014

Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a statewide state of emergency Thursday afternoon to prepare officials for winter storm Hercules, which is forecasted to bring five to nine inches of snow to the city. Read more: The Queens Courier

For NYC schools head, a focus on middle school

The new leader of the nation’s biggest public school system started her job Thursday with storm clouds brewing — the clouds that had a new city administration weighing whether to call a snow day for 1.1 million students. Read more: NBC New York

New York Attorney General Schneiderman warns against price gouging

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman warned businesses Thursday against price gouging as Tri-State area residents stocked up on major supplies ahead of the first snowstorm of the new year. Read more: CBS New York/AP

NYPD union lawyers seek quicker stop-frisk appeal ruling

Forget about the new mayor having a grace period with the NYPD. Read more: New York Post 

De Blasio sworn in as 109th mayor of New York City


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos via NYC Mayor's Office Flickr/Official Photos by New York City Mayor's Office

Updated 1:30 p.m.

The Bloomberg era has ended and the de Blasio administration has begun.

New York City’s 109th mayor, Bill de Blasio, was sworn in during a ceremony at his Park Slope, Brooklyn home just after midnight Wednesday, followed by a formal inauguration on the steps of City Hall later that day.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman officiated the New Year’s Eve oath of office, which was also attended by the mayor’s wife Chirlane McCray, daughter Chiara and son Dante.

“From the beginning, this has been our family together reaching out to the people of this city to make a change that we all needed. I want to thank you for having brought us to this moment,” de Blasio said after taking the oath in front of his home.

“To everyone this is the beginning of a road we will travel together,” he added.

Former President Bill Clinton swore in de Blasio on the steps of City Hall with a bible once owned by former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

De Blasio previously served as a regional director in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration and managed Hillary Clinton’s 2000 U.S. Senate campaign. Both endorsed de Blasio for mayor in the general election.

Before administering the oath, Clinton said it had been a “great joy” for his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and him to see de Blasio’s progress “because he has served with such passion and because he represents with his family the future of our city and the future of our country.”

Telling New Yorkers “our work begins today,” in his inauguration speech de Blasio pledged to expand the pay sick leave law, require big developers to build affordable housing, stem the tide of hospital closures, reform a broken stop-and-frisk policy and ask the wealthy to pay a little more in taxes to provide universal, full-day pre-k and after-school programs for middle schoolers.

“We won’t wait, we’’ll do it now,” he said.

“Let me be clear: When I said I would take dead aim at the tale of two cities, I meant it. And we will do it.” he added.

A thousand tickets were reserved for the general public to attend the public swearing-in ceremony, with de Blasio pledging that it would be an “inauguration for all New Yorkers.”

Several dozen New Yorkers from across the city were additionally invited to join the mayor on stage. The group included a Queens engineer who emigrated from Bangladesh, according to de Blasio.

Mayor de Blasio takes the subway with his family to his City Hall inauguration.

Queens resident and the 2014 New York City Youth Poet Laureate, Ramya Ramana, read an original poem at the inauguration, which she dedicated to de Blasio.

Ramana, a first generation Indian-American, grew up in the borough and recently won the New York Knicks’ Poetry scholarship to St. John’s University, where she is a first-year student, according to the mayor.

Letitia James, who is succeeding de Blasio as public advocate was also sworn in at City Hall Wednesday. The councilmember is the first woman of color to hold citywide office. Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President since 2006, was sworn in as city comptroller, replacing John Liu.

 

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De Blasio to be sworn in at Brooklyn home in private ceremony


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

Bill de Blasio will ring in the New Year in his Park Slope home by being officially sworn in as the 109th mayor of New York City.

As is tradition, the swearing in will take place during an intimate ceremony just after midnight on Jan. 1. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will officiate,  de Blasio announced Monday night.

The private event will be attended by the incoming mayor’s wife Chirlane McCray, daughter Chiara and son Dante.

The public can watch the event live online at NYC.gov, and photos will be posted to the Mayor’s Office Flickr page.

“We are excited to share this important moment with the people of New York,” said de Blasio. “From live-streaming the midnight swearing-in to reserving tickets for the general public to the ceremony at City Hall, Inauguration 2014 will be open and accessible to people from across the five boroughs.”

De Blasio will be sworn in later that day in a public ceremony at City Hall by former President Bill Clinton.

 

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Jamaica doctor charged for illegally selling painkiller prescriptions


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

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A Jamaica doctor has been arrested for illegally selling prescriptions of oxycodone, according to the attorney general.

Anand Persaud, 44, has an office on Jamaica Avenue and another in Baldwin, Long Island. Officials arrested the internist after searching both locations.

“It’s unconscionable that a doctor, a trusted licensed professional, would violate his professional duties and abuse his license to traffic in prescriptions for narcotics,” AG Eric Schneiderman said.

Persaud was arrested at his Long Island office and is charged with selling a prescription of the highly addictive narcotic on two occasions without examining the patient or providing medical documentation.

Officials allege Persaud twice charged patients $250 or more to receive the prescription without conducting a physical examination on either person or questioning them about their medical needs.

The patients, both Medicaid recipients, were eligible for no-cost medical care. Persaud, as a Medicaid provider, is required to agree to accept payment in full from Medicaid.

The felony complaint against Persaud charges him with two counts of criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance, a class C felony. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

 

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Huntley speaks: Ex-State Senator alleges charges were in retaliation


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

Former State Senator Shirley Huntley says the investigation that led to state charges against her last year stemmed from political decisions she made in Albany.

Speaking with political commentator Roy Paul in Springfield Gardens, Huntley — who is set to go to federal prison next month — said State Senator Malcolm Smith tried to have her investigated after she failed to vote for him as senate leader.

She said her problem was not with the charges against her, to which she pleaded guilty, but the way in which she was indicted by state officials.

She said after a witness came to her with the information, she realized Smith was trying to have her looked into. Huntley alleged Smith first took the information to State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who Huntley later confronted.

“Tom said to me ‘I can’t go into detail, but this is not my idea’,” Huntley said. “He says, ‘It came to me from Malcolm Smith, and after I decided there was no reason to go forward, I was told to give it to [Attorney General] Eric Schneiderman and he would take care of it.’”

Smith’s office said he has no comment on matters relating to Huntley.

Federal official arrested him on April 2 on charges of trying to make bribes for a Wilson-Pakula certificate. The document would have allowed the longtime Democrat to run for mayor of New York City as a Republican. Smith and accused co-conspirators have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Huntley turned herself in to the attorney general’s office on August 27, 2012. She was charged with helping cover up embezzlement through a nonprofit she helped establish. The investigation was a joint effort between the offices of Schneiderman and DiNapoli.

Huntley went on to lose a September primary to current State Senator James Sanders.

A spokesperson for DiNapoli said the office has no comment and is cooperating with law enforcement agencies.

A spokesperson for Schneiderman said Huntley’s allegations were null, calling them a last-ditch effort before she heads off to jail.

“Attorney General Schneiderman’s commitment to rooting out political corruption is the reason he was the first prosecutor to indict Shirley Huntley,” said Damien LaVera. “It’s no surprise that a criminal who is going to jail for lying and stealing is lashing out at the prosecutor who brought her to justice.”

Although the case never made it to state court, Huntley pleaded guilty to federal embezzlement charges for stealing atotal of $88,000. She has been ordered to pay it back and was sentenced to 366 days in prison.

During the sentencing, it was revealed that Huntley taped several elected officials last summer for the FBI. But prosecutors said some information she provided was not trustworthy enough to give her a cooperation bargain.

Huntley said Schneiderman, who was a senator before he became attorney general in 2011, butted heads with her several times – both in the chamber and on his campaign.

First, she said, they disagreed on voting out former State Senator Hiram Monserrate, who was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend. Schneiderman had been a leader on the effort to expel the former Elmhurst lawmaker, while Huntley said she did not believe the Senate was a law enforcement body.

Further, while she supported Schneiderman’s attorney general campaign, she alleged Schneiderman asked her to defame his primary opponent, Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

“I was not a fan of Kathleen Rice because I don’t know her. But I was not going to do anything that was going to damage her reputation,” Huntley said. “I was not going to go to black folks and tell them they need to jump up and down and yell Kathleen Rice is a racist, and she only locks up black people. I was not going to do that because that is not how I do business.”

 

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AG Schneiderman investigates price gouging as gas shortage continues


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Maggie Hayes

Drivers searching endlessly for a station to fill up now face a new problem — price gouging.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced an investigation into complaints of price gouging at gas stations, but also for emergency supplies like generators, hotels, food and water.

“Our office has zero tolerance for price gouging,” said Schneiderman. “We are actively investigating hundreds of complaints we’ve received from consumers of businesses preying on victims of Hurricane Sandy, and will do everything we can to stop unscrupulous individuals from taking advantage of New Yorkers trying to rebuild their lives.”

Gas remains scarce more than a week after Sandy left the area. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that 38 percent of gas stations in the New York metropolitan area do not have fuel.

Prices at the pump in New York City are up 15 cents over the past week, according to AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report. Nationwide prices are dropped five cents over the last seven days.

Under New York state business law merchants are prohibited from taking advantage of consumers during an “”abnormal disruption of the market” by hiking prices to an “unconscionably excessive price.”

While “unconscionably excessive price” is not specifically defined, the attorney general’s office said a before and after analysis of prices can be used as evidence.

According to the New York Post, Schneiderman also issued a subpoena to Craig’s List demanding the web site identify users who are offering gas for more than $20 a gallon.

If residents would like to make a complaint regarding price gouging, they can call 800-771-7755 or click here.

Weekend Roundup


| brennison@queenscourier.com


Quinn leads crowded field for 2013 mayoral nod

Council Speaker Christine Quinn remained at the head of the field in the 2013 mayoral race, though her once wide margin has shrunk. NY1-Marist Poll released a poll surveying registered city voters on next year’s race for mayor with Quinn coming out on top with the support of 23 percent of Democrats. Read more: Queens Courier

Witness has two versions of NYPD detective’s fatal shooting of unarmed National Guardsman

A key witness in the fatal police shooting of an unarmed National Guardsman told cops that she took her eyes off the victim’s hands just before the gunfire erupted, the Daily News has learned. Witness Diane DeFerrari’s statement, contained in an Oct. 4 police report, contradicts her later assertions that Noel Polanco had both hands on the wheel when he was shot on the Grand Central Parkway. Read more: Daily News

Queens principal forced to retire over offensive remarks

A Queens high-school principal made a host of discriminatory remarks against Jews, blacks and gays — as well as off-color quips about sex and sexual favors among co-workers, city investigators found. Nancy Casella was forced to retire from Information Technology HS in Long Island City this month after the jarring comments were confirmed by the city Department of Education. Read more: NY Post

1 dead in head-on crash in Queens

An investigation is underway after one person was killed in a crash in Queens. It happened Friday night at 48th Street and Laurel Hill Boulevard in the Sunnyside section. Two cars collided head-on. Read more: ABC

Mexico cops hunt Orlando Orea, suspect in Union Square soccer coach Mike Jones slaying

The hunt for the fugitive who escaped to Mexico after the stabbing death of soccer coach Mike Jones has begun in earnest after the NYPD won cooperation from authorities there. Interpol has flagged the suspect, Orlando Orea, meaning if he attempts to flee to a third country he will be stopped, said Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne, the NYPD’s top spokesman. Read more: Daily News

Queens beauty school sued by attorney general

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has sued a Queens beauty school, claiming it convinced hundreds of students to pay course fees but failed to train them as nail specialists. The suit, filed this week, names Tinny Beauty Inc. and two of its officers, saying it used ads in Chinese-language newspapers and word-of-mouth to find and mislead students about obtaining nail specialty licenses. Read more: ABC

7-inch iPad tablet to hit stores on Nov. 2

The long-rumored downsized clone of Apple’s iPad tablet is set to hit stores on Nov. 2, according to technology blog TechCruch. Apple is hosting an event in San Jose on Tuesday, and while the company hasn’t released details, it’s widely expected to unveil a 7-inch tablet that’s being called the iPad Mini. Read more: Daily News

State Senator Shirley Huntley pleads not guilty to conspiracy and tampering charges


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

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State Senator Shirley Huntley pleaded not guilty to three charges relating to a Long Island nonprofit after turning herself in this morning.

The southeast Queens politician helped cover up nearly $30,000 in public funds steered from Parent Workshop, Inc. to the senator’s aide, Patricia Savage, and to the senator’s niece, Lynn Smith, according to the indictment.

The nonprofit was provided with funds with the promise of providing programs for parents on the workings of the New York City public school system.  Savage and Smith were indicted in December.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said that when Huntley learned of the probe into her niece and aide, she penned a false backdated letter stating the nonprofit conducted workshops that never took place.

Huntley is charged with the tampering with physical evidence and falsifying business records in the first degree, and conspiracy in the fifth degree, a misdemeanor.

“Falsifying documents, conspiracy and deliberately tampering with an open investigation are serious crimes. The individuals who schemed to profit at the taxpayers’ expense and cover it up will be held accountable,” said Schneiderman.

If found guilty, Huntley would be removed from office, under the New York State Public Officers Law.

The two-time incumbent faces a fiercely contested primary in less than three weeks against Councilmember James Sanders and Gian Jones.

 

AG: Development Corporations lobbied illegally for projects


| mchan@queenscourier.com


Three city development corporations have admitted to illegally lobbying the City Council to win approval of their favored projects, including a much-contested plan to revamp Willets Point, the state attorney general said.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC), the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation (FWCLDC) — headed by former borough president Claire Shulman — and the Coney Island Development Corporation (CIDC) settled charges of attempting to influence legislation in connection with development projects in Willets Point in 2008 and Coney Island in 2009, according to a three-year investigation by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The projects require City Council approvals pursuant to the state’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). But local development corporations (LDCs) are barred by statute from influencing legislation.

“These local development corporations flouted the law by lobbying elected officials, both directly and through third parties,” Schneiderman said.

According to probe findings, the three agencies attempted to create the appearance of independent grassroots support for the projects by concealing their participation in community organizing efforts. This included ghostwriting letters and op-eds and preparing testimony for unaffiliated community members, Schneiderman said.

The EDC — the city’s economic development arm — also played a behind-the-scenes role in the lobbying activities of the other LDCs, he said.

The nonprofit organizations will now have to reform their practices to comply with the law and end lobbying for development projects. They will also have to comply with mandatory training, and the EDC will have to publicaly disclose any funding provided to other LDCs.

The EDC intends to restructure, according to spokesperson Jennifer Friedberg, and cease to be considered an LDC. Doing so, she said, would allow the company to legally influence legislation and “operate freely in areas that are necessary and appropriate for it to achieve its economic development mission.”

The agency, which formerly claimed to not have known a “clear definition” of influencing legislation, will not be subjected to fines or penalties as part of the settlement.

Robert Bishop, a lawyer representing FWCLDC, said the group also plans to comply with the new agreement.

“The LDC is a great organization that does great things, and we will continue to do great things,” he said.

Shulman declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the mild rebuke from the state is drawing heat from the city comptroller, who said the restructuring alone is insufficient and pushed for organization officials to be held accountable.

“While these revelations of illegal lobbying are alarming, we cannot say that they come as a surprise,” said Comptroller John Liu. “For some time, this mayor has been using the EDC to create ‘astroturf’ groups to support his agenda, reward allies and dole out welfare to wealthy corporations.”

Willets Point United members said the investigation confirms their original suspicions that the entire land use review process was based on fraudulent and illegal behavior. They urged the city to end all recent and future actions regarding the area’s development.

“Our properties were put at risk by an illegal scheme, and we were forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect our constitutionally protected rights against a municipality and its front group engaged in activities that were rife with fraud,” the group said in a statement.

Police Bust 14 In Queens, Brooklyn Auto Theft Ring


| jlane@queenscourier.com


Law enforcement officials bust an international auto theft ring based in Queens.

Officials say 14 people were arrested after a year-long investigation led by the NYPD and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office.

They’re accused of stealing Toyotas and high-end Lexus models off Brooklyn and Queens streets by using portable computers to access vehicle information numbers.

The data was then used to obtain key codes from an employee at a Florida dealership involved in the ring.

[NY1]

AG announces foreclosure prevention grants


| aaltman@queenscourier.com


Statistics show that Queens is the borough with the highest share of first-time foreclosures in 2012, and now Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced that his office plans to award $3 million in foreclosure prevention services to assist New Yorkers struggling with possible foreclosure. The grant includes $1.5 million for organizations serving New York City.

In January, Schneiderman sought assistance from 31 non-profit legal outfits and legal-aid organizations to provide services to homeowners in foreclosure or at risk.
“As our state faces tight budget times, we must be creative and aggressive in our efforts to support working families who are struggling to stay in their homes,” said Schneiderman. “Funding legal services is essential to bringing relief for the homeowners and communities that have been devastated by the crash of the housing market, and these grants will provide thousands of New Yorkers with the legal expertise they desperately need to defend their rights in court.”

Schneiderman designated a separate $15 million of the $132 million out of the national mortgage servicing settlement as additional funding for foreclosure prevention; $9 million of those funds will be set aside to help the state’s Foreclosure Prevention Services Program – a service previously set to expire on April 1, and $6 million will go towards housing and community renewal initiatives statewide.