Tag Archives: jamaica

Ex-teacher from Forest Hills cops plea in Internet sex sting


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A former high school teacher from Forest Hills admitted in court Friday that he tried to lure someone whom he believed was a teen girl into a sexual tryst but who turned out to be an undercover officer, prosecutors announced.

Monsur Khan, 31, pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted criminal sexual act before Queens Criminal Court Judge John Zoll. Khan faces 30 days in jail and 10 years probation upon sentencing, which is set for June 16.

“The defendant has now admitted his guilt and will surrender his teaching license and register as a sex offender,” District Attorney Richard Brown said. “Parents must always monitor their children’s activities online to ensure that they are not being lured into dangerous situations.”

Formerly an earth science teacher at the Hillside Arts and Letters Academy in Jamaica, Khan first made contact online with the undercover officer — who was posing as a 14-year-old girl — on Feb. 12, 2014, authorities said. Over the next six weeks, Khan repeatedly sent illicit messages to the undercover agent and indicated his desire for an encounter.

Hillside Arts and Letters Academy is located within the campus of the former Jamaica High School.

On March 26, 2014, Khan showed up at a pre-arranged meeting place in Queens and was subsequently taken into custody.

As part of his sentence, Brown noted, Khan will also be required to complete a sex offender program and forfeit electronic devices that police seized from him.

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Cops shoot and kill man suspected of firing gun inside Jamaica bar


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Property Shark/Christopher Bride

Updated Friday, April 24, 9:51 a.m.

Police shot and killed a man Wednesday night after he allegedly fired a gun inside a Jamaica bar and shot at cops as they tried to chase him down, authorities said.

Officers were called to the Irish Hillside Inn, at the corner of 168th Street and Hillside Avenue, at about 9:15 p.m. after they received a report of shots fired inside the bar.

According to published reports, the trouble began when 30-year-old Jonathan Efraim, who had been staying with his girlfriend just a few blocks away, walked into the establishment about an hour before cops were called. At one point, he started a conversation with a 72-year-old man, and the bartender, feeling the need the intervene, told the elderly patron that he had a cab waiting.

That’s when Efraim reportedly shouted, “No one’s going anywhere,” and fired a gunshot into the ceiling.

Officers encountered Efraim outside the bar and, when they identified themselves and told him to stop, he took off toward 168th Place and Highland Avenue, authorities said. That’s where he stopped, turned and shot at the officers.

Efraim then continued to flee down 168th Place towards Hillside Avenue, where he again stopped and pointed his weapon in the direction of the officers, police said. Two officers then fired in his direction a total of five times, striking him in the torso.

EMS rushed Efraim to Jamaica Hospital, where he died.

The two officers who discharged their weapons were taken to North Shore Medical Center for treatment of tinnitus. No other injuries were reported.

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A loaded 9-mm Glock 9 handgun that police said belonged to Efraim was recovered at the scene.

Efraim served in the U.S. Marines from 2004 to 2007 and had a lengthy rap sheet, according to published reports. He had 16 prior arrests, and, The New York Times reported, had most recently been arrested in April 2012 in Staten Island and charged with criminal mischief and menacing a police officer. He also had a history of psychiatric issues, including a suicide attempt in 2003, The New York Times also reported. According to The Wall Street Journal,  police had responded to five emotional disturbance calls from 1998 to 2014 involving Efraim.

Efraim’s death is reportedly the NYPD’s first fatal police-involved shooting of this year.

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Briarwood teacher to fly with NASA


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

SOFIA

BY ANGELA MATUA

A Briarwood teacher is about to get a closer look at the final frontier.

Melissa Aguirre of J.H.S. 217 will take flight as part of a NASA program committed to exposing educators to the scientific research process.

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program started as a pilot program in 2011 and flies a group of 28 educators on two 10-hour overnight sessions to observe space through the largest airborne telescope.

Aguirre, a Queens native, was chosen for the highly selective program after a rigorous application process, which included a proposal to describe how she would use her experience to educate students in her home district.

Though Aguirre’s background is in history and English as a second language, the program accepts educators from all backgrounds. Aguirre co-founded a charter school in Washington, D.C., called the Latin American Youth Center Career Academy, which prepares returning students ages 16 to 24 to have careers as medical assistants and IT technicians.

Melissa Aguirre 2 (1)

“I was working at a school that has a STEM focus,” Aguirre said. “I really believe that all of us needed to show that interest and that was the primary reason I applied. How do I get young folks interested in these fields, especially women of color … who were the majority of the students I was working with, how do I get them involved in the field when we as educators aren’t involved as well?”

SOFIA’s Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program was conceived after published research proved that educators who participate in these programs stay in the teaching profession and inspire students to engage with the sciences, according to Director of Education and Public Outreach Dana Backman.

“We’re operating based on published research that educators who get this kind of experience, exposure to science as it’s really done, they’re motivated to stay in the teaching profession because overturn of the teaching profession is a huge problem, especially in the sciences,” Backman said.

Educators selected for the program, which have included museum dossiers and planetarium directors, also have to take a four-month astronomy course from Montana State University before stepping into the plane.

“This course is very challenging but it’s compelling me to think about how I teach,” Aguirre said. “I’m having some of the similar struggles that many of my students have…but then I need to rethink how am I breaking this down for my students and is this working for me now that I am a student as well.”

SOFIA, a Boeing 747SP aircraft, is equipped with a 100-inch, 17-ton telescope and other instruments that allow scientists to gain a deeper understanding of a number of topics including the formation of stars and planets, the Milky Way, planetary science and more.

While on the plane, educators interact with astronomers, airplane technicians, software engineers, bookkeepers and other staff. Backman said this process allows educators to communicate to students that a Ph.D. in astronomy is not necessary to work in and engage with the sciences.

Aguirre is excited to show her students what she has learned through the program and will work with them to discover what they want to learn.

“There will be opportunities to infuse the curriculum with these resources and also develop after-school opportunities for students who are interested in them,” Aguirre said. She also hopes to inspire “students, especially girls who may not see these careers as possibilities, to see that they are possibilities.”

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As Jamaica blooms, so will the School of Business at York College


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of York College 

Now that the city has launched its Jamaica Now Action Plan to revitalize the neighborhood, more and more businesses are expected to migrate to the area.

York College, a City University of New York (CUNY) institution that has a 50-acre campus in downtown Jamaica, is hoping to be an incubator and usher in new companies to the neighborhood, and also partner with them for the benefit of students.

The school has already been negotiating with businesses looking to move to and grow in Jamaica through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s START-UP NY tax-free program.

In addition to York’s business networking, the school plans to add a nine-story, 162,988-square-foot Academic Village and Conference Center (AVCC) in the near future. The center will further promote business as it will be anchored by the School of Business at York, providing the next generation of managers, company owners and entrepreneurs with modern classrooms and more services.

The new building, which was approved by the CUNY board of trustees back in 2011, will replace the aging 4,000-square-foot Classroom Building at 94-43 159th St., which was the first structure built on York’s campus.

Updated renderings of the Ennead Architects-designed center reveal a modern glassy exterior. School officials believe it will revolutionize the experience at York not only because of its appearance, but also because of the various amenities in the building. In addition to the business school, the building will house a bookstore, student common and recreation spaces, a conference center and some administrative offices.

“It will sort of serve as our front door,” said York College President Marcia Keizs. “It will really be, in our minds, a critical facility for us.”

Permits have yet to be filed for the new structure with the Department of Buildings, and the project still needs more funding, according to Keizs.

She added that an anticipated completion date has not been decided.

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Queens arts center looks to become one-stop shop for artists and community


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning

BY ANGELA MATUA

After experiencing financial struggles amid an economic downturn, the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning (JCAL) is restructuring to sustain its programming.

JCAL, created in 1972 to revitalize a section of New York City that was lacking cultural opportunities, has opened its doors to the community to inspire children to take an interest in the arts and to artists as a place to cultivate their work.

Tonya Cantlo-Cockfield, president of JCAL, said the restructuring was necessary to preserve the quality of the center’s programs and events.

“We’ve tried to sustain the programming at JCAL but we couldn’t continue in the manner that we were for the organization,” Cantlo-Cockfield said. “So we decided to restructure, which unfortunately resulted in layoffs from staff.”

Staff members received a “generous severance package for their service to the organization for many years and to the community,” according to Cantlo-Cockfield.

Executive Director Cathy Hung, who joined JCAL last year after working at the New York Chinese Cultural Center as executive director for almost five years, said this change would not affect the big plans they have envisioned for the center.

“Nothing has changed in result of the structuring,” Hung said. “In the process of setting up all the programs for next year, we are really, truly excited about the new upcoming season and we will share with the public shortly when this information is finished.”

JCAL’s headquarters recently underwent a $10 million renovation, which includes an array of art galleries, dance spaces, music studios, visual arts classrooms and a visitor’s center. The renovation was subsidized by the city along with the conversion of the Jamaica Performing Arts Center located three blocks away, which used to be a Dutch reformed church.

JCAL staff members work closely with schools in the area, specifically with principals, teachers and parent teacher association coordinators to curate in-school, after-school and summer arts programs.

The Art Center Workshops offer a variety of classes in dance, movement arts, drama, visual arts and music. At the end of each session, children present what they have learned at an annual student recital, which will take place this year on Friday, June 13.

JCAL also fosters local artists and allows them to use the center’s space for free, Hung said.

Artists Co-Op is a program designed specifically to give Queens-based artists a chance to produce and present their work at a respected gallery for free.

Artist residencies, which last from three months to a year, allow artists to work on their art in designated studios and showcase their work at any point of production. Once the artist is ready to show his or her work, JCAL is in charge of all the press and promotion.

The addition of the Jamaica Performing Arts Center allows for JCAL to exhibit “high-quality” performances for the community, Hung said.

The 400-seat auditorium hosts a variety of performances including opera performances, Shakespeare productions, dance productions and more. The dance residency was recently added to provide individual dancers, companies and choreographers a space to rehearse and present their work.

The annual Making Moves Dance Festival, which takes place this year on September 27, stemmed from an effort to make the space available to dancers, according to Hung. JCAL also commissions new work so that dancers can use the space to create a performance and receive compensation.

Hung said the center strives to become a place where the community can access affordable programs, educators and students can receive quality workshops and classes, and artists can utilize the space for all of their activities.

“Basically, we are the one-stop shop,” Hung said. “We really, truly have the capacity to realize that and to make it happen and we are slowly going to that direction.”

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Launch of ‘Action Plan’ hopes to spark new beginning in Jamaica


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Signaling the beginning of a new era for Jamaica, politicians and community leaders announced Wednesday the launch of the Jamaica Now Action Plan, which is designed to revitalize the neighborhood through promoting development, events and jobs.

After nine months of vetting ideas with the community, officials unveiled the 21-step action plan, 16 of which will be implemented within three years and cost $153 million. The plan’s initiatives hope to create 3,000 new housing units, 500,000 square feet of retail space and 800 hotel rooms in five years, according to officials.

For Jamaica residents, it means a safer downtown with free public Wi-Fi, new streetscapes, more events and job opportunities. For business owners and art institutions, there will be resources to help grow their organizations and companies. And for developers, the city is prepared to support new projects, especially those with affordable housing, in downtown Jamaica, which some have named “DoJam.”

“Queens is the number one destination of choice in the United States of America for the year 2015,” Borough President Melinda Katz said. “And what we did here today as a partnership is to make sure that Jamaica is an active participant in the number one destination; that folks come from all around the world just to visit Jamaica, Queens. ”

Some actions included in the plan are already taking place, such as the NYC Economic Development Corporation’s request for proposals for builders to replace the NYPD garage on 168th Street with a mixed-use residential project, and the Small Business Services grant to help fund redesigns of storefronts on Sutphin Boulevard.

However, others will take at least five years, such as a plan to convince owners of vacant or neglected properties to utilize their sites. Another longer-term project includes constructing new water mains to accommodate the increase in new developments.

Some other highlights of the plan include a $250,000 study to improve the attractiveness of Jamaica Avenue, the installation of more NYPD cameras around the community, and the implementation of a new Select Bus Service route from Jamaica to Flushing.

Although not originally part of the 21 actions, Alicia Glen, deputy mayor for housing and economic development, announced five additional plans to help improve the area, including a branding program for Jamaica and an initiative to draw more tourists to Jamaica’s cultural institutions.

Also, “DoJam” will be included in the city’s LinkNYC network, which replaces old payphones with touchscreen kiosks that provide free public Wi-Fi, phone calls, directions and charging stations for mobile devices.

Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen talking to a crowd about the Jamaica Now Action Plan.

Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen talking to a crowd about the Jamaica Now Action Plan.

“I have seen the many changes in Jamaica,” Assemblyman William Scarborough said. “I remember going back when we had a Mays and a Macy’s and we had three movie [theaters] on Jamaica Avenue. Now Jamaica is back on an upswing. This is going to be one of the bright lights in the city of New York.”

The city has been working to revitalize Jamaica for decades after its economic downturn in the ’70s and ’80s with various investments such as the construction of the JFK AirTrain in 2003, and the rezoning of the downtown area in 2007, which paved the way for more development. Seeing the potential with the transit hub and low land rates, real estate investors have also been buying large properties and planning more projects in Jamaica.

Carlisle Towery, who has led the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation for 40 years, has long advocated for many infrastructure investments that helped guide Jamaica back from its dark era where businesses were quickly leaving. While he is retiring this year, Towery said the action plan is just the beginning of the future of Jamaica.

“My career is ending, but it’s very nice and gratifying to end it with a beginning,” he said. “And Jamaica Now is that beginning. It’s the start of a big step forward in moving Jamaica to the next level.”

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Robbery suspect caught on video during dramatic holdup at Springfield Gardens Subway restaurant


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Video courtesy of NYPD

Police have released video footage of a March stickup at a Springfield Gardens Subway restaurant showing an employee struggling with the armed robber who, along with a partner, is wanted for two other heists.

The pair are accused of first robbing a Subway restaurant at 127-02 Merrick Blvd. in Jamaica on Jan. 1 at about 9:20 p.m., authorities said. After entering the eatery, the first suspect put a gun to one victim’s head and demanded money while the second suspect held another victim to the floor.

The suspects, who were wearing masks and dark clothing, then took about $500 before fleeing on foot southbound on 127th Avenue.

On Jan. 3, at about 10 p.m., they targeted a Fresh Meadows gas station at 181-05 Horace Harding Expy., according to police. The two suspects entered the business wearing masks, gloves and dark clothing, and displayed a silver firearm before taking around $500.

In the latest incident, on March 17, at about 10 p.m., an unknown number of suspects who were wearing masks, gloves and black hooded jackets came into a Springfield Gardens Subway restaurant, located at 219-25 North Conduit Ave., displayed a dark gray handgun and demanded that safe be opened, police said.

As video footage released by the NYPD shows, one of the suspects briefly struggled with an employee over his gun. The suspects then fled on foot eastbound on North Conduit Avenue.

No injuries were reported to police in any of the incidents.

The suspects are described as two black men, between 5 feet 9 inches to 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing between 190 to 230 pounds.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

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Sneak peek inside the newest face of luxury in Jamaica


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre 

While community leaders and political officials are working to revitalize Jamaica and hope to hasten an impending real estate boom, a new luxury rental building is opening on the edge of the neighborhood ahead of the explosion.

TCX Development, which is working on numerous projects in Jamaica on the idea that the area is overdue for a transformation, hopes to complete its building at 190-11 Hillside Ave. this month and begin marketing in a few weeks. The Courier got a quick peek inside what owners of the building are calling “Manhattan-style apartments in Jamaica.”

The seven-story apartment building has 21 one-bedroom units and one three-bedroom penthouse.

The units all have modern finishes and luxury touches, such as floor-to-ceiling windows, granite countertops and hardwood floors. Each apartment has a balcony and the penthouse features a wrap-around balcony. One of the penthouse suite’s three bedrooms has a skylight.

Additionally, the rooms include video intercoms and remote-controlled air conditioning and heating, as well as new appliances.

The one-bedroom apartments offer about 680 square feet of space and will retail for about $1,650 per month. The developers aren’t ready to release the price of the penthouse.

The building is also offering 11 parking spots.

 

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Jamaica revitalization to benefit from state Brownfield Opportunity Area designation


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

In a sign that the state is looking to help spur Jamaica’s revitalization, 132 acres near the LIRR and JFK AirTrain transit hub have been designated as a Brownfield Opportunity Area, meaning development projects there could receive public funds.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the designation Thursday along with 11 others at sites around the state.

The Brownfield Opportunity Area Program is a state initiative that seeks to transform potentially contaminated or polluted places to better utilized areas. The downtown Jamaica area has 224 potential brownfield sites near the rail station.

Being located in the newly designated area now gives property owners and developers access to Brownfield Cleanup Program tax incentives and they have priority to state grants for projects.

“By designating these sites as Brownfield Opportunity Areas, we are helping to reimagine their potential as vibrant parts of the surrounding communities,” Cuomo said. “This distinction allows us to put their rehabilitation on the fast track with additional state resources, and that means new development, jobs and opportunities in the future.”

Downtown Jamaica, especially near the transit hub area, has seen a lot of real estate development action recently as the market is heating up.

Huge projects, including a 210-room, 24-story hotel nearby the LIRR and AirTrain station at 93-43 Sutphin Blvd. and a $225 million mixed-use, 29-story residential and commercial tower at 93-01 Sutphin Blvd., are coming to the area soon.

Also, massive properties were sold or listed in downtown Jamaica recently, including a 90,000-square-foot building and parking garage at 163-05 and 163-25 Archer Ave. that sold for $22 million in October last year.

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Bandits behind armed robbery at Jamaica bodega still at large


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo/video courtesy of NYPD

Police continue to search for two men who robbed a Jamaica grocery store at gunpoint last week.

The heist happened at 3 p.m. on April 7 inside the Stop 1 bodega located at 137-38 Jamaica Ave., authorities said.

According to police, one of the two suspects displayed a black firearm upon entering the business and demanded cash from a store clerk. Both suspects then walked behind the counter, grabbed more than $500 in cash and fled the scene in an unknown direction.


The NYPD described the gun-toting crook as a 30-year-old black male standing 5 foot 9 inches tall, weighing 180 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.

His accomplice was described by police as a black male last seen wearing a New York Yankees baseball cap, a dark jacket and blue jeans.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

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Queens contractor arrested for kickback scheme against employees


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

A Queens contractor was arrested for allegedly running a kickback scheme — illegally taking a portion of workers’ wages — and underpaying employees for a grand total of about $9,300 for work on the Pomonok Houses in Fresh Meadows, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Wednesday.

Jagdish Singh and his Jamaica-based company Navico B & S Construction Corp. were charged with grand larceny in the fourth degree, offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree, falsifying business records in the first degree, kickback of wages and failure to pay wages. Singh faces up to four years in prison, according to Schneiderman.

Singh, 57, allegedly demanded kickbacks and underpayed workers for scaffolding jobs done at the Pomonok Houses, a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) property, in 2014.

The contractor took $5,785 in wages from one worker and $1,006 from another, according to Schneiderman. He also underpaid a third worker by $2,520, Schneiderman said.

The arrest was part of a citywide bust that targeted illegal wage theft on public construction projects during a two-year period.

A total of five contractors were arrested and charged with underpaying nearly $1 million in wages to employees, who were working on the renovation of P.S. 7X in the Bronx, carpentry work for the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development’s Sugar Hill Houses in Harlem and NYCHA’s Pomonok Houses.

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Jamaica man convicted in shooting death of newlywed during 2011 robbery


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Gavel 2

A 23-year-old Jamaica man was found guilty this week for his role in the deadly shooting and robbery of a young woman as she was walking home with her new husband in Hollis four years ago, prosecutors said.

Rohan R. Hankerson was convicted Wednesday of one count of second-degree murder, one count of first-degree robbery, two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, two counts of fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property and eight counts of fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, according to the Queens District Attorney’s office.

According to trial testimony, Rabia Mohammed, 23, and her husband of five months were walking on 204th Street near 93rd Avenue just after 8:30 p.m. on March 13, 2011, when Hankerson’s alleged accomplices — Ian R. Green, Tiyquon Hodges and Corey Brown — came up behind the couple.

Two of those men allegedly threw Mohammed’s husband to the ground and one said to her, “Give me the bag.” Brown struggled with the woman for her purse, and when she screamed Green pulled out a gun and fatally shot her in the chest. Hankerson was the getaway driver for the group, according to prosecutors.

In May 2013, Green, 21, of Queens, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree manslaughter, four counts of first-degree robbery (for his involvement in four other robberies that occurred between March 4, 2011, and March 17, 2011) and one count of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and first-degree manslaughter, according to the district attorney’s office. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Brown, 21, of Brooklyn, pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery in March 2014 and was sentenced to 23 years in prison. Hodges, 20, of Jamaica, is currently awaiting trial on second-degree murder and other charges for his alleged involvement in the shooting incident.

Hankerson’s sentencing is set for May 6. He faces up to 49 years to life in prison.

“His actions have caused a great deal of pain and inconsolable loss to the victim’s husband and family,” District Attorney Richard Brown said. “ As such, the imposition of a lengthy prison sentence is more than warranted.”

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Suspect robs Hilton near JFK: NYPD


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Sketch courtesy of NYPD

Police are looking for a man who is suspected of stealing $500 from a Hilton Garden Inn near JFK Airport Monday night.

The robbery occurred at a hotel at 148-18 134th St., near S. Conduit Avenue in Jamaica, at about 6:50 p.m.

The suspect entered the Hilton and showed a note to the front desk employee demanding cash. He then took $500 before fleeing in an unknown direction, police said.

Authorities described the suspect as a black man, about 25 to 35 years old, standing between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 8 inches tall, with a medium build.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

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Two Jamaica women accused of plotting terrorist attack


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons/Stu Rapley

Updated Friday, April 3, 10:14 a.m.

Federal agents arrested two Jamaica women Thursday for plotting to carry out a terrorist attack on American soil, officials said.

Noelle Velentzas, 28, of Inwood Avenue and Asia Siddiqui (the latter also known as Najma Samaa and Murdiyyah), 31, of 84th Road, who were former roommates, were taken into custody Thursday morning as a result of an investigation dating back to May 2013. They are U.S. citizens and, up until recently, shared an apartment at an unspecified Queens location.

According to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, Velentzas and Siddiqui allegedly shared “violent jihadist beliefs,” openly sympathized with known terrorists, made contact with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and expressed a desire to launch an attack of their own in the U.S.

They reportedly educated themselves on bomb-making and visited local stores to purchase or research materials typically used to construct explosive devices.

Upon her arrest, Siddiqui had in her possession numerous propane tanks and instructions for converting them into explosive devices, federal sources said. Those instructions were reportedly downloaded from an online jihadist publication.

Their plot was foiled, however, through the efforts of an undercover federal agent, who obtained information from them through numerous meetings and conversations over the last two years.

“We are committed to doing everything in our ability to detect, disrupt and deter attacks by homegrown violent extremists,” U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta E. Lynch said in a statement. “As alleged, the defendants in this case carefully studied how to construct an explosive device to launch an attack on the homeland. We remain firm in our resolve to hold accountable anyone who would seek to terrorize the American people, whether by traveling abroad to commit attacks overseas or by plotting here at home.”

Law enforcement sources said Siddiqui’s alleged terrorism ties date back to 2006, when she became close with Samir Khan, who later became a prominent figure in AQAP. Khan left the U.S. for Yemen following his relationship with Siddiqui and wrote propaganda magazines and bomb-making manuals for terrorists.

In September 2011, Siddiqui allegedly sent a sympathetic letter to Mohammad Mohamud, who was in federal prison for plotting to bomb a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon, in 2010, authorities said.

Federal authorities intercepted the letter, which had the return address listed as “Najma Samaa” from 94-20 Guy R. Brewer Blvd. in Jamaica — the actual address of York College, from where Siddiqui graduated.

Velentzas, in meeting with the undercover operative in 2013, praised the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and praised its mastermind, Osama bin Laden, as her hero. To illustrate that point, she showed the agent her cellphone, which had as its background image a picture of bin Laden carrying an AK-47 machine gun.

Following the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013 — in which two terrorists converted pressure cookers into deadly explosive devices — Velentzas reportedly became obsessed with using pressure cookers as weapons.

FBI agents interviewed Siddiqui at LaGuardia Airport in July 2014, during which she denied having any connection to terrorists. After being allowed to leave, she reportedly told the undercover agent that she believed the agency was onto her and that she must delete incriminating “stuff” from her email accounts.

Between August 2014 and this February, Velentzas and Siddiqui allegedly continued talking about previous terrorist attacks —such as the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, in which a fertilizer bomb in a truck was used to destroy the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building — and researching bomb-making skills. They visited a local Home Depot and other stores and browsed through or purchased items known to be bomb-making components.

According to federal agents, in discussing specific, high-profile targets Velentzas mentioned in December 2014 potentially striking a police funeral, considering that the funeral that month for Detective Rafael Ramos in Glendale drew 25,000 mourners.

Velentzas and Siddiqui, who were ordered held without bail during their arraignment Thursday afternoon, were charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction against persons or property in the U.S. and face life in prison if convicted.

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Video released in search for shooter who killed 70-year-old Jamaica woman


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Twitter/@NYPD113Pct

Police are continuing to look for the shooter who gunned down a 70-year-old Jamaica woman after she answered her door in the middle of the night.

According to authorities, Leta Webb heard a knock at the door of her 119th Avenue home at about 1:40 a.m. Tuesday, authorities said. When she opened the door, the shooter fired, striking her in the head and left arm.

Webb was taken to Jamaica Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Police did not immediately have a motive for the shooting and said there were no arrests. According to published reports, her family has said Webb, who was not home alone at the time of the shooting, was likely not the intended target and the incident could have been gang-related.


The NYPD is offering up to a $2,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest and indictment in Webb’s murder. Authorities also released video footage Wednesday of a white Ford Econoline Van that a suspect or suspects used immediately following the shooting.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.  

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