Tag Archives: john Liu

Audit finds co-op, condo property values inflated


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/PHOTOS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breakdown of affected units by neighborhood:

BAYSIDE

14

BEECHHURST

3

BELLE HARBOR

1

CORONA

1

DOUGLASTON

6

FLUSHING-NORTH

11

FLUSHING-SOUTH

8

FOREST HILLS

3

GLEN OAKS

20

HOLLIS

2

HOLLIS HILLS

2

JACKSON HEIGHTS

2

JAMAICA

1

LITTLE NECK

3

OAKLAND GARDENS

5

QUEENS VILLAGE

1

REGO PARK

1

SOUTH JAMAICA

1

WHITESTONE

7

This Morning’s Headlines


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Queens Students Spend Whole Vacation With High-Stakes State Test Preps

School’s out this week, but it’s business as usual at P.S. 15 in Springfield Gardens, Queens. Almost all third through fifth grade students have been showing up each morning for class, and the subject is test prep. “I thought it would be important for them to stay on the regular schedule. Especially getting up in the morning, it’s very essential, and still doing the schoolwork, which would maintain the momentum,” said P.S. 15 Principal Antonio K’Tori. Read More: NY1

 

 

Cops warned of ‘Drano bomb’ threat

Cops in the Rockaways have been targeted for an attack with “Drano bombs,” the Daily News has learned. The NYPD issued a citywide alert Tuesday warning officers about “Drano bombs,” also known as “bottle bombs,” that “are exploded by readily mixing available household products in plastic containers.” Police sources said that while the alert went to every precinct, the greatest concern is in the Rockaways. Read More: Daily News

Kuroda faces tough test, worrisome trend in move from NL to AL

Orlando Hernandez, Jon Lieber and Shawn Chacon. You now know the only three starters acquired during general manager Brian Cashman’s tenure who have enjoyed Yankee success without having spent considerable time in the American League beforehand. It is not much of a list and El Duque is the only member who sustained a positive run with the Yankees. Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees’ starter in today’s home opener, is trying to expand that small group. Read More: New York Post

Rangers Win Playoff Opener 4-1 Over Ottawa At MSG

Henrik Lundqvist made 30 saves and Brian Boyle got the eventual game-winning goal as the New York Rangers defeated the Ottawa Senators in their playoff opener Thursday night. The 4-2 win sent a happy crowd home from Madison Square Garden. Rangers captain Ryan Callahan opened the scoring for the Blueshirts midway through the first period, only to see the Senators take back the momentum in the second. But Rangers coach John Tortorella called a pivotal timeout, and his team responded with goals by Marian Gaborik, Boyle, and Brad Richards. Read More: NY1

 

 

‘Jamaica Bay Lives!’ documentary highlights problems affecting Queens estuary

Old saris, uncooked rice and flags featuring Hindu deities floating in Jamaica Bay would appear, to many people, as nothing more than litter. But for Indo-Caribbean immigrants, leaving the items on the Rockaway shore was once considered the only way to complete the sacred offering known as a Puja. Enter Kamini Doobay, a 23-year-old clinical researcher, trying to reconcile her religious beliefs with her concern for the environment. In 2009, Doobay began raising awareness of the problem and successfully convinced some of her fellow worshippers to reuse any non-biodegradable items, rather than leave them in the bay. Read More: Daily News

Queens co-ops $crewed: Liu

Queens co-op and condo owners who complained last year of wildly inflated property assessments were right on the mark, city Comptroller John Liu reported yesterday. Liu said his auditors determined that the market value of co-ops citywide went up 12 percent in the tentative 2011-12 property tax rolls — while Queens co-ops were hit with an average 32 percent hike. Liu also said a review of all 859 co-op complexes in Queens turned up 92 that were mistakenly “over-valued” by as much as 25 percent. Read More: New York Post

2-year-old girl forgotten aboard private schoolbus in Queens

A 2-year-old girl was forgotten aboard a private schoolbus after her driver parked the vehicle on a Queens street and went home, police said. The child was rescued after a passing Con-Ed worker spotted her inside the bus on Christie Avenue and 99th Street in Corona and called cops. The driver, Ana Garcia, 62, was arrested at her nearby 99th Street home and charged with failure to exercise control of a minor. Read More: New York Post

This Morning’s Headlines


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

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

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

Wife bares hero’s stand

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

Surfin’ US‘O’

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

Delta Launches Construction Of New Domestic Hub At LaGuardia

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

 

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

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

This Morning’s Headlines


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Carmelo’s inspiring game despite the pain leads Knicks to win

The pain in Reed’s hip was probably a little sharper than the ache in Carmelo Anthony’s groin, the needle a little longer in 1970, the stakes far higher. This wasn’t Game 7 of the Finals with a title on the table, merely Game 51 of a lockout-cleaved season with a chance to gaze the northern side of .500 for the first time since mid January 16. Read More: New York Post

Elevator man electrocuted

An elevator mechanic was electrocuted last night at a Midtown office building, authorities said. The 39-year-old victim was found dead at around 9:30 p.m. in the ninth-floor mechanical room at 1290 Sixth Avenue. “Two engineers found him,” said a building employee who didn’t want to give his name. “He was a very nice guy,” the employee said of the victim, who had worked at the building for five years. Read More: New York Post

Liu’s aide pulling strings

Comptroller John Liu has turned to his top political adviser, Chung Seto, for more than just campaign advice — he has actually let her run much of his office, even though she is not a city employee, The Post has learned. Seto, who orchestrated Liu’s political ascent, has been dealing with everything from redecorating to communications with the White House — and has even referred financial advisers to the city’s pension czar, according to e-mails between Seto and Comptroller’s Office staffers obtained by The Post through a freedom- of-information request. Read More: New York Post

Westchester Man Charged With Ill-Fated Assault In Subway Station

Police have arrested and charged Ryan Beauchamp, a Westchester resident, in connection with a fight last week at a Brooklyn subway station that left another man dead. Beauchamp, 33, is facing two misdemeanor charges of attempted assault and harassment. Investigators say Beauchamp was drunk and got into a fight with Joshua Basin, 20, on Friday night at the L train stop at Bedford Avenue. Read More: NY1

 

 

 

JetBlue Captain Charged With Interfering With Crew On NYC Flight To Vegas

A JetBlue captain who acted erratically and had to be restrained onboard a Las Vegas-bound flight from New York was charged Wednesday with interfering with the crew and has been suspended. The captain of Flight 191, 49-year-old Clayton Osbon, seen above, was caught on video yelling about a bomb. A newly released court document says Osbon was still in the cockpit when he rambled about religion, turned off radio controls and dimmed monitors. He allegedly told the co-pilot to take a leap of faith and then stormed out of the cockpit. Read More: NY1

 

 

Trayvon Martin case: Shooter George Zimmerman appears uninjured in police video on night of shooting

Explosive video reveals that George Zimmerman appeared uninjured when he arrived at a Florida police station the night he shot Trayvon Martin — his nose is not broken or bleeding and the back of his head is unmarked by grass or bruising. The Sanford, Fla., Police Department says it did not arrest the Hispanic neighborhood watchman who killed the unarmed black teenager because Trayvon was pounding his head into the ground and Zimmerman shot in self-defense. Read More: Daily News

Days after exposé, Gov. Cuomo bans ‘legal pot’ statewide

Synthetic marijuana — the dangerous designer drug sold as herbal incense — is being banned statewide. The order from the state Health Department will go out Thursday, a week after the Daily News revealed the fake weed is sending young New Yorkers to the emergency room. “We are banning the sale of synthetic marijuana because, no matter what you call it, it’s clear that this is an illegal drug which is putting the health of New Yorkers, especially young adults, at risk,” Gov. Cuomo told The News. Read More: Daily News

This Morning’s Headlines


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Cops roust Occupy crowd from Union Square

Cops shut down Union Square and kicked out a large crowd of Occupy Wall Street protesters last night, arresting one demonstrator just days after larger clashes at the group’s former encampment downtown. Police surrounded the historic park with metal barricades just after midnight, citing a longstanding — but apparently often unenforced — rule that the park be closed in the overnight hours, as a crowd of more than 100 taunted officers. Read More: New York Post

 

Feds say Queens super wanted to sell guns to terror group Hezbollah

A Queens super attempted to sell guns to the terror group Hezbollah because he “long dreamed of making big money” as an arms dealer, a Manhattan federal prosecutors charged Monday. Patrick Nayyar was thwarted only because the man he arranged the deal with was an FBI informant, prosecutor Stephen Ritchin told jurors. Read More: Daily News
 

Two die in bloody day of violence in Brooklyn

Two people were killed and three others wounded during a wave of violence in Brooklyn yesterday. A gunman shot a 21-year-old man several times at the Ingersoll Houses in Fort Greene at about 8:20 p.m. — possibly for retribution for a shooting in the housing development two years ago. About an hour earlier, an 18-year-old woman was shot in East New York, authorities said. She was in stable condition. Read More: New York Post

 

Bullets fly in chase

A suspected car thief led cops on a wild, Hollywood-style chase through the streets of Brooklyn yesterday, dodging roadblocks and gunfire before he was finally cornered. Officials said patrol officers from the 75th Precinct stopped a black Mercedes-Benz on Pennsylvania Avenue in East New York shortly before 9:30 a.m. because they suspected the car was stolen. Read More: New York Post

 

Police Arrest Suspect In Fatal Staten Island Stabbing

A suspect wanted in the deadly stabbing of a Staten Island groom-to-be over the weekend was in police custody on Tuesday. Redinel Dervishaj, a 35-year-old waiter, was picked up by U.S. Marshals at his aunt’s house in a suburb of Chicago, according to sources. Antonio Lacertosa, 27, was stabbed in the torso early Saturday morning outside the Espana Restaurant in Annadale. Investigators say Lacertosa was celebrating his engagement to his high school sweetheart at the restaurant. Read More: NY1

 

Liu backs $$ gal

Embattled city Comptroller John Liu sprang to the defense of his indicted campaign treasurer and defiantly insisted his staff did everything it could to make sure donations were legal, despite federal charges against the treasurer and a key fund-raiser. “I don’t believe it’s our campaign’s responsibility or any campaign’s responsibility to verify the home address, to verify the work address, to essentially run a credit check on any donor,” Liu said in response to allegations that his campaign made use of straw donors who funneled illegal contributions from wealthy individuals into the campaign. “Do we operate differently than other campaigns? Absolutely not.” Read More: New York Post

 

Cop rips punk in hero brother’s gun death

The police-officer brother of a Queens man fatally shot defending his father from a crew of housebreakers stared down the thug who set up the robbery yesterday, calling him a “drug addict, coward, savage.” Geraldo Antoniello was shot in the head Sept. 9, 2009, by one of four punks savagely beating his dad, the owner of a popular pizzeria in Howard Beach. Read More: New York Post

 

 

Brooklyn Gym Teacher Charged With Groping Student

A Brooklyn physical education teacher was arrested and awaiting arraignment Tuesday on charges he inappropriately touched one of his teenage students. Police say Esran Boothe, 49, is charged with forcible touching and sexual abuse in the third degree. The city Department of Education says Boothe was re-assigned from his position at the Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment on Classon Avenue in Crown Heights and is now on administrative leave. Read More: NY1

 

Far Rockaway Playground Under Construction Receives Major Damage

Looking at the broken plastic, mangled metal and bent iron at the Beach 29th street playground in Far Rockaway, Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said the facility’s June opening might be delayed and the damage will cost the city tens of thousands of dollars. “We know that we lost a number of the slides, the platforms, some of the fencing, the climbing apparatuses have been damaged,” said Lewandowski. Parks Department officials said an excavator did the damage. The contractor says someone cut through a nearby chain link fence to get onto the property. Read More: NY1

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


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

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

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

Liu-nacy! Embattled comp advises pols on money

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

Person Of Interest Sought In Death Of Chelsea Man

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Liu fund raiser’s ‘cruel’ fate


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Liu fund raiser’s ‘cruel’ fate

A day after she was slapped with federal fraud charges for alleged illegal fund-raising on behalf of John Liu’s mayoral campaign, Jia “Jenny” Hou described New York as a “cruel city” and questioned who can be trusted. In a missive on her Chinese social-networking page, Hou, 25, told friends that she’s OK — despite facing a maximum of 60 years behind bars if convicted on a slew of charges. Read More: New York Post

One teen, two others shot on Jamaica Avenue

One teenager and two 20-year-olds were shot on Jamaica Avenue in what was according to witnesses, likely gang-related activity. The shootings took place outside a Jamaica Avenue Wendy’s this afternoon at approximately 3 p.m. Two victims were shot in the leg, with one taking a bullet to the arm. Read More: Queens Courier

 

Governor’s Proposed Convention Center May Fall Flat, Skeptics Say

Some key stakeholders are sounding off as the debate heats up over Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to build the country’s largest convention center in Queens. Since the governor announced the plan in his State of the State Address in early January that he wanted to build a massive convention center at the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens and dismantle the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan there has been a lot of skepticism about the proposal. Key players and policy shapers are divided. At a breakfast forum hosted by Crain’s New York Business Thursday, concerns were raised about the true cost of the center, its proposed location, and whether it would be successful. Read More: NY1

 

 

 

Rezone plan for Richmond Hill and Woodhaven get thumbs down from some merchants 

A city plan to rezone parts of Richmond Hill and Woodhaven is getting a thumbs down from some local business leaders who say it’s too restrictive. “The new census data is showing the community has increased so why are we talking about down-zoning,” said Vishnu Mahadeo, president of the Richmond Hill Economic Development Corp. “I have signed petitions from people who oppose this. They did not know this would happen when they bought their property.” Read More: Daily News

 

 

Upstate widow accused of violating law with ‘slave’ maid
A wealthy upstate widow allegedly turned her multimillion-dollar mansion into a “forced labor” camp where her helpless immigrant maid worked 17-hour days for years while sleeping in a closet. Annie George, whose real-estate mogul husband, Mathai, died in a 2009 plane crash, allegedly made the woman cook meals, clean the 30,000-square-foot estate and care for the family’s six children, according to a federal criminal complaint. Read More: New York Post

Liu hints he might abandon run for mayor in light of scandal


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Liu hints he might abandon run for mayor in light of scandal

Beleaguered city Comptroller John Liu hinted last night he might abandon a run for mayor following the arrest of his campaign treasurer in the mushrooming straw-donor fund-raising scandal. “All options are on the table. We’re moving forward,” Liu said in a vague response to questions about his future before hosting a Black History Month event at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn. Read More: New York Post
 

Sex attack on elderly Fresh Meadows woman

A 67-year-old Queens woman was sexually assaulted in her home after she invited in a man who had asked for a glass of water, cops said. She encountered the pervert Monday in her building in Fresh Meadows at 2 p.m. When she invited him in, he pulled a knife and forced her to perform a sex act. Police said he is black, between 45 and 65 years old, 5-foot-9 and weighs 160 pounds. He wore black-rimmed glasses. Read More: New York Post

Yeshiva tutor admits molesting girls, 8

A yeshiva student trusted by parents to tutor their children pleaded guilty yesterday to sexually molesting two fourth-graders. Hillel Selznick, 25, of Flushing, told Queens Supreme Court Justice Richard Buchter he inappropriately touched the two 8-year-old girls over the course of a year during private tutoring lessons inside the victims’ homes. Read More: New York Post

Fanning racial fires

A tutorial workshop for the upcoming FDNY entrance exam turned raucous last night when the organization that represents black firefighters — which was hosting the Queens event — turned away whites who wanted to attend. “This is absurd,” fumed Rob, a 21-year-old who was one of about 60 whites refused entry by the Vulcan Society at MS 72 in Jamaica and whose angry reaction drew 30 NYPD cops and school safety officers. Read More: New York Post

TSA Introduces Expedited Security Screening Lane At JFK

Getting through security at John F. Kennedy Airport is a little easier for some passengers as the Transportation Security Administration launched Wednesday its Pre-Check Program at Terminal 8. Low-risk passengers can volunteer information about themselves before flying to get expedited screening at checkpoints. Under the program, passengers may be allowed to keep their shoes, belts and other items on while passing through security. “I’m not a frequent flyer though, but it is annoying. I understand you need it, but if you can avoid it why not?” said one air traveler. Read More: NY1

 

Queens Film Festival Gives Credit To Local Talent

Jackson Heights resident Richard Uhlig, who wrote and directed the film “Can’t Dance” is ready to show it off. “‘Can’t Dance’ is about a lonely widower who plays with his toy trains all day and his dead wife’s ghost comes back, and she coaches him on how to talk to the neighbor lady, so he can get a life again,” said Uhlig. Uhlig’s film is one of more than 125 in the Queens World Film Festival, which opens Thursday night and runs through Sunday. He says having his film in the festival is a great opportunity and that he shot it in his apartment in just two and a half days. Read More: NY1

Second Liu campaign worker busted


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liu “Stunned” By Fraud Charges Against His Campaign Treasurer


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Arrest Made In Connection With Queens Synagogue Burglary

Police say tips from the public led them to an arrest in the burglary of a Queens synagogue. Efram Sanders, 28, was arrested Tuesday and was facing burglary, grand larceny and stolen-property charges in connection with the break-in at Congregation Degel Israel in Kew Gardens Hills. More than a dozen items were taken, including silver torah crowns and breastplates, worth thousands of dollars in all. Police say they were able to recover all stolen items except for two silver pointers. Read More: NY1

 

NYPD cop impersonators may have used high-quality masks to pull off check-cashing heist

Three cop impersonators wanted for stealing $200,000 from a Queens check-cashing business may have worn masks that were Hollywood quality, the Daily News has learned. Investigators began to suspect the trio that pulled off the Valentine’s Day caper had worn masks that were far from the average costume-shop props after they got a tip, the sources said. One of the false faces even looked like pro wrestler Bill Goldberg. Read More: Daily News

Liu “Stunned” By Fraud Charges Against His Campaign Treasurer

In a serious blow to City Comptroller John Liu’s 2013 campaign effort, authorities on Tuesday announced the arrest of one of his top campaign aides on fraud charges, and the comptroller said he was shocked by the allegations. The U.S. Attorney’s office says Jenny Hou, 25, seen above right, was taken into custody in connection to what authorities call a scheme to use straw donors to get over the limit campaign contributions to Liu. Read More: NY1

 

Mayor Stands By Released Teacher Rankings As Charter School Data Is Published

Mayor Michael Bloomberg again defended the release of teacher data reports Tuesday as the Department of Education released the same information for charter schools and District 75. Charter school teachers make up a majority of the 334 reports. Their participation was optional but District 75, which serves children with special needs, had to take part for two of the three school years represented. A DOE spokesperson says the reports for the charter and District 75 schools are not comparable to those for city schools. Read More: NY1

 

Hero cop: ‘I don’t know how he didn’t hit me from that range’

The partner of the NYPD cop saved by his gun belt said the stunning sequence was like the scene in “Pulp Fiction” where a gunman opens fire on the main characters at point-blank range and misses with every shot. “We were only a couple feet away. I don’t know how he didn’t hit me from that range,” Thomas Dunne told The Post of alleged shooter Luis Martinez. Dunne’s partner, Thomas Richards, 36, was saved when a round hit the extra clip in his pocket. Read More: New York Post

Elevator guy still on job

The lift mechanic whose botched job resulted in a young ad executive getting crushed to death was still allowed to tinker with the city’s elevators yesterday. Michael Hill arrived at his home in Glen Gardner, NJ, after a long day on the job — wearing a navy blue New York Elevator Operators uniform and covered in grease. Hill was working on the city’s elevators just one day after investigators on Monday released a scathing report, accusing him of overriding the critical elevator safety system that led to Y&R ad exec Suzanne Hart’s gruesome death on Dec. 14. Read More: New York Post

Liu’s campaign treasurer busted in ‘straw donor’ scheme


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Liu’s campaign treasurer busted in ‘straw donor’ scheme: feds

Embattled city Comptroller John Liu’s campaign treasurer was busted today on charges she helped funnel illegal political donations into the Queens Democrat’s war chest. Jia “Jenny” Hou conspired to help wealthy Liu backers evade a $4,950 limit on individual contributions by using “straw donors” to pass along their money, according to the feds. Hou, 25, was allegedly caught offering to reimburse a crooked donation during a series of computer “instant messages” on July 14, and allegedly instructed campaign volunteers on how to make the contributions look legit. Read More: New York Post

 

Third student dies from Ohio high school shooting

The death toll rose to three Tuesday in the shooting rampage in an Ohio high school cafeteria as schoolmates and townspeople grappled with the tragedy and wondered what could have set the teenage gunman off. The teenager under arrest in Monday’s attack, T.J. Lane, faced an afternoon hearing in juvenile court. Shaken residents offered condolences and prayers to the families of those killed and wounded at 1,100-student Chardon High School in suburban Cleveland. All three of the dead were students. Read More: New York Post

 

Waitress claims veteran NYPD detective took advantage of her at Washington Heights restaurant

A waitress says her boss gave her $200 to party with some cops, protested when one put the moves on her in a back room, and then got her underwear back the next day. The 36-year-old woman, whose allegations prompted the NYPD to assign four cops to desk duty, thinks a veteran detective took advantage of her at the Washington Heights restaurant where she worked. But she admits she can’t remember it – because she blacked out. Read More: Daily News

 

Manningham ups odds to ’50-50′ he stays with Giants

Mario Manningham last week, back home in Ohio, was quoted in the Youngstown News that he believes there’s a 75 percent chance he will leave the Giants in free agency and sign elsewhere. Tuesday morning, he refuted that claim. “I didn’t say that,’’ Manningham said on WFAN. “You know how rumors get spread, I didn’t say anything like that.’’ Manningham then increased the odds of him staying with the Giants. Read More: New York Post

 

Ex-Girl Scout finance director gets 3 to 9 years for swiping $310K

The former finance director for the Girl Scout Council of Greater New York was sentenced today to three to nine years behind bars after she failed to return a large chunk of the $310,000 she allegedly embezzled over the course of two years. “I apologize for the situation,” said Yaasmin Hooey, 35, during her sentencing hearing in Manhattan Supreme Court. Prosecutors said Hooey stole the money by cashing or depositing into her personal bank account a series of 65 checks written off the Girl Scouts’ payroll account. Read More: New York Post

 

Names Of NYPD First Responders Added To Cancer Study

The names of tens of thousands of New York City POlice Department uniformed officers and civilian members who worked at the World Trade Center are now at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Mayor Michael Bloomberg handed over the names of 39,921 people, along with their job title, age, race, and gender on Monday. This comes after the city initially refused to turn over the information, because of privacy concerns. Mount Sinai is treating the first responders. Read More: NY1

Liu fund-raiser busted for illegal donations


| mchan@queenscourier.com

A fund-raiser for City Comptroller John Liu has been indicted on conspiracy and wire fraud charges.

Xing Wu “Oliver” Pan — who allegedly funneled thousands of dollars in campaign contributions illegally for the comptroller’s unofficial 2013 campaign for mayor — pleaded not guilty in front of a federal judge at the U.S. District Court in Manhattan on February 15.

Pan was arrested in November 2011 when an undercover FBI agent, posing as a businessperson interested in supporting Liu, busted him for engaging in a fraudulent scheme that involved the use of “straw donors” to funnel close to $16,000 worth of illegal campaign contributions, according to the criminal complaint.

Straw donors, the FBI explained, are individuals who violate campaign finance laws by making campaign contributions in their own names with money they have received from others.

According to the criminal complaint, Pan received a $16,000 campaign contribution from the undercover cop — an amount well above the $4,950 individual limit authorized by the New York City Campaign Finance Board.

The FBI said in an effort to evade the restriction, Pan planned for 20 straw donors to each make $800 donations instead — later allegedly using the $16,000 he received from the cop to reimburse the straw donors for their contributions.

“Corruption in campaign finance corrupts the entire political process, and it can call into question the legitimacy of our elections,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara following Pan’s November arrest. “As alleged, Oliver Pan engaged in a deliberate and flagrant attempt to subvert the campaign finance laws and manipulate the city’s matching fund system. As today’s charges demonstrate, unlawful campaign conduct will not be tolerated, and we will continue to be vigilant and proactive in investigating abuses of our electoral system.”

Pan has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of attempting to commit wire fraud. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

Irwin Rochman, Pan’s lawyer, did not immediately respond for comment. However, he told reporters outside the courthouse of his intentions to seek dismissal of the indictment against his client.

“We’re going to make a motion to dismiss the case based on outrageous conduct by the government in the manner in which it conducted the undercover operation which resulted in this indictment,” Rochman said.

Meanwhile, Liu — a Flushing Democrat — has not been accused of any wrongdoing. He could not be reached in time for comment, but according to reports, he has since returned nearly $50,000 in contributions, including $15,200 in contributions collected by Pan.

Whitney Houston funeral: mourners pay tribute to legendary singer at Newark church


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Whitney Houston funeral: mourners pay tribute to legendary singer at Newark church

The silver casket bearing Whitney Houston glistened Saturday inside her old Newark church, where a star-studded crowd bid farewell to the departed diva with the divine voice.

“What becomes of our broken hearts?” asked her “Bodyguard” co-star Kevin Costner in a moving memorial. “Whitney returns home today to the place where it all began.”

Read More: New York Daily News

 

Timothy Cardinal Dolan receives red hat from Pope Benedict in Vatican City

Timothy Cardinal Dolan says his new red hat from Pope Benedict XVI is a gift for New York.

The city’s newly-elevated Catholic leader was smiling from cheek to cheek Saturday after receiving a gold ring and red silk biretta from the pontiff inside St. Peter’s Basilica inVatican  City.

Read More: New York Daily News
Cocaine found on capsized cruise ship captain’s hair, lawyers for survivors say
A group representing survivors of the capsized Costa Concordia cruise ship say traces of cocaine were found on a sample of the captain’s hair but not within the hair strands or in his urine — which would have indicated he had used the drug.

Italian consumer protection group Codacons said Saturday it has asked prosecutors investigating Captain Francesco Schettino to order another test.

Read More: New York Post

 

DOE To Review 1,000 Cases Against School Staff Following Latest Sex Abuse Charges

The city Department of Education is promising to make major changes in disciplinary policy following a string of arrests of employees for inappropriate acts with children.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott outlined the changes in a letter sent home to parents Friday.

Read More: NY 1

 

Spit hits fan in teach spat

 A veteran Queens math teacher was yanked from the classroom yesterday after a cellphone video posted online showed an apparent confrontation with a student.

Department of Education officials said they are investigating 19-year veteran David Pecoraro, a vocal union leader at Beach Channel HS in Far Rockaway, on allegations of corporal punishment.

Read More: New York Post

 

Liu Fundraiser Pleads Not Guilty To Wire Fraud Charges

Xing Wu Pan, a major fundraiser for City Comptroller John Liu, pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and wire fraud charges during his arraignment in Downtown Manhattan on Saturday.

Prosecutors say Oliver Pan told an undercover FBI agent he would use straw donors to funnel $16,000 in over-the-limit contributions to the comptroller’s 2013 campaign.

Read More: NY 1

 

Al Sharpton’s SUV impounded at La Guardia Airport

Can I get a witness?

The Rev. Al Sharpton tried to move heaven and earth yesterday to keep his SUV from being towed at La Guardia Airport — but no amount of preaching could stop Port Authority cops from impounding the vehicle.

An officer rolled up on the 2008 Lincoln Navigator at around 2 p.m. outside the Delta and US Airways terminal as the MSNBC host’s driver waited to pick him up in a clearly marked “no standing” zone, said PA Police spokesman Al Della Fave.

Read More: New York Post

 

Racist headline after Jeremy Lin, Knicks lose prompts quick apology from ESPN

ESPN is apologizing for an offensive headline posted after Jeremy Lin and the Knicks fell to the Hornets Friday night, ending a dazzling 7-game win streak.

The headline, “Ch-k in the armor” was up for about 30 minutes before being pulled down, ESPN said in a statement, as the controversy continued to grow in volume on Saturday.

Read More: New York Daily News

Fundraiser For Comptroller Liu Indicted On Federal Wire Fraud Charges


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Fundraiser For Comptroller Liu Indicted On Federal Wire Fraud Charges

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Style icon in front-row death

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

Queens  granny kin sue in blizzard death

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

Good Samaritan critically injured rescuing drunk man from subway tracks


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Good Samaritan critically injured rescuing drunk man from subway tracks

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

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

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

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

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

Queens Broker Is Accused of Bringing Immigrants’ Ruin

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

Straphangers Cope With Major MTA Weekend Repairs

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

Fallout over failed Queens center

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

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

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

Beyonce’s hospital mates baby-bumped

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

Liu kicked in arrears

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