Tag Archives: south ozone park

Flushing student to compete in Scripps National Spelling Bee, aims for back-to-back Queens champs


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre


What’s that buzzing?

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is quickly approaching, and Queens could have another student bring back a golden honey-colored trophy from Washington D.C. on Thursday.

In 2013, Bayside Hills resident Arvind Mahankali became the king bee in his final eligible year. This year, Flushing’s Sai Vishudhi Chandrasekhar is back for another round of the contest, but a new challenger from the borough is eager to take the stage as well.

Anil Singh, a fifth grader at P.S./I.S. 499 in Flushing, is set to debut in the National Spelling Bee and battle 280 other young wordsmiths around the country for the crown.

“I’m honored to have this opportunity and I won’t let [Queens] down,” Anil said.

Anil has been participating in spelling bees since second grade when he said his teacher forced the class to engage in the activity, which he thought was “weird.”

“I thought it was some random, weird oral spelling test,” said Anil, a South Ozone Park resident.

The entire class lost on the word “sandal,” and Anil remembers spelling it “s-a-n-d-e-l.” But after that mistake he didn’t miss a word, eventually facing a classmate in a showdown for the second grade title. He spelled the word “pilot” correctly to win his first-ever bee.

“After that I found out what a spelling bee was and I liked it, and I did it the next year, and the next year and the year after that,” Anil said.

He has never lost a spelling bee—his record now stands at 6-0— and because fifth-grade is the first time he could advance to the borough and city rounds, he was able to beat out students from around the five boroughs to represent the region after spelling “metachrosis” on March 20.

Anil is studying an average of two to three hours a day for the national contest.

Using the list of words that Scripps provided for the tournament, he has divided them into different categories, such as similar origins and definitions, to help remember. He also writes down words numerous times so they will stick in his memory. But he admits he doesn’t know every word and may have to guess.

“Most of it in the spelling bee is guess work,” Anil said. “The hardest part is learning how to guess.”

Catch the preliminary rounds of the bee on Wednesday, May 28 on ESPN.

 

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Councilman Ruben Wills arrested on corruption charges


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Updated 2:25 p.m. 

Councilman Ruben Wills was arrested Wednesday after a corruption investigation discovered he allegedly stole public campaign funds and state grant money.

The Queens politician, who represents the 28th District, which includes Jamaica, Richmond Hill, Rochdale and South Ozone Park, was indicted on charges of grand larceny, scheme to defraud, falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing, according to the indictment.

Jelani Mills, a relative who works for Wills, and allegedly helped him redirect some of the cash, was also indicted Wednesday on charges of grand larceny and falsifying business records.

Wills is accused of stealing from both the Campaign Finance Board (CFB) and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office.

He is charged with redirecting $11,500 in matching funds he received from the CFB during his 2009 City Council campaign–with the help of Mills–to New York 4 Life, a nonprofit Wills started, and using the money for personal purchases, according to court documents. Wills allegedly bought a $750 Louis Vuitton handbag at Macy’s, among other items. 

The councilman had been under investigation by the attorney general for $33,000 in state funds provided through a grant that was unaccounted for after it was given to New York 4 Life, according to published reports and the attorney general’s office.

Those funds were earmarked by former state Sen. Shirley Huntley while Wills was serving as her chief of staff.

New York 4 Life signed a contract with OCFS to receive that money, promising to conduct four public service projects, officials said, but the nonprofit allegedly only came through on one program that cost about $14,000. Wills is accused of pocketing the remaining $19,000 and using it for political and personal expenses, including purchases at Nordstrom’s and Century 21.

Huntley was arrested in a unrelated case in August 2012 and later pleaded guilty for covering up money funneled through a nonprofit she helped establish. It was revealed last May that Huntley had secretly recorded the conversations of seven elected officials, including Wills, while she was still in office at the request of federal prosecutors.

“The City Council takes these troubling allegations from the New York State Attorney General very seriously and will be reviewing them thoroughly, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement. “New Yorkers expect and deserve a government that is ethical and responsible and that is the standard we’re seeking to uphold.”

Wills, who was first elected to the Council in a 2010 special election, has been prohibited from doling out member items, or city funds, to his district, the Queens delegation chair and City Council speaker’s office will now designate them for him, reports and a source said.

He has also agreed to give up his chairmanship of the Council’s subcommittee on drug abuse, according to published reports.

Wills, who did not enter a plea and was released without bail, said Wednesday he had no plans to resign, reports said.

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Man pleads guilty to sexually abusing two seven-year-old girls in South Ozone Park


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A man arrested last May for sexually abusing two young South Ozone Park girls pleaded guilty to the crimes Monday, District Attorney Richard Brown said.

“The defendant has admitted to being a sexual predator and, as such, he has proven himself to be a threat to children and a clear and present danger to society in general,” Brown said. “Today’s plea ensures that he is punished for his crimes and spares his young victims of having to relive their nightmarish experience at trial.”

Lee Samuel, 26, whose last known address was in the Jamaica section of Queens, pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal sexual act and first-degree sexual abuse, according to prosecutors. Sentencing is scheduled for May 5, at which time he will receive 14 years in prison and 20 years post-release supervision.

The hunt for a suspect had the South Ozone Park area on edge last spring after it was reported that a man had sexual contact with two seven-year-old girls.

The separate incidents happened within just hours of and approximately two miles away from each other on May 1, 2013, officials said.

In pleading guilty, said Brown, Samuel admitted that he approached the first victim as she was tying her shoe on the sidewalk and touched her on her buttocks.

Several hours later Samuel came up to his second victim and pretended that he wanted to play a game with her, Brown said. Samuel then exposed himself to the girl and engaged in a sexual act with her.

 

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Police release video of suspects in Queens rooftop break-ins


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Cops have released a video in connection to the burglaries of multiple Queens businesses.

The footage shows the suspects cashing in lottery tickets inside a Brooklyn bodega at 296 New Lots Ave on Feb. 27, according to police.

The suspects are wanted in connection to seven thefts that took place between Dec. 14 and Feb. 20 in the WoodhavenJamaicaSouth Richmond HillOzone Park and South Ozone Park sections of the borough, the NYPD said.

In each of the burglaries, one or more suspects break in through the roof or air conditioning vent and steal cash, according to police.  Lotto tickets and calling cards were also taken during some of the thefts.

Last month, police released a video from the latest burglary, which took place about 11 p.m. on Feb. 20 at the Pioneer Supermarket at 90-01 Jamaica Ave. in Woodhaven. A thousand dollars in cash and approximately $600 worth of phone cards went missing from the supermarket after the suspect broke in through the roof, cops said.

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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JFK baggage handlers accused of taking checks, money orders from mail


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

Five John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) baggage handlers, including two Queens men, allegedly stole thousands of dollars worth of checks and money orders that were being sent through overseas mail, officials announced Friday.

The men are accused of taking the money orders and checks, which were bound for Japan, China, Korea, and other places, and depositing them into their own bank accounts. They also allegedly swiped credit cards and used them to buy iPad minis and other electronics from “Best Buy” kiosks at the airport, according to officials.

“Included among the items allegedly stolen from the mail were money orders mailed by a member of the armed services and in another instance, checks intended for child support,” District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Following multiple reports of thefts of credit cards, money orders and checks from U.S. mail, specifically mail being handled by Ground Services International baggage handlers at JFK, a joint investigation was launched by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Port Authority Police Department, according to the district attorney.

The investigation found that between July and February, the five accused baggage handlers allegedly took the checks and money orders, which ranged from $100 to $1,000, and stole the credit cards and used them to make the kiosk purchases. The thefts allegedly totaled more than $27,000, Brown said.

Anthony Austin, 26, of Hollis, Ariel Weaver, 20, of South Ozone Park, and Brooklyn residents Michael Williams, 29, Alexander Fluellen, 29, and Samuel Wright, 31, were arraigned Thursday in Queens Criminal Court on separate criminal complaints in which they are variously charged with grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, petit larceny and forgery, according to prosecutors.

Fluellen, Wright and Weaver were released without bail and Austin was held on $5,000 bail. Williams is being held pending arraignment.

 

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Police searching for suspect in series of Queens rooftop break-ins


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Video courtesy of NYPD

A suspect has been burglarizing multiple Queens businesses over the last two months by breaking in through the roof or air conditioning vent, the NYPD said.

The thefts all took place between Dec. 14 and Feb. 20 in the Woodhaven, JamaicaSouth Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and South Ozone Park sections of the borough.

In each of the seven burglaries, the suspect stole cash, ranging from $100 to $5,000. The suspect also swiped lotto tickets and calling cards during some of the thefts.

Police have released a video from the latest incident.

The burglary took place about 11 p.m. Thursday at the Pioneer Supermarket at 90-01 Jamaica Ave. in Woodhaven, according to the NYPD.

A thousand dollars in cash and approximately $600 worth of phone cards went missing from the supermarket after the suspect broke in through the roof, police said.

Last week cops also released a photo of the suspect, who was allegedly caught burglarizing businesses in South Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park on Jan. 31 and Feb. 5 by cutting a hole in their roofs.

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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Man wanted in two Queens rooftop break-ins


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A man broke into two Queens businesses by cutting a hole in the roof and taking off with cash and other merchandise, police said.

The first burglary took place on Jan. 31 at 99 Cents Deal, located on Liberty Avenue in South Richmond Hill, cops said. After entering the business, the suspect stole cash.

On Feb. 5, the suspect took lottery tickets, calling cards and cash from the Super Pioneer Supermarket on 111th Avenue in South Ozone Park, police said.

The NYPD has released a photo of the suspect from the second break-in.

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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Man allegedly kills brother by hitting him in head with frying pan


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Graphic Image

A feud between two brothers turned deadly after one allegedly struck the other with a frying pan Tuesday afternoon.

Jason Tolentino, 30, and his sibling were arguing inside of a South Ozone Park home on 122nd Street about 3:20 p.m. when his brother hit him in the head with the piece of kitchen equipment, police and sources said.

Tolentino was taken to Jamaica Hospital where he was pronounced dead, police said.

His brother was taken into custody, but has yet to be charged.

 

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South Ozone Park church catches fire overnight, injuring four firefighters


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Four firefighters were injured putting out a two-alarm blaze in South Ozone Park.

The Deliverance Tabernacle Church caught fire about 3 a.m. Monday. The FDNY crew was able to extinguish the flames after about an hour and had no problems with frozen fire hydrants, despite conflicting reports.

“Reports said [there were problems] but we just confirmed the hydrants [were functioning]”, said an FDNY spokesperson.

The four hurt firefighters sustained minor injuries and were taken to Jamaica Hospital.

Members of the congregation on Sutter Avenue could not immediately be reached for comment.

 

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Police seek pair who robbed livery cab driver in South Ozone Park


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A man and a woman robbed a livery cab driver in South Ozone Park Sunday, taking off with the victim’s cash, police said.

The 25-year-old driver picked up the pair about 4:10 a.m. at the intersection of Marcus Garvey Boulevard and Fulton Street, and took them to 133rd Street and Linden Boulevard, as requested, cops said.

Once at their destination, the victim was making change for the suspects, when the male suspect reached into the victim’s pocket, stole his money and fled from the cab, police said.

The first suspect is described as light skinned black male and 20 to 25 years old. He was wearing a red hooded sweatshirt and a black jacket. The female suspect is described as black, 20 to 25 years old, with a thin 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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NYPD: Suspect shoots gun into South Ozone Park store


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Video courtesy of NYPD

Police are looking for a man captured on video shooting into a South Ozone Park store before fleeing, the NYPD said.

The suspect can be seen on the surveillance footage, just after midnight Sunday, firing into Magical Signs, at 111-09 Rockaway Blvd., with a black handgun then escaping down the street on foot, police said. No one was injured in the shooting.

Authorities describe the suspect as a Hispanic man in his 20s, 5’5″-5’7″and 130 pounds. He was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, black jeans, and black sneakers.

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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ATM owner’s van robbed for $45K in South Ozone Park


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

A person in South Ozone Park made off with $45,000 after snatching it from a minivan, police said.

The owner of several ATM machines throughout the city stopped at a Rockaway Boulevard bodega on Friday to replenish the machine inside and left a bag of cash on his front seat.

A witness then saw somebody smash the front window and make off with the loot, according to a police source.

The man typically leaves his stash in a safe inside his van, but this time left the cash loose, said the source.

The ATM owner operates by himself and was making rounds refilling various machines. The investigation is ongoing.

 

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Green cabs could be coming to south Queens


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of TLC

Green cabs could now be driving down south in the borough.

A representative from the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) will be making a stop at the next Community Board (CB) 10 meeting on Thursday, December 5 to explain the new Boro Taxi procedures, rules, and the program’s presence in the region moving forward.

Betty Braton, CB 10 chair, said the outer-borough cabs coming to the community could either be a benefit or a disadvantage depending on “how it rolls out.”

“I would believe on the positive side, it provides a safer way in the outer boroughs for people to do street hails,” she said. “On the downside, we already have an existing problem with livery cabs parking. I would think it would become problematic if the green cabs decide to take up parking spaces or just cruise constantly in the transit hubs.”

Boro Taxis, similar to livery cabs, are affiliated with a base and may take dispatch, flat-fare calls. However, similar to city yellow cabs, they can also make metered, hailed pick-ups.

Currently licensed livery bases apply for an opportunity to affiliate the street-hail liveries, which is then processed and approved by the TLC. Two sites in South Ozone Park already got the green light for green cabs, according to the TLC.

Resident Jesus Garay made a request on the Boro Taxis’ website for a base at the cross section of Woodhaven Boulevard and Rockaway Boulevard, so cabs could serve Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park.

 

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Two wanted in South Ozone Park hotel robbery


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Police are looking for a pair of men who allegedly robbed a hotel near the John F. Kennedy International Airport Saturday.

The suspects entered the La Quinta Inn & Suites at 111-26 Van Wyck Expressway around 9:30 p.m, said cops.

One of the suspects went to the front desk, pointed a shotgun at the manager and demanded money. The second suspect held open a bag as the manager placed $560.00 dollars in the bag, said police. They then fled the hotel, heading north on the Van Wyck Expressway.

There were no injuries reported during the robbery.

Cops describe both suspects as black males and 6’0″. The first suspect was wearing a black ski cap, blue jeans and a blue waist length jacket. The second suspect was wearing a white waist length jacket.

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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‘Safe Routes’ coming to four Queens schools


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Safer streets are coming soon to four Queens middle and elementary schools.

The Department of Design and Construction (DDC) confirmed it has selected a construction company to make adjustments around the schools to increase safety, as a part of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Safe Routes to Schools program.

The safe routes program is a city-wide initiative that seeks to improve safety to city schools with the highest accident rates.

A DDC representative said the $3.3 million improvements will begin by the spring of 2014 around I.S. 77 in Ridgewood, St. Stanislaus Kostka School in Maspeth, St. Joan of Arc School in Jackson Heights and P.S. 108 in South Ozone Park.

The work around the schools will include adding speed bumps, adjustment of streetlights and traffic signals, ramps to the sidewalks, work to improve the curbs for pedestrians, placement of bus pads in the streets and infrastructure and utility work.

These four schools are on DOT’s list of 135 priority schools for traffic safety improvements, which was originally created in 2003 by the city agency. Overall, there are 33 priority Queens schools on the list that are slated to see the improvements.

The work on the four schools is expected to be completed by the spring of 2015.

 

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