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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Valet with a gun: Detective holds parking spot for N.J. Waterfront Commissioner Barry Evenchick

New Jersey Waterfront Commissioner Barry Evenchick finds primo parking spot in lower Manhattan held by detective

A big shot with the Waterfront Commission has found the perfect way to find parking for his luxury sedan in lower Manhattan - a valet with a badge and gun.

Just one year after the state inspector general warned that assigning detectives to hold parking spaces was an abuse of public resources, they're at it again.

For more than an hour Tuesday, a detective in an unmarked commission vehicle guarded the prime spot - one of three on Broadway near Beaver St. set aside for the commission - until New Jersey Waterfront Commissioner Barry Evenchick arrived at 8:37 a.m. in his sleek black Audi.

Evenchick flashed his headlights and the commission car immediately pulled out. Mission accomplished for an $80,000-a-year detective whose job description is supposed to be catching criminals and mobsters on the waterfront.

Confronted by a Daily News reporter about the parking detail, Evenchick went into denial mode.

"Nobody was holding my spot," he insisted.

Informed that there were photos to the contrary, Evenchick stuck to his story. "All I know is that this is where I park so this is where I come," he said.

"Send me a picture so I can show it to my granddaughter," he added.

The commission's three spots are marked with a red "No Standing" zone sign.

Another agency big, New York Waterfront Commissioner Ronald Goldstock, pulled his blue Lexus into one of the three spots at 7:06 a.m., about 23 minutes before the detective who held Evenchick's space even arrived.

In a response to the inspector general's scathing report documenting misconduct and corruption at the agency, current Executive Director Walter Arsenault had pledged the parking detail was abolished and "professional courtesies have been eliminated."

The commission's general counsel, Phoebe Sorial, said yesterday that the inspector general referred to the previous regime's Monday-through-Friday parking detail, which was a "vastly different practice" than holding a spot for Evenchick twice a month when he comes into Manhattan for the biweekly public meeting.

"It's done very rarely now as opposed to a regular practice [in the past]," Sorial said.

Asked why Evenchick doesn't use the subway, Sorial responded: "I'm not going to put it on him whether he should come in on public transportation."

Under a compact approved by Congress, the governors of New York and New Jersey appoint the waterfront commissioners. Evenchick, named by former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, replaced Michael Madonna, who was fired by Corzine last year.

Sorial also argued that it would inconvenience members of the public who attend a hearing if the meeting were delayed because Evenchick couldn't find a place topark.

Murder rising at alarming rate, sending waves of fear throughout NYC's most dangerous neighborhoods

The number of people wounded or killed by gunfire is up citywide, sending waves of fear through some of New York's most dangerous neighborhoods.

NYPD statistics through the first nine months of the year show the number of murders has climbed 13.2% from the same period last year. There were 341 murders at this point last year compared with 386 through Sunday, according to the most recent data available.

Cops in the 75th Precinct in East New York, Brooklyn, have investigated 23 homicides this year - the most in the city.

Cyncerae Pough, 27, who lives in the neighborhood, is not surprised. "Every night all I hear is cop cars and ambulances," said Pough, the mother of a 6-year-old girl. "I don't come out of my house if I don't have to."

Bullets have been flying over the Bronx, too. There's been an 18.3% spike in the borough.

In the 47th Precinct, which sits in the northern section of the Bronx, the number of murders is up 46.2%: Nineteen people have been killed in that precinct this year, up from 13 during the first three-quarters of 2009.

"It's horrible," said Elena Rodrigues, 25, a stay-at-home mom in Eastchester. "Way too many people have guns these days. Some people just don't have no control."

The murder rate is up 25.9% in Queens, 12.2% in Manhattan and 7.4% in Brooklyn - the borough which sports some of the city's most crime-plagued neighborhoods.

Eighteen people have been murdered in Brooklyn's 67th Precinct, unnerving longtime East Flatbush residents.

"People are not working, there are no jobs, so people are out on the street," said Karen Brown, 48, a home health aide. "You aren't even secure when you're inside your own home."

The number of people shot citywide has gone up 4.5% from a year ago, jumping from 1,315 to 1,374.

The uptick in murders comes after a year in which the city recorded 466 - the fewest number of slayings since the NYPD began keeping track in 1963.

Though the overall crime rate is down 1.5% citywide, primarily due to a 6.2% drop in grand larceny, most felony categories are up.

Rapes have increased 13.5% citywide, including a disturbing 45.1% jump in Manhattan. There have been seven rapes in Central Park this year. During the first nine months of last year, no one reported being raped in Central Park.

Women protest haredi discrimination

Dozens march in haredi area in central Jerusalem in protest of separation between men and women on sidewalks in Mea Shearim neighborhood, hold signs reading 'Jerusalem is not Tehran'

Dozens of women and men marched in an ultra-Orthodox area in central Jerusalem on Wednesday, in protest of the discrimination between men and women on the streets of the Mea Shearim neighborhood during the Sukkot holiday.

The police set up barriers near the Shabbat Square, and the protestors retraced their steps and ended the rally. Loud arguments were heard between the protestors and local haredi residents.

At the start of the procession, its organizers stressed that the protest would be held "without any unnecessary provocations" and expressed their hope that they would not encounter violence.

The march was stopped several meters before the Shabbat Square. Large police forces were dispatched to the area, including mounted police, and the demonstration was dispersed shortly afterwards.

One of the organizers, Rona Orovano, chanted on a loudspeaker, "Women were created in the image of God as well." She wore a shirt with the slogan, "This is what a Jerusalem feminist looks like," while the protestors held signs reading, "Jerusalem is not Tehran, the silent majority is awakening."

The procession was attended by secular public figures, including former Knesset Member Mossi Raz (Meretz) and Jerusalem Council Member Laura Wharton.

Rachel Taler, a local resident, shouted at the protestors from her balcony: "This is unprecedented impudence, you animals. This is a very specific place for certain people who want to live this way. They have the right to do whatever they want in their own homes. Why are they coming in here? It's as if they would tell me what to cook in my own kitchen."

'Go protest near the Arabs'
Haim Weinstock, another Mea Shearim resident, said as he passed by the protest: "This is a provocation for the sake of provocation. Why is separation okay in their clubs and not here? It's only three hours a day. I'd like to see them have the courage to protest near the Arabs in east Jerusalem."

Most of the neighborhood's residents were in the synagogues during the procession, while some watched the protestors on the street and from the houses' windows. The chance for clashes was reduced due to the long prayers characterizing the last day of the intermediate period of Sukkot.

The High Court of Justice ruled Tuesday that the segregation on Mea Shearim's streets was illegal and ordered the police to allow the protestors to march inside the neighborhood

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Brooklyn, NY - Another Orthodox Jew Shot In Midwood, During Drive-By Shooting

Midwood, NY - Police are investigating a drive-by shooting in Brooklyn overnight that left one man in critical condition.

The incident happened in the Midwood section of Brooklyn on East 17th Street, near Avenue K, just before 1:45 a.m. Tuesday.

He was shot in the left shoulder, and the bullet traveled into his midsection.

He was rushed by the Hatzolah volunteer emergency medical service to Kings County Hospital. He was listed in critical condition, but was expected to survive.

Police were looking for a green or gray Mazda CX9 that fled the scene.

No arrests were immediately made and police did not have a motive, other than the shooting appeared to be a dispute on the street.

Local residents who gathered following the shooting identified the man as a black Orthodox Jew who is well-known in the area.

Brooklyn, NY - GEICO Files 3 Suits over Suspect No-Fault Claims

Brooklyn, NY - GEICO filed three lawsuits seeking a total of $17 million from three organizations for allegedly submitting thousands of suspect no-fault fraud claims.

The Maryland-based insurance company filed suit in New York against a group of medical equipment supply companies and their attorneys, a radiology practice in Brooklyn, N.Y., and a Queens, N.Y., medical facility.

The suits seek a total of $9 million in compensatory and treble damages under the Federal RICO statute and New York common law. They also seek orders prohibiting the payment of more than $8 million dollars in unpaid claims, according to GEICO.

The first lawsuit seeks to obtain more than $750,000 in compensation and an order declaring more than $5.8 million dollars in claims illegal from defendants of the six medical equipment supply companies and their Long Island-based attorneys for allegedly exaggerating charges submitted to GEICO and misrepresenting the nature and quality of the provided goods, according to a GEICO statement.

The second lawsuit calls for $750,000 in compensation and an order expunging more than $2 million from non-physicians accused of secretly owning a Brooklyn-based radiology practice that was run for profit and without regard to patient care, the statement said.

The third lawsuit asks for more than $6.5 million in compensation and an order declaring that more than $1 million in claims filed by a Queens-based multi-disciplinary medical facilty cannot be reimbursed, according to GEICO. The suit also accuses the facility of being secretly owned by unlicensed non-physicians, the statement said.

GEICO filed these suits four months after initiating court proceedings against other defendants accused of filing fraudulent no-fault claims.

“No-fault fraud has become rampant in New York and knows no boundaries. It crosses many types of medical specialties and healthcare providers. Significant reform of the current laws and regulations that will give insurers the means to effectively combat this fraud continues to be long overdue,” Seth Ingall, GEICO’s regional vice president for New York operations, said in the statement.

Police Crime Reporting Scandal: Now the 66th Precinct?

Did Brooklyn police ignore a citizen’s complaint about a flasher who ended up shooting four members of an Orthodox Jewish volunteer patrol?

That’s the charge reported in Hamodia, a Borough Park newspaper whose name means “Notifier” in Hebrew, and which calls itself “The Daily Newspaper of Torah Jewry.”

The paper also says that the 66th Precinct commander, Deputy Inspector John Sprague, is taking personal command of a police investigation to determine whether, or why, no report was filed.

Police said that, on Sept 2, members of the Shomrim volunteer patrol, which is licensed and unarmed, and which has been patrolling Hasidic neighborhoods for two decades, were tailing the suspect, 33-year-old David Flores, after they received a report of a man exposing himself to children.

At about 8 p.m., the Shomrim guys saw Flores get out of his car. Then they chased him, and tried to disarm him. Flores, who has nine prior arrests, then began firing, hitting four Shomrim members at 49th Street and 10th Avenue in Borough Park. Two were hit in their hands, one in his neck, a fourth in his abdomen, police said.

None of the injuries was life-threatening. The four were treated at Lutheran Medical Center, where a large contingent of police — including Police Commissioner Ray Kelly — appeared.

Well, guess what? According to Hamodia, a week before the shooting, a Borough Park woman told a 66th precinct police officer that she and others witnessed a man matching Flores’s description exposing himself outside her house on both Aug. 25 and 26.

The woman, Faigie Friedman, said she had alerted the Shomrim patrol, and later spoke to a police officer who responded to her home. She gave that cop a description of the suspect, his car, and its license plate number.

Now guess what? The police officer apparently never filed a report of Friedman’s complaint.

The NYPD appeared to confirm that no report was filed.

An email from its Public Information Office to Hamodia, reads: “Officers from the 66th precinct responded to a 911 call to that location on Aug 26th. Police are investigating whether a report was made.”

Flores, meanwhile, has been charged with assault, criminal possession and use of a firearm, reckless endangerment and menacing — but not with the sexual offenses that Friedman allegedly witnessed and reported to police.

Now, if all of this is true, it serves as yet another example of police refusing to take crime complaints — yet another sign that this abuse is not confined to the 81st precinct, as described by whistle-blower cop Adrian Schoolcraft.

What Inspector Sprague’s involvement means, though, is unclear. Does it portend an honest investigation or another police cover up?

Remember, these allegations of police refusing to take crime complaints have been around long before Schoolcraft turned up with his tape-recordings of 81st precinct roll calls, where police supervisors ordered cops to downgrade felonies to misdemeanors and to refuse to take civilians’ crime complaints.

In every case, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have stonewalled attempts to discover what is going on inside the NYPD that has led to this mess.

Now here’s a case that goes beyond what the mainstream media seems to be treating merely as administrative corruption.

Here in the 66th precinct, the department’s alleged failure to take a civilian’s crime complaint and file a report has had real — and tragic — consequences.

Or, as a source in Borough Park said, when describing how police treat civilians asking for help: “When people do everything right, and want to report a crime, the police challenge them immediately. There is a court case on the street, and it is repeated hundreds of times.”

High Court to discuss barriers set up to keep women out of Mea She’arim

Judges forbid separation between men, women in Jerusalem's haredi Mea Shearim neighborhood. Ruling 'step in struggle to ensure public space open to all,' petitioner says

The High Court of Justice on Tuesday ruled against separation between men and women on the sidewalks of Jerusalem's haredi Mea Shearim neighborhood. The court also disallowed the positioning of "modesty guards" from the neighborhood committee to enforce the separation.

The court was asked to address the issue after extremists in the area tried to illegally enforce separation between men and women during Sukkot.

About a fortnight ago, the Eda Haredit faction proposed blocking Mea Shearim's Mordechai Street to women to prevent men from being near them, but following protest from women's organizations and police demands, the leaders of the community said the road would not be blocked to women.

On Monday, two City Council members petitioned the High Court on the issue. Their representative, Attorney Aviad Hacohen, said that despite assurances from the Eda Haredit, screens to separate men from women had been set up and "guards" positioned to enforce the separation.

The State, in its response Tuesday morning, said there was no place for "pirate" separation in public spaces such as streets, and promised it would prevent this and forbid "guards" from operating in the area. The court accepted the State's announcement, which supports the petitioners.

'Men get entire street'

Jerusalem City Council member Rachel Azaria (Tnuat Yerushalmim) said the court's ruling meant there should be no separation in any public space in the State of Israel. "Any such separation is illegal," she said, "which means that all sorts of unspoken agreements made with the haredi community will not happen again. This is another stage in the struggle to ensure that public space in Israel is open to men and women alike, just like the struggle against separation on buses."

The petition was submitted by ELLA-Israeli Feminist Group, Azaria and Laura Wharton (Meretz), who is also a Jerusalem City Council member. They demanded the police stop the separation immediately throughout Jerusalem and especially in Mea Shearim, protesting police lethargy in acting against it.

The two petitioners related their own experience when they tried to pass the road in a mixed group. "The women were asked to go to a narrow sidewalk, which hardly had space to pass," they said. "The men were given the center, with the entire width of the road."

When they refused, they said, they were physically and verbally assaulted until they left. At the time, they said, police were present but did nothing.

Navy stops Gaza-bound 'Jewish vessel'

IDF takes over boat carrying nine activists after warning passengers not to proceed to Strip. 'We are surrounded by 10 Navy ships,' one of activists tells Ynet before non-violent raid. Catamaran making its way to Ashdod Port

The captain of a catamaran carrying Jewish activists toward the blockaded Gaza Strip said Tuesday his boat was approaching the shore. He warned that an Israeli warship was nearing the small vessel.

The IDF announced informed the captain that he will not be allowed to proceed to Gaza, and that troops would raid the small boat only if it tried to breach the blockade, adding that such a takeover could result in casualties.

"We are surrounded by at least 10 Navy ships. They are probably going to collide with us any minute," one of the activists, Rami Elhanan, told Ynet.

"They are demanding that we stop and threatening that if we fail to do so, it may end with casualties. We are moving forward in full force, hugging each other and singing songs," he added.

Captain Glynn Secker said he expected the navy to intercept the Irene, which is carrying nine Jewish activists from Israel and other countries.

"We will not obey them, we will not help them," Secker said. "But we will not confront them physically. We will engage in no violence."

In the end, Secker predicted, the catamaran will be towed to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod, as has happened with other blockade-busting ships.

Itamar Shapira, brother of Yonatan Shapira, an ex-pilot from the Israeli Air Force and a known anti-Israel activist, spoke to Ynet from the boat at 9 am Tuesday morning and said he expected to arrive in Gaza within three hours.

"We are carrying flags with the names of all the people who wanted to be here but couldn't," he said.

The army said it was not expecting physical resistance from the crew, and officials surmise that they will agree to dock at Ashdod port.

"The IDF has not spoken to us yet, but we have understood that it declared it would stop us 40 kilometers from the shore," said Shapira. "Members of the Free Gaza campaign, TV cameras, and a warm welcome await us on shore, so we hope to reach it."

'We slept like babies'
The catamaran set sail from Cyprus on Sunday with Jewish activists from Europe and the US on board. Rami Elhanan, who lost his daughter in a Jerusalem terror attack in 1997, said it had been a pleasant sail.

"We slept like babies, because we have a clear conscience," he said. "We are singing, dancing, and telling old Jewish jokes."

One of the organizers of the sail is Dr. Edith Lutz, a German specialist in Jewish studies and a nurse. She succeeded in reaching Gaza in a flotilla that sailed there in 2008.

"We are not alone. We have many supporters. We have heard from the media that we will be stopped, but we come in peace, bearing nothing but love."

Reuven Moskowitz, an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor, said the crew members were in high spirits. "I'm sorry to have angered the truth-tellers in Israel," he said.

"We are an extraordinary people. We are only sorry that they plan to stop us and remind everyone that a true hero is one who tries to turn an enemy into a friend," Moskowitz added.

"In any case we refuse to recognize the IDF's right to arrest us in Gaza's territorial waters when all we want to do is bring them harmonicas, toys, and some medicine."

He added that the crew members would not use force against the soldiers if they indeed raid the boat

Monday, September 27, 2010

Boca Raton, FL - Want A Jewish Lawyer? Advertisement Upsets Other Attorneys

The Jewish American Bar Association caught the attention of local attorneys with a bus bench ad outside the Broward County Courthouse. The ad has been removed. (David Shulman, Courtesy / September 27, 2010)

Boca Raton, FL - When you go to court, do you want a Jewish attorney representing you?
That’s what a new Boca Raton business called the Jewish American Bar Association hopes, offering to connect people with legal problems to Jewish lawyers. The business has caught the attention of some attorneys in South Florida who are offended by its advertising and worried people may think it’s a concerted effort by Jewish attorneys to play on stereotypes to get clients.

The Jewish American Bar Association first caught the attention of local lawyers this month with an advertisement on a bus bench near the Broward County Courthouse that exclaimed “Prefer a Jewish lawyer!” and offered the business’ phone number.

Social worker Lisa Spitzer said she came up with the idea of the Jewish American Bar Association, incorporating the business last year. She said it acts as a legal referral service for people who are more comfortable having a Jewish attorney.

“If an all-women’s medical group posted an ad ‘Prefer a woman gynecologist?,’ would that be offensive?” said Spitzer, who is not a lawyer.

She acknowledges the group has only three members in South Florida. She said she would allow a non-Jewish attorney to sign up for the referral service “if his heart was in accordance with our goals and purposes.”

The Jewish American Bar Association’s website had a post office box in Boca Raton listed as the address of its main office until the Sun-Sentinel began making inquiries. The website now just says to “send all inquiries” to the post office box.

Spitzer’s business took down the bus bench ad after Fort Lauderdale attorney David Shulman complained about it on his blog.

Shulman said he was taken aback when he first saw the bench ad, calling it “shockingly stupid.”

“I felt it played on certain stereotypes of Jews,” Shulman said. “I know a lot of lawyers both Jewish and non-Jewish and some are good and some are bad. I don’t think using someone’s ethnicity is fair to determine whether they are a good or a bad lawyer.”

Litigator Richard Sachs said he’s worried about the message people would take away from the Jewish American Bar Association’s advertisements, especially following the recent judicial elections in Broward County. Some of the candidates challenging incumbents were accused of trying to use their Jewish-sounding last names to win over voters.

“It [JABA] implies a Jewish attorney is better than a non-Jewish attorney, and that can’t help the legal community at large,” said Sachs, who also is president of the B’nai B’rith Justice Unit of Broward County, a group of about 200 Jewish lawyers and attorneys. Sachs said his comments were on his own behalf.

He also questioned whether Spitzer is misleading people into thinking her business is a national organization of lawyers, rather than a referral service run by a non-attorney.

There don’t appear to be any laws that block an organization from calling itself a “bar association,” according to the Florida Bar, the statewide lawyers’ organization.

Spitzer’s business has registered as a lawyer referral service with the Florida Bar and the bus bench ad is now being reviewed by the Florida Bar’s standing committee on advertising, said Francine Walker, the Florida Bar’s spokeswoman.

If the Florida Bar finds any problems with the advertising, the three lawyers registered with the service would be held responsible, Walker said.

Spitzer said attorneys will have to pay annual dues of about $325 to be part of her organization.

“Any time a new concept appears, you have to expect to be whacked,” she said. “I think this thing has wings and it has a lot of potential.”

In New York, Ahmadinejada drinks with friends of Obama

Obama's wife and that of Farakhan

Picture this: a luxurious hotel located in the heart of "the most Jewish city in the world" (New York - a term used by Ahmadinejad in the past), to a mere 200 meters from the Israeli consulate in Big Apple. On a leather sofa pig, surrounded by young Yankee ecstasies before a Beaujolais. But Ahmadinejad does not touch it. Him, he is hungry. Its sticky fingers, it put a "Freedom Fries" in his mouth ("freedom fries" is the name given to fries called "French fries" until Villepin refuses to uphold the values of the West and turn Saddam's dictatorship). He closes his eyes. He relishes. "Ah," he said, "do they know something the U.S. is a lot of chips! Unable to find as good here! "

Then, in a move that will surprise his host, he will propose to prick a few. The host refused. Ahmadinejad insists. The host uses. Ahmadinejad is delighted to see her powers of persuasion work on the host. He said if he could force him to take a fry, it will perhaps be forced to push an even more Barak Obama to a conclusion that only the ayatollahs and Israel seem to know: "Nuclear Iran". An Iran unassailable, both on human rights and militarily. Saudi Arabia does what he wants with oil. China does what it wants with its billion people. Iran will do what it likes with his bomb.

If the beginning of this story is pure fiction, the second part is totally true. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has just spent six nights in a hotel in downtown New York and actually 200 meters from the Israeli Consulate. Among the highlights of the night U.S., a secret meeting with the spiritual mentor of Barack Hussein Obama, the most famous Muslim in the world after Osama bin Laden. It's in the Master Suite of the hotel that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has met with Louis Farrakhan ...

The two men shared a meal on the sly ... Taking advantage of the dessert to enter the room a few activists of the New Black Panther Party. At this moment, the Warwick Hotel located on West 54th Street became the capital of the world plots for at least an hour.

During the meal which we know little, we still learned (as the Black Panthers do not know silence) Ahmadinejad and Farrakhan have "long traded on the world's problems worldwide. They shared their theories about what is wrong. "

Recall that Farrakhan is the President of the Nation of Islam organization. A private organization that aims to highlight the superiority of Muslims over the world. An organization that Obama was a close there is still some time. According to historians, is that Farrakhan would have burned the house of Malcolm X when he joined the Nation of Islam because "it no longer fit" with his idea of Islam. " The wife of Malcolm X. Farrakhan even accused of murdering her husband.

On the Black Panthers, simply note that in France it Stellio Gilles Robert Capo-Chichi, who is the newly appointed president. After having been ashamed of his name, he changed his name to "KS" but a little too much like a brand of cat food (note the masculine), he once again changed to Kemiour Aarim Shabazz. Not enough to whip a shah ... What he wanted to!

Returning to our sheep, Ahmadinejad. Thursday night, Sudanese diplomats have, in turn, tried to get dinner on the go with Ahmadinejad at the Hilton East of Manhattan, on 42nd Street. But then, a significant security problem has occurred. At the hotel bar, two working-girl of 40 brushes coupet drank a champagne.

One of them drew the attention of the Security Service of the little Nazi Iran. Suddenly, eight Iranian furious surrounded the beautiful. The eight, thinking in Iran, began by ordering the infidel from the hotel but she refused. Unfortunately, they could start stoning Express in the lobby of the hotel, so they called the hotel management. The boss arrived. Suddenly, the woman stood up and shouted "you're stoned my sister! You are murderers! "

Then the paranoia was honored at the Hilton when the president was to her apartment on Sept. 18. His team had booked six entire floors in the south tower of the hotel. In total, 90 doubles, triples or suites. Over 20 room only for security.

Because, say a truth that no one has said, this is not his bags, which would take place in the hotel. No, Ahmadinejad focused all week exactly the same costume with the exact same shirt (cf. photo below - 19 and September 21). Yet Ahmadinejad, who was wearing the same dress shirt and tights all week, took every precaution. He never set foot in the lobby. Bullet-proof glass was installed on bedroom windows.

19 and 21 September 2010.A about security, we really wonder what he was afraid to New York. All the intelligence in the world were upon him. Not bad security service elsewhere. And before his arrival, he demanded the establishment of bulletproof glass in the rooms of the host. In the lobby as well. A hall where he has never actually set foot, directly through the backdoor. At the entrance of employees, had established a huge white tent where you put all of its vehicles out of sight of passersby. And when he was no longer under this aunt, the security service covered his head with a white cloth so that no way can see it.

Question meal: Ahmadinejad was only allowed to eat in his room. Others to prove "they are eating well according to Iranian laws," so halal. So the menu, lamb shoulder, minced meat kebabs and basmati rice. All prepared by an Iranian restaurant in New York, delivered by the secret services, and tasted by who knows who (but you can imagine).

A U.S. journalist who was trying to learn more about the presence of Ahmadinejad in the hotel, an employee would have said: "Their food smelled the hotel. It stank everywhere. It was hell. "

Body found in Hudson is identified as reality-TV series chef Joseph Cerniglia

A body found floating inthe Hudson River near W. 145th St. has been identified as that of a North Jersey chef and restaurateur once featured on Gordon Ramsay's "Kitchen Nightmares" reality-TV series, police said Sunday night.

Joseph Cerniglia, 39, of Wayne, the chef-owner of Campania, a restaurant in Fair Lawn, N.J., was pulled from the water about 3 p.m. Friday. The cause of death isunder investigation, but "no criminality" is suspected, authorities said.

Police responded to a 911 call of a body floating in the river on Friday afternoon, not long after another caller reported seeing a man jump from the George Washington Bridge.

Accused Madoff middleman Stanley Chais dies

Disgraced financier Bernard Madoff, center, leaves U.S. District Court in Manhattan

Stanley Chais
The Hollywood money manager was under investigation for allegedly operating a feeder fund for Bernard Madoff.

Stanley Chais, a Beverly Hills money manager for Hollywood's elite who was accused of recklessly plowing nearly e1 billion in client funds to Bernard Madoff, has died. He was 84.

Chais died on Sunday in Manhattan of natural causes, according to Grace Brugess, a spokeswoman for the New York City chief medical examiner.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused Chais in a June 2009 civil lawsuit of funneling client money to Madoff, a close friend since the 1960s, while ignoring red flags that Madoff's seemingly steady returns were bogus.

Chais had said he, too, was a Madoff victim and lost nearly all his money in the fraud, which prosecutors have estimated at e65 billion.

The SEC said Chais, who handled investments for many in Hollywood, including director Steven Spielberg, oversaw three funds that lost e917 million with the now imprisoned Ponzi scheme operator.

Regulators accused Chais of pocketing e270 million of fees from running the funds, and accused him and his family of withdrawing e546 million more than they invested with Madoff.

His lawyer, Eugene Licker, has denied that his client committed wrongdoing. Licker on Monday confirmed Chais' death and declined further immediate comment. An SEC spokesman also had no immediate comment.

Chais had suffered from "profound anemia" and "significant fatigue" stemming from a blood disease, according to an April 2009 letter from his doctor Stephen Nimer, filed in Manhattan bankruptcy court.

Known for his support for Jewish charities such as the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Weizmann Institute, Chais is the second key figure associated with Madoff to die since the scheme was uncovered in December 2008.

Madoff, 72, is serving a 150-year sentence in a North Carolina federal prison

New York’s worst cabby confesses: ‘I did it for gas money’

Meet the city's greediest cabby, whose fare-scamming mantra was right out of W.C. Fields -- "Never give a passenger an even break."

Santiago Rossi, the worst offender in the most infamous taxi-overcharge scheme in city history, told The Post he had good reason to rip off thousands of dollars from unsuspecting riders -- it was easy money.

"I did it for the gas money," sniffed Rossi, 66, who allegedly cheated 5,127 unwitting passengers out of $11,066.45.

Incredibly, Rossi even defiantly blamed the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission for his behavior -- griping that it shouldn't have issued meters that allowed the drivers to scam riders.

"Why didn't the TLC know about the vulnerabilities [of the meters]?" said Rossi, No. 1 among the 59 rogue drivers rounded up last week in Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.'s sting.

Rossi spoke to The Post exclusively while jailed at the Manhattan House of Detention. He has since made bail and is back home in Hollis, Queens, awaiting his next court date.

Prosecutors have said they want him to do hard time -- four years in prison -- if found guilty.

Rossi insisted to The Post that his ruse began with an innocent mistake, although his web of deception grew quickly from there.

About two years ago, Rossi said, he accidentally hit the button on his taxi meter that automatically put it at Rate 4 -- the suburban double fare -- even though the trip was within city limits.

But instead of pulling over and explaining the issue to his rider, he saw the potential for easy money in hard economic times and allowed the meter to charge the rider the higher fare.

He then exploited the scheme again. And again. And again.

"It became a habit," he said. "I never kept track of the amount of times I did it."

He said he didn't talk to other drivers about the scheme because "I thought I was the only one doing it."

He mostly preyed on tourists, he said. Vance has said most of the cheated riders were going to places like Times Square and Grand Central Terminal.

But Rossi said that occasionally a savvy New Yorker would realize the fare was "clicking" up too fast and confront him. He said he would apologize to them and pay them the difference.

Eventually, two whistleblowers alerted the TLC and the city's widespread investigation began, netting Rossi and the others.

Rossi said he used the dough to help pay for gas and even his mortgage. He insisted that he now realizes the scam isn't worth the potential prison time.

"I'd rather go home, have my wife slap me across my face, and I'd turn the other cheek so that she could hit me again," he said.

With tears streaming down his face, he said, "I brought shame to my family."

But Rossi continued to blame the TLC and the meter manufacturer for making a gizmo that allowed so many drivers to overcharge.

"It's basically the TLC's way of not accepting any of the blame for what was happening," he said. "They're going to blame the cab drivers and then wash their hands like Pontius Pilate."

Weeks after the scam was uncovered earlier this year, TLC chief David Yassky had a warning system installed on all taxi TVs to alert riders when Rate 4 is turned on.

Ukraine holds two over suspected anti-Semitic murder

The two suspects that killed Nacham Toubul

An Israeli Breslov Hassid was stabbed to death and his brother was beaten late Saturday night in the Ukrainian city of Uman. Shmuel Toubul, 20, and his older brother Rafael were in Ukraine to assist Jews making the pilgrimage to the grave of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.

The three assailants fled the scene but hours later two of them were apprehended by police. Police have yet to decided whether to charge the two with murder or manslaughter.

The victims' family believe the incident was motivated by anti-Semitism. It is also thought that the attack may have been motivated by the Rosh Hashanah killing of a local man by a Jew who fled the country.

The killing of Toubul occurred on the 200th anniversary of the death of Rebbe Nachman.

The Jewish community in Ukraine managed to persuade the police to hand over Toubul's body without performing an autopsy, though one is required by law. Performing an autopsy is a sacrilege to many religious Jews. The body was flown to Israel, and the man was to be laid to rest late last night in Jerusalem.

The stabbing, just after midnight Saturday, occurred a few hundred meters from the rebbe's grave, where Jewish followers had gathered to pay homage and mark 200 years since his passing. The Toubuls, originally from the West Bank settlement of Immanuel, manage a number of businesses in Uman. They own an apartment they rent out, operate a transportation service and a local supermarket offering kosher products to the tens of thousands of Jewish visitors who come annually.

The Toubuls' businesses in Uman are managed by Rafael Toubul, with the younger Shmuel making the trip before Rosh Hashanah to offer help. Shmuel Toubul kept in touch with many Israeli visitors via his Facebook page. He was to be married in Israel in two months.

According to the Toubul family and local Jewish officials in Uman, the memorial ceremony near the rebbe's grave drew dozens of people. Shmuel Toubul was sent to bring refreshments. While he was inside his home, he heard noises outside, where three young men were hurling rocks at his car. He alerted Rafael, who was also home. The two went outside to chase away the stone throwers, who then assaulted the brothers. Rafael Toubul says they tried to defend themselves, they hit back and offered the attackers money to leave them alone. But one of them produced a knife and stabbed Shmuel Toubul three times, including once in the heart. He was rushed to hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Rafael was beaten around the head and feet with an object.

Another brother, Nachman Toubul, said: "Even though my brother Rafael offered the youths money so that they would be left alone, they refused, pulled out a knife, and stabbed Shmuel, of blessed memory, in the heart. Shmuel collapsed on the spot and he called out to his brother, 'Rafael, they stabbed me in the heart.'" He said his brother lost consciousness and then was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Ukrainian police are trying to determine whether the violence was random and whether the suspects involved were under the influence of alcohol. One of the suspects is in his early 30s and the other in his early 20s. They were found to have blood stains on their clothing.

U.S. Wants Broader Internet Wiretap Authority

The Obama administration is developing plans that would require all Internet-based communication services -- such as encrypted BlackBerry e-mail, Facebook, and Skype -- to be capable of complying with federal wiretap orders, according to a report published Monday.

National security officials and federal law enforcement argue their ability to eavesdrop on terror suspects is increasingly "going dark," The New York Times reported, as more communication takes place via Internet services, rather than by traditional telephone.

The bill, which the White House plans to deliver to Congress next year, would require communication service providers be technically capable of intercepting and decrypting messages, raising serious privacy concerns, the Times said.

The proposal has "huge implications" and poses a test to the "fundamental elements of the Internet revolution," vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, James Dempsey, told the Times.

"They basically want to turn back the clock and make Internet services function the way that the telephone system used to function," he was quoted as saying.

Officials contend, however, that without new regulations their ability to prevent attacks could be hindered.

"We're not talking expanding authority," FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni told the Times. "We're talking about preserving our ability to execute our existing authority in order to protect the public safety and national security."

Internet and phone networks are already required to have eavesdropping abilities thanks to a 1994 law called the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act, but the mandate does not apply to communication service providers -- like Research in Motion, maker of BlackBerry devices.

RIM has recently been working to resolve disputes with India, the United Arab Emirates and other countries to avert threats to ban BlackBerry services. The countries complained that BlackBerry e-mail encryption posed a national-security risk. India postponed a ban for at least two months after RIM agreed to give security officials "lawful access" to data.

"We've made it clear that we are respectful of government needs and fully cooperating to comply with lawful requirements on an industry standard basis, but we cannot compromise the security architecture of the BlackBerry enterprise solution," RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie said Thursday, reiterating the company's previous stance.

Balsillie said RIM "simply has no ability to read the encrypted information and that it has no master key or back door key to allow access."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Last Jew Of Afghanistan Refuses To Give Wife Religious Divorce

For the past 13 years all sorts of figures in the Jewish world have been trying to convince Zevulun Siman Tov from Afghanistan, who refuses to divorce his wife, to give her a get. Rivkah Lubitch thinks that the story reflects the powerlessness of the wife and the rabbinic court against a man who married a woman and refuses to divorce her. And when will we understand that this situation cannot be allowed to continue?

Recently we read in the newspapers about Zevulun Siman Tov, the last Jew in Afghanistan, who refuses to give his wife a get. From the article it transpires that his wife has been sending agents to Afghanistan for 13 years with the assistance of official and non-official figures throughout the Jewish world, but he sticks to his guns – refusing to give her a get. The rabbinic court is willing to fly Rabbi Gordon, who has been dealing with the case for years, to the end of the world, even dressed up as a sheik. The State is willing to pay Siman Tov so that he’ll give his wife a get, and even the Chief Rabbinate is contributing its part in order to help the trapped woman. But they’re all powerless in the face of the husband’s stubbornness.

The story is unbelievable. The part that’s unbelievable in this story isn’t the story itself, but how we read it and what are the conclusions to be drawn from it. Most of us read it as an “extreme story” that causes us in the best case to feel a tug on our heart and maybe even to shed a tear. Most of us regard it as a “curiosity” that could only happen in some remote and backward country to some miserable and unfortunate woman. Most of us will click our tongues and comment on the woman’s bad luck.

But where is the small child who will stand up and shout “the Emperor has no clothes”? This story is, in essence, the story of women who marry in accordance with the laws of Moses and Israel. It’s not an extreme case – it’s an average, it-could-happen-to-you, type of case. The misfortune of this woman who stands helpless before a cruel and stubborn husband reflects on the vulnerability of all women, the rabbinic courts and the entire community before any man who marries a woman in accordance with Jewish law and doesn’t agree to divorce her. When will we understand that we can’t allow this situation to continue?

The solution won’t come from rabbis dressed up as sheiks or from American soldiers in Afghanistan who put pressure on stubborn recalcitrant husbands. The solution must be much more general, broader and encompassing. The solution must lie at the systemic level of an all-encompassing halacha and not at the level of the individual case solved through the use of force. The solution to the problems of women who are agunot will only be reached when rabbis and halachic decisors apply what was established by the Gemara in several places, according to which “every man who marries does so with the consent of the sages and the sages have annulled the marriage (when it went against their opinion).

Those who think that the rabbinic court in our times is not daring enough to annul a marriage and those who think that the rabbinic leadership isn’t daring enough in order to get together and determine halachic rules are invited to promote the solution of the of the Center for Woman’s Justice and to marry in “conditional marriages.” In such cases the existence of the marriage is contingent on the couple not living separately for a specified period of time and that a rabbinic court with three members has not ruled that the marriage must be annulled.

Only pressure on the rabbinic establishment to adopt such halachic solutions will bring about some change with regard to the difficult situation of women who marry according to Jewish law.

Rivkah Lubitch is a rabbinic court pleader who works at The Center for Women’s Justice, tel. 02-5664390.

Los Angeles, CA - Real Estate Mogul Charged With $23 Million Theft From Clients

Investors cheer indictment of L.A. real estate mogul
A federal grand jury accuses Ezri Namvar of misappropriating $23 million held in escrow by one of his companies. 'I am happy because he deserves it,' said one man who lost $700,000.

This week's indictment of Los Angeles real estate mogul Ezri Namvar on criminal fraud charges was welcome news to local investors who say the Iranian immigrant preyed on their shared ethnic ties and bilked them out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Namvar has agreed to surrender to federal authorities Monday to face charges that he stole $23 million from clients of his company, Namco Financial Exchange Corp., which safeguarded proceeds from commercial real estate transactions, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.

A federal grand jury indicted Namvar on Tuesday.

The indictment alleged that Namvar misappropriated the money in 2008, using it to pay investors and creditors from a real estate investment company he ran, instead of holding it in escrow as promised. The charges carry a combined maximum sentence of 100 years in prison.

Also charged in the indictment was Hamid Tabatabai, who served as controller and vice president of Namco Financial.

"I am happy because he deserves it," said Paul Laska, who lost more than $700,000 he had given to Namco Financial for safekeeping. "I've gone through hell. I lost my home in foreclosure because of this. It's really affected me tremendously — financially and emotionally."

Laska was one of the investors who forced Namvar's companies into involuntary bankruptcy, asking a Bankruptcy Court to manage his remaining assets so he would not squander them. That request was granted.

Namvar's attorney, Marc Harris, said his client would fight the charges and be vindicated.

In addition to Namco Financial, Namvar ran Namco Capital Group Inc., which raised hundreds of millions of dollars from private investors and used it to buy commercial real estate. Most of that money came from members of the Iranian Jewish community in Los Angeles.

Namvar, a 59-year-old Iranian immigrant, was one of the biggest success stories of the real estate boom before the market crashed in 2008, amassing high-profile holdings that included the Marriott hotel in downtown Los Angeles and the Cal Neva resort at Lake Tahoe, to name a few.

Namvar's good fortune ran out in 2008, when angry investors accused him of squandering their money and attempting to hide devastating losses. Creditors of Namco Capital Group placed claims of nearly $525 million in Bankruptcy Court.

Until word of the indictment broke Wednesday, many investors feared that Namvar would never be prosecuted, said David Youssefyeh, an attorney who represents 22 clients who lost "tens of millions" of dollars they had invested with Namvar.

"The fact that some authority brought charges against him means a lot to the victims. They suffered for two years while he's been sitting in his mansion in Brentwood," Youssefyeh said. "It makes them believe in the American justice system, makes them understand that it works, and that's huge."

Allegations in the indictment related only to Namco Financial, which helped investors avoid taxes by holding their commercial real estate profits in escrow until they could be reinvested. Namvar promised to safeguard the money but instead dipped into it throughout 2008 to help run his struggling businesses, the indictment alleged.

Arash Hakhamian, who said he invested about $40,000 with Namvar, welcomed news of the real estate magnate's indictment.

"I'm glad they're at least doing something," he said. "I think any further investigation or probe into these allegations is great news. If they have nothing to hide and they've done nothing wrong I take no pleasure in seeing him in jail. I want to see further investigation by people who have equal resources as they do, someone who can fully investigate the depth of what has transpired."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Secret Jewish heritage converts neo-Nazi

Warsaw, Poland (CNN) -- Pawel sits in the synagogue learning the Torah, praying and getting advice from his rabbi.

He appears to be enjoying a happy life married to his childhood sweetheart and the mother of his two children.

But he and Ola have traveled further than most -- from hate-filled neo-Nazism through the shock and anger of learning their heritage was Jewish to taking their place in the synagogue as Orthodox Jews.

They met at school in Poland's capital, Warsaw, when they were 12, but as their teen years passed Pawel first and then Ola grew into the neo-Nazi scene.

Gallery: Poles rediscover Jewish heritage At 18 they married and a few years later Ola was nagged by a conversation with her mother that she barely remembered -- something about Jewish roots.

She found her answer at the Jewish Historical Institute, which says it has collections documenting 10 centuries of Jewish experience in Poland.

While there she said she felt compelled to also check Pawel's family history -- and he too came from a Jewish background.

"Something told me to... It was unbelievable -- it turned out that we had Jewish roots. It was a shock. I didn't expect to find out that I had a Jewish husband," she said.

"I didn't know how to tell him. I loved him even if he was a punk or skinhead, if he beat people up or not. It was a time in Poland when this movement was very intense."

Reeling from the news, she had to return home to her neo-Nazi husband and tell him of their Jewish heritage.

There were 350,000 Jews in Poland after World War II -- about 10 percent of the Jewish population before the war.

In the 25 years after WWII ended the overwhelming majority left to escape persecution by the Soviet-controlled government.

For those who stayed, their Jewish heritage was hidden often even from their own children.

It provided a culture where anti-Semitism could thrive and in 1980s Poland, Pawel was embracing the hate festering in the concrete tower blocks of Warsaw.

When Ola brought home the documents to show Pawel his own history, he rushed to confront his parents, and they told him the family secret.

"I was a nationalist 100 percent. Back then when we were skinheads it was all about white power and I believed Poland was only for Poles. That Jews were the biggest plague and the worst evil of this world. At least in Poland it was thought this way as at the time anything that was bad was the fault of the Jews..." he said.

"Emotions, it is difficult to describe how I felt when I found out I was Jewish... my first thought was what am I going to tell people? What am I going to tell the boys? Should I admit it or not? I was angry, sad, scared, unsure."

Over time, Pawel's anger and confusion subsided and he approached Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich.

Speaking in the synagogue where he now worships, Pawel said: "The mirror was a big problem. I couldn't look at myself. I saw a Jew. I hated the person in the mirror then I grew accustomed to it, came to terms with it somehow.

"I came here to the rabbi and said, "listen, they are telling me I'm a Jew, I have this document in my hand, my mom and dad have said something. Who is this Jew and what is it? Help me because I am going to lose my mind otherwise.'"

In the years that followed they became friends with the chief rabbi and he has been a mentor to them.

Pawel, now 33, said: "I'm not saying that I don't have regrets but it's not something that I walk around and lash myself over... I feel sorry for those that I beat up... but I don't hold a grudge against myself. The people who I hurt can hold a grudge against me."

Today, they're active members of the Jewish community in Warsaw. Pawel is studying to work in a slaughterhouse killing animals according to the Jewish Kosher requirement and Ola is working in the synagogue's kitchen as a kosher supervisor."

Schudrich said: "The fact that they were skinheads actually increased the amount of respect I have for them. That they could've been where they were, understood that that was not the right way, then embraced rather than run away the fact that they were part of the people who they used to hate."

"I think also it says on a personal level, never write somebody off. Where they may be 10 years ago doesn't have to be where they are today. And the human being has this unlimited capability of changing and sometimes even for the better."

Suicide eyed in Nicaraguan diplomat's demise; cops say recent HIV diagnosis may have been cause

A Nicaraguan diplomat found dead in his blood-spattered Bronx apartment may have killed himself after learning he was HIV positive, police sources told the Daily News.

The knife wounds to the neck and stomach of Consul Cesar Mercado included a number of pinprick-size punctures. One investigator described them as "hesitation wounds - where you're trying to see how painful it is."

Blood splashed across the Grand Concourse apartment was possibly spilled as the injured Mercado staggered around before inflicting the final, fatal wounds, the investigator said.

The investigator added, "He was really feeling down and out for the last week."

Complicating the investigation were human hairs found in Mercado's hands. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said 10 were in his right hand and five in his left.

A police source said the clutched hair could indicate a struggle. Investigators ordered a rush on the analysis of the hair and bloody fingerprints found at the crime scene.

They're also examining his BlackBerry for clues.

A preliminary autopsy was inconclusive.

Friends of Mercado refused to believe the well-liked 34-year-old diplomat took his own life.

"It was an animal, whoever did this," said Mercado's friend Amparo Amador. "He didn't kill himself. It's a real tragedy."

Mercado's aunt was flying here today from Nicaragua to make funeral arrangements.

"His mother and sister are stunned," said Amador. "They can't believe this has happened."

Police said Mercado's driver came to pick the diplomat up Thursday morning to take him to the UN General Assembly. The driver waited for a few minutes and then went upstairs and found Mercado dead just behind the apartment door about 10:30 a.m.

Two knives were found in the bathroom sink. In addition to the punctures to his neck, Mercado had 12 knife wounds to the abdomen. The victim was fully clothed, except for his shoes.

There was no evidence of robbery or forced entry. The door was closed but unlocked

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

NYPD Arrests Woman In Bronx Arson Case

NEW YORK (AP) — Fire marshals have arrested a woman accused of setting a Bronx “revenge” fire that seriously injured four residents, including a 2-year-old child.

The FDNY said Wednesday that 30-year-old Kristen Nixon was charged with arson, reckless endangerment and four counts of first-degree assault. The name of her attorney was not immediately available.

Authorities said Nixon was a squatter in the building. They said she set the fire last week as revenge after a dispute with two other residents.

A flammable liquid was poured in a basement hallway, outside a bedroom where the victims were staying.

Authorities said the two-story building had been illegally subdivided.

If convicted, Nixon could face up to 25 years in prison.

K-Rod arraigned for violating order of protection against gal pal

Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez in handcuffs at central booking in Queens
Mets reliever Francisco Rodriguez surrendered to authorities this morning and was arraigned on criminal contempt charges after violating an order of protection.

K-Rod, suffering through a career meltdown, allegedly beat up his girlfriend’s father inside Citi Field last month and then violated an order of protection by sending 56 text messages to his estranged-ex, Daian Pena, over the span of a week.

“I know this message could get me in trouble again, but I already lost you, my house and my children,” Rodriguez wrote. “Daian, I understand that perhaps I made a mistake, the biggest mistake of my life for doing what I did but I love you.”

The new charges were announced last week after he was accused of assaulting his girlfriend's father outside a family lounge at Citi Field.

"Thank you for sinking me and turning your back (on me)," he said in another text.

Assistant DA Scott Kessler said Rodriguez understood he wasn’t supposed to contact her.

“He’s not naive or loving. He’s manipulative and controlling,” he said.

But Judge Ira Margulis ordered K-Rod post $7,500 bail, which he is expected to make this afternoon.

Prosecutors said K-Rod's gal pal had an order of protection against him in Venezuela after allegedly beating her up there.

The 28-year-old reliever was also accused of grabbing 53-year-old Carlos Pena, hauling him into a tunnel near the family lounge beneath the team's new ball park and hitting him in the face

More than 50 'worst' cabbies busted in overcharging scandal

Over 50 of the worst cabbies who allegedly ripped off riders during a widespread overcharge scandal were arrested by the Manhattan DA's office in a massive roundup today.

All of the drivers are considered the "worst of the worst" in the "rate 4" scam, where hacks charged riders the double-fare suburban rate while ferrying people inside city limits.

Some of those arrested will be charged with felonies, others with misdemeanors.

Manhattan DA Cy Vance said 59 drivers were busted for defrauding and stealing from customers over a 20-month period.

Cabbies are suspended until the outcome of prosecutions

"Although these drivers stole from their customers a few dollars at a time, these scams amounted to a massive fraud that cast suspicion on an industry that is a vital part of our life and economy," said Vance.

Law enforcement authorities pulled off the dramatic roundup by sending out a widespread letter instructing the scam-hacks to go to Taxi and Limousine Commission headquarters at 40 Rector Street this morning.

Authorities said the worst offender was a hack named Santiago Rossi, 66, of Hollis, Queens, who overcharged riders to the tune of $11,066.45 over the course of 5,127 trips.

Driver Mfamara Camara, 38, of the Bronx, ripped off riders to an even larger amount -- $15,502.30 -- over the course of just 4,772 trips.

If convicted, the drivers face up to four years behind bars.

So far, taxi brass has dropped the hammer on thousands of hacks accused of deceptively overcharging riders on a smaller scale, slapping them with hefty fines and revoking licenses from the worst offenders.

TLC officials determined that 45 percent of the driver fleet -- that's 21,819 deceiving wheelmen -- charged unknowing riders the double-rate suburban fare while inside city limits.

The unique scam ripped riders off to the tune of $1.1 million during the course of 286,000 trips.

About 545 hacks were accused of pulling the rouse 50 to 499 times -- and a disturbing 88 who did it more than 500 times.

Seth Katz, a lawyer for two cabbies who turned themselves in today, said he was told yesterday that arrest warrants were out for his clients.

"We're talking about a very small dollar amount over a protracted period of time," he said. "If it was fraud, it would be during a shorter period of time, for a larger amount."

Have a period of two or three years, he said, totaling no more than $3,000. His clients told him it was either that the meter wasn't working or they inadvertently pushed the wrong button.

"They're nickel and diming," he said. "They take thousands of fares a week."

Bhairavi Desai, head of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, agreed, saying, "We still question what evidence the DA has when all of this is based on a technology known for misreporting and breakdowns."

Task force arrests 41 in upstate drug bust

The state attorney general’s Organized Crime Task Force has busted up a violent drug-running gang from Albany following a seven-month investigation.

Forty-one people affiliated with the "Bloods" are charged with corruption and drug dealing for allegedly peddling thousands of dollars worth of cocaine, heroin and marijuana on the streets of the state’s capital, said a spokesman with the attorney general’s office.

The gangsters and their associates apparently used gangland connections to have drugs shipped from Brooklyn and Long Island to the Albany area for distribution.

Using wiretaps, investigators were able to listen in on several violent crimes being planned — including assaults, robberies and gun deals, the spokesman said.

Cops were able to stop these crimes without jeopardizing the operation, he added.

During raids, authorities — including Albany police, state police and US marshals — seized nine guns, thousands in cash and tens of thousands of dollars worth of drugs, according to the spokesman.

The defendants are currently being arraigned in an Albany court.

Former World Cup ref busted with heroin at JFK Airport

Another bad call.

A controversial soccer referee, whose contentious call knocked Italy out of the 2002 World Cup, was busted at JFK Airport on Monday with over 13 and half pounds of heroin strapped to his body, the feds said today.

Byron Moreno Ruales, who was flying from his native Ecuador, aroused Customs inspectors suspicions when he became “visibly nervous” during routine questioning at the airport, according to Special Agent Carlos Soto.

A customs agent felt "hard objects on the defendant's stomach, back and both of his legs," the complaint said. A strip search revealed that the lumps were 10 clear plastic bags, it said.

"I'm looking into the circumstances that led to this unfortunate situation," Moreno's attorney, Michael Padden, told The Associated Press.

Moreno enraged Italian fans in 2002 when he ejected Francesco Totti, giving the Italian a second yellow card for an alleged dive in the penalty area 13 minutes into overtime of 2-1 loss to South Korea in the World Cup's second round.

A 111th-minute goal by Italy's Damiano Tommasi that would have advanced Italy was disallowed, apparently for offside, and South Korea was awarded a penalty kick – that goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon saved – for a foul by Christian Panucci against Seol Ki-Hyeon.

"I think Moreno already had the (heroin) in 2002, but not in his underwear, in his body," Buffon said. "Joking aside, when sports people get involved in drug cases it means they're scraping the bottom of the barrel.

"It also means they've lost the real meaning of the sport, which is also to save kids from the street and various dangers, like drugs," Buffon said.

In 2003, Ecuadorean soccer officials suspended Moreno for 20 games after a game there drew complaints about him from both teams. He added 11 minutes of stoppage time to a game between domestic clubs Barcelona and Liga de Quito without recording it. He resigned a short time later.

Haredi extremists versus visitors - women are not invited

Sicarii move to ban entry to Mea Shearim by women on Sukkot. Women's sections of synagogues either closed or open only to members showing special ID. Non-haredi women plan march through Mea Shearim Friday as city does not intervene to ensure open access to public streets to women.

Gender relations, Mea She'arim style: Non-Haredi women plan a march through the neighborhood Friday morning to protest discrimination against women

The posters put up Tuesday in Mea She'arim, a Haredi (ultra-Orthodox ) neighborhood of Jerusalem, answered some questions about what to expect during the week-long Sukkot holiday, and especially the mid-holiday Simhat Beit Hasho'eva celebrations. On one hand, contrary to rumors, women will not be forcibly prevented from entering the neighborhood. On the other, women are definitely not invited.

But that is not a good enough reason for a group of non-Haredi women to cancel a planned march through the neighborhood Friday morning to protest discrimination against women. On the contrary: They are threatening to petition the High Court of Justice against the police for having given them a permit to demonstrate only outside the neighborhood rather than in Shabbat Square, as they had wanted.

One poster, signed by the "Committee of Residents of Mea She'arim and the Vicinity," a group backed by neighborhood extremists, said the women's sections of their synagogues would be open only to the women "of each congregation, upon presentation of a special card."

Next to it were posters from Toldot Aharon, the largest Hasidic sect in Mea She'arim. Though Toldot Aharon is known as a bastion of zealous separatism, for one week a year, it welcomes thousands of visitors who come to participate in the dancing that is part of the Simhat Beit Hasho'eva, and perhaps to leave behind a few dollars in contributions.

But for the first time in its history, the poster put up yesterday announced that its women's section would be closed to the general public on the nights of the Simhat Beit Hasho'eva.

The poster, which was also printed in English, said that overcrowding and safety concerns were behind the new rule. After all, Toldot Aharon would be loathe to admit that it had bowed to pressure from even more extreme forces. One such force is a group calling itself the Sicarii. Another is Yoel Krois, who crowed yesterday, "This Sukkot, women have no reason to come to Mea She'arim. That is our victory."

But the Karlin Hasids, who are known to welcome even secular Jews, have rejected the demand to keep women out. One Karlin Hasid told Haaretz his group had received a threat that a stink bomb would be thrown at their study house, but it would not recant.

In recent years, even the neighborhood's official leadership has demanded stricter gender separation during the Simhat Beit Hasho'eva.

But this year, the extremists demanded that only men be allowed to walk the quarter's main street, while women would use side streets - a plan that was scrapped after yeshivas on the side streets complained. The Haredi factions on the city council also quashed a demand that public transportation be barred from the neighborhood for the duration of Sukkot.

Mayor Nir Barkat has apparently decided to let the Haredi groups work the matter out among themselves.

And the neighborhood's official leadership, the Va'ad Hageula, released a statement yesterday pledging that "any person may enter Mea She'arim from any direction."

Nutjob is crazy for you Madge!

His love for Madonna went over the borderline.

A 59-year-old retired FDNY firefighter yesterday was busted for the second time in four days outside Madonna's Upper West Side apartment, where he displayed signs professing his love for the pop icon.

"Madonna, I need you," said a sign strapped to the top of Robert Linhart's SUV. "Tell me yes or no, " another sign said. "If it's yes, my dream will come true. If it's no, I will go. XXX."

The answer conveyed by Madonna's security people was a definite no. Cops wound up handcuffing Linhart and hauling him to the 20th Precinct station house.

He's charged with criminal weapons possession -- a Leatherman knife and a pocket knife -- as well as disorderly conduct, making graffiti, possessing a graffiti instrument and resisting arrest. Linhart had been stalking Madonna's apartment for several days, witnesses said. Cops on Saturday busted him on charges of obstructing governmental administration, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief and resisting arrest.

"We thought he was homeless. But then we saw he had a car," said Angel Melendez, a security guard in the neighborhood.

The Toyota SUV contained artist equipment, a firefighters' uniform and a Paris tour guide. One of Linhart's signs suggested he has traveled widely to stalk to the aging pop star. It said he'd seen Madonna "this year" in Prague -- she gave a concert there in 2009 -- and added, "Meet me, please."

Linhart retired from the FDNY in 1998, a department spokesman said.

For at least the past decade, he has lived in Huletts Landing, NY, a rural town on Lake George.

He's only the latest in a long line of wacky Madonna-wannabe beaus.

A bodyguard in the 1990s shot and wounded Robert Hoskins, who stalked her in California and threatened to slice her "from ear to ear" if she didn't become his wife.

Madonna testified at Hoskins' trial in 1996, despite admitting that being in the same room with him made her "sick to my stomach."

Hoskins was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

When Madonna performed in Madison Square Garden in 2004, security guards ejected an alleged stalker who had bought a ticket to the show.

And in 2000, her then-boyfriend, movie director Guy Ritchie, was accused of assault in London for slugging a stalker who admitted he was "a bit obsessed" with the star.

Experts: Lax Security Screening of Trucks at Newark Airport


MYFOXNY.COM - An exclusive Fox 5 News investigation exposes what experts call a major security lapse at Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey.

While passengers go through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints that confiscate bottled water and even small tubes of toothpaste, large trucks and vans packed with cargo drive right passed security checkpoints onto the airport tarmac with little to no inspection.

Video captured by Fox 5 News has sparked action by one government agency and stunned aviation and security experts. Fox 5 News showed the video to J.P. Tristani, an aviation expert.

"Compared to what passengers put up with, this was a playground," Tristani said.

The Fox 5 investigation focused on Newark Liberty's Terminal C, specifically the cargo security checkpoint operated by a private national security firm called FJC, a company contracted by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Every day dozens of delivery trucks pass through a security checkpoint to gain access to a tarmac, which is full of commercial aircraft carrying thousands of passengers.

The exclusive Fox 5 video shows FJC security guards stopping trucks at the checkpoint, then walking around the truck using a mirror to look at the undercarriage of the vehicle, but never actually examining the cargo inside the truck. Over and over, FJC guards do nothing more than glance inside trucks that are filled with cargo. The cursory inspections of the trucks' contents lasted about 5 seconds and never actually involved a guard entering a single vehicle. After which the FJC guards simply waved through each and every truck. It is a security process that totally surprises counterterrorism expert Bill Vorlicek, who screened the video.

"That's not what security is about," Vorlicek told Fox 5. "The worst-case scenario is an individual goes in with a truck filled with a sizeable amount of explosives."

Tristani had similar concerns.

"You could have an attack right there on aircraft nestled into the gateways at a terminal with serious loss of life," he said.

And explosives are a real concern, since the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says an average delivery truck can carry anywhere from 10,000 to 60,000 tons of explosives.

"My worst fear would be an attack on the infrastructure i.e. the control tower, if the tower gets knocked out then that airport is out of commission for a long, long time," Vorlicek said.

During the exclusive Fox 5 News investigation, bomb0sniffing dogs were never seen at the checkpoints. And according to a insider, once the trucks pass the checkpoint there's no further examination of the trucks inside.

Commenting on the video Tristani said: "The worst part of it was, that I saw no one ever in a small van, a large truck, ever go beyond an open door... no one had a flashlight, no one looked inside no one climbed inside no one had a surprise inspection that is shocking."

FJC also operates at LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports, the company's website claims FJC specializes in Terminal Security, Aircraft Security, Searches and Breach Response, but both experts interviewed by Fox 5 say FJC is operating at dangerously low security standards.

"What you have here to me, is another private contracted security agency that has fallen down on the job and is not providing a pro-active and advanced type of security," Tristani said. "That tells me that they don't know what they're doing."

When Fox 5 reached out to FJC Senior Vice President Mark Coffino he refused to see the video or even discuss a single detail of the Fox 5 News investigation. The company would only release this statement: "For the safety and security of our clients we have no comment."

FJC's security at Newark Airport is not cheap; according to the Port Authority the company's deal for this year alone is worth $11.5 million. That does not include the company's contracts at JFK or LaGuardia airports.

Fox 5 News showed the exclusive video to Ernesto Butcher, the chief operating officer of the Port Authority. He was apparently not happy with what he saw, telling Fox 5 the security procedures of the FJC personnel in the video were "unsatisfactory" and "unacceptable." After Butcher viewed the video, an FJC employee was suspended and others were issued warnings.

"Vehicle inspections are just one of a series of multilayered checks to ensure the safety of cargo being brought to the secure side of the airport, but they are critical and will be continually monitored," Butcher said in a statement. "Port Authority officials have re-emphasized to all FJC security guards and their supervisors the need for continual diligence and proper inspection techniques during their shifts."

When it comes to lapses in security, FJC is no stranger to public scrutiny. In August 2009, two security officers that were supposed to be keeping an eye on the George Washington Bridge were caught sleeping on the job. They were later fired.

In October 2009, an FJC security guard at Newark Airport was arrested and charged
for making terror threats against President Barack Obama. The guard later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

$100M mortgage scam con gets jail time

The "arrogant" ringleader of a $100 million mortgage scam will spend at least eight years behind bars for his part of a massive, brazen land con, a judge ruled today.

Aaron Hand, the 38-year-old former president of AFG Financial Group, was sentenced to 8 1/3 to 25 years for his convictions on enterprise corruption, scheming to defraud, conspiracy and grand larceny.

``Mr. Hand, not at this moment, but at times I have observed, could be a rather arrogant fellow,’’ said Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Carol Berkman. ``Mr. Hand, like some of his co-defendants, made a lot of money, lived very high. I guess that’s part of the arrogance.’’

Over four years, the scam ring tricked investors into buying into distressed properties with inflated appraisals. The AFG cheats would pocket investors’ money and let properties fall into foreclosure, ruining victims’ credit ratings.

Hand’s willing henchmen were also sentenced today.

Company CEO Eric Shields, 45, of Media, Pa., got 5 ½ to 16 ½ years; lawyer Kenneth Law, 54, of Pelham, NY, got five to 15 years; and property locator Jerry Strklja, 36, of Astoria, Queens got three to nine years.

Assistant DA Harold Wilson said Hand and his buddies played a significant role in the collapse of the real estate market that had huge ripple effect on America’s overall economy.

``The result was immeasurable,’’ said Wilson, who compared Hand's operation to a company that dumps toxic material and poisons the water supply. ``Your honor, they’re not much different from a corporate polluter.’’

Hand’s defense lawyer Lee Ginseberg could only argue that prosecutors piled on charges that unfairly amplified his criminals acts.

``Ten, 20, 40 counts, it doesn’t change the nature of the underlying conduct,’’ Ginsberg said.

DA Cyrus Vance said the four defendants deserved every year of prison time they got.

“Crime was the business of AFG – these four defendants went to work every day with the intent to commit mortgage fraud; it was literally their job,” said Vance. “This scam would not have been possible without the contributions of these four defendants, who each played an integral role in the formation and daily activities of the company.''

$1M painting, used in money-laundering scam, sent back to Brazil to reimburse defrauded victims

A Roy Lichtenstein masterpiece worth more than $1 million is going back to Brazil - and the auction block - to help reimburse victims of a Brazilian mini-Madoff.

The Lichtenstein and a second painting were part of a huge art collection used by a South American scammer to launder some of the $1 billion he stole from Bancos Santos.

"Modern Painting with Yellow Interweave" is a typically bright geometric abstract from the American painter.

A second painting by artist Joaquin Torres-Garcia, a Uruguayan artist, will be joining the Lichtenstein on its way to the land of bikinis and soccer.

"They will be sold and the money will be used to help pay the victims of the fraud," said Pedro Vieera Abramovay, Brazil's National Secretary of Justice.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, at a press conference with a slew of Brazilian officials, hailed the process of liberating the paintings from Edemar Cid Ferreira.

Banco Santos's former president was convicted of bank fraud in Brazil and sentenced to 21 years in prison.

"For years, important contemporary art works by Lichtenstein, Basquiat, and others have been held hostage by Ferreira's fraud," Bharara said.

"The return of these paintings to Brazil is especially significant because it highlights how important international cooperation is in the pursuit of justice."

Investigators say the paintings were a way to disguise his hidden loot. Brazilian officials believe he did the same with hundreds of other paintings, the most valuable of which is a $4 million Jean-Michel Basquiat called "Hannibal."

The forfeiture of "Hannibal" is under appeal, as are two other artworks.

The Lichtenstein and the Torres-Garcia, "Figures dans une structure," will be soon headed back to the Contemporary Art Museum of the University of São Paulo, said Abramovay.

Ex-Prostitute Sues Village Voice Over Ads Promoting Sex

NEW YORK (WPIX) — An ex-teen prostitute is suing the Village Voice Media's classified advertisement website, claiming it encourages sex trafficking and made it easier for her pimp to market her to strangers.

The now 15-year-old girl -- known only as M.A. -- claims she was forced into prostitution by her pimp when she was 14-years-old.

Her pimp -- identified as Latasha Jewell McFarland -- reportedly pleaded guilty to prostitution charges in federal court. McFarland apparently took sexually explicit photos of the girl and advertised her as a paid escort on the New York based Village Voice Media's both this year and last year. In addition, McFarland said she took the girl to parties, where men may want her for sex with multiple women.

The Missouri teen's lawyer, Robert Pedroli, claims the company was completely aware sex ads involving minors were being posted on the website, however failed to do anything about it because they were cashing in big with the amount of sex ads they were receiving. According to reports, the website is one of the most popular places for adult service ads in the United States -- next to Craigslist.

The Village Voice issued a press release regarding the case calling Predroli an "Attorney attempting to milk a tragedy." It goes on to say, "The claim that we knowingly assisted McFarland in committing criminal acts is a lie fabricated by a trial lawyer looking for a payday,"

However, despite the negative comments, Pedroli maintains Village Voice Media is abetting and aiding in sex trafficking.

The 15-year-old girl is seeking $150,000 for four of the inappropriate photo that were published.

Pedroli said attempts to sue online sites featuring sex ads in the past have failed because they are protected under a provision of the Communications Decency Act, claiming sites are not responsible for what others post on the sites.

However, Pedroli claims this site many be different because it involved the exploitation of a minor, which falls under the Child Abuse Victims Rights Act, which ultimately removes that protection for websites., features a large numbers of adult listings for escorts, phone sex and strippers. In order to log onto the site, users must be 18 years of age or older and do not live in an area where nude pictures and explicit material is prohibited

Orthodox Woman Texting While Driving Rams Man On Scooter, Leaves Him Brain Dead, Refuses To Apologize

A dopey young Brooklyn woman who was texting while driving crashed into a scooter-riding deliveryman, leaving him clinging to life, police said yesterday.

Nechama Rothberger, 19, was driving a 2005 Toyota Camry on Avenue P in Midwood at 11:30 Sunday night when she plowed into Tian Sheng Lin, authorities said.

The 53-year-old deliveryman was stopped at a red light near East 17th Street when he was rear-ended, police said.

The impact sent the father of three flying.

He suffered severe head trauma and was rushed to Kings County Hospital, where he was declared brain dead, authorities said.

"My dad did everything for his family. He always took care of us," said his heartbroken 19-year-old daughter, Anna.

The victim works at Best China Restaurant, located a few blocks from the accident scene.

Police charged Rothberger with misdemeanor reckless driving and using a mobile phone while driving.

At her arraignment last night, prosecutors said cops found her cellphone in the car with a half-written outgoing message.

Rothberger's lawyer, Lee Kimmel, said his client "didn't hit him intentionally. It was merely an accident."

The teen's mom paid the $5,000 cash bail.

Both Rothberger and her mom declined to say if she was sorry as they left Brooklyn Criminal Court. But Kimmel said, "Of course she's sorry."

Then, asked by reporters -- unaware of the brain-death declaration -- if Rothberger planned to visit Lin in the hospital, Kimmel said she'd send a letter.

The accident was the latest in a series of smash-ups that law-enforcement officials have blamed on texting while driving.

A study last year by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that drivers who text are 23 times likelier to crash or come close to having an accident than non-texters.

In November, New York passed a law that set fines of up to $150 for those caught texting while driving.

But under the law, the fines can be imposed only for texting as a secondary offense -- that is, if the driver breaks another law while texting.