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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Woman busted in Yemen and her lover tied to Al Qaeda plot, as hunt for terror suspects continues

The woman arrested Saturday in Yemen for mailing a pair of potentially deadly package bombs was part of an Al Qaeda plot that included her terrorist paramour, the Daily News has learned.

The first arrest in the conspiracy that rattled nerves on three continents came as Yemeni authorities narrowed their search for other suspects.

Investigators, based on the arrested woman's circle of friends, were pursuing conspirators who used forged documents and ID cards in the latest Al Qaeda scheme, sources told the News.

The packages were headed for two Chicago synagogues, although British officials said they believe one of the bombs was meant to blow up a plane.

The unidentified arrestee was traced through a telephone number she left with a shipping company, and busted at a home near the airport in Yemen's capital, according to a Yemeni official.

Security surrounded her residence in a poor neighborhood of Sana'a before arresting the woman. The suspect's mother was also taken into custody, according to Reuters.

The woman, in her 20s, was reportedly a medical student - but sources told the News that she was aware of her role in the plot.

Defense attorney Abdel Rahman Burman portrayed the suspect in a different light. "Her acquaintances tell me that she is a quiet student and there was no knowledge of her having involvement in any religious or political groups," he told Reuters.

A source told the News she was the spouse or girlfriend of an Al Qaeda operative, and that her role in the plot was simply mailing the explosive packages.

U.S. authorities suspect the bombs were fashioned by Al Qaeda's Yemeni explosives guru, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, who helped make the underwear bomb in the botched Christmas Day plane bombing.

Sources told the News yesterday that the two bombs discovered in Dubai and the United Kingdom contained PETN and were four to five times more deadly than the unexploded underwear bomb laced with the same powdered chemical.

Both of the package bombs were set to detonate with a long-distance cell phone call - meaning the plotters didn't need to be near Chicago or aboard the plane, a source told the News.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the British bomb was meant to detonate in mid-air, blowing the plane out of the sky.

Although authorities found no direct links to New York, security was ramped up around the city one day after the foiled plot. The NYPD warned synagogue members to stay alert for suspicious activity, and boosted its presence at houses of worship.

The increased attention was most obvious at Kennedy Airport, where passengers were happy to see the extra vigilance.

"There are more agents walking around the terminal, looking over everything," said Amarindar Singh, 34, a Suffolk County doctor awaiting a flight to India. "I'm glad they're here."

About a dozen Transportation Safety Administration agents patrolled the international terminal, checking food courts and waiting areas. Passengers endured a more intensive grilling as they headed for their flights.

"They're looking in your eyes for a bit longer and asking a few more questions," said Steve Barabas, 56, of Bartow, Fla., who was switching flights in New York for Hungary. "It seems like they're really looking out for trouble."

Local Yemenis said the attempted attack shouldn't reflect poorly on the country.

"Many countries get a bad rap over things like this but there are good people there in Yemen. You want to paint the whole country with one brush? Bad things happen here in America, too," said Johnny, the manager of Yemen Cuisine on Court St. in Brooklyn.

President Obama reached out to Cameron and Saudi King Abdullah to offer his thanks for their countries' roles in defusing the bomb plot.

"The President expressed his strong appreciation for the critical role played by Saudi counterterrorism officials in averting this attempted attack," the White House said about the Abdullah call.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Jewish Institutions in United States on Alert

The Anti-Defamation League has sent notices to Jewish institutions across the United States to step up mailroom security and to contact law enforcement immediately if officials or members see anything suspicious.

The action came in light of the developments Friday in which packages containing explosive materials originating in Yemen were "bound for the United States -- specifically, two places of Jewish worship in Chicago, said President Barack Obama.

Based on this "credible terrorist threat," as the president called it, "all churches, synagogues and mosques in the Chicago area should be vigilant for any unsolicited or unexpected packages, especially those originating from overseas locations," the FBI said in a statement.

Librescu Film Wins Award - Virginia Tech - Courage Under Fire

A short film by a Lubavitch organization was named one of the winners in the 21st Annual Aegis Awards competition, a respected video/film production contest in the United States.

"Courage Under Fire" was honored by a distinguished panel of judges representing the industry professionals from across the country.

The AEGIS Awards are the video industry’s premier competition for peer recognition of outstanding video productions and non-network TV commercials.

The short documentary is about about the heroic acts of Professor Liviu Librescu OBM who saved the lives of his 22 students by blocking the door of his classroom from a gunman with his body; which cost him his life.

Jewish Butcher Vs. Black Minister

Crown Heights, NY - It’s butcher against minister in a Crown Heights state Assembly race that will test the Tea Party’s ties to the district’s Hasidic Jewish community.

On Tuesday, voters in the 43rd District will choose between Menachem Raitport, a Brooklyn Tea Party-backed butcher from the Hasidic community, and Democratic Assemblyman Karim Camara, a Baptist minister who was recently endorsed by local Jewish leaders.

“People are tired of what’s going on. They want a change,” said Raitport, 43, who is representing the Republican and Conservative parties on the ballot.

Raitport’s campaign was dealt a serious blow when the Crown Heights Political Action Committee (PAC), an influential group of business and civic leaders in the Jewish community, endorsed Camara.

“Mendy [a nickname for Menachem] is an A-one guy,” said Moshe Malamud, a founding member of the PAC. But, he added, “Karim has been our partner, our friend, our advocate since Day One.”

Rabbi Shea Hecht, co-chairman of the PAC, put it more bluntly. “Can Mendy Raitport do anything for us more than Mr. Camara? The answer is no.”

Raitport has lived in Crown Heights for 25 years, and has owned and operated his butcher shop, Crown Kosher, for the last 16 of them. A registered EMT, Raitport has been known to donate kosher meat to needy families and to let others buy on credit.

“For sure I’m voting for Mendy,” said Jack Safire, who lives down the street from Raitport’s shop. “He helps a lot of people.”

Though Raitport helps families during tough times, he’s against what he calls government “handouts.” “Government has made it so that people should rely on them,” Raitport said. “If they’re lazy, I’m sorry, I don’t have to pay for someone to sit on his laurels and collect a check.”

Though many in Crown Heights’s Hasidic community share Raitport’s regard for hard work, as well as his moral opposition to homosexuality and abortion, it’s also true that many local families depend on government services.

“A lot of people are struggling,” said Rabbi Eli Cohen, the executive director of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council. “Therefore they’re not totally against having a government safety net.”

Cohen said that demands for government assistance have spiked in the area over the last few years.

“We’re at the bottom end of the economic scale,” said Rabbi Josef Spielman, who runs a food pantry from his home. He said he serves about 350 people on an average day. Large Orthodox families with parents who lack secular college degrees and children who attend religious schools are often the most needy, Spielman said.

Many of Crown Heights’ Jewish leaders see in Camara a seasoned politician who is attuned to their community’s needs — tax credits for parents with children in religious schools, housing support for large families — and has the connections and resources to address them.

“He understands how Albany works,” said Hecht. And, he added, “Philosophically, he’s 100 percent with us.”

“I’ve been one of those people who have forged strong relationships with the Jewish community,” said Camara, who sits on the Hebrew Language Academy Charter School’s board of directors.

While Raitport can claim some popularity in his neighborhood, he’s a political novice largely without connections beyond the Jewish community, opponents say.

“He’s a very sweet fellow,” Cohen said. “In a vacuum, a lot of people would like to support his candidacy.”

New York airports, synagogues on alert after mail terror plot exposed

Cop at the Park East Synagogue yesterday.

New York airports and synagogues are on high alert after officials on three continents unearthed a mail-order terror plot yesterday.

Police will be stationed at major synagogues around the city today -- especially flooding the Orthodox and Hasidic temples in Borough Park and Williamsburg, in Brooklyn -- with officers both sitting outside the holy facilities and checking in during services, sources said.

Federal officials yesterday said two potential bombs were unsuccessfully sent from Yemen to Jewish facilities in Chicago, raising concerns about local safety as well.

In Borough Park, six high-profile temples will get extra attention from officers -- including Bobov, Satmar, and Munkatch -- and an officer will be stationed at a booth at Lee Avenue near Keap Street in Williamsburg, police sources said.

The escalation unfolded in dramatic fashion yesterday, as the NYPD's elite Hercules unit was stationed outside the Temple Emanu-El on East 65th Street, while heavily armed officers were patrolling near the Park East Synagogue on East 68th Street.

"Counterterrorism patrols will give special attention to synagogues and Jewish neighborhoods over the next few days," said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne. But he added there was "nothing to suggest there are specific targets."

Meanwhile, federal officials -- especially the Transportation Security Administration and FBI -- will use "heightened cargo screening and additional security at airports" today.

"Passengers should continue to expect an unpredictable mix of security layers that include explosives trace detection," the Department of Homeland Security said.

Longer security lines should be expected at all airports.

Yemeni forces arrest woman believed linked to explosive packages

A woman believed to be connected to a plot to send explosive packages bound for the United States has been arrested in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, according to a Yemeni government official and a reporter with the state news agency.

A female relative of the woman was also being questioned by Yemeni authorities, the government official said. The relationship between the two women was not immediately known.

Believing that a Yemen affiliate of al Qaeda was involved, American and British authorities said explosive devices jammed into ink toner cartridges were powerful enough to bring down a large aircraft. One package was found in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates; the other in England.

But officials weren't certain whether those behind the plot, who likely would have used cell phones to trigger the devices, wanted to detonate them while the planes were in the air or at their destinations, two synagogues in Chicago, Illinois.

British authorities said they believe East Midlands Airport in central England was simply a conduit for shipment of one device to the United States.

"We believe that the device was designed to go off on the airplane," Prime Minister David Cameron said. "We cannot be sure about the timing when that was meant to take place. There is no early evidence that that was meant to take place over British soil, but of course we cannot rule it out."

The devices were designed to be detonated by a cell phone, a source close to the investigation told CNN.UK Home Secretary Theresa May said authorities do not believe the perpetrators would have known the location of the device had they detonated it.

Authorities pointed their fingers at al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen, a poor Arab nation that has emerged as a major operating base for al Qaeda and other terror groups.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano told CNN Saturday that the plan to send the explosives has the "hallmarks of al Qaeda, the AQAP -- they are constantly trying things to test our system."

Yemen has asked for outside help to thwart terror groups, but the country, the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, is still used for operations, U.S. officials say. The failed "Christmas Day Bomber" plot, for example, is believed to be the workings of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. And in January, the United States and United Kingdom temporarily closed their embassies in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, because of terror concerns.

U.S. authorities were grateful for a tip from Yemen's oil-rich neighbor, Saudi Arabia, alerting them to the suspicious packages.

The Saudi government provided U.S. officials with tracking numbers of the two packages, enabling quick tracing to the United Kingdom and Dubai, a source told CNN.

President Barack Obama called King Abdullah on Saturday to thank him, the White House said.

On Friday, Obama confirmed the two devices contained explosive material and were bound for two "places of Jewish worship" in Chicago, Illinois.

"We ... know that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula ... continues to plan attacks against our homeland, our citizens, and our friends and allies," Obama said during a press briefing.

Authorities on Friday scrambled to locate other packages sent from Yemen. They have been found and did not pose a threat, a U.S. law enforcement official said.

Obama's presidential counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan, spoke to Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh, stressing "the importance of close counterterrorism cooperation, including the need to work together on the ongoing investigation into the events over the past few days," according to the White House.

Saleh told reporters that Yemen could not confirm the packages contained explosives, but he acknowledged the nation's economy and tourism industry have suffered because of al Qaeda's presence.

He vowed to fight the terror group.

"We do want anyone to interfere in Yemeni affairs and start chasing al Qaeda," Saleh said. "We will chase al Qaeda with our airplanes and our equipment. We will chase al Qaeda wherever they are."

They were "professionally" loaded and connected using an electric circuit to a mobile phone chip tucked in a printer, Dubai police told WAM, the official news agency for the United Arab Emirates. The devices were packed in toner cartridges and designed to be detonated by a cell phone, a source close to the investigation told CNN.

The package found at East Midlands Airport contained a "manipulated" toner cartridge and had white powder on it as well as wires and a circuit board, a law enforcement source said Friday. A similar package set to be shipped on a FedEx cargo plane was discovered in Dubai, officials there said.

A source close to the investigation said the type of material found in the devices was PETN, a highly explosive organic compound belonging to the same chemical family as nitroglycerin. Six grams of PETN are enough to blow a hole in the fuselage of an aircraft.

PETN was allegedly one of the components of the bomb concealed by Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the Nigerian man accused of trying to set off an explosion aboard a Northwest Airlines flight as it approached Detroit, Michigan, on December 25.

AbdulMutallab is alleged to have been carrying 80 grams of PETN in that botched attack.

"The quantity of PETN in these [new] devices was about five times the volume used at Christmas" by AbdulMutallab, Col. Richard Kemp, the former chairman of the British government's Cobra Intelligence Group, told CNN affiliate ITN. The plot "does appear to be a typical al Qaeda-type operation," he said.

A source closely involved in the investigation said the detonating substance was Lead Azide. Lead Azide is a "very powerful initiator" which is easily prepared and is a standard substance in detonations, the source said.

Kemp said al Qaeda remains intent on carrying out a "spectacular attack" comparable to the September 11, 2001, attacks on U.S. soil.

In response to the threat, authorities stepped up searches Friday of cargo planes and trucks in several U.S. cities, said law enforcement sources with detailed knowledge of the investigation.

Also Friday, the Transportation Security Administration stopped all packages originating from Yemen, and shipping companies UPS, FedEx and DHL all said they were complying with the order. May said Saturday that all cargo into or through the United Kingdom originating in Yemen was halted as well.

The U.S. Postal Service also announced a temporary suspension of acceptance of inbound international mail originating in Yemen.

As authorities pressed forward in the investigation Saturday and strengthened security, a leader of a small LGBT-friendly synagogue in Chicago, Illinois, said her place of worship was one of the targets of the intercepted packages.

"It was unnerving, but we carried on as normal," Lilli Kornblum, co-president of Or Chadash, said of Friday night's services.

The FBI in Chicago would not confirm whether Or Chadash was targeted, spokesman Royden Rice said.

"We notified both targets yesterday," Rice told CNN Saturday. "We always notify potential victims of crime. If they wish to reveal who they are, it's up to them."

Friday, October 29, 2010

Three NYC high-end cocaine dealers busted by cops

Charlie Sheen isn't the only one now with powder on his face.

Three high-end drug dealers were cooling their heels behind bars yesterday after police smashed their door-to-door cocaine delivery service that catered to the city's elite — including celebrities, law enforcement sources said.

The dealers, identified as Manuel Castillo, 34, Juan Torres, 30, and Torres' girlfriend, Stephanie Matute, 30, charged a 300 percent mark up on 70 percent pure cocaine and made curbside deliveries to Manhattan nightclubs as well as hotspots in the Hamptons, sources said.

The investigation began in May when an undercover cop posing as a Chelsea power broker made 10 drug buys, said sources.

Cops moved in on Thursday when the undercover officer met with ringleader Castillo and his deliveryman Torres at a Cafe in Astoria, Queens, claiming he needed a large quantity of cocaine for a Halloween party. The men sold the undercover 70 grams at a discounted price of $7,200 sources said.

The service has been in business for an estimated five years, making deliveries throughout the city and brought in an estimated half a million dollars annually, sources said.

"The service has delivered to some celebrity clients based on intelligence," said one source close to the investigation.

A gram of the drug, which was packaged not in the traditional small plastic envelope but in a tinted glass vial, sold for $120 a gram, about 300 percent above the wholesale street price, said sources.

A gram of cocaine has sold for up to $80 in past undercover buys, said sources.

"This is the most expensive delivery service we have come across," said a source, adding that when tested it was determined that the drug was in high 60 percent to low 70 percent pure.

Following the arrest last night, cops searched Castillo's home and found an additional 43 vials of cocaine.

Investigators are taking a look to see if Castillo, who owns a laundromat "At Your Service" laundry in Astoria, was laundering the drug proceeds through the business, said sources.

Castillo, of Queens and Torres, of Manhattan's Upper West Side, and Matute were arrested by investigators from the NYPD Manhattan South Narcotics team. The case is being prosecuted by NYC Special Narcotics Prosecutors Office of Bridget Brennan.

Mobster-turned-informant gets time served, witness protection

Former Bonanno crime family underboss Salvatore Vitale, who switched sides to become one of the most helpful government informers in U.S. mafia history, was sentenced Friday to time served and is heading into witness protection.

Known as "Good Looking Sal," the 62-year-old mobster had pleaded guilty to participating in 11 murders, along with a host of other offenses such as extortion and gambling, that could have put him behind bars for the rest of his life.

But federal prosecutors asked the judge to sharply reduce his sentence - despite an adult lifetime dedicated to crime - citing Vitale's seven years of cooperating with government investigators that helped decimate the Bonanno organization and severely damage the four other New York crime families.

The feds described his assistance in a single word: "devastating." To wise guys, Vitale's considered "super rat."

Vitale told Judge Nicholas Garaufis "I've committed some horrible crimes which I'm truly ashamed of, and I pray for forgiveness."

Garaufis sentenced him to time served - which has been seven years - plus five years probation.

Since his 2003 arrest, Vitale identified more than 500 mob members and associates in New York, New Jersey, throughout the U.S., Canada, and beyond.

He provided information and evidence about more than 30 murders, attempted murders, and murder conspiracies planned and plotted by the mafia, federal prosecutors told the judge.

Vitale pulled back the curtain and provided secrets about all five New York-based Cosa Nostra families, as well as the DeCavalcante family in New Jersey. He identified locations where the mob met and detailed their criminal enterprises, leading to the prosecution of high ranking members of the Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, and Genovese crime families.

His knowledge included clues about nearly three decades of mob hits. Included was the 1976 murder of Vito Borelli, who was dating the daughter of Gambino boss Paul Castellano, whom he apparently insulted, the feds believe.

Another was the 1992 execution of Thomas and Rosemary Uva on Christmas Eve, after the pair was suspected of knocking over mob-controlled social clubs in what became known as the “Bonnie and Clyde” robberies, prosecutors wrote. Vitale testified about the hits in a trial.

He also recounted his and others’ roles in the 1981 murder of Bonanno captain Dominick “Sonny Black” Napolitano, only weeks after the crime family learned that a young mob associate who worked under Napolitano was actually undercover FBI Special Agent Joseph Pistone.

The saga was later chronicled in the film “Donnie Brasco.”

Vitale was born in Brooklyn and lived in Queens and Long Island. His employment history in legitimate jobs was “brief,” prosecutors say, and included work in the catering business and a stint as a “narcotics corrections officer” for the State of New York.

In custody for the past seven years, the feds have taken special security precautions to protect him from a mob assassination.

His defense lawyers said that during his time behind bars, Vitale has voluntarily completed an anger management course, worked in the prison factory, regularly attended confession, and assisted a priest by setting up the chapel and running the religious service.

Bloomberg met with aide on sham campaign funds: DA

A veteran campaign operative accused of stealing $1.1 million from Mayor Bloomberg during last year's mayoral campaign met personally with the mayor a few days before collecting the money, according to court papers filed today.

Manhattan DA Cy Vance Jr., who is prosecuting GOP operative John Haggerty Jr., reported that the meeting took place after Haggerty proposed a budget to the Bloomberg campaign for an Election Day ballot poll-watching operation.

"On October 28, the day after defendant Haggerty sent the e-mail (with his proposal) to top aides to the mayor, Haggerty met with them, as well as Mayor Bloomberg himself, to discuss the ballot security operation," Vance reported.

That marked the first time that anyone had revealed that Bloomberg himself was involved in the discussions about the ballot security effort.

Prosecutors charged that Haggerty's proposal was a sham.

They said he intended to keep almost all the funds for himself.

In dismissing arguments by Haggerty's lawyers to dismiss the charges against their client, Vance concluded: "Nothing can detract from what is essentially a simple case of theft."

Eric Seidel, the assistant DA handling the case, filed a brief stating that Haggerty admitted trying to deceive Bloomberg.

Seidel said Haggerty was interviewed on March 12 and June 22 in the presence of his lawyer and stated "he did not disclose to Mayor Bloomberg, his agents and his campaign employees that he was going to keep the money that was budgeted for the Election Day ballot security operation for himself because he believed if he did, he would not have received the money."

Seidel said further that Haggerty admitted "he lied and misled the Bloomberg campaign as to what he intended to do with the money budgeted for the Election Day operation."

Finally, Seidel said, Haggerty copped to concocting three fake $500 checks he gave poll workers -- who never actually received them.

The checks wound up being published in The Post after Haggerty provided them to the Bloomberg campaign as evidence he ran a legitimate operation.

Authorities Investigating Several Suspicious Packages That Originated From Yemen

Oct. 29: A United Parcel Service jet is seen isolated on a runway at Philadelphia International Airport. Law enforcement officials are investigating reports of suspicious packages on cargo planes in Philadelphia and Newark, N.J

4:00pm DEVELOPING: Military jets are escorting a commercial passenger jet to JFK airport in New York.The flight, which contains a package from Yemen, was escorted by Canadian F-18s to the the U.S. border and has since been picked up by two American F-15s.

An FBI official told Reuters there was no known threat associated with the flight.

Federal authorities were stepping up aviation security precautions after cargo planes were grounded at two U.S. airports in response to suspicious packages that may have been part of a "dry run" for a future Al Qaeda plot.

One of the packages, found on a UPS plane at East Midlands Airport in central England, contained what looked like a toner cartridge with white powder and wires coming out of it. Another package was found at a FedEx facility in Dubai.

Both packages originated in Yemen and may have been sent by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in the country.

The packages, discovered late Thursday night, prompted U.S. authorities on Friday to methodically sweep and clear cargo flights in Newark, N.J., and Philadelphia. Law enforcement agencies are investigating whether the packages were part of a dry-run mail-bomb plot, an attempt to get explosives into the United States or an attempt to send materials to third parties in the U.S. for another plot.

The FBI reported that two of the suspicious packages were addressed to religious institutions in Chicago.

"All churches, synagogues and mosques in the Chicago area should be vigilant for any unsolicited or unexpected packages, especially those originating from overseas locations," Chicago FBI spokesman Ross Rice said.

Ross would not identify the intended recipients of the packages but said they had been contacted.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said President Obama was alerted Thursday night, and administration officials have been monitoring the situation.

"Based on close cooperation among U.S. government agencies and with our foreign allies and partners, authorities were able to identify and examine two suspicious packages, one in London and one in Dubai. Both of these packages originated from Yemen," Gibbs said in a written statement. "As a result of security precautions triggered by this threat, the additional measures were taken regarding the flights at Newark Liberty and Philadelphia International Airports.

Given the origin of the packages, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula "is at the top of the list" of suspects, a U.S. official told Fox News.

Federal law enforcement officials said the suspicious device that resembled a toner cartridge was removed from the a flight in a distribution center at East Midlands Airport in the U.K.

Officials for FedEx said the company also confiscated a suspicious package in Dubai that was shipped from Yemen and is cooperating with the FBI.

A crew member aboard a UPS plane arriving to Philadelphia from Paris, France later notified authorities on approach about a suspicious package. The crew member described a possible radiological component to the package, the incident report said. The two occupants safely exited the aircraft after landing in a remote area of the airport.

A second UPS plane was isolated near the UPS terminal at the Philadelphia airport before take off, the report said.

A third UPS plane, which arrived at Newark Liberty Airport from East Midlands in the U.K., was investigated, but UPS says it was cleared and proceeded on to Louisville, KY.

Two UPS trucks in Brooklyn and Queens, N.Y., were also investigated and cleared, officials said.

Law enforcement officials also are investigating a suspicious packages in Portland, Maine. No word on whether that package has any links to UPS or Yemen.

"As an additional safety measure, FedEx embargoed all shipments originating from Yemen,"Maury Lane, spokesman for FedEx told Reuters.

URGENT: FBI: Threat To Chicago 'Shuls'

The FBI reported that two of the suspicious packages were addressed to religious institutions in Chicago.

"All churches, synagogues and mosques in the Chicago area should be vigilant for any unsolicited or unexpected packages, especially those originating from overseas locations," Chicago FBI spokesman Ross Rice said.

Drug-hunting Dogs at Home

Parents turn to man's best friend to search kids for drugs

Wrong way driver on I-95 near Philly

PHILADELPHIA - A motorist caught a driver driving the wrong way on the I-95 in Philadelphia causing four accidents.

It is jarring to watch as the driver, only identified as an older woman may not have even have realized she was going north in one of the southbound lanes on I-95.

Tim Flemming caught the entire incident with cell phone video.

"It was crazy, man, I thought I was going to see people die, I seriously thought I was going to see people die," said Tim Fleming.

Cars zipped past, barely missing her in what would have been a horrendous collision.

At one point the woman clipped the guardrail, but just kept driving, never hitting anyone, but leaving a trail of at least four accidents in her wake as motorists swerved to avoid her.

"I saw cars swerving around her, she wouldn't stop and I yelled at her again I waved my arm at her again. She waved at me leave me alone," Fleming said.

Flemming was certain this was going to end horribly, but it really didn't. At some point south of Philadelphia, the woman got off the freeway and continued on her way.

She gave others nightmares, but may not even have been aware herself what was going on.

Police are still looking for the older model Buick station wagon, blue or possibly silver in color with wood paneling.

Duo executed at Queens cemetery

Like a scene from a gangster movie, a man and woman were found shot to death execution-style in the front seat of a car that was left parked and running outside a Queens cemetery yesterday, cops said.

The balding man, Lenny Archipolo, 47, was found still strapped into the driver's seat of the 1997 Chevy Lumina at 10:08 a.m. outside Linden Hill Cemetery in Ridgewood.

His girlfriend, Yomarya Santiago, 23, was slumped next to him in the passenger seat, leaning against the door with her hair flowing out of the open window.

Both had single gunshot wounds to the backs of their heads, police sources said.

"[They were] motionless. The man's head was turned on one side, kind of limp, ashy color, off-color," said Stephen Chee, 73, a retired nurse who lives nearby and made the 911 call to cops.

"The hair covered the woman's face. [She was] slumped to the left side," Chee said. "The guy was shot in the back of his head. The guy had blood on the front of his shirt . . . I'm shocked at the way they died."

A family friend said that Santiago's jealous ex-beau had threatened Archipolo over the relationship -- and that the ex was about to get out of jail.

Police sources said they were looking into the possibility that the slayings might have been part of a love triangle.

"He loved her. He would give her money all the time, buy her clothes, take her out to dinner," said Archipolo's friend Dominik DeRosa, who added that Santiago had a child by the man in prison.

Santiago's neighbor Emma Anderson said the young woman called Archipolo "her big fat teddy bear."

Sources said investigators also were eyeing a possible drug connection, given Archipolo's long rap sheet involving narcotics.

Cops said Santiago did not have a record.

The brutal murders shattered the peace of the quiet neighborhood

"I'm in shock. I can't believe it," said Mary Gervino, 78, a neighbor of Archipolo. "He was such a nice guy."

Cops differ with that assessment. Archipolo had eight prior arrests, including busts for rape, robbery and drugs.

"When you talked to him, he was charismatic," another neighbor said. "But he was not a nice guy. Leonard was always in trouble."

When police found the maroon car, which belongs to Archipolo's brother, it's engine was still running and the lights were on.

Cops last night were looking at a surveillance video from a camera on a home across from the cemetery.

Sources said investigators are treating the killings as a double homicide and not a murder suicide, mostly because no gun was found at the scene.

Flatbush Shomrim Warns Gambling Parlors In The Community

Even before the sinking economy and high unemployment rate, there were those who took on gambling as their prime source of income.

Now, with jobs scarce and despair rising, even more people are putting their resources and future at risk for a chance to turn a quick, illegal buck.

Flatbush Shomrim, the volunteer safety and security patrol that works closely with the NYPD, has received an alarmingly high number of anonymous calls from frightened wives whose husbands have lost family valuables in illegal gambling operations in the neighborhood.

These operations are right here and right under our noses, in the midst of our yeshivas, shuls and places of legitimate business. The outside of a gambling parlor may look like any other residential house that fits into the neighborhood, or even based out of phony storefronts. Single and married men from all over our neighborhood walk in and out at all hours of the day and night. This must be stopped.

Flatbush Shomrim is alerting all homeowners and storeowners that they must not rent to gamblers, despite the temptation of high rent or kickbacks from the criminal proprietors.

Such tenants who may seem legitimate, may even sublet the apartment or store without moving in. Criminal proprietors of such establishments have also fallen prey to armed robberies, attracting even more danger in our the community.

With zero tolerance for criminal activity that could embarrass our community and further endanger struggling families, Flatbush Shomrim is compiling a list of suspected gambling sites to be investigated by the police.

Those who have become addicted to gambling can get help from Safe Foundation by calling 866-569-SAFE (7233). Trained counselors are ready to help them with this problem and get their lives back on track.

Gambling parlors do not belong in our community. Everyone must do their part to keep our community safe from dangerous and illegal behavior. To report suspicious activity, call the Flatbush Shomrim 24/7 Emergency Hotline 718-338-9797.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hunt On For Man Who Tried To Kidnap Boy In East Village

A nanny fought off a man who attempted to kidnap a four-year-old boy in the East Village on Wednesday, police said.

Surveillance video from a fruit stand in the area shows the man walking by at around 11 a.m.

According to police, the man picked up the child as he got out of a taxi and started to walk off along East 6th Street between Avenues A and B when the nanny screamed and pulled the child away.

The boy was not injured.

The man was last seen headed eastbound on East 6th Street.

He is described by police as Black, 45-55 years old, 5'6"- 5'8" tall and was wearing a brown hooded sweatshirt with writing on the front and faded black jeans.

If you recognize the man in the surveillance video or know anting about the attempted kidnapping that could help police in their investigation, contact the NYPD Crime Stoppers (see below; all calls are strictly confidential):
Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477).
Text your tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Arrest in FBI Terror Sting

FBI investigators at the home of the sting's target on Wednesday.

WASHINGTON—Federal agents on Wednesday arrested a Pakistani-American man in a sting operation, accusing him of helping scout out potential targets for bombings of Washington's Metrorail subway system.

The suspect, 34-year-old Farooque Ahmed, of Ashburn, Va., believed he was part of an al Qaeda bombing conspiracy, but the purported plot was actually set up by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to a federal grand-jury indictment in Virginia's eastern district.

The indictment says that from April to October, Mr. Ahmed tried to aid what he believed was a plot to carry out multiple bombings at Washington-area subway stations. He recorded video of stations in Arlington, Va., on four occasions and drew diagrams of three stations in Arlington, according to the indictment.

He provided suggestions for where to place bombs in attacks that were supposedly to be carried out next year, it says. Mr. Ahmed is charged with attempting to provide support to terrorists and assisting in planning a terrorist attack on transit.

The public was never in any danger, officials said.

At a hearing Wednesday in federal court in Alexandria, Va., the bearded suspect politely told a judge he understood the charges. Prosecutors told the judge they expected to use classified evidence in the case and asked that he appoint a lawyer with security clearance for Mr. Ahmed. Mr. Ahmed, who is being held pending a Friday detention hearing, didn't comment on the substance of the charges and said he couldn't afford a lawyer.

A profile on the LinkedIn professional networking site shows a Farooque Ahmed working as a network engineer at a U.S. unit of Swedish telecommunications company Telefon AB L.M. Ericsson. A spokeswoman for Ericsson said Mr. Ahmed worked as a contract employee assigned to clients in the area.

The indictment doesn't say how U.S. officials became interested in Mr. Ahmed. The FBI and other agencies are known to monitor Internet forums that attract jihadists and other Islamist sympathizers in the U.S. and around the world. U.S. officials said Mr. Ahmed didn't participate in overseas terror training.

In April, FBI agents set up a meeting with Mr. Ahmed under the guise of making contact with a terror operative, according to the indictment. During a meeting in May, the indictment says, Mr. Ahmed told the purported terrorist contact he was planning to attend the hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia in November and then "might be ready to travel overseas to conduct jihad in January 2011."

In July and August, Mr. Ahmed conducted surveillance and recorded videotape of the Arlington Cemetery, Pentagon City and Court House Metro stations in Washington's Virginia suburbs, the indictment says. He also did surveillance of a hotel in Washington, to study security and determine the busiest periods at the locations, the indictment says.

At a meeting in September, prosecutors allege, Mr. Ahmed told the contact an attack could cause the most casualties between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. He suggested placing bombs on trains at the three stations he had cased and proposed using rolling suitcases in simultaneous attacks in 2011, the indictment says. The suburban stations Mr. Ahmed allegedly scouted are often crowded with contractors and military personnel who work in offices affiliated with the nearby Pentagon.

The case is the latest of several involving FBI sting operations luring alleged extremists in the U.S. to carry out terrorist plots, in which FBI informants or undercover agents control the plot.

Last month, prosecutors charged a Chicago man who tried to detonate what he thought was a bomb on a crowded street in the city's Wrigleyville neighborhood. The bomb was a dud, provided by the FBI, which had set up the sting.

A similar operation led to a 24-year prison sentence this month for a Jordanian man who thought he was carrying out a truck bombing of a Dallas skyscraper last year. The FBI had orchestrated the plot, providing a fake bomb.

In recent years, the FBI has refined its use of the sting as a way to stop terror plots before they can be carried out. In some cases, defense lawyers have accused investigators of entrapment, in which law enforcement induces people to commit a crime they otherwise wouldn't commit. The FBI and prosecutors argue that the cases are brought only against suspects who have given investigators cause to believe they are inclined to support terrorism. Juries and judges mostly have sided with the government in cases brought in recent years.

Contact High... three Orthodox Jews run a medical-marijuana ???

In Berkeley, three Orthodox Jews run a medical-marijuana collective selling a religiously inspired cannabis cream

On a late summer afternoon in Berkeley, California, Eliezer “Sticky” Green, a bearded hipster in hemp shorts and a Green Festival T-shirt, is sitting across the street from his medical-marijuana collective, smoking a joint. It’s not an uncommon sight in the East Bay—home of the country’s first cannabis trade school, Oaksterdam University—but an hour later Green is doing something a bit more out of character for the Bay Area: He’s wrapping tefillin and davening mincha, the afternoon prayers.

In Northern California, even the religious Jews light up.

Green, 32, is a founding member of Doc Green’s, a medical-marijuana collective established by Orthodox Jews, who, like the late kabbalistic rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, believe that cannabis was one of the ingredients in the holy anointing oil described in the Torah. Working in a commercial loft space where sets of the Zohar and Midrash line the bookshelves and the Grateful Dead is heard as often as Hasidic melodies, the collective’s founders combine cannabis extract with fair-trade shea butter to produce Doc Green’s therapeutic healing cream, a medicinal lotion used to treat ailments from sore muscles to eczema.

“As a Jew, it’s about the power to be able to heal people,” says Green, whose father is a retired Orthodox rabbi. “I want to go to nursing homes and rub down 85-year-olds who voted for Republicans and hated pot.”

California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, leading to the creation of patient collectives like Doc Green’s, which sells lotion to its roughly 300 members. Medical-marijuana collectives operate as non-profit entities and provide access to legal, usually high-grade cannabis for those with a doctor’s recommendation. While most collectives offer marijuana and often have a storefront dispensary, Doc Green’s is the rare collective that supplies its members with a topical lotion—which, for better or worse, does not get you high.

Next week, California voters will decide on Proposition 19, a controversial ballot initiative that would tax and regulate marijuana sales in the state, thereby legalizing recreational use and allowing citizens to possess up to an ounce of it. Proponents argue that if legalized, revenues from the $14-billion-a-year industry—which accounts for two-thirds of the business transacted in Mendocino County alone—would help to reinvigorate California’s battered economy.

The Doc Green’s founders are among a small group of religious Jews in their collective—which includes Jews and non-Jews alike—but they are not the only religious Jews in the hemp business. They are part of a loose network of Orthodox cannabis growers and purveyors that extends north to Mendocino County and south to Los Angeles, where until a recent crackdown, medical-marijuana dispensaries outnumbered Starbucks outlets. Doc Green’s sources the majority of its cannabis from what is most likely the only Sabbath-observant pot farm in the so-called Emerald Triangle—shorthand for Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties. At the farm, a lighting system runs on timers, and a shabbos goy refills the generator several times throughout the Sabbath.

Green grew up in an Orthodox home and spent much of his childhood in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, but his Doc Green’s co-founders Ramona Rubin and Daniel Kosmal are both ba’alei teshuva, or secular Jews who embraced Orthodoxy by choice. Kosmal, a lanky 37-year-old with soft blue eyes and side curls tucked neatly beneath a cap, embraced Judaism while studying conservation as an undergrad at the University of California, Berkeley. Rubin is a puckish 33-year-old who spent her college years as a grassroots environmental activist. (Disclosure: She is also my downstairs neighbor.) In 1997, Rubin was arrested for sitting in the path of a logging truck in Headwaters Forest, an old-growth Redwood reserve on the Northern California coast. After a three-day hunger strike in solitary confinement, she had a religious awakening and became shomer shabbos, or strictly Sabbath observant. Some 10 years later, Rubin, Green, and Kosmal held their first Doc Green’s meeting at a national Rainbow Gathering.

Their lives may seem very distant from most traditional Jewish communities, but location is everything. The Bay Area has long been known for its romance with experimental culture and life on the fringes, and observant Jews here are no exception. The Bay Area was a center of the Jewish Renewal movement, which in the 1970s sought to re-energize Judaism through song and Eastern-tinged spirituality. In some ways, the Orthodox medical marijuana enthusiasts are simply the latest iteration of the vanguard Jewish culture that has flourished here since locals began wrapping themselves in rainbow-colored talisses and practicing Jewish meditation at the aquarian minyan some 40 years ago.

The lotion that came to be known as Doc Green’s is the brainchild of Kosmal, who first concocted it two years ago while working as an environmental lawyer in Humboldt County. Inspired by the use of cannabis in ancient Chinese medicine and by stories of African slaves who rubbed cannabis oil on skin ailments, Kosmal started mixing small batches of lotion for friends and family. When early results proved promising, Kosmal teamed up with Rubin, who holds a master’s degree in public health and was working at a substance-abuse clinic for Native Americans, to refine the formula. These days, their bottles of lavender- and vanilla-scented lotion line the shelves of more than 100 medical-marijuana dispensaries across the state.

Because medical-marijuana studies in the United States have been hamstrung by the plant’s classification as a Schedule 1 drug—the same classification as heroin, which makes studies exceedingly difficult to conduct—the anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of topical cannabis have yet to be confirmed by research. But that might change; Dr. Janet Weiss, a Berkeley-based doctor and medical toxicologist who has been performing community-based medical marijuana studies for the past 10 years, is preparing to launch a double-blind study that will test the effectiveness of Doc Green’s on muscle pain and arthritis, as well as eczema. “We have a very keen interest in doing this because it’s the head of the snake,” says Weiss. “If you believe that medical marijuana has something to do with medicine, you’re better off looking at the effects of topical rather than the effects of getting stoned.”

Anecdotal evidence and the collective’s growing membership rolls would suggest that the lotion does have therapeutic benefits. Paull E. Rubin, a 56-year-old guitar player who suffers from severe arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome (and no relation to Doc Green’s Rubin), says that using Doc Green’s lotion for the past year has significantly alleviated his symptoms. “I’m able to play 32nd notes and keep up with the metal and bluegrass players if I have to,” says Rubin, who massages it into his hands and joints before playing. “It removes all the aches and pains and will last sometimes for 16 or 18 hours.”

Stories like that inspire the nearly messianic fervor of Kosmal, one of Doc Green’s founders. “In Judaism, there is an essence of taking care of each other and healing each other,” he says. “It’s the idea of tzedakah, which is recognizing someone’s lack, in this case their health, and filling that lack.” He even dreams of bringing Doc Green’s to Israel. “If you have a medicine,” he says, “you want to share it with your family.”

But will members of that larger family—Orthodox Jews outside of Berkeley—want to partake? Certainly, smoking marijuana has long been frowned upon in traditional Jewish circles for a number of reasons, ranging from the Jewish precept against escapism to the commandment that Jews should not harm their bodies. But if using topical cannabis turns out to be helpful to the body, might it be accepted?

Yitzchok Adlerstein, a professor of Jewish law and ethics at Loyola University who is Orthodox, says that if the lotion’s efficacy is backed up by Western medical research, the answer is yes. “I think the traditional community would not have any problem with topical cannabis if it were sanctioned by the medical community,” Adlerstein says.

Still, he was skeptical of the claim that the oil used on the likes of King David contained cannabis. “To the best of my knowledge, there is nothing in Jewish text that mentions cannabis,” Adlerstein says. “It might be a product of these people’s imagination or what they were smoking.”

Either way, Green’s 68-year-old mother, Margie—who wears the modest dress of an Orthodox woman, but spices it up with gold bangles and a sparkly, black velvet baseball cap—is happy to indulge in a little lotion. Watching her son wrap tefillin in the Doc Green’s production space, she sings its praises. “I’ve used it for cramps in my leg, and it goes away,” she says. But like every Jewish mother, she’s also ready with a critique. “The vanilla smells like plastic,” she says. “The lavender is much better.”

Woman injured after Mercedes plows into Queens Kosher store

An elderly motorist plowed her Mercedes Benz into a Queens Kosher grocery today, mowing down a customer and giving everyone else in the store the scare of their lives.

"It was like a gust of air went past my face," said Barbara Vanagas, a cashier at Mazur’s Kosher Market, on Horace Harding Boulevard in Little Neck.

"We heard a crash and I turned around," Vanagas said. "She [the motorist] missed me by a foot — near death."

Vanagas watched in horror as the out-of-control Mercedes Benz E350 knocked down a 54-year-old woman at her register around 3:45 p.m.

"Glass shattered all over the place, and I heard someone scream," Vanagas said. "I was in shock as soon as it happened. It came out of nowhere. It almost killed me."

The woman at Vanagas’ register ended up pinned beneath the car. When fire trucks arrived, her husband "screamed for the firefighters to help his wife," said another witness.

The woman was taken North Shore-Long Island Jewish Hospital, where she was in critical but stable condition with non-life threatening injuries to her head and legs, police said.

The driver of the Mercedes, said to be in her 80s, was also taken to North Shore for observation, said police. She was not expected to be charged

נתניהו יקבל המכונית הכי יקרה שנסעה בכבישי ישראל: אאודי A8 סקיוריטי ממוגנת; מחירה: מיליון דולר

מפרט המכונית: מנוע 12 צילינדרים בנפח 6 ליטר, שהספקו 450 כ"ס והנעה כפולה קבועה ■ תא ממוגן עמיד בפני קליעים ורימוני יד ■ מתלי אוויר נשלטים אלקטרונית ■ צמיגים חסיני ירי ■ התקן פירוטכני, שמעיף את הדלתות החוצה■ מערכת אספקת חמצן עצמאית ■ ויש גם אביזרי נוחות לרוב: DVD עם מסך רחב, מקרר משקאות ומתקן לשמירת לחות הסיגרים

בימים הקרובים תגיע ארצה המכונית היקרה ביותר שעלתה אי פעם על כבישי ישראל. מדובר במכונית השרד הממוגנת החדשה של ראש הממשלה, בנימין נתניהו, מדגם אאודי "A8 סקיוריטי", שתחליף מכוניות אמריקניות וגרמניות שונות, ששימשו בתפקיד עד כה.

מחירה הרשמי המלא של המכונית בדרגת המיגון הגבוהה ביותר "B7" עומד על כ-685 אלף דולר (כ-2.5 מיליון שקל) לפני מסים. אולם, במכונית שהוזמנה בישראל בוצעו שיפורים ושדרוגים ייחודיים רבים על-פי מפרט כוחות הביטחון בארץ. בענף הרכב מעריכים, כי המחיר הרשמי של הפרויקט כולו, כולל התוספות, הוא 750-850 אלף דולר לפני מסים (2.7-3.1 מיליון שקל). על מכוניות שרד ממשלתיות משולם מס מלא, אולם לרוב יש פטור על רכיב המיגון, שמהווה חלק נכבד ממחיר הרכב. לפיכך בחישוב של המחיר אחרי מיסים, שולם על הרכב קרוב למיליון דולר (3.64 מיליון שקל).

ה-A8 "סקיוריטי" הנוכחית הושקה בסוף 2007 והיא מבוססת על דגם ה-W12 של ה-A8, עם מנוע 12 צילינדרים בנפח 6 ליטר, שהספקו 450 כ"ס והנעה כפולה קבועה. לפי הנתונים הרשמיים של היצרן, היא כוללת תא ממוגן שמיוצר בבית החרושת המקורי, שעמיד בפני קליעים ורימוני יד. יש לה מתלי אוויר נשלטים אלקטרונית לתמיכה במשקל הרב של הרכב ומערכות הבטיחות המיוחדות. כלי הרכב כולל פריטי בטיחות כמו צמיגים חסיני ירי; התקן פירוטכני, שמעיף את הדלתות החוצה אם אלה ננעלו בתוצאה מהדף; מערכת אספקת חמצן עצמאית; מערכת כיבוי אש אוטומטי ועוד. לרווחת הנוסעים מותקן בחלק האחורי DVD עם מסך רחב, מקרר משקאות ומתקן לשמירת לחות הסיגרים.

ממשרד ראש הממשלה נמסר בתגובה: "הרכב המיועד לראש הממשלה הוא בעל רמת מיגון גבוהה כפי שנקבע על ידי גורמי הביטחון ולכן נבחר במכרז דגם של כלי רכב המסוגל לשאת את רמת המיגון הנדרשת. ראש הממשלה לא לקח שום חלק בתהליך קבלת ההחלטה לגבי סוג הרכב. הנושא כולו טופל והוחלט על ידי הגורמים המקצועיים בלבד".

הגביר, המקובל ו'הרב' המתווך

FBI Links 2 Military Shootings, Probes 3rd

WASHINGTON -- The FBI has linked two recent shootings at military buildings in the Washington D.C. area and is investigating a possible connection to a third shooting that happened within the last 24 hours.

In the early morning hours of October 19 police and FBI investigators responded in force when six shots were fired into the south side of the Pentagon, leaving bullets embedded in two different windows. Just two days earlier, police in Quantico, Virginia responded to a similar attack on the Marine Corps Museum, where bullets were also fired at windows in the early morning hours.

The FBI announced Tuesday it determined those shootings were carried out with the same weapon, which police said at the time of the Pentagon shooting was believed to be a high-powered rifle. Ballistic testing is now also underway for a third shooting that occurred sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning at the Marine Corps recruiting station in Chantilly, Virginia.

So far the FBI has yet to identify any suspects. No one was injured in either attack. The section of the Pentagon that was hot was under construction and at the time no workers were there. $20,000 worth of glass panels were destroyed at the museum, but none of the museum's artifacts -- including a harrier jet hanging near the damaged windows -- were hit.

The shootings all occurred with 40 miles of each other, and in the case of the Pentagon and Museum shootings, circumstances suggest the shots may have come from major highways that run past the buildings. The Pentagon faces I-395 on its south side, while the Marine Corps Museum sits just off the northbound lanes of I-95. At one point the Pentagon police closed down portions of I-395 to search for shell casings. A cleaning crew at the museum in Quantico called police when they noticed the bullet holes in windows high up in a part of the building that faces Interstate 95. Meanwhile, the Marine Corps recruiting station sits just over 100 yards from route 50, a 6-lane road that connects Washington to Virginia's suburbs.

For the Pentagon it's the second incident of its kind this year. On March 4th a gunman opened fire at a security checkpoint into the Pentagon in a point-blank attack that wounded two police officers.

The shooter, identified as John Patrick Bedell, 36, of Hollister, Calif., was shot in the head by police moments after the attack began and died hours after being admitted to a hospital in critical condition. Authorities had no motive for the shooting, but there had been signs that Bedell may have harbored resentment for the military and had doubts about the facts behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Rabbi ??? 'Murder-for-insurance' plot thwarted in B'klyn

מעצרו של חיים מאיר ויזל מסיגט ע"י האף בי איי
Pic By T.O.T. Private Investigations

A Brooklyn man was charged yesterday with trying to arrange a murder to collect on the would-be victim's life-insurance policy.

Jacob Vizel, 54, was arrested by the FBI after an undercover informant secretly recorded him plotting a murder-for-hire scheme that involved poisoning a man with sleeping pills, authorities said.

When the plot was uncovered a week ago, the FBI was already probing Vizel in a $12 million mortgage fraud, officials said. Agents uncovered the murder scheme when their informant taped Vizel discussing it, the feds said.

"You invite him for a coffee together," Vizel said to the man he allegedly hoped would carry out the assassination, according to a transcript of the recording. "You can give him some tablets?"

Authorities would not discuss the amount of the policy, the relationship between the two, or why Vizel was the beneficiary.

Burglars steal Torah from Phoenix synagogue

PHOENIX - An expensive copy of the Jewish religious text known at a Torah has been stolen from a Phoenix synagogue and police are asking for the public's help to identify the culprits.

Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Tommy Thompson says the Torah and several other religious items were missing early Monday when the Young Israel Synagogue was discovered to have been burglarized. The synagogue is on Maryand Avenue near 7th Street.

The Torah is the most revered article in a Jewish synagogue.

Anyone with information about the burglary or the stolen items is asked to call Phoenix police.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Charlie Sheen trashes room at Plaza Hotel in coke-fueled rampage

A drugged up and naked Charlie Sheen -- just two months out of rehab -- allegedly trashed his room at The Plaza Hotel early today in a frantic bid to find his wallet and cellphone after partying with a hooker, authorities said.

Hotel security called police just after 2 a.m. where they found the hard-partying Sheen after a woman called the front desk from the famed Eloise Suite, sources told The Post.

Tables and chairs had been thrown around the room and a chandelier was also damaged, sources said.

The damage to the luxury suite reportedly totaled about $7,000.

see more videos "The Two and a Half Men" star was accompanied to New York Hospital by his ex-wife Denise Richards, who was staying in a separate room at the Eloise Suite on the 18th floor, sources said.

Sheen, who was only a week away from completing his probation, told cops he was drinking and had snorted cocaine before flipping out, sources said.

But Sheen's rep later said the actor was taken to the hospital after an allergic reaction to medication.

Stan Rosenfield, a spokesman for Sheen, said the actor is expected to be released Wednesday.

The suite where the call came from is named for the popular children's book about a little girl named Eloise who lives on the top floor of the tony hotel.

Sheen was not injured, but checked himself into the hospital for a psych evaluation.

Sheen, 45, also told police he had been "out partying," sources said.

After he returned to his room with an unidentified woman, he noticed his wallet and cellphone were missing, causing him to fly into a rage, sources said.

A police official said the woman in the room with Sheen was an escort.

The hooker called the front desk from Room 1832 -- which features a pink-and-white stripped door -- and reported that Sheen was passed out on the bed.

Life & Style magazine reported on its website that the woman was screaming inside a locked closet.

"She was fearing for her life and was naked," a source told the website. "Charlie was incoherent but started screaming slurs at the cops. They recognized him immediately and gave him two options: they could take him to the hospital or take him down to the station. Charlie chose the hospital."

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said no complaints were made and there was no arrest. Sheen was not expected to face any criminal charges.

Sheen was in town with Richards, 39, and their two daughters, who were also staying in the hotel. reported that Sheen had recently been drinking again, shortly after he entered his guilty plea in his domestic violence case, and that his friends feared he was hanging around the wrong people. He was spotted drinking again at the Playboy Mansion in August.

Richards was in the city to promote her series "Blue Mountain State" and the family had gone to see "Mary Poppins" on Broadway while in the Big Apple.

Sheen, Richards and their kids were spotted around the city this past weekend.

In an interview this morning on Howard Stern's satellite radio show on Sirius XM, Richards did not mention the Sheen incident and Stern did not ask because he didn't know about it yet.

"Charlie is a very unique, colorful individual," he said about him. "A lot of men look up to him.

When she brought up that they were together in New York this week, Stern asked, "Is it really comfortable?"

Richards laughed and quipped, "It's been a very eventful trip."

Last year, Sheen had been arrested in Aspen, Colorado following a fight with then-wife Brooke Mueller, in which she called 911 saying that he had tried to kill her with a knife.

Sheen, who has admitted to using cocaine in the past and paying for hookers, cut a deal to avoid jail time by entering a rehab facility for 30 days.

Sheen has had a troubled past. In 1996, he was charged with attacking a girlfriend at his California home. He later pleaded no contest and was placed on two years of probation.

Two years later, his father, actor Martin Sheen, turned him in for violating his parole after a cocaine overdose sent him to the hospital. He was ordered to undergo a rehab program.

He also had a very bitter and public divorce with Richards, the mother of Sam, 6, and Lola, 5

Orthodox Attorney Fired As Spring Valley Village Attorney

Village attorney Ryan Karben got fired today and got a police escort out of Village Hall

Mayor Noramie Jasmin fired Village Attorney Ryan Karbentoday for not doing the job she expected of him.

Jasmin said tonight that she fired Karben because he didn’t “fulfill my expectations as the village attorney.” She didn’t provide specifics.
“I gave Ryan a full year,” Jasmin said. “I gave him a chance to work with the village ... In the village of Spring Valley we are facing a lot of issues. I expect people, when they work for the village, to fulfill their tasks.”
Jasmin contradicted police statements that officers escorted Karben from the building, as part of the normal routine.
She said she doesn’t have a replacement in mind, but plans to take her time and interview attorneys.
Karben, a former Rockland legislator and assemblyman, declined to comment.
“I am not going to comment on my discussions with the mayor,” Karben said, adding that she’s a friend. “The mayor speaks for the village.”
Jasmin appointed Karben in December after she won election. He previously worked as a deputy village attorney.
Trustee Demeza Delhomme said Jasmin spoke to him about Karben. He wasn’t in the village today.
“The mayor told me there was an incident,” Delhomme said. “She didn’t explain it to me. I have no idea what happened. The mayor has the right to bring people in and take out people.”
Karben, 36, served on the Ramapo Planning Board before he turned 20, then won election to the Rockland Legislature in 1997 after graduating from law school.
Karben won an Assembly seat in November 2002. He resigned in 2006 amid allegations of improper behavior with legislative interns in Albany. He said he resigned to spend more time with his family and on his law practice.

In December 2008, he pleaded guilty to driving while impaired by alcohol and served a night in jail on a two-day sentence.

Lakewood developer charged in $200M Ponzi scheme seeks new attorney

Accused Ponzi schemer Eliyahu Weinstein is shopping for a new criminal attorney.
Ephraim Savitt, the New York City-based lawyer who represented Weinstein in his preliminary hearings, on Oct. 14 asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Esther Salas for permission to be relieved as Weinstein's counsel.
"The reason for my application to be relieved is that I have waited — to no avail — to be properly retained," Savitt wrote in his letter to the judge. "Should the retainer preconditions be met in the near future, I hope the Court will entertain my motion to re-file a notice of appearance."
Savitt also wrote that Weinstein is "in the process of retaining other counsel."
In an e-mail Monday, Savitt said the retainer preconditions to which he was refering were "agreed-upon fee payments."
"I am in the business of helping people who need help, and that's what I did by fighting to get my client out of jail over the government's strenuous objections," Savitt said in the e-mail. "I just don't want it to become a hobby."
Weinstein, a real estate developer, was charged on Aug. 12 with having masterminded a $200 million scheme to defraud his investors. He and another defendant, Vladimir Siforov, were charged with defrauding a bank and defrauding an investor.
Siforov remains at large.
Weinstein was released from a Hudson County jail in late August on $10 million bail and a list of restrictions.
The $10 million was secured by liens on property owned by his parents, sister, brother-in-law and two men who Weinstein has never met.
The restrictions placed on Weinstein include 24-hour house arrest, GPS monitoring with exclusionary zones — no airports — and the forfeiture of passports belonging to Weinstein, his wife and children.
Weinstein's travel is limited to New Jersey, and he is only allowed to leave his house to meet with his attorney, medical visits and religious observances.
The U.S. Attorney's Office argued against bail, saying that Weinstein was a high flight risk.
Weinstein faces about 50 years in prison if he is convicted of all charges.
But Savitt argued that Weinstein knew the government was going to arrest him for some time, and during that period of time made a number of overseas trips, returning every time.
The case is on hold until Sunday to allow both sides to negotiate a deal, according to court papers.
Weinstein could not be reached for comment.

Eliyahu Weinstein Arrested (8/12/10)

'Dirty' dentists drilled

Nearly two dozen dentists connected to the alleged Medicaid mill Dental Plaza were hit with criminal and civil charges yesterday for their role in a $16 million scam.

The 22 dentists, some of whom collected more than a $1 million each from the state over a four-year period, are accused of conspiring with alleged mastermind David Ibragimov to pay down-and-out Medicaid recipients as much as $20 to lure them to his clinics, according to papers filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court.

Four dentists were charged with criminal grand larceny and insurance fraud, according to the attorney general. The others were charged civilly.

It is illegal to give Medicaid patients gifts as an inducement to get treatment. Dental Plaza operated at locations in Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx. Dentists at the clinics had to turn over two-thirds of their Medicaid proceeds to Ibragimov via three shell companies, prosecutors charge.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly got freebies at Harvard Club

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has gotten a free ride at the Harvard Club for the last eight years, with meals, drinks and membership dues covered by a private foundation, a website reported Monday.

Membership dues of about $1,500 a year at the exclusive club for Harvard alumni on W. 44th St. - along with the tab for Kelly and his guests to dineand drink - are picked up by the nonprofit NewYork City Police Foundation, according to

Kelly, who got a master's degree in public administration at Harvard, has declined to hand over the names of the guests he entertains to the foundation's board, the website reported. The police foundation funds special programs not covered by the NYPD's budget.

Kelly has failed to disclose the foundation's coverage of his expenses in his financial filings to the city's Conflicts of Interest Board, The New York Times reported last night. High-ranking city officials are required to disclose gifts exceeding $1,000.

The only such gifts Kelly has reported since 2004 are five plane rides to Florida last year and six in 2008, all provided by and shared with Mayor Bloomberg.

A police source confirmed that Kelly will amend his financial disclosure forms with the Conflicts of Interest Board.

Kelly will report that the foundation paid the estimated $1,500 in dues

Monday, October 25, 2010

Robbers Show a Creative Side

Dan McCaffery, an FBI special agent in the New York office's Violent Crimes unit, said most robbers make some attempt to hide his or her identity. The type of disguise usually depends on the type of robbery, he says.

For instance, Mr. McCaffery specializes in tracking sophisticated South American stick-up crews that target jewelry stores and jewel carriers. For those criminals the most popular disguise is an old standby: ski masks.

"The reason being it shows the least amount of identifying information; it conceals you face, your hair, your complexion," Mr. McCaffery said. "A close second, I would say, is hoodie sweatshirts with bandanas pulled up over the face."

David Caskey, the FBI's Bank Robbery Coordinator in New York, says that among bank robbers, "very few wear anything other than a baseball hat and sunglasses."

"In a lot of jobs customers and other tellers don't even know the bank is being robbed," he said. The bank robbers "usually want to get their money and just get completely out of there without drawing any attention."

At the other end of the spectrum has been the series of New York robbers wearing unusual masks over the past few months.

Around lunchtime on June 24, Shana Spalding, 28 years old, is alleged to have donned a cat mask that covered the upper-half of her face before pulling a gunpoint robbery at the Arche shoe store at 10 Astor Place in the Village. Reports said her take was $86. Ms. Spalding, who sang in a death-metal rock band called Divine Infamy under the stage name Purgatory, was arrested in late August after allegedly pulling another robbery, without a mask, at a SoHo store. She is currently being held at the Rikers Island jail.

As detectives were still looking for the "cat woman," the "Bouquet Bandit" struck. Carrying a bouquet of flowers rolled in a pink cellophane wrapper in front of his face, Edward Pemberton, 44, allegedly passed a robbery note to a teller at the Bank of Smithtown in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood and made off with $440. Unfortunately for Mr. Pemberton, the flowers didn't totally obscure his face from the surveillance cameras, and days after his photo appeared on the front pages of two of the city's newspapers, he was arrested. Police said Mr. Pemberton confessed to six bank robberies, including incidents during which he used a bouquet of roses and a potted plant to divert attention. Mr. Pemberton is also awaiting trial.

On July 22, the day after Mr. Pemberton was arrested, a man in a Darth Vader helmet and a blue cape walked into a Chase bank in Setauket on Long Island. A customer, who thought Lord Vader's robbery attempt was a prank even though he was brandishing a handgun instead of light saber, was shoved to the ground when he refused to comply with the robber's demands to hit the floor. The costumed bandit then robbed a teller and ran, and has yet to be captured.

Nor has a man who, while wearing football pants and carrying a pair of red football shoulder pads and helmet, in August attempted to rob a Burger King restaurant at 655 Rockaway Turnpike in Meadowmere on Long Island. He ran off empty-handed when he saw two employees run out of the restaurant and call for help.

Earlier this month, a gunman dressed in all black and wearing a mask that resembled Norwegian artist Edvard Munch's painting "The Scream" entered the kitchen of a Dunkin' Donuts in Farmingdale through a back door and announced a robbery. However, the man aborted his attempt when a dishwasher sprayed hot water on him using a sink hose.

That these suspects haven't been caught yet isn't too unusual.

Of the four major violent crimes—murder, rape, robbery and assault—robbery is by far the hardest to solve. According to FBI statistics, only slightly more than 28% of all robberies ended in arrest in 2009. By comparison, two-thirds of murders, 41% of rapes and 57% of assaults were closed out, according to the statistics.

"It's not like TV, when CSI comes in and they're able to pull hair and spit and they're able to instantly get a picture of the suspect on a computer screen," Mr. McCaffery said. "If you go into an armed robbery, you're wearing gloves, a hat and sunglasses; those can be hard cases to solve."

That has proved to be the case in the most recent and perhaps most bizarre of the string of uncommon-disguise robberies.

A 15-year-old was riding his bicycle in front of a strip mall on Route 25A in Rocky Point on Long Island when he was approached by two men wearing gorilla suites and another dressed in a chicken costume. One of the gorillas punched him in the head, knocking him off his bicycle. The chicken then grabbed the bike and pedaled off with the two gorillas running behind him, police said.

"We're still following the banana peels," a Suffolk County detective joked before passing a call from The Wall Street Journal to his boss, Detective Sergeant John Best.

Mr. Best said that when they first heard the call, police found it hard to believe it wasn't a prank, and subsequently there have been more than a few jokes about it in the squad room. On the other hand, the detectives haven't lost sight of the fact that a 15-year-old was assaulted, received stitches and had what Mr. Best said was his "prized-possession," his decked-out bicycle, stolen.

"It sounds amusing but what you still have here is three people who brazenly attacked a kid," he said. "So it's a serious investigation and we treat it as such."

Mr. Best said that even though the robbers wore attention-grabbing outfits and struck in a usually-busy shopping plaza, there have been few witnesses. Detectives checked every costume shop in the area but came up empty, and the few leads they received didn't pan out.

"The costumes do hinder our investigation at this point because the victim can't identify them by face," Mr. Best said. "They could walk by him on the street and he wouldn't recognize them."

'Hotel waiters' arrest rabbi blackmailers

American millionaire suspects his donation missing, rabbi fears extortion and threats. Police detectives disguised as waiters put end to saga, arresting suspects during recorded meeting

Members taking part in the dubious meeting at the Carlton Hotel in Tel Aviv were likely surprised to receive such courteous service from the hotel waiters. They had no idea that these waiters were actually part of a special undercover police unit playing dress-up. The waiters were only interested in documenting an extortion meeting between an important religious personality and the suspects held at the hotel.

פרשת שחיתות מטלטלת: מי גנב הכסף מ'המקובל'?
בסיפור העלילתי הזה, יש הכל: מקובל בכיר, גביר, דיין חרדי ואנשי עולם התחתון. הכל מתחיל בתרומות תמימות שהעביר גביר לחצר המקובל. בפגישה שערך הגביר אצל המקובל לפני מספר שבועות, גילה כי התרומות לא הגיעו ליעדן. אז, החלה הדרמה להתגלגל, עד לתרגיל משטרתי שהוביל למעצר. חשיפה

Special detectives arrested suspects in an extortion and threat case of an important and influential Bnei Brak rabbi in Tel Aviv on Monday afternoon.

According to police intelligence, some of the suspects belong to crime organizations, so the meeting was held in a hotel due to a growing concern of criminal entanglement and the suspects' money demands.

This odd case began a few weeks back, when a Jewish millionaire living in New York wanted to know what happened to his $600,000 donation he had given a well know religious personality in the ultra-Orthodox sector in Bnei Brak. When he arrived in Israel and was not welcomed by the religious personality, he began worrying about what might have happened to his money.

When his assistants approached the rabbi, he said that he had never received the money.

At this point, mediators steps in offering to help return the money to the American millionaire. One of these mediators turned to a well know criminal, who in return demanded $50,000 fee for retrieving the donation sum, however the criminal and his associates demanded to get their fee using extortion and threats.

The well-known religious personality and his people were afraid of making things worse and decided to involve the police in the matter.

This is how the meeting in Carlton Hotel came about. The head of the investigation, Chief Inspector Avi Goldin, prepared for the meeting ahead of time, placing recording and listening devices in the hotel lobby. The "head waiter" was Chief Superintendent Yoav Cotler.

Within a short while, all the characters met in the lobby and began to threaten the religious personality, demanding he return the donation money. At the end of the meeting, the police arrested the extortion suspects and since then has extended their arrest a few times.

The Magistrate Court in Tel Aviv approved publicizing the affair, but has yet to release the names of those involved

הבנות של ברונפמן וכת המיליונים

האבא הוא מילארדר יהודי, שאחראי לעשרות פרויקטים בישראל ובעל פעילות ענפה בקונגרס הציוני העולמי, אך בנותיו מעדיפות פעילות מסוג אחר. בנותיו של אדגר ברונפמן, שרה וקלייר, מעורבות לפי דיווחים שונים בכת מסוכנת בשם "נקסיום". ראש הכת כבר הודה ש"גרם למותם של אנשים", ומספר חברות בכת אף נעלמו מבלי להשאיר עקבות

מהומה במשפחת ברונפמן: בנותיו המיליארדר היהודי אדגר ברונפמן, שרה וקלייר, היו חברות בכת שלפי החשד גרמה למותן של אנשים. בסוף השבוע האחרון הועלתה ליו-טיוב קלטת בה מודה ראש הכת כי "גרם למות אנשים בגלל האמונה שלהם".

לפי דיווחים, בנותיו של ברונפמן היו מעורבות בארגון סודי בשם "נקסיום" והזרימו אליו סכומי עתק מקרנות הנאמנות המשפחתיות שלהן בשש השנים האחרונות, כדי לממן את הארגון ואת תוכניות השקעה כביכול של מנהיגו. הן עשו זאת על ידי שליחת מכתב סחיטה פיקטיבי לעצמן. בפועל, הכסף ששילמה המשפחה ל"סוחטים" הועבר ישירות לכת. עיתון אמריקני טוען כי מדובר בלא פחות מ-150 מיליון דולרים.

- פרסומת -בקלטת הווידאו, מודה ראש הכת, קית רנייר בן ה-50, במעשי ההרג. התמונות מנציחות שיחה שלו עם שתי נשים ב-2009. השתיים, שפניהן מוסתרות, מדברות על החששות שלהן מפני מה שמתרחש בכת ועל פעילויותיו העסקיות של רנייר. הן, וכמה חברות אחת בכת, הקליטו שעות שיחה עם רנייר, שבמהלכן הוא ניסה לשכנען לא לנטוש את הכת שלו, כך לדברי מקורות שמצוטטים ב"ניו יורק פוסט".

"גרמתי למותם של אנשים בגלל האמונות שלי או שלהם"

בקלטת שמפרסם העיתון אומר רנייר: "אז הנה מה שקורה. גרמתי למותם של אנשים בגלל האמונות שלי או בגלל האמונות שלהם". חברים לשעבר בכת אמרו דבריו מדאיגים במיוחד על רקע היעלמותה המסתורית של חברה לשעבר בכת ב-2003. מדובר בקריסטין סניידר, פעילה להגנת הסביבה בת 35, שנעלמה מבית מלון באלסקה לאחר שהשתתפה בכמה קורסים של נקסיום. לא ידוע מה אירע לה, וגופתה לא נמצאה מעולם. הטנדר שלה, מתוצרת "טויוטה", נתגלה על חוף מפרץ באלסקה ובו המסר הבא: "שטפו לי את המוח והמרכז הרגשי של מוחי חוסל... אנא התקשרו להוריי אם מצאתם את המסר הזה".

רנייר מופיע בקלטת עם זקן מדובלל, שיער ארוך וחולצת טי שמנונית. באחד מקטעי הקלטת הוא חולק על השגות של אחת משתי הנשים לגבי כישלון עסקי שגרם להסתבכותו עם השלטונות. נראה שהוא מנסה להזכיר לה את עוצמתו כראש נקסיום.

"אנשים ירו בי בגלל האמונות שלי", הוא אומר. "הייתי צריך לקבל החלטות. לשכור שומרי ראש, לחמש אותם, או לא? אבל אני עומד בראש ארגון טוב מאוד. אפשר לומר, ככל שיש יותר אור, כך יש יותר חרקים... הייתי אומר שיש לנו אור חזק מאוד".

אדגר ברונפמן ניסה למנוע את חברותן של בנותיו בכת. "הוא היה מודאג עמוקות ורצה לדעת מה קורה עם הילדות שלו", אמר חבר לשעבר בנקסיום, שנפגש עם ברונפמן אשתקד. "הוא ראה אותן, אבל הוא ראה רק מסיכות. הבנות היו מרוחקות ושומרות סוד", הוסיף אותו מקור.

עם זאת, במשפחת ברונפמן ממשיכים להכחיש ולטעון: "הכל בולשיט"