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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Murdered Jewish Journalist Daniel Pearl Also Baptized By Mormon Church

Daniel Pearl, shown here in 1999, was posthumously baptized by the Mormon Church last year.

In yet another public relations embarrassment for the Mormon Church, a Utah researcher has discovered that slain Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl was posthumously baptized last year in a serious breach of church protocol.

According to records, Pearl, who is Jewish, was baptized "by proxy" last summer in a Twin Falls, Idaho, temple -- much to the surprise of his parents, who learned of the event this week.

Reached by phone, Pearl's mother, Ruth, said she and her husband were dismayed when informed of the ceremony by a reporter from the Boston Globe, which first reported the news.

"We realize that the Mormon ministers who baptized our son posthumously meant to offer him salvation in the most honorable way they know how," she said in statement. "To them we say: We appreciate your good intentions but rest assured that Danny's soul was redeemed through the life that he lived and the values that he upheld. He lived as a proud Jew, died as a proud Jew and is currently facing his creator as a Jew -- blessed, accepted and redeemed."

Pearl, who was raised in Los Angeles, was working as a Wall Street Journal reporter when he was kidnapped and killed by terrorists in Pakistan in 2002.

In a video that his captors forced him to record shortly before his execution, he professed his faith, saying: "My father's Jewish. My mother's Jewish. I'm Jewish."

His parents later released a book titled "I Am Jewish," which contains a collection of essays by Pearl.

Posthumous baptisms are common in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, generally referred to as the Mormon Church. The purpose of the sacrament is to ensure that ancestors can join church members in the afterlife.

Individual Mormons submit to the church the names of persons they wish to have baptized. Then a baptism is performed "by proxy," meaning another person stands in for the dead.

The practice has long stirred controversy, leading to a 1995 agreement between Jewish faith leaders and the Mormon Church that was supposed to prevent the baptisms of Holocaust victims.

Church rules stipulate that only direct descendants of the dead can submit their names for the sacrament.

But incidents have cropped up over the years.

In 2009, the church acknowledged that it had baptized President Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, after her death. And just this month, officials were forced to apologize after they learned that the parents of the late Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal had been posthumously baptized. They also admitted that three dead relatives of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel were almost baptized, as well.

Messages left with a church spokesman were not immediately returned.

In an earlier statement, the Mormon Church said the incidents involving Holocaust victims were serious breaches of protocol by overzealous members of the church.

"It takes a good deal of deception and manipulation to get an improper submission through the safeguards we have put in place," a spokesman wrote in a statement. "It is distressing when an individual willfully violates the church’s policy and something that should be understood to be an offering based on love and respect becomes a source of contention."

Former Shas minister Rabbi Shlomo Benizri to be released from prison

Former Shas party minister Rabbi Shlomo Benizri

The decision, which calls for the release of Benizri along with 600 other prisoners was made by head of Israel Prison Service, Aharon Franco, due to lack of room in Israeli prisons

The Israel Prison Service announced on Wednesday that it would release former Knesset member Shlomo Benizri (Shas) on Thursday, instead of April as was previously stated.

The decision, which calls for the release of Benizri along with 600 other prisoners was made by the head of the Israel Prison Service, Aharon Franco, due to lack of room in Israeli prisons. Israel Prison Service rejected allegations that the early release was due to pressure from politicians close to Benizri.

The announcement comes a month after the Israel Prison Service parole board decided to reduce Benizri’s sentence. The board based its decision on Benizri's conduct in prison.

The parole board cut Benizri's sentence by a year and four months, meaning he was due to be released in April.

The board ruled that Benizri is not a problematic inmate after seeing his behavior and lifestyle during his imprisonment. Moreover, since former President Moshe Katsav entered prison after being convicted of rape and other offenses, Benizri has mediated between him and the Israel Prison Service. Benizri was asked to help the former president get accustomed to prison life. When Katsav refused to don his orange prison uniform and was therefore stripped of privileges such as going to the prison canteen, the prison allowed Benizri to buy products on Katsav's behalf.

Two years ago, Jerusalem District Court sentenced the former health and social welfare minister to 18 months in prison for violations including accepting bribes, breach of trust and obstructing justice - offenses the court found amounted to moral turpitude. Both Benizri and the state appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which extended his sentence to four years.

Benizri was found to have accepted expensive favors from a contractor in exchange for inside information on foreign workers due to arrive in Israel.

In 2010, Benizri submitted a pardon request to President Shimon Peres and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman.

Haredi Modesty Patrol Beats Elderly Haredi Woman

Elderly Jerusalem woman brutalized by thugs who evidently thought she was a missionary; police source: Assailants wanted to send a message

A 70-year-old ultra-Orthodox woman found herself the target of a brutal religious hate crime on Monday night, when four thugs broke into her home and beat her up before leaving her handcuffed and bleeding.

"They were sent by the Modesty Patrol," the woman, S., told Yedioth Ahronoth. "They told me, 'You are destroying the neighborhood with you missionary teachings."

The thugs hit her repeatedly with a metal rod, breaking her right hand, crushing her left leg and injuring her face. They used their cell phones to document the attack, evidently to report back to those who sent them.

Jerusalem police investigators confirmed that the attack was religiously-motivated.

"It's clear that this wasn't a robbery," a source close to the investigation said. "The suspects didn't come to the apartment to steal property, but to send a message."

S. made aliyah from the United States two decades ago. She has two sons, one of whom resides in Israel, while the other lives in the US. On Sunday, she was supposed to travel to the US to attend her grandson's Brit Milah. Instead, she was hospitalized at the Hadassah-Ein Kerem Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Over the past eight years, S. has been living alone at a primarily haredi area of Jerusalem's Nachlaot neighborhood, and has been teaching women who wish to convert to Judaism.

"They thought that I'm a missionary because I teach non-Jewish women," S. said

'You have bad influence on neighborhood'

On Monday night, a haredi man claiming to be a beggar came to her door and asked for spare change. Less than a minute after he left, she heard another knock on her door. This time, four masked men in gloves forced their way in, cuffed her and searched her home.

"They yelled, where are the video tapes, where's the computer," S. recalled. They didn't find any tapes, but took her laptop and her cell phone, and left.

S. managed to get up and get help, but when she stepped outside she realized the nightmare wasn't over. The assailants were still in the yard; they forced her back into her home and brutalized her.

"They yelled, you have a bad influence on our neighborhood," she said. "I knew there were rumors in the neighborhood that I'm a missionary, because they see non-Jewish women entering my home, but I'm only helping them convert to Judaism.

When they finally left again, the neighbors called emergency services, and informed her son, who reiterated the suspicion that his mother was targeted by the Modesty Patrol.

The haredi extremist group is known for violently targeting religious individuals who act in a way they deem unworthy of the ultra-Orthodox world.

The police launched an investigation but has yet to apprehend suspects.

L.I. - Nassau PD Officials To Be Charged In A Criminal Indictment

New York - Nassau County District Attorney’s Office will charge three high-ranking Nassau Police Department officials tomorrow in a criminal indictment.

The specific charges will not be unsealed until tomorrow, but sources say the allegations stem from the department’s handling of a 2009 burglary investigation at JFK High School in Bellmore. A student there, Zachary Parker, had been charged with stealing $3000 worth of computers.

The Long Island Press says that Parker’s father is a business associate of a group called the Nassau Police Department Foundation, which says on its website that it was founded to help fund a new police academy.

According to sources, the officials who will be indicted are William Flanagan, the second deputy commissioner of police, John Hunter, the deputy chief of patrol and Alan Sharpe, a recently retired deputy commander of the 7th Precinct Squad.

The Nassau District Attorney’s Office has declined to comment.

Yeshiva student pleads guilty to sexually molesting two fourth-graders

Hillel Selznick pleaded guilty today to sexually molesting two fourth-grade girls.

A Yeshiva student who was trusted by parents to tutor their children pleaded guilty today for sexually molesting two fourth grade students.

Hillel Selznick, 25 of Flushing, admitted to Queens Supreme Court Justice Richard Buchter that he inappropriately touched a set of eight-year-old girls -- over a year-long period -- during private tutoring lessons inside the victim's homes.

Selznick, who was a student at Rabbinical Seminary of America, pleaded to two counts of course sexual misconduct against a child and will be sentenced on April 17 to six months in jail, 10 years probation, complete a sex offender program and register as sex offender.

Shawna Christensen tells Manhattan DA, ex-nightclub owner not to blame in prince bar fracas

Shawna Christensen

It's a battle royal.

Supermodel Shawna Christensen met today with prosecutors, where she detailed for them how the Manhattan entrepreneur who broke a European prince’s jaw with one punch was actually the victim -- not the aggressor, sources told The Post.

Christensen, who is the face of Oil of Olay products, will tell investigators that Adam Hock, who is charged with four counts of assault for allegedly decking Monaco Prince Pierre Casiraghi, 24; Paris Hilton-ex Stavros Niarchos, 26; Diego Marroquin, 33; and Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld, 27, was the victim during a bloody brawl early Feb. 18 at the Double Seven in the Meatpacking District.

Christensen was accompanied to the hearing by lawyer Sal Strazzullo.

Asked to comment afterwards following the hour-long meeting, Christensen said, “Where’s the f--king car?"

Dressed from head to toe in black, with a woolen hat pulled down over her ears and forehead, black sunglasses, a scarf wrapped around her chin and an overcoat draped around her shoulders, she showed about as much of her Olay-oiled skin as a Taliban bride in a burka.

“She went in there alone, and whatever she said was the truth, and that’s about it,” Strazzullo said as Christensen hopped in the back seat of a chauffeur-driven Mercedes and sped off.

Christensen, who is the girlfriend of hair guru Joel Warren, was sitting at the table next to Hock's crew in the VIP area when the fight erupted.

She claimed she saw Roitfeld try and hit Hock with a magnum bottle of vodka, which triggered the barroom brawl, sources said.

Strazzullo has claimed Hock was injured in the shoulder when Roitfeld allegedly slugged him with a 1.5 liter magnum bottle of Grey Goose vodka.

Earlier this week, Strazzullo lashed out at Casiraghi and his jet-setting party pals.

“Just because you’re a prince doesn’t mean that you’re immune to being an aggressor. They don’t have the best character or credibility,” he said.

Strazzullo said Hock -- the former owner of the Hawaiian Tropic Zone in Times Square -- did most of the talking when he met with prosecutors.

“Mr Hock told the truth. I spoke way less than Mr. Hock did,” he said.

Adam Wright, 44, who twice raped 12-year-old on Brooklyn rooftop sentenced to 47 years in prison

Adam Wright, 44, was sentenced to 47 years in prison for the rape of a 12 year old girl in 2002.

A slimy, sanctimonious sicko who twice raped a young girl in a filthy Brooklyn elevator room had the gall to dole out advice to his victim at his sentencing Wednesday.

Adam Wright, 44, was hit with 47 years in prison, but when given a chance to address the court, the creep looked at his victim and tried to counsel her.

"Learn to let go, don't hold on to any pain," he said. "Give it to the Lord and he will take care of it for you."

Wright committed the heinous crime in 2002, but was only caught in 2008 after a DNA hit following an arrest for carrying an open alcohol container.

"This defendant raped a 12-year-old stranger then completely dressed her, leading her to believe, however fleetingly, that her nightmare is over. He then undressed her and raped her a second time," Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Dineen Riviezzo said before the sentencing.

Citing "the particular heartlessness of his act," she imposed the stiff sentence, rejecting Wright’s claim that the 2002 assaults should be considered one crime and not two.

Wright acted as his own lawyer during the trial, cross-examining his victim and arguing DNA samples were somehow "co-mingled" in an intra-agency conspiracy to frame him.

"His defense," the judge found, "had certainly no basis in the evidence and no support in the facts whatsoever."

The brave victim, now 21, twice ran off the stand in tears during her trial testimony, struggling to describe each sex assault.

"It was the day my childhood was taken by a man I never saw [before\] or even knew," she said Wednesday. "I had nightmares day in and day out, year after year."

The nursing student, who was violated in a dirty chamber on the rooftop of her Canarsie tenement, described being afraid of men and changing from a sweet young girl into an aggressive and reclusive teen.

The young woman betrayed no emotion as he spoke and minutes later the judge granted her wish, effectively locking up the pervert for the rest of his life.

"Today, it brings me great comfort," the victim told Wright, "that you are going away and will never do this to anyone ever again."

New York - Doctors, Lawyers Charged In Massive U.S. Car Accident Healthcare Fraud

A fraud ring exploited the state’s no-fault auto insurance law, federal prosecutors say.

New York - A cadre of corrupt doctors and scam artists sought to cheat auto insurance companies out of $279 million in bogus medical claims — the largest-ever fraud involving New York’s no-fault law, authorities said Wednesday.

The investigation resulted in federal racketeering, health care fraud, mail fraud and money laundering charges against 36 people, mainly of Russian descent. They include 10 physicians and three lawyers. One had the nickname “KGB.”

At a news conference, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said while the false claims totaled $279 million, the actual loss to private insurers was $113 million. Some of the ill-gotten gains were spent on vacations in Mexico, shopping sprees at Saks Fifth Avenue and rides in limousines, he said.

The charges “expose a colossal criminal trifecta, as the fraud’s tentacles simultaneously reached into the medical system, the legal system and the insurance system, pulling out cash to fund the defendants’ lavish lifestyles,” he said.

Since 2007, the ring operated a chain of medical clinics in Brooklyn and the Bronx that systematically exploited the state’s no-fault insurance law, authorities said. The law allows car accident victims to get up to $50,000 in benefits per person, no matter who was at fault.

The fraud relied on ambulance chasers — called “runners” — to convince real victims of car accidents to seek unnecessary care at the corrupt clinics in exchange for kickbacks of up to $3,000 per patient, authorities said.

Doctors would prescribe physical therapy, acupuncture and other treatments to every patient no matter what their condition, sometimes five times a week. Authorities allege the clinics also referred people to lawyers who filed baseless personal injury lawsuits.

“The accidents were real but the claims were not,” said Janice Fedarcyk, head of the FBI’s New York office.

The probe relied in part on two New York Police Department undercover investigators posing as accident victims. The clinics gave them neck and back braces even though it was clear they had no injuries, authorities said.

On visits to a chiropractor, all the officers were expected to do was “sign in, say hello and leave,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

The defendants also are accused of laundering proceeds from the bogus billing through cash-checking outlets and shell companies. Many of them face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.

Rabbi Meshulam Rothschild Arrest By The ATF

A Brooklyn rabbi who allegedly scammed the state out of nearly $200,000 a week in unpaid cigarette taxes has been snuffed out of business, The Post has learned.

Authorities say Meshulam Rothschild, 26, was moving illegal cigarettes bearing no tax stamps out of his warehouse on Spencer Street in Williamsburg.

The Post witnessed his arrest in a raid earlier this month by the Brooklyn DA’s office and feds from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Rothschild, a member of the Pupa Hasidic sect, allegedly purchased the untaxed cigarettes in Virginia and then peddled them to bodegas and shops in Chinatown and elsewhere in the city.

He moved about 3,600 cartons a week, sources said. The state lost about $50 in tax on each contraband carton.

One source said Rothschild actually had to start sending the cigarettes back to Virginia for phony tax stamps at one point because Chinatown merchants were refusing to buy the unstamped packs — for fear they were inferior fakes from China.

Rothschild also was charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument for allegedly possessing more than 11,000 phony tax stamps from the Old Dominion state. That top rap could land him 15 years behind bars.

Also arrested in the scheme were three members of the same family: Nasmi Havolli, 51; his son Nart, 20; and Nasmi’s nephew Blerim, 24.

In all, 23 people have been busted for beating the state and city out of more than $2 million in cigarette taxes, officials said.

A fraction of the money has been recovered through forfeitures.

In one case, cig-tax scofflaw Mamdu Bayy, 34, forfeited almost $240,000, and in another, cheat Ching Chong Lam, 46, gave up $180,000 to satisfy the charges against them, a spokeswoman for the Brooklyn DA said.

During another sting, two men, Gani Hodja and Abdul Herkash met with an undercover investigator to buy untaxed cigarettes and wound up spraying the operative with mace. They then stole the shipment of Newports and Marlboros, the spokeswoman said.

Orthodox Shuls Host Program On Domestic Abuse

Project S.A.R.A.H. founder Esther East explains options available to Jewish victims of domestic violence

Experts on domestic violence counseled members of Edison’s Orthodox community to look for signs of spousal abuse in their midst.

“The problem in the Orthodox community is the same as for the rest of the world,” said Rabbi Raffi Bilek, outreach coordinator for the Clifton-based Project S.A.R.A.H. “One of four women will fall victim.”

Bilek and Esther East, founder of Project S.A.R.A.H, spoke at Congregation Ohav Shalom in Highland Park in a Feb. 11 program moderated by Alan Silver, an assistant prosecutor in the Union County domestic violence unit.

Their talk was sponsored by the Orthodox Forum of Edison/Highland Park in conjunction with area Orthodox rabbis.

The program followed a rabbinic training session held in the community last summer by Project S.A.R.A.H. (Stop Abusive Relationships at Home) at the request of its Orthodox rabbinate. The organization combats domestic violence and sexual abuse in Jewish communities throughout New Jersey.

East said in its 15 years, the organization has reached out to the Orthodox community, where women often feel compelled to stay with abusive husbands out of a sense of responsibility to keep “shalom bayit,” or peace in the home. Others fear being shamed within the community or revealing a “shanda” — shame — to outsiders. Women also worry their children will not be able to find a marriage partner if it becomes known they come from a “problem” family.

Moreover, many women are in an environment where couples overwhelmingly are the norm and would feel out of place if they separated from a partner.

“I had a case of a woman whose husband was arrested, and she asked her rabbi to go bail him out of jail because they had to go to their day school dinner that night,” said East.

Bilek said spousal abuse is not necessarily physical but often involves “a pattern of controlling behavior.” Such behavior, often worse than hitting or slapping, robs a woman of her self-esteem and undermines her relationship with her children. Some victims suffer from anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

“To use children is a form of child abuse,” said Bilek, adding that many men who engage in such behavior toward their wives are also emotionally abusive toward their children.

Often the abuser is a respected member of the community, someone active in his synagogue and in business, whose behavior is totally different outside the family, said Bilek. Their wives often question their own judgment and blame themselves for the abuse.

East said Project S.A.R.A.H trains rabbis and mikva attendants in recognizing signs of abuse and counseling women, runs community forums, and conducts sensitivity training for law enforcement personnel. It also has gender-separate educational videos and programming for day schools and yeshivas.

Abused women can call any Jewish family service in the state and receive free counseling using only a first name, he said, allowing those concerned with anonymity to use a family service outside their community.

East said Project S.A.R.AH. has also developed a relationship with every domestic violence shelter in the state, all of which can provide an observant woman with glatt kosher food.

“If a haredi woman goes to a shelter on a Friday afternoon, she will be given a ‘kosher kit’ with Shabbos candles, a siddur, and tehillim,” said East.

Project S.A.R.A.H. also has formed an alliance with the New-York-based Shalom Task Force Hotline for domestic violence. Its staff is versed in NJ law.

Each October, during national Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the organization has asked NJ rabbis to include their names in an ad in the Anglo-Jewish press pledging to speak about abuse. East said the first year, 30 rabbis signed. Last year the number rose to 180.

“Can you imagine what that means to a woman when her rav speaks from the pulpit in her shul?” asked East. “She knows other people in the Jewish community are supporting her.”

After the meeting, Rabbi Eliyahu Kaufman of Ohav Shalom, a therapist, said the evening carried an “important message to which everyone should be sensitized.”

Contact Project S.A.R.A.H. at 973-777-7638 or; for the Shalom Task Force domestic abuse hotline, call 888-883-8323.

by Debra Rubin - NJJN,

Seclusive Community of Neo-Nazis in Brooklyn

Photographer Adam Krause captured a rare view of neo-Nazis in the Greenpoint neighbourhood of Brooklyn

No place like home: One man even let Krause photograph him in his kitchen; Krause said he asked nicely for permission

It is at once a deeply-rooted Polish neighbourhood with industrial roots where immigrants still speak in their native tongue on the streets. At the same time, Brooklyn's Greenpoint neighbourhood is a fast-gentrifying area of New York full of young families and working professionals who wish to live close to Manhattan.

But the northernmost neighbourhood in Brooklyn is also home to a group of Polish neo-Nazis, who walk the streets, just like anybody else, and are fiercely proud of their beliefs.

Captured by Brooklyn-based photographer Adam Krause, the images tell an unspoken tale of a taboo counterculture and puts faces to a largely underground movement.

Mr Krause, who grew up in south Florida but later moved to Brooklyn, said he first noticed a man wearing a T-shirt of a racist symbol at a gym in Greenpoint.

He approached the man and said that he didn’t agree with it, but thought it was interesting.

Shooting the subjects wasn’t easy, he told MailOnline. ‘It took a lot of coordination (to photograph them), but I introduced myself to them and showed them my work and obviously there was some sort of interest for them as well,’ he explained.

The photographs show five separate men, some with faces covered and others exposing their faces to the camera. They were all shot in Greenpoint – some even let Mr Krause into their homes because ‘I asked nicely.’

Mr Krause did not wish to go into the details of the men’s identities, nor the history of neo-Nazism in the predominantly Polish community.

He told MailOnline: ‘If the photos ask more questions than give answers, that’s good.’

A Facebook group called Greenpoint Antifa was founded by activists in the neighbourhood who serve as vigilantes against what they say is ‘fascist, violent’ conditions.

In fact, there have been rumblings of unrest over the past few years. Only last month, earrings bearing the symbol were spotted at a store on Manhattan Avenue.

The swastika studs were nearly sold out at The Bejewelled shop, with only one pair left. ‘It’s totally outrageous,’ City Councilman Steve Levin told the New York Daily News.

In 2009, the Greenpoint Gazette noted that there was an upsurge of anti-Semitic and homophobic graffiti posted on mailboxes or sprayed on walls. Some had tags from a website which sells racially-charged apparel.

Swastikas and other neo-Nazi symbols have also been spotted tagged on lampposts and furniture left out for trash collection.

Scott Rothstein Was A Special Kind Of Ponzi Schemer

Scott Rothstein

Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein lured supposedly smart money out of New York hedge funds. Why did they continue doing business with him?

Unlike Bernie Madoff or Allen Stanford, who mostly hurt individual investors, the 49-year-old Rothstein sucked in a billion dollars from sophisticated investors—including New York hedge funds that employed the well-known detective firm Kroll and an onsite inspector at Rothstein's Fort Lauderdale law firm, from which he sold discounted legal settlements with annualized returns as high as 437%. Sadly, the settlements didn't exist.

Two years after Rothstein's scam collapsed, the civil plaintiffs are just getting warmed up. The first jury trial to follow the mess awarded $67 million in January to a group of investors who sued TD Bank, claiming that its employees assisted Rothstein's scam. The U.S. unit of Toronto-Dominion Bank will appeal, but remains a deep-pocketed target for Rothstein victims. The Canadian parent recently set aside a litigation reserve of $255 million. On Thursday, it offered $170 million to settle claims with another group of Rothstein victims. The bank declined to comment on any aspect of this story.

The other deep pockets in the Rothstein lawsuits are the New York hedge funds. Sharing offices on the 54th floor of a tower above Carnegie Hall, the funds—Platinum Partners Value Arbitrage Fund, Centurion Structured Growth and Level 3 Capital Fund—advanced about $440 million to Rothstein, starting in early 2008, and got all but $19 million back before the lawyer fled in a private jet to Morocco in October 2009. After returning, Rothstein pled guilty to racketeering, fraud and money laundering.

Sentenced to 50 years and the forfeiture of $1.2 billion, he began cooperating with federal prosecutors and the trustee in his law firm's bankruptcy. In a December 2011 deposition, Rothstein said he had compromised some hedge-fund employees with cash, strip-club outings and escort services. He also claimed that, to get their money out, the hedge funds helped him attract new investors, after they suspected fraud and realized that Rothstein would need fresh money. The bankruptcy trustee is seeking $423 million from the three hedge funds and another $20 million directly from their principals.

The hedge funds say they were unsuspecting victims of Rothstein and didn't recommend him to others after he missed scheduled payments. In court filings and in statements to Barron's, they say they invested in good faith on the strength of due-diligence visits with Rothstein, TD bankers and lawyers—who, they claim, falsely told the funds that Rothstein had the settlement money. "What was unique about Rothstein," said Platinum's boss Mark Nordlicht in an e-mail to Barron's, "was his ability to enlist so many others to assist him in his deceptions."

ROTHSTEIN'S DECEPTIONS consisted of offering investments that were too good to be true. He told investors they could have a piece of confidential settlements that plaintiffs were willing to trade for sharply discounted lump sums. The settlement funds were safely escrowed in trust accounts. Rothstein instead used the cash to enjoy a rock-star lifestyle.

As the nearby chart shows, Rothstein's scheme had netted about $25 million by April 2008 when he started to tap into the New York hedge funds. The first was Centurion, a secured-lending fund that Murray Huberfeld launched in 2005 after a career that can fairly be described as picaresque. With longtime partner David Bodner, he got booted from the brokerage industry following their 1990 arrests for sending imposters to take their broker-license exams. They disgorged $4.6 million in 1998 to settle a fraud case brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission, without admitting guilt. Still, Huberfeld had his fans. By 2008, Centurion had a couple of hundred million under management and a high ranking among fixed-income hedge funds in the Barclay Managed Funds Report. For its part, Platinum Partners Value Arbitrage Fund ranked No. 56 on Barron's annual hedge-fund performance survey for 2010 and No. 16 for 2009. It reported a three-year compound annual return of 14.58% through 2010.

Centurion didn't lend directly to Rothstein but to a feeder fund called Banyon established by a Florida entrepreneur named George Levin. Banyon used Centurion's money to purchase what it thought were settlements from Rothstein. Huberfeld insisted that the settlement funds go into trust accounts at a bank of his choosing, Commerce Bank, which later became part of TD Bank. Platinum and a related fund, Level 3, joined shortly thereafter.

The hedge funds did their due diligence jointly. Although the Kroll investigators didn't notice that Levin's Banyon manager, Frank Preve, had a felony conviction for bank fraud, they did warn that Rothstein didn't seem to have access to hundreds of millions of dollars worth of settlements. (A subsequent Platinum negligence complaint against Kroll was thrown out by a judge.) The hedge funds hired Michael Szafranski, a Miami accountant who knew an executive at Platinum, to verify Rothstein's paperwork and bank accounts. Centurion portfolio manager Jack Simony came to Florida to inspect the TD Bank accounts, while Centurion counsel Brian Jedwab met with four lawyers who said their firms were financing settlements through Rothstein. The hedge-fund employees say they were convinced.

But in Rothstein's December deposition, he said he'd bribed the four lawyers to say they supplied him with settlements. He also claimed he paid a $50,000 bribe to TD Bank's regional vice president at the time, Frank Spinosa, to falsify bank records and persuade Szafranski, Simony and others that Rothstein had hundreds of millions locked up in accounts for the benefit of investors. Spinosa hasn't been charged by prosecutors, and his attorney, Samuel J. Rabin, says the former banker never lied or took a bribe.

The hedge funds' verifier, Szafranski, "wasn't very inquisitive," said Rothstein at deposition. Szafranski met a purported TD banker called "Ricardo Mejia" who was actually Steve Caputi, the manager of Rothstein's nightclub Café Iguana. Rothstein testified that, strangely, Szafranski later socialized with Caputi—as Caputi—at the cafe and at a strip club called Solid Gold. Szafranski's attorney didn't respond to inquiries. Rothstein claimed in his deposition that he'd also paid prostitutes to service Centurion's Simony and a Platinum employee named Ari Glass—allegations that both Glass and Simony deny.

In court, the hedge funds have steadfastly said they were fooled by Rothstein until he missed payments in April 2009. An accounting analysis filed by the Rothstein bankruptcy trustee in his case against the funds–the basis for our chart–shows that the hedge funds' aggregate outstanding investment with Rothstein peaked at $183 million before that, on Jan. 2, 2009. Their net investment then declined as more money was paid out. By the time the scheme collapsed, they had a net investment of just $19 million. As their money left, a net $179 million came into Rothstein's scheme from investors like Florida billionaire Doug Von Allmen and money manager A.J. Discala.

In two separate proceedings that seek $20 million from Huberfeld, Bodner, Nordlicht and their wives, the Rothstein bankruptcy trustee alleges that the hedge-fund principals cut side deals with Rothstein. In January 2009, when the funds were already reducing their investments, the principals supplied $11 million through an entity owned by their wives called Regent Capital Partners, on which Rothstein promised to return $22 million over six months.

"When you're running a Ponzi of this magnitude," Rothstein testified, "you want to reward the people that are taking care of you and helping you sustain the Ponzi scheme."

In an e-mail, Nordlicht says the Regent deals with Rothstein were a way to use their own money to test the potential for a fund that would directly invest with Rothstein.


3 men who impersonated cops to pull heist may have used high-quality masks

The NYPD is asking for the public's help to identify the following suspects in a robbery at a Queens check-cashing business.

Three cop impersonators wanted for stealing $200,000 from a Queens check-cashing business may have worn masks that were Hollywood quality, the Daily News has learned.

Investigators began to suspect the trio that pulled off the Valentine’s Day caper had worn masks that were far from the average costume-shop props after they got a tip, the sources said. One of the false faces even looked like pro wrestler Bill Goldberg.

One thing is clear — detectives are not certain of the ethnicities of the crooks who cleaned out an unlocked safe inside a Pay-O-Matic store on South Conduit Ave. in Rosedale because they wore gloves and sunglasses so their skin would not show.

If the masks were in fact pricey and made by pros, the robbery would recall the $1.5 million London jewel heist in 2009, in which two thieves had makeup artists disguise them in liquid latex masks that made them look older.

The day after the Queens heist, the NYPD described the three suspects as white men who wore dark blue jackets with NYPD logos, had “police-type shields hanging around their necks” and identified themselves as detectives.

Later, a tipster said the robbers may have been wearing masks that made them look like three white guys.

“We don’t know if they are white, black or Hispanic,’’ a police source said. “People in the neighborhood saw them in the van for two or three days before the robbery. They saw three white guys.”

Investigators believe the crooks were wearing the masks as they cased the joint before they struck. They drove off in a dark-colored Ford Expedition .

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Alan Dershowitz: Media Matters Hurts Obama

It’s the kind of anti-Jewish hate speech you’d expect to find on a neo Nazi website or in a Patrick Buchanan column: American Jews who support current Israeli policies are accused of dual loyalty and called “Israel Firsters” because they place their loyalty to Israel above their loyalty to the United States.

AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) fares even worse:

“saying AIPAC is guilty of dual loyalty is giving it credit for one more loyalty that it holds.”

In other words, this widely respected American organization, and the hundreds of thousands of Jews (and Christians) who support it, including senators, congressmen and other elected officials, have absolutely no loyalty to our nation; their sole loyalty is to the foreign nation of Israel.

This false accusation of disloyalty to their own country finds its roots in the Biblical villains Pharaoh and Hamen who accused the Jews of Egypt and Persia of disloyalty. It was a central tenet of Nazism, Stalinism and other anti-Semitic regimes that made the Jews pay lethal consequences for their alleged dual loyalty. Today, it is the mantra of David Duke, Patrick Buchanan, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and Jew haters of every race, religion, and national origin.

In fact I first came across some of these hateful quotes about “Israel firsters” and “dual loyalty” on an actual neo-Nazi website called Reporters Notebook, which features Holocaust denial claptrap and anything that demonizes Israel and those who support the Jewish state.

Surprisingly, however, the quotes were attributed, not to the usual suspects, but to a spokesman for Media Matters, a hard left Democratic media attack and watchdog group, with close connections to the Obama White House, that started out as an antidote to Fox News, but has now turned much of its attention to Israel.

The author of these hateful quotes is MJ Rosenberg, who is the Senior Foreign Policy Fellow of Media Matters and its official voice on issues relating to the Middle East and Israel. Speaking at a symposium (with Stephen Walt, the author of The Israel Lobby), Rosenberg explained why Media Matters hired him:

“Until I got there [Media Matters] had nothing on foreign policy. They hired me specifically to be involved with this issue, with the Palestinian issue, with [the issue of] stopping the war with Iran.

And Rosenberg has become involved with a vengeance, using as his primary weapon the poisonous charge of “Israel firsters” and dual loyalty.

Let there be no doubt that Rosenberg’s accusation of dual or singular loyalty to a foreign country is an anti-Semitic canard historically reserved for Jews.

Rosenberg doesn’t accuse Arab Americans who support Hamas and Hezbollah—America’s sworn enemies– of being “Palestinian Firsters”. Nor did he accuse Irish Americans who supported the Sinn Fein of being “Irish Firsters”. And the bad old days when observant Catholics were accused of dual loyalty with regard to the Vatican are, thankfully, long past. But Rosenberg defends his charges of disloyalty to America against those who sincerely believe that it is in America’s interest to support Israel against threats from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, and other enemies of both nations. Indeed, he boasts of having “popularized” the term “Israel Firsters.

By Alan M. Dershowitz

Eric Holder: Jutice Dept. Reviewing Complaints Over NYPD Spying

Washington - Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress on Tuesday that, months after receiving complaints about the New York Police Department’s surveillance of entire American Muslim neighborhoods, the Justice Department is beginning a review to decide whether to investigate civil rights violations.

Holder said that police seeking to monitor activities by citizens “should only do so when there is a basis to believe that something inappropriate is occurring or potentially could occur.

Holder responded under questioning by Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., who as an infant was sent with his parents to a Japanese internment camp during World War II and has compared that policy to the NYPD’s treatment of Muslims. The attorney general was on Capitol Hill to discuss the Justice Department’s federal budget.

Holder did not suggest that a Justice Department investigation of the NYPD was imminent. Over the last six months, the AP has revealed the inner workings of secret programs of the NYPD, built with help from the CIA, to monitor Muslims.

Police have built databases showing where Muslims live, where they buy groceries, what Internet cafes they use and where they watch sports. Dozens of mosques and student groups have been infiltrated, and police have built detailed profiles of Moroccans, Egyptians, Albanians and other local ethnic groups. The NYPD surveillance extended outside New York City to neighboring New Jersey and Long Island and at colleges across the Northeast.

“I don’t know even if the program as it has been described in the news media was an appropriate way to proceed, was consistent with the way in which the federal government would have done these things,” said Holder, who was born in the Bronx and described New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly as his personal friend. “I simply just don’t know the answers to those questions at the beginning stages of this matter.”

The AP has reported that some of the NYPD’s activities — such as its 2006 surveillance of Masjid Omar, a mosque in Paterson, N.J. — could not have been performed under federal rules unless the FBI believed that the mosque itself was part of a criminal enterprise. Even then, federal agents would need approval from senior FBI and Justice Department officials.

At the NYPD, however, such monitoring was common, former police officials said. Federal law enforcement officials told the AP that the mosque itself was never under federal investigation and they were unaware the NYPD was monitoring it so closely. According to secret police files obtained by the AP, the NYPD instructed its officers to watch the mosque and, as people came and went from the Friday prayer service, investigators were to record license plates and photograph and videotape those attending. The file offered no evidence of criminal activity.

The FBI also would be prohibited from keeping police files on innocuous statements that imams made during sermons, which the NYPD did. In addition, the FBI would not be allowed to keep police files on Muslim students for discussing academic conferences online and would not be allowed to build databases of Americans who changed their names to ones sounding Arabic, which the NYPD did.

Since late August, 34 members of Congress, Muslim civil rights groups and most recently Ivy League universities and New Jersey officials have asked the Justice Department to investigate the NYPD’s intelligence division. The Obama administration has pointedly refused to endorse or repudiate the NYPD programs, which the AP reported Monday are at least partly funded under a White House federal grant intended to help law enforcement fight drug crimes.

“Our examination of this has been limited at least at this point to the letters that have come in,” Holder said. “We’re only beginning our review. I don’t know if federal funds were used.”

Holder said there were 17 or 18 Justice Department investigations about how police around the country interact with citizens. “I’m not saying that will be something that we would do here, but if we think that there’s a basis for it, we will do that,” Holder said.

Federal investigations into police departments typically focus on police abuse or racial profiling in arrests. Since 9/11, the Justice Department has never publicly investigated a police department for its surveillance in national security investigations.

Honda, who questioned the attorney general during the budget hearing, has compared his own family’s treatment as Japanese during World War II with the NYPD’s treatment of Muslims.

“This demonization, sadly couched in the memory of the tragic events of 9/11 and the name of American security, shreds our Constitution, imperils our homeland and derails our sacred mission to forge a union where each American — no matter her race or religion — lives free, with equal rights and protections,” Honda wrote in a Washington Post op-ed earlier this month.

In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday invoked the 1993 terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center and the successful attacks in 2001 that destroyed it, in a renewed defense of the NYPD: “We said back then we are not going to forget this time around,” he said. “We will not. We are not going to forget.” He added: “To let our guard down would just be an outrage.”

Bloomberg said criticism of the police department actions was “just misplaced” and “pandering.”

“It’s saying things that aren’t true,” Bloomberg said.

Universities including Yale, Columbia and Rutgers have joined in criticizing the NYPD for infiltrating Muslim student groups and trawling their websites. Police put the names of students and academics in reports even when they were not suspected of wrongdoing. And in Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker said he was offended by the NYPD’s secret surveillance of his city’s Muslims.

The president of Rutgers University in New Jersey on Tuesday urged the state’s attorney general to investigate the NYPD’s surveillance activities of Muslim students on New Jersey campuses. In a statement, he called the surveillance a matter of grave concern to students, faculty and alumni.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has also asked the state attorney general to look into the NYPD’s operations inside New Jersey. U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. has also urged Holder to look into the NYPD’s operations outside New York. The president of Columbia University planned a public meeting Tuesday night to discuss the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslim students.

Tom Sponseller found dead inside parking garage likely committed suicide,

Possible suicide: Tom Sponseller, 61, president and CEO of the SC Hospitality Association was found dead in the garage of his building this morning

well-known South Carolina restaurant industry lobbyist whose body was found Tuesday appears to have killed himself with a gunshot to the head, authorities said.

The body of Tom Sponseller, who disappeared more than a week ago, was discovered Tuesday morning by investigators inside a double enclosed room in the lower level of a parking garage near his office in Columbia, according to police.

Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said during a press conference that it appears Sponseller, president and CEO of the South Carolina Hospitality Association, suffered a "self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head." A weapon was recovered at the scene.

An official autopsy is under way as authorities investigate the circumstances surrounding his death, Watts said.

Scott said a note penned by Sponseller was also found Tuesday, though he declined to provide many details. The letter, discovered by Sponseller's co-workers, referenced a federal probe into missing funds at the association he headed.

Sponseller, 61, was last seen Feb. 18 at his office in downtown Columbia. He was reported missing by his wife later that night after friends and family tried repeatedly to contact him by phone.

Sponseller was last seen by his colleagues at around noon at the office. His Mercedes sedan was found parked in the garage near his office and no signs of a struggle were evident. His cellphone and wallet were missing.

Federal authorities investigating Sponseller's disappearance told the State newspaper last week that as much as $900,000 may be missing from the association.

Law enforcement officials reportedly said that Sponseller's accounting director, Rachel Duncan, 41, is a person of interest in the missing money investigation, which involves allegations of "gambling."

"Ms. Duncan has been interviewed, and she is a target of our financial crime investigation," U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Michael Williams told the newspaper.

Duncan had no comment Friday when approached by Fox News outside her home in Lexington.

A family friend who answered the door at Sponseller's home last week said she did not believe the money investigation was related to his disappearance.

Sponseller is a Citadel graduate and a former Air Force officer, according to his biography on the South Carolina Hospitality Association's website.

He has been lobbying for the state's hospitality and tourism industry for more than 20 years. He is married and has three adult children, all of whom have worked in the hospitality industry, according to the bio.

Erykah Badu concert in Malaysia canceled over her 'Allah' tattoo,

A publicity photo of Erykah Badu has gotten the singer, and the newspaper that published it, in trouble in Malaysia.

Badu had her concert canceled by the Kuala Lumpur's Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry when a photo showing a tattoo of the Aarabic word "Allah" written on Badu's upper body was published in the Malaysian newspaper The Star, BBC News reports.

A Malaysian official reportedly called the photo "an insult to Islam."

The Star has already issued an apology, BBC News reports, calling the publication of the photo "inadvertent."

"We deeply regret any offence caused to Muslims and sincerely apologize for the oversight," the paper said on Tuesday.

Badu, already in Kuala Lumpur for the concert, is reportedly "worried and dismayed."

Tattoos are a no-no in Islam, as is using the word "Allah" in any way deemed disrespectful. Malaysia is predominantly Muslim.

There were already protesters outside The Star offices when the paper issued its apology, BBC News reports.

NYPD officer arrested for DWI in his police cruiser.

Police Officer Christopher Morris, 31, was driving a marked squad car when he lost control and smacked into a light pole in East New York about 4 a.m., the sources said.

Officer Christopher Morris was busted in Brooklyn early Tuesday; Was leaving a fundraiser for slain Officer Peter Figoski

A boozed-up city cop who attended a fundraiser for slain Officer Peter Figoski ended up in handcuffs after he smashed a police cruiser into a light pole, sources said.

Police Officer Christopher Morris, 31, who was on duty and in uniform, was kicked out of a party at Lindenwood Diner in East New York after his bosses noticed he had been drinking too much, sources said.

The allegedly drunk officer was taken to the 75th Precinct and put on desk duty. But Morris somehow drove a marked cruiser back to the fundraiser a short time later, sources said.

“He got pretty bombed early in the evening, when the party started” a source said. “Somehow he ends up back at the party with the car and winds up crashing it.”

Morris got behind the wheel yet again to leave the party for a second time. He made it a few blocks, to the intersection of Schenck and Sutter avenues, before he slammed into a light pole, which fell onto a parked car.

He was later cuffed and charged with DWI and refusal to take a breath test, cops said.

Sources said other supervisors on duty could face disciplinary action.

Figoski, a 22-year veteran of the force, was killed Dec. 12 during a botched robbery in Cypress Hills. More than $2 million has already been donated to a scholarship fund for his four daughters’ college educations.

FBI Busts 71st Precinct Officer for Gun Smuggling

Three former New York City police officers pleaded guilty on Monday to taking part in a scheme to illegally transport firearms across state lines. One of them, Gary Ortiz, 28, was an active-duty officer in the 71st Precinct in Crown Heights.

“As they admitted today, these police officers moonlighted as criminals, and even planned to use their badges to cover their illegal activity,” the United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, said in a statement.

Gary Ortiz pleaded guilty in Federal District Court in Manhattan to one count of conspiracy to transport firearms between states and one count of conspiracy to transport and receive stolen merchandise. Joseph Trischitta, 42, who worked in the 68th Precinct in Brooklyn during part of the plot, pleaded guilty to the same charges.

John Mahoney, 27, also from the 68th Precinct, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport and receive stolen merchandise. Richard Melnik, 43, who pleaded guilty last week to one count of conspiracy to transport and receive stolen merchandise, was a retired officer from the 68th Precinct.

According to court documents and statements made in court, from September 2010 to October 2011, Mr. Ortiz and Mr. Trischitta helped transport three M-16 rifles, one shotgun and 16 handguns from New Jersey to New York. Many had been defaced to remove or alter the serial number.

In another scheme, the officers — along with Mr. Mahoney, Mr. Melnik and others — helped transport what they believed to be stolen goods, including slot machines, counterfeit merchandise and thousands of cartons of cigarettes, across state lines. According to court documents, the goods carried a street value of about $1 million.

The charges stemmed from a sting operation in which firearms and other goods were provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation through a confidential informer and an undercover agent, both posing as participants in the scheme.

Six active-duty or former members of the Police Department have now pleaded guilty in connection with the case, with charges pending against two others.

Two associates and a corrections officer in New Jersey have also admitted to taking part in the scheme, and charges are pending against a former police officer for the city’s sanitation department.

Three weeks ago, the man whom prosecutors have called the ringleader of the group — William Masso, who was an active-duty officer in the 68th Precinct during the scheme — admitted to all four conspiracy counts against him, just months after members of the group were charged.

Long Island, NY - $10 Million Anti-Semitic Bully Suit vs. School

Long Island, NY - A middle school failed to protect an Orthodox Jewish special-needs student from bullies’ vile anti-Semitic slurs and threats, a lawsuit claims.

The $10.5 million federal suit says staffers at Eagle Avenue Middle School in West Hempstead stood by as schoolmates abused Gedaliah Hoffman for wearing a yarmulke.

Staffers caused “the bullying to become escalated by punishing only Gedaliah, says the lawsuit, filed last week by the boy and his mother, Lori Hoffman.

"הרב שאנס אותי התקשר מהמעצר ואיים עליי"

הרב יגאל קריספל

הרב מנתניה, שחשוד בעבירות מין חמורות בתלמידות בעת שניהל בי"ס לבנות, התקשר לפי החשד לאחת המתלוננות ואיים עליה - בעת שהיה עצור ונתון תחת השגחה. גורם במשטרה: "מחדל". שב"ס: לא נמצא שהשתמש בטלפון

הרב יגאל קריספל, החשוד שאנס וביצע עבירות מין בתלמידות, התקשר תחת אפה של המשטרה למתלוננת ואיים עליה, כך עולה מתלונה נוספת שהגישה, ועליה נודע היום (ג') ל-ynet. במשטרת מחוז מרכז מסתירים את האירוע ומסרבים למסור פרטים. "שיבדקו מי ביקש ומי אישר לו להתקשר", אמר גורם המעורב בפרשה.

קריספל עצור מאז השבוע שעבר בחשד לעבירות המין החמורות בתלמידות, בעת שניהל את בית הספר החרדי לבנות בנתניה. אתמול הוגשה נגדו תלונה נוספת על ידי צעירה שסיפרה כי גם היא הייתה קורבן לתקיפות מיניות מצדו. בנוסף, התלוננו בני משפחתה של מורה בת 20 המלמדת בבית הספר, וטענו כי קריספל בן ה-47 ניהל עמה רומן תוך ניצול תפקידו.

ביום חמישי הוארך מעצרו של הרב בשישה ימים. במהלך תקופה זו, אירע לכאורה המחדל החמור - החשוד קיבל אישור לבצע שיחת טלפון למרות היותו עצור לחקירה, והוא ניצל את ההזדמנות, התקשר לאחת המתלוננות ואיים עליה. עקב כך, הגישה המתלוננת המופתעת תלונה במשטרה גם על איומים.

גורם במשטרה הסביר כי "מי שעצור לחקירה מורחק מכל טלפון, אמצעי תקשורת וכל קשר עם אנשים, על מנת שלא ישבש את החקירה. מה שקרה פה זה מחדל מתמשך - איך נתנו לו להתקשר בזמן שהוא עצור לחקירה? ואם כבר נתנו, למה לא השגיחו לאן הוא מתקשר? אסור שדברים כאלו יקרו, כי עצור בחקירה יכול להשפיע על עדים, לסדר לעצמו אליבי ועוד".

גורם אחר המעורב בפרשה תהה איך בכלל הצליח קריספל להגיע לטלפון. "הוא לא יכול להגיע לבדו לטלפון ורק אם מישהו

ייקח אותו אישית למכשיר, הוא יוכל להתקשר. אולי מישהו ביקש 'לדאוג' לחשוד והדאגה התבטאה בזה שאיפשרו לו להתקשר".

בשירות בתי הסוהר הבהירו כי לאחר בדיקה, לא נמצא כי החשוד השתמש בטלפון בהיותו במעצר שבאחריותם. במשטרת מחוז מרכז, החוקרת את התלונות על התקיפות המיניות, אישרו את פרטי התלונה ואמרו שהיא נמצאת בחקירה.

Silver Valuables Stolen from Queens Synagogue

Police in Queens are searching for the burglar or burglars who stole several pieces of silver valuables from a Kew Gardens synagogue sometime in the last week.

Police said it happened sometime between Saturday, Feb. 18 and Saturday, Feb. 25, at a synagogue at 144-02 68th Dr.

Three silver Torah crowns, two silver Torah mini-crowns, three silver Torah breast plates, four silver Torah pointers and a silver cup were stolen from the synagogue, said police.

Anyone with information on the burglary is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS or at

Special BT Yeshiva Helps Mentally ill Find Their Way

Growing strong through studies

Studying in Chavruta - no passivity

Shaf Yativ yeshiva helps religious men with mental health problems. Through program that uses Torah learning to rehabilitate the mentally ill, help them rejoin normative society

Moshe shut himself up in his home for four years. At the age of 18 he went through a mental crisis, left the haredi yeshiva he was studying at, went into his home in Bnei Brak and refused to come out. His parents did not know what to do with him.

They were worried about the stigma the family would have to bear. They also had no knowledge of programs suitable for a haredi yeshiva boy suffering from mental problems. Then they heard about the Shaf Yativ yeshiva and for the first time, sought help.

The Shaf Yativ yeshiva opened five years ago – a yeshiva for religious men with mental health problems. What seems like a regular yeshiva is actually a special care program that uses Torah learning to rehabilitate the mentally ill and help them rejoin normative society. It is named for a Synagogue in ancient Babel, made of stones from the Temple.

"A mental health start up," is how Rabbi Guy Avihod calls his life's work. Rabbi Avihod who is the head of the yeshiva says that "the yeshiva got going completely by accident. At a lesson given by Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu I met Udi Marili who told me that he works at the Health Ministry with the mentally ill, trying to find them employment.

Marili and Avihod reached the conclusion that the way to rehabilitate religious mentally ill men was in their own socio-cultural environment." The majority of rehabilitation programs center around employment," said Rabbi Avihod, "but for anyone who has grown up in an environment of torah learning, rehabilitation must be defined differently.

"They can't seem to find themselves within the framework of existing programs. They feel rejected. In order to help them move forward you need an attitude that respects their culture.

"If you want to help someone, you need to do it from the place they're in you need to reach out to them not drag them out. After we understood that, we consulted with rabbis and psychologists; no one knew what to do with our idea."

The yeshiva opened by Rabbi Avihod and Marili started with six students, today it numbers some 100 yeshiva students. One branch operates in Jerusalem, one in Ramat Gan (on the border with Bnei Brak) and a third is set to open in Rehovot.

The yeshiva receives funding from the National Insurance, the Health Ministry and private donors. The 'Beit Midrash' learning curriculum begins at 9:30 am and ends at 1:30 pm and includes organized classes, Chavruta (partner based) study and enrichment programs.

"Because he's religious, people always refer religious people to him and when he asks him how it's going – he always got the impression they weren't enthusiastic about their jobs and they would explain the setting wasn't right for them. They wanted to be treated with dignity; they wanted to feel that they could do more."

"Through the Chavruta an amazing thing happens," explains Rabbi Avihod. "When a person studies in a Chavruta he can't be passive. He can't disappear into his own private world. He must communicate and contribute, which is what gives them so much both socially and cognitively.

"In addition to the daily Beit Midrash each student has an individual rehabilitation program with an emphasis placed on his special needs. There are some (students) who we want to help move forward socially and others by taking responsibility. I don't want them staying in the yeshiva for years, I wan them to move forward, especially the younger students; that they be fulfilled, rehabilitated and move on in the real world.

"In contrast, the older students stay in the yeshiva for long periods of time because after being tossed and thrown from program to program they don't have the strength to start all over again. But we push all of them to try and find additional occupations.

"For example, go to classes and lectures. Since this isn't a regular yeshiva we also organize sports days and trips. For us, it is important to nurture them, because people who find life to be so hard sometimes lose their will."

The Shaf Yativ yeshiva might be one of its kind as it has a wide ranging variety of people, both in age, 20-50 as well as professional background: Professors side by side with rabbis and high-tech professionals as well as destitute laborers.

Rabbi Avihod regrets that one main problem remains unsolvable - the stigma. "People don't actually know what a mental problem is," he said. "They also don't know that there are so many people with mental problems.

"The majority get their impressions from the media after headlines are made by a tragedy carried out by a mentally ill person. But that isn't true for the average mentally ill person. People don't realize how close it is to them. One in four people will deal with a mental health problem at some stage in their lives."

Far Rockaway residents oppose proposed dorm for Jewish boys

A rendering of the proposed Yeshiva Zichron Aryeh provided to Community Board 14. The Jewish boys’ school is asking for a zoning variance to build the facility in Far Rockaway.

A proposal to build a multi-story school for Jewish boys in Far Rockaway is facing resistance from the community.

Bayswater residents are opposed to the Yeshiva Zichron Aryeh’s request for a zoning variance that will allow the group to build a roughly 60-student dormitory above the school. The site is located at 1213 Bay 25th St. in a residential neighborhood.

The city Board of Standards and Appeals is slated to vote on whether to allow the exception on Tuesday following a series of hearings.

“The yeshiva is welcome in our community as long as it goes by the current zoning,” said City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton), who added that the neighborhood has a strong Jewish presence. “What is being proposed, we believe, will change us radically.”

Community Board 14, which represents the Rockaway peninsula, voted against the yeshiva’s application in October.

“The community didn’t really have a problem with the school,” said District Manager Jonathan Gaska. “It had a problem with the dormitory, height of the building and the lack of off-street parking.”

Gaska said the community board members were also worried that the students could become rowdy.

The city down zoned the area in 2006 to preserve the aesthetics of the neighborhood.

Repeated calls and emails to yeshiva officials were not immediately returned.

In a letter to the community board last year, lawyers for the yeshiva wrote that the school will “not burden” the community.

“The proposed development will not have any adverse impact on the neighborhood or surrounding buildings or occupants,” the letter stated, “but is compatible with existing and future development in the area.”

But Enid Glabman, president of the Bayswater Civic Association, which represents several hundred families, said a project like this will be out of context with the surrounding neighborhood.

“We had no objection to the yeshiva building being built,” she said. “But we are opposed to the variances that would provide for a higher building than anything in the area.”

“It will change the character of the neighborhood,” Glabman said. “The quality of life will not be the same.”

Jewish Women in Brooklyn launch Hatzolah Ambulance EMT For Expecting Moms

Rachel Freier (l.) recruited Hadassah Strauss (c.) and Sarah Grunbaum to join all-women ambulance service in Borough Park, Brooklyn

Borough Park lawyer Rachel Freier recruits 50 women for Ezras Nashim

The all-male Hatzolah EMT crew snubbed them — so a group of Brooklyn Jewish women are starting their own ladies-only ambulance service.

Borough Park lawyer Rachel Freier, 46, held the first recruitment drive Sunday for Ezras Nashim — Hebrew for “assisting women” — in her dining room.

She signed up 50 members from across the borough.

“If women are having an emergency, they should have the option of calling a woman,” Freier said.

Ezras Nashim will focus on helping mothers in labor. Their goal is to train 50 EMTs and birthing assistants by the planned September launch.

“This is not a new idea,” said new Ezras member Hadassah Strauss, 26. “Women have been delivering babies for thousands of years.”

Hatzolah leaders shot down Freier’s request last fall to let women into its 1,300 all-male corps, the city’s largest volunteer ambulance crew, which answers more than 50,000 calls a year.

The Hatzolah men argued that male and female EMTs working side by side could lead to improper relationships that would violate Jewish modesty laws.

Hatzolah also questioned whether giving patients the option to choose a female medic would increase its average response time of about three minutes — considerably lower than the FDNY EMS average response time of eight minutes in 2011.

But there’s no hard feelings. “I wish them good luck,” said Hatzolah president Heshy Jacob.

Women have complained that having their local Hatzolah respond when they are in labor is awkward since they may see those same men in synagogue and in the grocery store.

I know women who are traumatized after delivering in front of so many men. That’s why I am here,” said a Williamsburg woman at the recruitment drive.

Ezras Nashim plans to survive on donations and is asking new recruits to pay for their own $1,000 training. Freier is also in talks with a private ambulance company to rush patients to the hospital, so the group won’t have to go through a costly state certification for emergency medical transportation.

Borough Park and Flatbush have the city’s highest concentrations of babies — predominantly born to Jewish women — according to the latest U.S. Census statistics.

Israel Won't Warn US of Iran Strike

March, 30, 2009: Israeli air force A-4 jets are seen in the background as personnel prepare an F-16 fighter jet at Hatzerim air base, southern Israel.

Israeli officials say they won't warn the U.S. if they decide to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, one U.S. intelligence official familiar with the discussions told the Associated Press. The pronouncement, delivered in a series of private, top-level conversations, sets a tense tone ahead of meetings in the coming days at the White House and Capitol Hill.

Israeli officials said that if they eventually decide a strike is necessary, they would keep the Americans in the dark to decrease the likelihood that the U.S. would be held responsible for failing to stop Israel's potential attack. The U.S. has been working with the Israelis for months to persuade them that an attack would be only a temporary setback to Iran's nuclear program.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak delivered the message to a series of top-level U.S. visitors to the country, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the White House national security adviser and the director of national intelligence, and top U.S. lawmakers, all trying to close the trust gap between Israel and the U.S. over how to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Netanyahu delivered the same message to all the Americans who have traveled to Israel for talks, the U.S. official said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive strategic negotiations.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment, and the Pentagon and Office of Director of National Intelligence declined to comment, as did the Israeli Embassy.

Iran claims its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but the International Atomic Energy Agency has raised alarms that its uranium enrichment program might be a precursor to building nuclear weapons. The US has said it does not know whether the government has decided to weaponize its nuclear material and put it on a missile or other delivery device.

The secret warning is likely to worry US officials and begin the high level meetings with Israel and the US far apart on how to handle Iran.

But the apparent decision to keep the U.S. in the dark also stems from Israel's frustration with the White House. After a visit by National Security Adviser Tom Donilon in particular, they became convinced the Americans would neither take military action, nor go along with unilateral action by Israel against Iran. The Israelis concluded they would have to conduct a strike unilaterally -- a point they are likely to hammer home in a series of meetings over the next two weeks in Washington, the official said.

Barak will meet with top administration and congressional officials during his visit. Netanyahu arrives in Washington for meetings with President Barack Obama next week.

The behind-the-scenes warning belies the publicly united front the two sides have attempted to craft with the shuttle diplomacy to each other's capitals.

"It's unprecedented outreach to Israel to make sure we are working together to develop the plan to deter Iran from developing a nuclear weapon," and to keep them from exporting terrorism, said Maryland Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee.

He traveled there with the intelligence committee chairman, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., to meet Israel's prime minister and defense minister, along with other officials.

"We talked about the fact that sanctions are working and they are going to get a lot more aggressive," Ruppersberger added.

They also discussed talked about presenting a unified front to Iran, to counter the media reports that the two countries are at odds over how and when to attack Iran.

"We have to learn from North Korea. All those (peace) talks and stalling and they developed a nuclear weapon," he said. "We are going to send a message, enough is enough, the stalling is over. ... All options are on the table."

"I got the sense that Israel is incredibly serious about a strike on their nuclear weapons program," Rogers told CNN on Monday. "It's their calculus that the administration ... is not serious about a real military consequence to Iran moving forward.

"They believe they're going to have to make a decision on their own, given the current posture of the United States," he added.

U.S. intelligence and special operations officials have tried to keep a dialogue going with Israel, despite the high-level impasse, sharing with them options such as allowing Israel to use U.S. bases in the region from which to launch such a strike, as a way to make sure the Israelis give the Americans a heads-up, according to the U.S. official, and a former U.S. official with knowledge of the communications

Cooperation has improved on sharing of intelligence in the region, according to one current and one former U.S. official. Israel is providing key information on Syria for instance, now that the U.S. has closed its embassy and pulled out both its diplomats and intelligence officials stationed there, the U.S. official said.

Waitress' bombshell claim: NYPD detective raped me in restaurant

A waitress, 36, claims gold-shielded detective took advantage of her after boozy night

A waitress says her boss gave her $200 to party with some cops, protested when one put the moves on her in a back room, and then got her underwear back the next day.

The 36-year-old woman, whose allegations prompted the NYPD to assign four cops to desk duty, thinks a veteran detective took advantage of her at the Washington Heights restaurant where she worked. But she admits she can’t remember it - because she blacked out.

“The last thing I remember is him patting the bed and telling me to sit down next to him,” said the woman whose name is being withheld by the Daily News.

“He was trying to kiss me and I was trying to ward off his advances.

“I remember trying to slide away from him, bob and weave,” she added. “He was like, ‘Come here, everything’s all right. I’m not gonna hurt you.’”

A law enforcement source said the woman told a similar account to workers at St.

Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital the following afternoon. The hospital conducted a rape kit, but the waitress said results aren’t yet available. Hospital officials notified detectives with the special victim’s unit, which then contacted the Internal Affairs Bureau.

Internal Affairs investigators have interviewed her at least five times, the waitress said. The woman also talked to the Manhattan district attorney’s office about the booze-filled drama that began on the night of Feb. 16, she said.

No one has been charged with a crime. Prosecutors and the NYPD are investigating; both declined comment.

The detective under investigation for a possible sexual assault could not be reached, but his lawyer, Phil Karasyk, said no one should pass judgment “until all of the accurate facts are brought to light.”

The waitress had been working at the restaurant for a week when the detective came in to celebrate his upcoming 49th birthday. The owner gave her cash to join the 22-year veteran and his 33rd Precinct pals for drinks, she told investigators.

“He told me this was his really good friend,” she said. “He was trying to show him a good time.”

“I should have known better than to sit down and put myself in that situation,” the woman said. “But I had no idea what was going to transpire.”

“They were drinking excessive amounts of wine,” she added. “Before I even came to the table they must have polished off two bottles.”

The waitress also started drinking, tossing back three glasses of wine and some shots, she recalled.
She said she took a picture with the married detective and texted it to him — though a source said the cop claims she showed the group X-rated pictures of herself.

“I showed him pictures of my kids,” she insisted.

Eventually, she claims, the detective coaxed her to a back room with a bed. Sources say video shows he was away from the table for about 45 minutes.

The woman says she came to about 3 a.m. She was naked and her boss was pawing her. She screamed, grabbed her clothes and fled.

She couldn’t account for the whereabouts of the cops when she woke up. Later that morning, she called the detective.

“The first thing he told me is, ‘I have something of yours I need to return to you,’ ” she said.
It was her missing underwear.

“I was confused how he had my underwear,” she said. “(He) told me we took our clothes off.”

He said they stopped short of having sex because she was incapacitated — an account he repeated when Internal Affairs investigators were listening to two later phone calls, she said.

The detective drove to her block and returned the panties in a plastic bag, handing them to her through the window of his vehicle.

“I left you in the room and I got dressed and covered you up,” he said, according to the waitress.
Later that day, she went to the hospital for a rape examination.

Police have not been able to locate the restaurant owner, sources said.
Solomon Schepps, his lawyer, said no “wrongdoing will be proven against the restaurant or anybody associated with it.”

A manager called the waitress “crazy” and a poor worker.
“She was getting fired and she’s just embarrassing herself,” he said.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Newark, NJ - Plane Makes Emergency Landing

Newark Airport was shut down tonight after a plane made an emergency landing.

NEWARK, N.J. - A plane made an emergency landing at Newark Liberty International Airport Monday evening after having trouble with its front landing gear.

The United Express Flight 5124 from Atlanta, carrying at least 71 passengers and four crew members, made a so-called belly landing at 6:20 p.m. onto a runway that had been coated in flame-retardant foam.

The plane's crew deployed the inflatable emergency chutes and the occupants evacuated the aircraft unharmed.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey shut down the runways until 7:06 p.m., but has since resumed operations.

The runway where the plane landed, 22 Left, remains closed.

The NTSB will investigate.

Emergency Landing at Newark Liberty Airport:

Media Matters Boss' $850G 'Blackmail' Settlement

Media Matters CEO David Brock

Media Matters chief David Brock paid a former domestic partner $850,000 after being threatened with damaging information involving the organization’s donors and the IRS – a deal that Brock later characterized as a blackmail payment, according to legal documents obtained by

In an acrimonious lawsuit settled at the end of last year, Brock accused William Grey of making repeated threats to expose him to the "scorn or ridicule of his employees, donors and the press in demanding money and property." Brock claimed in legal papers that he sold a Rehoboth Beach, Del., home he once shared with Grey in order to meet Grey’s demands, which he called "blackmail" in the lawsuit.

Brock, 49, heads the non-profit Media Matters for America, which bills itself as a watchdog of the conservative media but has recently come under fire for allegedly coordinating with Democrats in what could be a violation of its tax-exempt status.

Brock’s bitter legal battle with Grey, who is described in a Sept. 14, 2010, police report obtained by as his domestic partner of more than 10 years, began after Brock began dating Washington, D.C., restaurant impresario James Alefantis about five years ago. For the next three years, Brock and Grey traded angry accusations, which were documented in the police report and were the foundation of a pitched legal battle replete with charges of blackmail, theft and financial malfeasance.

Alefantis was also named as a defendant in Grey's lawsuit.

In his response to Brock's lawsuit, Grey "denies that he committed any "acts of blackmail."

Grey threatened to go public about Brock and Media Matters' finances after he accused Brock in a civil suit filed in Washington of taking $170,000 in possessions, including an $8,000 Louis Vuitton suit bag, paintings, a rug, a chandelier, a painted bust of a Roman soldier and a pair of carved wooden chairs upholstered with purple fabric. Those possessions were displayed in the Washington townhouse where the couple entertained liberal movers and shakers in happier times.

Brock took Grey’s threats seriously and called police in 2010. In the police report, filed by Metropolitan Police as a stalking incident, Brock accused Grey, also 49, of attempting to blackmail him with a series of emails threatening to "release specific derogatory information about [Brock] and his organization to the press and donors that would be embarrassing to him and cause harm to the organization …"

Some of those emails came out as the lawsuit, filed by Grey on Jan. 28, 2011, wound its way through Superior Court of the District of Columbia last year.

"Please finish this today so I don’t have to waste my time emailing anyone – Biden, Coulter, Carlson, Huffington, Drudge, Ingraham," Grey wrote in a 2008 email.

Nearly two years later, Grey accused Brock of "financial malfeasance" and threatened to undermine Brock’s fundraising efforts.

"Next step is I contact all your donors and the IRS," Grey wrote in an email dated May 19, 2010. "This is going to stink for you if you do not resolve this now."

Brock said in court papers that he paid Grey "under duress."

On March 8, 2011, Brock filed his own suit against Grey for more than $4 million, demanding Grey return the $850,000, plus pay millions more in punitive damages. The two settled two months ago under terms that remain confidential.

Paying off Grey may not have been easy for Brock, even with his salary of nearly $300,000 at Media Matters. Records show Brock had pulled massive amounts of equity from the six-bedroom Rehoboth Beach house as its value skyrocketed during the real estate bubble.

Sussex County property records show he took out a $273,000 mortgage to buy the pale yellow colonial and carriage house for $606,666 in 1995. As the converted inn, built in 1793, continued to rise in value, Brock refinanced his loan on at least two occasions. Records show he had a $1.44 million mortgage on the property, as well as two more loans against the home totaling just over $500,000.

Brock received $1,587,500 for the home on May 25, 2010, in a sale to McLean, Va.-based Vardell Realty Investments. It could not be determined how much Brock still owed on the $1.44 million mortgage, or how much he netted from the sale, if any.

Records indicate that Brock had paid off the two smaller loans at the time of the sale.

Within a year of selling the house, Brock apparently had second thoughts about paying off Grey. In the civil suit, Brock accused Grey of three counts of blackmail, citing a statute that defines blackmail as threatening "to expose a secret or publicize a fact, whether true or false, tending to subject any person to hatred, contempt, or ridicule, to impair the reputation of any person."

He countersued to get his $850,000 back, plus $500,000 for each of three counts of alleged blackmail, and another $2 million in compensatory damages based in part on what Brock’s lawyers called abuse of the judicial system and legal fees.

Grey, who relocated to Massachusetts, declined to comment when contacted by Brock and Alefantis remain in Washington, where Brock has released a new book attacking Fox News. He is also under scrutiny from several members of Congress amid reports Media Matters for America is in possible violation of IRS laws governing nonprofits.

The Rehoboth Beach home was torn down months after Brock sold it, amid much community opposition, so the buyer could divide the parcel and build two homes. It remains a vacant lot.