A scene from last year's event. Photo by Erica Sherman

The Kings Bay YM-YWHA will once again be holding its annual Purim Carnival, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., March 4 at 3495 Nostrand Avenue between Avenue U and Avenue V.

The entire family is welcome to this free event, appropriate for children of all ages, which will feature kiddy rides, clowns, carnival games, arts & crafts, music, holiday performances, and a costume contest. All attendees can hope to enjoy free giveaways as well as delicious Hamantashen cookies. Kosher food will be available for all.

The indoor festival commemorates the Jewish people of ancient Persia’s rescue from annihilation at the hands of the evil Haman (whom the above-mentioned “Hamantashen” is named for), as told in the Hebrew “Book of Esther.”

For more about the Kings Bay Y and its various programs, call (718) 648-7703, email info@kingsbayy.org or go to www.kingsbayy.org.

St. Mark Roman Catholic Church hosted a mass for Jhordan Caballero.

Family and friends of Jhordan Caballero were joined by firefighters, community leaders and others at St. Mark Roman Catholic Church this morning, to give the 18-year-old a hero’s farewell.

St. Mark Roman Catholic Church offered the space and the service after hearing of the teen’s noble actions and tragic death, in which he saved his 8-year-old brother from their burning home, then rushed back into the blaze to attempt the rescue of an elderly neighbor before succumbing to the thick smoke last Friday.

After the mass, Caballero’s remains were transported to All Faiths Cemetery in Queens, where he will be buried. John J. Healey Funeral Home, Dignity Memorial held a viewing and memorial yesterday.

Sheepshead Bites readers, meanwhile, have also done this publication and this community proud. Those readers who donated through our PayPal link have sent the family nearly $1,000 to assist in their recovery, whole those who donated directly to the Brighton Neighborhood Association have contributed another $7,000.

That’s just a drop in the bucket for what this family will need to replace all their clothes, goods and furnishings in addition to finding a new home. A list of material goods they need can be found here. If you’d like to contribute financially, you can use the button below.

(Please note that donations made to the family or BNA through Sheepshead Bites are not tax-exempt as we are a for-profit business operating solely as a middleman.)

Apparently, the city is getting roll your own cigarette stores to close faster than you can say “roll your own cigarette stores.”

Green Leaf Smokes opened in late January at 1326 Sheepshead Bay Road, off the corner of East 14th Street. We asked at the time if they were aware of some ongoing lawsuits to such establishments – which sell cheaper smokes than at the bodega because customers roll their own using the stores’ machines – but they didn’t seem concerned.

When their Coney Island Avenue-based competitor was shut down under pressure of lawsuits claiming tax evasion, an employee of Green Leaf told us that they, too, had received some threats from the city.

We have not been able to confirm if the legal threats are the reason for the closure, but it has been the city’s MO to settle the charges against these establishments by requiring them to shut down their businesses and sign an agreement not to reopen.

From the Mermaid Parade. Technical deets from the photographer:

Fuji Superia X-Tra 400. Canon A-1. Sigma Zoom 80-200mm 1:4.5-5.6.

I was informed by a guy I knew who ran a photo lab in Park Slope years ago that Fuji film was far superior to Kodak, except that Kodak was more prolific because it advertised so heavily. No one’s going to look at a photo of a grandma and her baby grandchild blowing bubbles and say that it’s “A Fuji moment.”

It’s interesting to note how things have changed.

Photo by David Tan

Well, we didn’t post an open thread this week, and we’re also being forced to pass on The Bite.

So, we’re kinda-sorta combining all that action into one post. This one. You’re reading it. This is it. Amazed yet?

No?

Sheesh, you’re all so darn demanding.

Well, in lieu of The Bite, which we had to cancel due to a few last minute snafus, we’re asking you to recommend specific dishes at specific restaurants for your fellow readers (and also, potentially, for future Bite columns).

Know of an exotic dish? Or do you just plain ol’ love the staple item from restaurant XYZ? Does one market you know of sell a rather unique tasting pickled herring that’s less herr-ific than others? Let us know in the comments where you can get it, why you love it and approximately how much it costs!

Oh, and it is still an open thread. So you can also talk about dog poop or something…

Fantastic.

The following a press release issued by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office:

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Janice K. Fedarcyk, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Raymond W. Kelly, the Police Commissioner of the City of New York (“NYPD”), announced today the unsealing of charges against 36 defendants involved in a systematic scheme to defraud private insurance companies of more than $279 million under New York’s no-fault automobile insurance law.  The Indictment includes racketeering charges against eight members and associates of a criminal organization consisting primarily of individuals of Russian descent who were the owners and controllers of fraudulent medical clinics (the “No Fault Organization”),  as well as 10 licensed doctors and three attorneys.   The alleged scheme identified today is the largest single no-fault automobile insurance fraud ever charged, and the first case of its kind to allege violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”).

All of the defendants were arrested this morning in connection with today’s charges.  Thirty-five were taken into custody in New York and New Jersey and will be presented and arraigned in Manhattan federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Theodore H. Katz later this afternoon.   One defendant was arrested in Duluth, Minnesota, and will be presented tomorrow in federal court in the District of Minnesota.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Today’s 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. As alleged, the scheme relied on a cadre of corrupt doctors who essentially peddled their medical licenses like a corner fraudster might sell fake ID’s, except those medical licenses allowed unlawful entry, not to a club or a bar, but to a multi-billion dollar pool of insurance proceeds.”

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk said: “Our investigation uncovered a pattern of lucrative fraud exploiting New York’s no-fault auto insurance system to the tune of more than a quarter of a billion dollars. The criminal enterprise, while it lasted, was obscenely profitable. The scheme not only unjustly enriched the defendants and defrauded insurance companies. Auto insurance fraud is also a crime that indirectly victimizes every driver in New York.”

NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said: “Our undercover officers were treated like thousands of other ‘patients’ receiving therapy, tests, and medical equipment they didn’t need. I want to congratulate the U.S. Attorney’s office and the agents and detectives assigned to the joint FBI-NYPD Organized Crime Task Force for bringing this investigation to a successful conclusion.”

The following allegations are based on the unsealed Indictment and other documents filed today in Manhattan federal court:

Under New York State Law, every vehicle registered in the State is required to have nofault automobile insurance, which enables the driver and passengers of a registered and insured vehicle to obtain benefits of up to $50,000 per person for injuries sustained in an automobile accident, regardless of fault (the “No Fault Law”). The No Fault Law requires prompt payment for medical treatment, thereby obviating the need for claimants to file personal injury lawsuits in order to be reimbursed. Under the No-Fault Law, patients can assign their right to reimbursement from an insurance company to others, including medical clinics that provide treatment for their injuries. New York State Law also requires that all medical clinics in the State be incorporated, owned, operated, and/or controlled by a licensed medical practitioner in order to be eligible for reimbursement under the No-Fault Law. Insurance companies will not honor claims for medical treatments from a medical clinic that is not actually owned, operated, and controlled by a licensed medical practitioner.

From at least 2007 through 2012, the No-Fault Organization has engaged in a massive and sophisticated scheme to defraud automobile insurance companies of hundreds of millions of dollars by, among other things, creating and operating medical clinics that provided unnecessary and excessive medical treatments in order to take advantage of the No-Fault Law. In order to mislead New York authorities and private insurers, the true owners of these medical clinics (“Clinic Controllers”), almost all of whom were also members and associates of a criminal organization consisting primarily of individuals of Russian descent, paid licensed medical practitioners, including doctors, to use their licenses to incorporate the professional corporations, through which the medical clinics billed the private insurers for the bogus medical treatments. These doctors effectively operated as “straw owners” of the clinics.

The Clinic Controllers paid thousands of dollars in kickbacks to runners who recruited automobile accident passengers to receive medically unnecessary treatments from the no-fault clinics. They also instructed the clinic doctors/straw owners to prescribe excessive and unwarranted referrals for various “modality treatments” for every patient they saw. The treatments included physical therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic treatments – as many as five times per week for each – and treatments for psychology, neurology, orthopedics, and audiology. Clinic doctors also prescribed unnecessary MRI’s, x-rays, orthopedics, and medical supplies. The Clinic Controllers received thousands of dollars in kickbacks for patient referrals from the owners of the modality clinics (“Modality Controllers”), who were members and associates of the same criminal organization to which the members of the No Fault Organization and Clinic Controllers belonged.

The Clinic Controllers also referred patients to personal injury lawyers who filed bogus lawsuits on behalf of the patients and coached them on what injuries to claim in order to get as many treatments as possible. The personal injury lawyers also paid the Clinic Controllers thousands of dollars in kickbacks for these referrals.

In order to conceal and disguise the millions of dollars in claims paid by the automobile insurance companies, the members of the No-Fault Organization laundered the money through shell companies and corrupt check-cashing services. Often, checks would be written from the No-Fault or Modality Clinics with the payee line left blank, and in amounts less than $10,000 in order to avoid potential financial institution reporting requirements and other scrutiny. The checks were then cashed through check-cashers who made the checks payable to shell companies they controlled in order to conceal the true nature and purpose of the checks. The cash was then returned to members of the No-Fault Organization to fund kickbacks and for their personal use. At other times, the members and associates of the No-Fault Organization paid themselves through their own shell companies and then used the criminal proceeds to fund expensive vacations and to purchase luxury goods.

The Flatbush Park Jewish Center, where Thursday's debate between Fidler and Storobin is slated to take place. Photo by Erica Sherman

UPDATE (2:26 p.m.): The Storobin campaign just issued the following release:

The Storobin campaign has just received word that Councilman Lew Fidler will be medically unable to attend either of the two debates scheduled this week for the state senate special election taking place on March 20. 

Storobin and Fidler are vying for the 27th State Senate seat vacated by disgraced Democrat Carl Kruger who resigned in December.   

The two debates are: 1) Manhattan Beach Civic Association “Candidates Night” debate scheduled for Wednesday (Today), February 29 at 8:00 p.m.; & 2) Canarsie Courier / League of Women Voters Debate scheduled for Thursday, March 1 at 7:00 p.m. 

By invitation of the Manhattan Beach Civic Association, Storobin will still attend tonight’s debate and will answer questions from the debate panel and the audience.  

Republican candidate David Storobin issued the following statement.

OFFICIAL STATEMENT

“I want to extend my best wishes to Lew and let him know that we are all pulling for a full and speedy recovery. Nothing is more important than health, and I fully understand the need to postpone political activities while he gets well.

“In the meantime I will work with the Fidler campaign and the sponsor organizations to reschedule the debates that were scheduled for this week, if possible. I look forward to a spirited discussion on the issues facing voters in the 27th District, as soon as Mr. Fidler is feeling up to it.”

-David Storobin, Republican candidate for State Senate

UPDATE (2:20 p.m.): So right after this post published, we heard back from the Fidler team and the councilman will not be able to attend the MBCG debate (which was really a town hall Q&A). Tomorrow’s event, hosted by Canarsie Courier, will be rescheduled as well.

Original post:

City Councilman Lewis Fidler and attorney David Storobin will participate in two debates tonight and tomorrow for the 27th Senate District, previously held by former New York State Senator Carl Kruger.

(Editorial note: We apologize for publishing this information so close to the event time, but the status of the debates has been unknown since Fidler is currently in the hospital. The councilman’s staff told us yesterday that they believe he will be out and prepared to debate Storobin tonight, but that has not yet been confirmed. We have decided to run this piece to give what notice we could, but the status of the debate is still unknown. As for tonight’s debate, the organizer said they will still be having a meeting and Storobin will be present, regardless of whether Fidler can make it.)

The first debate is being organized by the Manhattan Beach Community Group and takes place tonight at 8:00 p.m. in the auditorium of P.S. 195 (131 Irwin Street).

Tomorrow, March 1, at 7:00 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.) the Canarsie Courier has organized a second debate at the Flatbush Park Jewish Center, 6363 Avenue U in Mill Basin. The debate will be moderated by The Canarsie Courier’s Capital Bureau Chief Marc Gronich and the League of Women Voters of the City of New York’s Kate Doran.

Organizers are hoping the debate between Fidler, the Democratic and Independence party candidate, and Storobin, running on the Republican and Conservative lines, will increase voter turnout in the special election to fill the vacant seat, scheduled for March 20.

The owner of two medical supply stores – one located in Brighton Beach, the other in Gravesend – pleaded guilty on Monday to bilking Medicare out of more than $1 million.

Oleg Kam, 48, faces 10 years for his role in the scheme, which involved charging Medicare for delivering thousands of orthopedic inserts to customers. However, prosecutors contend that customers never received those inserts, which are a key element to a Medicare-covered leg brace; Kam and two accomplices were actually providing clients with ordinary shoes, including sneakers, winter boots and sandals, according to SILive.com.

The scheme operated from January 2006 to July 2010. Kam’s business partner, Oleg Kheyson, and another man, Igor Pokrasov, have also been charged. Those cases are still pending.

All three were swept up in a nationwide Medicare fraud bust we reported on in 2010.

Kam’s stores are named Best Equipment Medical Supply shops. One is located at 3071 Brighton 13th Street, the other is at 1773 West 1st Street in Gravesend.

Additional details can be found at SILive.com.

A rally to save Sheepshead Bay High School when it faced closure in 2010.

You may have heard rumors that Sheepshead Bay High School is closing down to be replaced by four smaller academies operating under one principal. That is not the case, and no decisions have been made, but the school still faces a major overhaul.

The Department of Education is proposing to reform the Sheepshead Bay High School using the “turnaround” model. This means the city will rename the school and replace the principal and 50 percent of its teachers.

(There will be a public hearing on this proposal on March 28. The full information on the hearing can be found at the bottom of this article.)

The school stands to gain $1.55 million in federal funding from the School Improvement Grant program using this model.

Unlike other reform models, this does not mean they’ll be a flood of students pushed out of Sheepshead Bay High School and into other schools. All students will be automatically re-enrolled in the new school, which will also stay in line with Sheepshead Bay High School’s current programming of five Career and Technical Education programs and special education services.

The turnaround model means a dismissal of all of its teachers, who are then invited to reapply and interview for their jobs. The new administration is permitted to rehire up to 50 percent of the old teachers.

It’s not the first time the school has been on the chopping block, most recently protesting in November 2010 to stay open – a battle it won. The school’s principal also vowed to fight for her job.

We recently wrote about how the same model will soon be deployed at nearby William E. Grady High School, despite drastic improvements in recent years.

Similarly, Sheepshead Bay High School has been improving – though not as severely – in certain areas. The school’s overall grade dropped from a C to a D in the most recent progress reports. However, the school has demonstrated steady improvements over the past three school years in its first-year student achievements, graduation rates, regent diploma rates and attendance.

There will be a public hearing on this proposal on March 28 at 6:00 p.m. at the school (3000 Avenue X). Written comments can be submitted via e-mail to D22Proposals@schools.nyc.gov, and oral comments can be left at 212-374-0208.

The Panel for Educational Policy will vote on the proposal on April 26.

Birthday girl Victoria Gershik with "The King." Click to enlarge. Source: Facebook

No, it’s not Plumb Beach’s birthday. I don’t think any of us know the exact date and year the universe spit Plumb Beach out of its womb.

It’s local resident Victoria Gershik’s birthday and, to celebrate, she is calling upon friends, neighbors, neat freaks, environmentalists, and anyone who wishes to lend a helping hand, to assist her with a cleanup of the beach this Saturday, March 3 from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m.

Gershik, whose birthday is actually March 1, wrote on Facebook that she likes to run and spend time with nature at Plumb Beach as much as she can and is using her birthday “as an excuse to do something that I’ve been wanting to do, which is spend an hour or so ‘cleaning’ the beach and sharing the beauty of the beach with others.”

There are many items on the beach that I think I’d like to remove though it must be said that the unwanted items that do end up on the beach become part of this beach landscape and create it’s [sic] own reality, sometimes beautiful, haunting, frustrating, inspiring, or ugly. Items like Dayquil bottles have their own charm but I guess I’d still like to remove some of these items from the beach to see what effect it’ll have.

According to Gershik, there will be an “opening circle” at around 9:30 a.m. and then a “closing circle” at 10:30 a.m. for those who wish to participate. This writer is unsure of what opening and closing circles are, but so long as no one gets hurt, that is all that matters.

The birthday girl will be on the beach wearing a pink hat so you can easily spot her. She suggests that you feel free to “start picking up items you think you don’t want to be on the beach and choose whatever spot you’d like to work on.” She also asks that you might consider bringing your own garbage bags and gloves to pick trash. Also: “It can get very windy so wear hats, scarves, and warm jackets.”

For more info, check out her Facebook events post.