Archive for the tag 'courts'

Flooding on Lake Avenue (Photo by Missy Haggerty)

Flooding on Lake Avenue (Photo by Missy Haggerty)

While a rainy day for most of us is just a pain in the neck, it’s an absolute hazard in the Sheepshead Bay courts – the bungalow colonies lining the eastern end of Emmons Avenue.

The below-street-level communities, which date back about 100 years, have long been prone to flooding. Neighbors are getting fed up, today sending us photos and video to illustrate just how bad it is.

Today’s nor’easter was forecast to bring about three inches of rain to the area. But due to runoff from the streets, Lake Avenue – a court just east of Nostrand Avenue between Emmons Avenue and Shore Parkway – was four inches under water by noon, according to resident Missy Haggerty.

“Flooding always happens during heavy rains. So do the other six courts,” said Haggerty. “It has gotten worse since [Superstorm Sandy].”

The problem is that the streets – which are pedestrian only and approximately eight feet wide – is not that they are just below the city’s street level, it’s that there’s no real drainage to speak of. There are small drains peppered throughout the blocks, but they go down into a shallow dirt well. They were never connected to the city’s system when it was laid out in the first half of the 20th century, also when streets were raised.

Another Lake Avenue resident, Ellen Chang, filmed the flooding as she attempted to take her dog for a walk. Without rain boots, the walkways are positively dangerous and her pup – not a small dog at all – is submerged nearly up to his chest:

Cheng said in the video that she was never informed of the flooding issue when she bought the house 14 years ago.

“I didn’t know my house had flooding like this when there’s heavy rain. All the neighbors are suffering,” she said.

Cheng and other neighbors are calling on the city to construct proper drainage connected to the city’s sewer system.

“I pay taxes. I have a right to a sewer system, and the government didn’t do anything,” she said.

“All we need is to just dig a sewer connection to Emmons Avenue sewer system. That won’t cost the city a lot of money,” she added by e-mail.

The problem is that the city considers these streets private – a justification they’ve also given for not replacing worn out street signs in the area – and in the past has claimed that residents need to band together and pay for it themselves.

The unique layout of the courts has also caused Sandy recovery issues. Build it Back chief Amy Peterson said at a Sheepshead Bay – Plumb Beach Civic Association meeting last week that the narrow streets, lack of vehicle access and close proximity of houses is causing delays in the construction process, and leading the agency to explore a neighborhood-wide approach.

We’ll be pinging city agencies to see if they have an approach in mind to address the ongoing flooding concern, and will update you when we hear back.

3027 Avenue V, the address of one of the shell companies affiliated with the alleged scam.

3027 Avenue V, the address of one of the shell companies affiliated with the alleged scam.

Ten people – including three Brooklynites – were arrested and charged for their roles in an alleged $70 million scheme to defraud Medicaid and Medicare by submitting phony claims to the programs through three sham medical clinics, including one based on Avenue V.

The bust was announced December 3, when the suspects were slapped with charges including conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, healthcare fraud and money laundering. Three of the suspects – Vadim Zubkov, Nikoloz Chochiev and Jason Brissett – hailed from Brooklyn while the remaining seven were Queens residents.

Prosecutors say that the defendants recruited homeless people and the financially vulnerable who were insured by Medicare or Medicaid, hauling them to the three clinics to undergo unnecessary medical tests. The procedures were administered by unlicensed personnel, and the clinics ultimately billed more than $70 million in fraudulent claims, according to prosecutors, paying kickbacks to the phony patients.

Find out who was arrested, where the clinic was and how the alleged scam operated.

The official Ocean Avenue address of Merkaz, which is also Fetman's home address and an organization under his control, through which he allegedly embezzled the funds. (Source: Google Maps)

The official Ocean Avenue address of Merkaz, which is also Fetman’s home address and an organization under his control, through which he allegedly embezzled the funds. (Source: Google Maps)

The chief financial officer of Manhattan-based nonprofit Aish HaTorah, Jacob Fetman, of Midwood, was charged yesterday with embezzling more than $237,000 from the international Jewish outreach organization through another non-profit under his control.

According to District Attorney Ken Thompson’s office, Fetman routed the organization’s donations through three separate Aish bank accounts that he controlled. From November 2010 to August 2013, he allegedly transferred $922,931.74 of that money to a bank account for Merkaz, a religious organization whose official address is shared with Fetman’s Ocean Avenue home, and which he runs, according to prosecutors. Merkaz is not a part of Aish in any way.

He then bounced some of the money back to Aish – $685,454.43 – a net loss to the organization of $237,477.31, said Thompson’s office.

Aish is one of the largest international outreach organizations in the world, with 30 branches on five continents. Established in 1974, it encourages Jewish people to reconnect with their faith and culture. The organization operates seminars, produces events for Jewish singles, provides education and training to local faith groups and publishes Aish.com, a leading website for Jewish-related lifestyle and religious content.

Fetman, 45, served as the organization’s CFO for 17 years. Fetman was terminated when Aish officials discovered the banking irregularities.

“This defendant abandoned his duty to safeguard Aish HaTorah’s finances and allegedly stole $237,477 in charitable donations from this venerable non-profit organization. He will now be held accountable,” said Thompson in a press release.

Shaniesha Forbes. (Source: Facebook)

Shaniesha Forbes. (Source: Facebook)

Christian Ferdinand (Source: Aroostook Sheriff Department via Daily Mail)

Christian Ferdinand (Source: Aroostook Sheriff Department via Daily Mail)

A jury today convicted Christian Ferdinand, 22, of brutally suffocating 14-year-old Shaniesha Forbes to death, stuffing her in a suitcase, and attempting to set her corpse on fire on Gerritsen Beach in 2013.

He was found guilty of second degree murder and tampering with physical evidence. He faces 25 years to life in prison when sentenced on January 7 – exactly two years and one day after Forbes’ body was found charred on Gerritsen Beach.

Ferdinand and Forbes met on Facebook and began to pursue a relationship. On the morning of January 4, 2013, the two got into a fight; Forbes confessed she believed she was pregnant, and Ferdinand wanted her to terminate the pregnancy, demanding she “kill it,” according to testimony.

Prosecutors say Ferdinand became enraged, and smothered the petite girl with a pillow at his cousin’s Nostrand Avenue apartment near Avenue M. He reportedly stuffed her in a suitcase and stashed it on his cousin’s rooftop before driving to the end of Gerritsen Avenue, where he set the body on fire.

Forbes was not pregnant, according to a medical examiner’s report.

After killing Forbes, Ferdinand fled to Limestone, Maine, and got a job through Job Corp. When he was arrested in May 2013, he confessed to the crime – and asked for community service, according to the New York Post.

“Do you think I can get some kind of community service?” he asked, according to the Post.

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson has other ideas.

“The defendant brutally took the life of a 14 year-old girl all because he believed that she was pregnant. We will now seek the maximum at sentencing to ensure that we get justice for the victim,” said Thompson in a statement.

Forbes was a resident of Flatflands, and was a freshman at the Academy for Young Writers in East New York at the time of her death.

Leonid Fridman (Source: Handout via DailyNews.com)

Leonid Fridman (Source: Handout via DailyNews.com)

The boss of a Brighton Beach-based construction firm was convicted of ripping off his own workers, failing to pay them required wages on a job at JFK Airport, and will now have to dole out $200,000 in backpay as part of his sentence.

Leonid Fridman, 60, owns Millenium Commercial Corporation, located at 200 Brighton 15th Street. The company was hired as a subcontractor for tile restoration in the renovation of the TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy Airport in 2009 and 2010, where he was required to pay employees prevailing wages on the taxpayer funded project – $50 per hour for laborers and $70 for tile setters. Instead, he doled out as little as $10 per hour, according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

To hide the deceit, Fridman made phony documents, including payroll reports and fake paychecks.

“Mr. Fridman is being held accountable for stealing wages from workers who renovated parts of JFK,” said Schneiderman in a statement. “My office will continue to take strong action, including filing criminal charges, against employers who violate New York’s labor laws, steal taxpayer dollars and violate the public trust.”

Fridman pleaded guilty to grand larceny in the second degree, and agreed to pay $200,000 in restitution. He’s also banned from working on public works projects for five years, and is sentenced to five years of probation.

 

Engine where he worked. (Source: Google Maps)

Engine 329 in Queens, where Schreiner worked. (Source: Google Maps)

An FDNY firefighter arrested in 2013 for assaulting a black postal worker while yelling racist slurs was ordered to attend diversity classes and complete an anger management course on Wednesday.

The New York Post reports:

Luke Schreiner, 49, was convicted on misdemeanor attempted assault and harassment raps for his ugly attack on mild-mannered Rene Isidore, 57, in a September bench trial in Brooklyn Supreme Court.

“A fireman is supposed to save lives. Mr. Schreiner almost ended my life instead,” Isidore said in his victim impact statement.

“He grabbed me by my chest and pulled as if I was an animal.”

Schreiner originally faced a hate crime charge for the assault, which stems from a November 13, 2013 incident, but was acquitted on that charge last month because it was not the motivation for the assault, the judge determined.

“The defendant was upset and he struck [the mailman] because he believed the postal truck grazed his vehicle,” the judge said.

He was suspended for a month after the incident, in which he allegedly smacked Isiidore in the face, broke his sunglasses, and shouted racial slurs at him and a black woman passing by – all in front of his own Gerritsen Beach home.

A previous report from the Post likened the court transcriptions to Django Unchained screenplay, with the N-word repeated numerous times.

“You’re nothing but a f—— n—–! That’s why you work for the Postal Service,” testified postal worker Rene Isidore…

“You’re a n—-r​,​ too!” Schreiner yelled at a black passerby, prosecutor Damani Sims said in his opening statement. “You’re all n—–rs! You’re the color of my s–t!”

Schreiner was ultimately convicted of misdemeanor attempted assault and harassment charges.

The Daily News reports that he has two previous assault arrests, including one for road rage.

Photo by Knightmare6

Photo by Knightmare6

A Brooklyn court ruled that the city was not responsible for the drowning of a 10-year-old girl in 2008, saying that the city is “not an insurer” of the safety of parkgoers.

The case stems from the July 2008 drowning of Akira Johnson, who was swimming with her cousin, also 10, on Coney Island. They became distressed and a nearby lifeguard came to their aid, only saving Johnson’s cousin. The girl, lost to the water, washed ashore days later.

Brooklyn Eagle reports:

The family filed a wrongful death suit against the city with claims of negligence. A lower court judge found merit in the family’s suit and allowed the case to proceed. The higher appeals court, however, acknowledged the city’s responsibility to its park users, but held that the city’s lifeguards did not deviate from its public safety obligations.

Evidence showed that the city “had furnished a sufficient number of lifeguards, that those lifeguards were experienced and competent…that they were adequately trained and properly certified… and that they reacted to the situation in accordance with proper procedure,” the appeals court noted

The victim’s family argued that the training was inadequate as it takes place in a swimming pool.

New York Law Journal reports:

Plaintiff’s attorney Arnold E. DiJoseph argued that the lifeguards were not properly trained to handle rescues in rip currents. “Basically, they are trained in swimming pool rescues,” he said in an interview.

But a unanimous panel of Justices Ruth Balkin, John Leventhal, Joseph Maltese and Betsy Barros held the city had met its duty to maintain the beach in “reasonably safe condition,” citing the lifeguards’ prompt mobilization and the fact that they rescued Akira’s 10-year-old cousin in the same incident. At least six lifeguards responded when they observed the two children in distress.

“[The] city is not an insurer of the safety of the users of its parks, including its beaches,” the court ruled.

Litvin gives “pro” legal tips, discussing how the banks are out to rip you off.

Gennady Litvin / Source: About.me

Gennady Litvin / Source: About.me

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is suing a local law firm and its namesake attorney, accusing them of running a fraudulent mortgage rescue scheme that ripped off financially vulnerable homeowners facing foreclosure.

The attorney general filed suit in New York County Supreme Court yesterday against Midwood-based Litvin Law Firm and Miami-based Litvin, Torrens & Associates, as well as their principal attorney, Gennady Litvin.

Litvin Law Firm is located at 1716 Coney Island Avenue, and Litvin lives in Brooklyn. The firm’s website claims it can provide “foreclosure defense in 31 states across the US,” as does Litvin’s About.me page. Their YouTube page has a handful of testimonial videos from satisfied clients, as well as legal tips from Litvin himself. And radio and TV ads touted connections to “state attorney generals and the federal government.”

But it was all a sham, according to the attorney general.

One of the testimonial videos, claiming that Litvin’s firm successfully eliminated her mortgage in Alabama – even though Litvin was not permitted to practice in Alabama.

The suit claims that the law firms targeted struggling homeowners, then billed them monthly fees ranging from $595 to $750 each for services they would not – and often could not – offer.

Using third-party marketers, the firms picked up clients from across the nation, claiming that they would have a “custom made attorney defense team” that provided “a level of service that usually is only enjoyed by large corporate clients.” They said they’d do “forensic loan audits” to find errors in their mortgage documents and defend against foreclosure, winning concessions from lenders.

In reality, they only had offices in two states and were not permitted to provide foreclosure defense in many of the places where they enrolled clients. Homeowners in most cases never spoke to an attorney, never received representation, and never saw the benefit of the hundreds or thousands of dollars paid to the firms. Most wound up negotiating with lenders on their own, according to the attorney general.

The third-party marketers have already been taken to task by the Federal Trade Commission, agreeing to a permanent ban on mortgage and debt relief services and paying $3.6 million to pay back duped clients.

The Litvin Law Firm was given the boot from practicing in Rhode Island in January after that state’s attorney general found he was offering mortgage foreclosure assistance despite not being licensed in that state.

The attorney general is on the lookout for possible victims of Litvin’s scheme. If you believe you were a victim of the Litvin Law Firm; Litvin, Torrens & Associates; or any of its affiliated marketers, or if you believe you were a victim of another mortgage fraud, please file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office. Complaint forms are available here. You may also call the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at 1-800-771-7755.

Schneiderman’s office is also reminding beleaguered homeowners of the free services available through the Home Owner Protection Program (HOPP), which uses funds from the National Mortgage Settlement to fund legal services and housing counseling across New York to provide foreclosure prevention services. Consumers can call 855-HOME-456 for help.

Source: mikey k/Flickr

Source: mikey k/Flickr

Thomas Dunikowski, who fired a rifle at a group of rowdy teens on his Stuart Street block in 2011, has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

Following a mistrial last year, when jurors acquitted him of attempted murder charges but deadlocked on assault charges, Dunikowski struck a plea deal with prosecutors. He pleaded guilty to first-degree assault and agreed to an eight year sentence, with five years of supervision after his release.

“I would just like to say that I am sorry to everyone that I hurt with this whole ordeal,” Dunikowski, 33, said in court before sentencing, according to the New York Post. “I am sorry they got hurt, and I am sorry I hurt my family and [brought] them through this.”

Dunikowski was arrested in June 2011 after opening fire from his second floor window, wounding two teenagers who refused to leave his stoop. He fired 27 shots as the teens, ranging in age from 14 to 17, fled.

The noisy teens had refused to leave his property, and had allegedly been previously kicking over garbage cans and making a ruckus on the block.

The Marine Park dad also reportedly struck a 21-year-old female bystander.

One Prospect Park West sits at the entrance to Prospect Park (Photo by Mary Bakija)

A Medicaid fraud bust at a Park Slope adult day care center resulted in the arrest today of residents of Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach and Sea Gate, one of whom is a member of Sheepshead Bay’s Community Board 15.

The three local defendants worked at Northern Manor Adult Day Health Care Program at One Prospect Park West. They are accused of falsifying medical records to bilk the Medicaid program out of more than $1 million. The center’s operators are also accused of hiring unqualified individuals to provide services.

The bust followed a long-term investigation by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, which has been probing adult day health care centers for potential abuses.

The attorney general’s office set up covert stings, sending healthy, vibrant seniors to the facility as undercover informants for the attorney general. They say their secret cameras recorded Larisa Rumynik, 48, of Brighton Beach, and Valentina Shapran, 51, of Sea Gate, falsifying medical admission forms to ensure the healthy patients would qualify for the programs.

The third local defendant, Liliya Kostyuk, 58, of Sheepshead Bay, is accused of providing social work services and psychological assessments that she was not qualified to perform, the attorney general’s office said.

Kostyuk is also a member of Community Board 15, a government body comprised of 50 unpaid community members appointed at the request of City Council members. The Boards are responsible for advising city and state agencies on planning decisions. According to Chairperson Theresa Scavo, Kostyuk has been on the Board for at least six years and is an appointee of former Councilman Michael Nelson. She did not hold any leadership posts on the Board.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” said Scavo on hearing the news of Kostyuk’s arrest. “Liliya? I’m speechless. she’s always seemed so quiet. I guess you can never judge.”

Each of the three defendants face up to four years in state prison if found guilty. The program’s director, Gelena Deverman, 35, of New Jersey, was charged with grand larceny for causing Medicaid to pay more than $1 million in phony claims. She faces 25 years in prison.

Northern Manor’s parent company, Northern Manor Multicare Center based in Nanuet, New York, in a separate civil settlement, admitted that it operated without a qualified social worker from mid-2010 to 2011. They also confessed to routinely admitting more registrants than it was certified to take.

The parent company agreed to pay a $6.5 million civil settlement in the case and to shut down the Brooklyn center.

“Today’s charges detail yet another example of egregious, despicable abuse of public resources for personal gain, sending the message that criminal behavior will be met with the full force of the law,” said Schneiderman in a press release. “Employees of this program will never again be able to steal from taxpayers and deprive vulnerable New Yorkers of the care they deserve.”

Adult day cares are surging in popularity across New York, seen as a less costly alternative to nursing homes. Such facilities are licensed by the state to provide medical and psychosocial care to seniors who are unable to care for themselves, and are paid approximately 65 percent of the rate paid to a nursing home that provides room and board.

However, the lack of oversight has seen a spike in fraud, with some centers offering gifts, kickbacks and incentives for recruiting potential Medicaid recipients.

Both the state legislature and City Council have sought reforms to limit abuse.

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