Archive for the tag 'courts'

grimm

After turning himself into authorities yesterday morning, Republican Congressman Michael Grimm, a former FBI agent, pleaded not guilty to a 20-count indictment alleging the local pol hid more than $1 million in sales at a business he owned to avoid paying taxes, as well as illegally employing undocumented immigrants.

The charges surround the operations of Upper East Side eatery Healthalicious, a venture he ran from 2007 to 2010. However, he’s also charged with perjury for lying to investigators about the business’ operations when he was questioned in 2013, while already serving in the House of Representatives.

“Grimm made the choice to go from upholding the law to breaking it. In so doing he turned his back on every oath he had ever taken. Even after his return to public service, when called to account for his actions and questioned under oath Grimm went for the cover up, and lied about his role in his own business,” said U.S. attorney Loretta E. Lynch, who is prosecuting the case.

Lynch accused Grimm of under-reporting workers’ wages, many of whom were illegally working in the U.S., and also underreported the amount of money earned through the business – dodging local and federal tax liabilities by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

When Grimm was questioned by authorities representing Healthalicious employees suing him in 2013 as part of a federal lawsuit, he allegedly lied under oath hide the company’s questionable practices, including denying that he paid workers cash.

The entire indictment can be read here [pdf]. He is charged with perjury, wire fraud, mail fraud, obstruction of justice, employment of illegal immigrants, obstructing and impeding tax laws, and conspiracy to defraud the United States – among others. He faces up to 257.5 years in prison.

The pol, who represents all of Staten Island as well as a large swath of Southern Brooklyn that includes Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Gravesend and Sheepshead Bay, was released on $400,000 bail after pleading not guilty yesterday.

The charges were somewhat surprising, as many believed that Grimm would eventually be the target of an indictment for campaign fundraising violations following an investigation that has been ongoing for at least two years. Although several associates of the pol have been busted in relation to that investigation, it appears the government seized on his business dealings after failing to connect fundraising improprieties directly to the elected official.

But Lynch said yesterday that the current charges could be expanded as the investigation continues.

The New York Times reports:

Loretta E. Lynch, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, did not detail why the investigation had changed. “Whenever there’s an investigation into someone’s business activities, it is usually very broad-reaching,” she said, adding that a larger investigation was continuing.

But, she said, Mr. Grimm had a sophisticated understanding of the law and finance, thanks in part to his background as an F.B.I. agent, where he did undercover work on Wall Street.

Aside from his work at the FBI, Grimm was an accountant.

Grimm remained defiant after appearing in court, holding a press conference where he described the investigation as a “political witch hunt” and vowed to continue his campaign for reelection.

The congressman did forfeit his seat on the House Financial Services Committee as a result of yesterday’s indictment.

Lynch said that her office will now also begin reviewing the cases he worked while at the FBI for potential malfeasance.

grimm

Congressman Michael Grimm turned himself into authorities this morning and will face federal charges. While the Republican politician has been dogged by a federal probe into his campaign fundraising for several years, it appears the charges to be unveiled today are connected to a restaurant he operated before entering Congress, and is separate from the campaign investigation.

The Washington Post reports:

While the investigation has focused on Grimm’s fundraising, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch is expected to announce an indictment centered on his restaurant business, which Grimm launched after leaving the FBI in 2006, according to officials familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the pending charges.

The state fined the Upper East Side restaurant, Healthalicious, $88,000 for not providing workers compensation. In a lawsuit against the company, workers accused the owners of not paying proper wages and sometimes giving out cash payments to skirt tax and business laws.

It is unclear whether federal prosecutors will eventually expand the charges to encompass Grimm’s campaign activities, but investigators have been moving on that side of the case against several key players, some with ties to the restaurant.

The company itself appears to have ties to persons involved in the fundraising probe. The operating company run by Grimm was connected to a company affiliated with Ofer Biton, the Israeli national who pleaded guilty to visa fraud. Biton not only helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Grimm, he reportedly sought the politician’s help in obtaining a green card.

Biton also served as the middle man between Grimm and popular Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, who helped raise money for Grimm’s 2010 campaign, and who is now facing allegations of bribing Israeli law enforcement officials and looting his charities.

The business’ accountant was also the accountant for Grimm’s campaign, and was a key witness before the federal grand jury in the case. While the indictment is expected to surround the business, the Daily News reports that the alleged financial irregularities are also linked to the campaign.

The Daily News reports:

Wayne Muratore answered questions about suspicious expense claims and tax documents just days before the panel opted to charge Grimm after a two-year federal probe, the sources said.

… The charges against Grimm are linked to alleged financial irregularities in the ex-FBI agent’s 2010 congressional run and to the eatery Healthalicious.

Muratore faces no criminal charges, but was visited several weeks ago by FBI officials and eventually grilled by prosecutors, the sources said.

He reportedly told the feds that certain expenses and tax documents linked to Grimm were not his work, the sources said.

Grimm, through an attorney, said that, ultimately, his name would be cleared, and he is expected to continue his campaign. New York Times reports:

Since word of his indictment emerged on Friday, Mr. Grimm has shown no sign of curbing his campaign. A lawyer for Mr. Grimm said he was the victim of a “politically driven vendetta.” And for now, party leaders are sticking with Mr. Grimm, whose district includes Staten Island and part of southern Brooklyn.

John Antoniello, the Staten Island Republican chairman, said he spoke to Mr. Grimm on Friday, and Mr. Grimm said he definitely planned to continue his campaign.

Meanwhile, on Friday, prosecutors indicted Grimm’s former girlfriend, Diana Durand, on charges of using straw donors to make illegal campaign contributions to Grimm and other Republican politicians.

Grimm represents Staten Island, Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Coney Island and parts of Sheepshead Bay.

The face of God (via Facebook)

The face of God (via Facebook)

A Brighton Beach man with the first name “God” is suing credit-reporting agency Equifax because their system reject his first name, and claims he has no financial history.

The New York Post reports:

God Gazarov — a Russian native who was named after his grand­father — claims that the company has stubbornly refused to correct the glitch after more than two years of anguished calls and correspondence, according to a Brooklyn federal lawsuit [filed Friday].

Despite having scores of more than 720 with the two other major credit agencies, TransUnion and Experian, Gazarov said the Equifax snag prevented him from purchasing an Infiniti car last year.

Gazarov, 26, owns a jewelry store in Brighton Beach. He said an Equifax representative told him to change his first name.

He further elaborated on his unusual name to Huffington Post:

“I am who I am,” God said. The Brooklyn man explained that he’s proud to be named after his grandfather, who was a war veteran in Russia.

“It’s my real name. It’s my legal name,” God told HuffPost. Besides a few jokes in high school, he said, he’s never run into any issues with his name before. In fact, he said, most people just tell him it’s a cool name.

Source: Henry campaign.

A candidate hoping to unseat State Senator John Sampson, who is mired in legal trouble, is touting his support from district residents.

Sean Henry announced today that more than 300 voters have pledged support for his campaign, just a week and a half after campaign operations got off the ground.

“The 19th District deserves better and I’m honored the community has rallied around my campaign for State Senate over the week and a half. With the support of these first 300 residents, I look forward to building a campaign that focuses on what the community truly deserves from an elected official – results,” said Henry in an e-mail statement.

Henry is looking to take out State Senator John Sampson, who currently represents the 19th District, which spans a chunk of Sheepshead Bay, as well as Brownsville, East New York, Canarsie, Bergen Beach and Mill Basin. Sampson has been facing troubling headlines since May 2013, when he was charged as part of a far ranging corruption scandal, and he’s currently facing embezzlement charges from his role in the sale of foreclosed homes.

Henry, who last year ran unsuccessfully for City Council in the 42nd District, is a Chicago native who faced homelessness as a teenager. He joined the U.S. Army in 1995, and attended Southern Illinois University. He moved to Brooklyn in 2000 to earn a master’s in Public Administration at New York University.

In addition to homeless issues, Henry is building a campaign around affordable housing, adding seats in local schools, improving mass transportation, and securing promises to residents for Superstorm Sandy-related aid.

Henry isn’t the only one looking to unseat the embattled incumbent. Leon Miles, an advocate for the disabled, is also in the running.

Two other candidates have yet to formally announce, but are widely rumored to be seriously considering the seat: Samuel Pierre, who heads a nonprofit and is a former staffer of Sampson’s, and Dell Smitherman, a political director with healthcare workers’ union 1199 SEIU. Both are members of the Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club that’s closely aligned to the county party leadership, which has not yet said if they will support Sampson’s reelection or the campaigns of one of his opponents.

Henry, Miles and Smitherman all have registered campaign committees with the state Board of Elections. Pierre does not.

Kings Highway and East 16th Street (Source: Google Maps)

Kings Highway and East 16th Street (Source: Google Maps)

A Cardozo School of Law student is suing the city and two police officers from the 61st Precinct, claiming they wrongfully arrested him after he chewed them out for parking in a bus stop to grab some food.

Tzvi Richt, 22, was given two disorderly conduct summonses after he got fed up and mouthed off to two officers who he claims chased off a man for parking in a bus stop – and then took the spot for themselves.

The incident happened in December, when Richt was on his way home from final exams. He spotted two officers in their patrol car at Kings Highway and East 16th Street. The boys in blue were honking at a man using a nearby ATM to move his car from a bus zone. When that man hurriedly pulled away to avoid a ticket, the cops pulled into the bus stop, left their vehicle, and hit a nearby food truck for some chow, the suit alleges.

The New York Post details what happened next:

Richt approached NYPD officers Graham Braithwaite and Jason Pinero and quizzed them about the apparent double standard.

“Plaintiff asked the officers whether they thought what they had done was right,” the suit states. “Kicking a civilian’s car out of a bus stop so that they could park there just to get food.”

Richt claims that he asked the question in a respectful manner and was not “yelling or shouting,” according to court papers.

Braithwaite tried to shoo Richt away – but he wasn’t taking no for an answer.

“Plaintiff responded by asking whether he wasn’t allowed to ask a question of a police officer,” the suit states.

Braithwaite then demanded Richt’s identification – but the student asked if they had the right to make the request.

That’s when Braithwaite put him in cuffs and threw him in the back of the cruiser, the suit claims. Pinero apparently attempted to urge his partner to forget about it and move on, but to no avail.

Richt spent an hour and a half behind bars before getting the disorderly conduct citations.

The Daily News notes that the summonses were tossed in court, and that Braithwaite has been transferred to desk duty while his superiors investigate.

Teacher Alini Brito (r.) was found naked from the waist up with co-worker Cindy Mauro (l.) by a janitor in a James Madison High School classroom in 2009.

Cindy Mauro (left) and Alini Brito (right)

More than three years after being fired for an after-hours sexual tryst in a classroom, a judge has ordered the Department of Education to rehire the two Madison High School teachers who got dirty in the dark.

Cindy Mauro and Alini Brito were fired in December 2010, more than a year after reports surfaced that the two foreign language teachers were caught by a janitor “undressed” in an empty classroom. The teachers have since been fighting for their jobs back, and an appeals court decided that their termination was “shockingly disproportionate,” since both were consenting adults not at the school in an official capacity at the time of the incident.

“The penalty of termination of unemployment is shockingly disproportionate to (their) misconduct,” the Manhattan Appellate Division wrote in their decision. The five-member panel noted that “lesser penalties have been imposed where a teacher had an ongoing relationship or engaged in inappropriate behavior with a student.

Mauro and Brito’s lawyer suggested to the Daily News that they may pursue back pay as well.

Department of Education officials may appeal the decision. If they choose not to, they may still impose less sever penalties against the teachers.

The two were caught undressed in a classroom in 2009 by a janitor. It was later reported that they had a few drinks after school at a local bar, then went back to the school to watch a student performance. At some point, they headed to a darkened classroom and undressed.

At the time, Mauro said she was helping give Brito, who suffers from diabetes, an insulin shot. A state arbitrator later determined that the two were “more likely than not” engaged in a “sexual encounter.”

Sean Henry (Source: electseanhenry.com)

Homeless advocate Sean Henry has formally announced his bid to unseat State Senator John Sampson, who is mired in legal troubles connected to corruption allegations.

News of Henry’s campaign hit Politicker yesterday, and the campaign issued a press release and launched a website this morning. Among the announcements is that Henry has already put together a professional political team, positioning himself as a serious contender.

According to the candidate’s website, Henry is a Chicago native who faced homelessness as a teenager. He joined the U.S. Army in 1995, and attended Southern Illinois University. He moved to Brooklyn in 2000 to earn a master’s in Public Administration at New York University.

Henry went to work at the Department of Homeless Services, where he worked his way up the ranks to Special Assistant to the Deputy Commissioner, and claims to have spearheaded negotiations between city agencies and private organizations on community-based housing stability services. He most recently worked as a consultant to a non-profit offering community-based services.

“Too many people in this district our struggling, and I understand what that feels like,” said Henry in a press release. “There are people living without hot, running water for weeks on end; people whose ceilings are crumbling before their very eyes. There are kids who aren’t getting the education they deserve at the schools given to them. This situation is unacceptable. The people of the 19th Senate District deserve an elected official that places their needs above all else, and that’s what I will do as their representative.”

Henry, who last year ran for City Council in the 42nd District, an election ultimately won by Inez Barron, appears to mean business. He’s hired political consultant Hank Sheinkopf, as well as professional fundraisers, an election law attorney and an experienced public relations team.

The announcement could spell trouble for State Senator John Sampson, who currently represents the 19th District, which spans a chunk of Sheepshead Bay, as well as Brownsville, East New York, Canarsie, Bergen Beach and Mill Basin.

Sampson has been facing troubling headlines since May 2013, when he was charged as part of a far ranging corruption scandal.

In March of 2012, Sampson allegedly sought out [former Queens State Senator Shirley] Huntley’s advice after being approached by a businessman allegedly offering bribes in exchange for help regarding his business at Kennedy International Airport. The airport is located in the district Huntley used to represent.

Since then the list has grown longer. It was alleged that the senator sought to silence witnesses in the case suggesting he stole more than $400,000 from the sale of foreclosed homes. Later that same month, state officials began investigating the fate of more than $39,000 earmarked for a charity for inner city youth. He is also being eyed for three cases of campaign donations that seemed to vanish from Sampson’s accounts, and allegations that businessmen who lobbied his office were charged retainer fees for duties that are supposed to be part of his job as a legislator.

Sampson hasn’t announced what his reelection bid yet, but he continues to maintain innocence in the investigations. According to Politicker, if Sampson decides to run for reelection he will have the hard job of clearing his name with the public and beating two challengers. The other challenger to the seat is Leon Miles, another former Council candidate.

A Surf Avenue resident filed a lawsuit against her child’s father on Valentine’s Day, claiming he broke his promise to keep her in a life of comfort after she quit her $100,000-a-year job to be with him.

Daily News reports:

Inna Raykhelgauz, 40, says she quit a $100,000-a-year hospital job after on-and-off lover Mikhail Grinberg promised to cover all living expenses for her and newborn David.

But the Harvard-educated hedge fund researcher, after initially providing $32,000 per month, soon scaled back to about $4,400 after winning a Family Court decision, she charged.

“I love him, but he broke my heart,” said the Russian immigrant.

According to the report, Raykhelgauz forfeited a $14,000-a-month apartment on the Upper West Side when Grinberg cut her off, and she also had to get rid of the nanny.

The court papers indicate Grinberg takes in a $5 million haul annually for Renaissance Technologies hedge fund.

Monica + Felix Wedding Film from Visualaz on Vimeo.

Presented without comment. Because I can’t. I just can’t.

From the New York Post:

A Brooklyn couple were completely screwed over by the company that made their wedding video, with the filmmakers piping in sitcom-style clap tracks, missing key moments in the ceremony and trying to get the groom to “play a transvestite,” the bride claims in a new lawsuit.

Monica Nickchemny, 26, and the owner of Monica’s Bridal in Brooklyn, paid $12,750 to film company Visualez in August 2011 to produce a wedding video and a “love story” that would be played for the wedding guests at the reception, court papers state.

The Daily News had this:

“When I watched my wedding video it really sounded like I was watching an episode of ‘Seinfeld,’” she said.

“It really was ridiculous.”

… The two sides continued to clash through the day of the wedding, when Visualaz allegedly showed up with a fraction of the equipment the $13,000 contract stipulated, court papers charge.

A year later, the edited movie finally arrived and “it was the worst thing in the world,” Nikchemny said. “I was really, absolutely hysterical and I almost had a nervous breakdown.”

She said the film was just a scattered collection of scenes with no beginning, middle or end.

“There were sitcom clapping sound effects in place of the guests at the wedding clapping,” the lawsuit charged.

… The young mother received the video while pregnant and claimed the distress led to some medical complications. But the emotional toll can last much longer, she added.

“How can I show my son this video?” she asked.

Photography and videography blog PetaPixel joined in, getting a quote from Visualez:

For his part [Visualez owner] Boshoer is refusing to comment on the matter. “We would love to tell our story, but not allowed to make any comments at this time,” he says. “The cinematography in their video should speak for itself. As soon as this is over I will update everyone.”

Then there’s the video above, which is one of apparently several videos Visualez produced of their wedding. But PetaPixel reports that it’s only a “preview,” according to the couple – but it does seem to have audio dubbed over the ceremonial breaking of the glass and wedding clapping. And, really, sitcoms should have effects this good… this is more like a De Beers commercial, which would seem kind of ideal for a wedding.

Oh, darn, so much for “presented without comment.”

Well, while I’m editorializing, I might as well note that I’m kind of shocked. I’ve met Monica once, and spoken with her father a few times. They both seemed like very nice, down to earth people. But, you know what they say: marriage changes people.

What do you think?

Sampson (File photo)

Sampson (File photo)

The U.S. Attorney’s office unveiled an updated indictment of State Senator John Sampson yesterday, growing the list of corruption allegations to include lying to the FBI about actions his office took to benefit a liquor store, of which he held secret ownership.

Politicker reports:

The U.S. Attorney’s office today announced that Mr. Sampson, who once led the Senate Democrats, is accused of “making false statements to FBI agents about directing members of his Senate staff to take actions to benefit a Brooklyn liquor store in which Sampson secretly held an ownership interest.”

According to prosecutors, Mr. Sampson was recorded hiding his stake in an unnamed liquor store in its license application.

“During a series of telephone calls that were captured on the Sampson Wiretap, the defendant … told the Partners that [his] ownership interest should not be disclosed in the Application” today’s indictment reads.

Mr. Sampson was also recorded instructing an anonymous government staffer to help the store deal with outstanding tax obligations. The senator even appeared to be aware of the potential illegalities involved, telling the staffer to “do it on your own cell phone and do it on your own time.”

U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch’s office also accuses the senator of lying about the liquor store and his office’s involvement when speaking to federal agents.

An attorney for Sampson sought to downplay the charges, saying the senator has been “fully cooperative” in the investigation and that he “has not betrayed the public trust.”

The Sheepshead Bay portion of Sampson's district, which connects to the remainder of his district via a one block stretch. (Click to enlarge)

The Sheepshead Bay portion of Sampson’s district, which connects to the remainder of his district via a one block stretch. (Click to enlarge)

“After years of investigation and two indictments, the government has not charged Senator Sampson with a crime relating to the misuse of his public office. The new charge in the superseding indictment simply alleges an unrecorded statement to an agent of the FBI, which the government chooses not to believe, with respect to a matter for which the government fails to charge any substantive crime,” the attorney said.

Following redistricting, Sampson’s district grew to represent a huge swath of the heart of Sheepshead Bay, between Avenue Y and Avenue U, from East 14th Street to Knapp Street.

Sampson is already facing charges unveiled in May 2013, after he was recorded by former State Senator Shirley Huntley, who turned into a cooperating witness after pleading guilty to stealing taxpayer money through a nonprofit organization. In the recorded conversation, Sampson allegedly sought Huntley’s advice after being approached by a businessman offering bribes for him in his business at JFK Airport.

Sampson was also accused of stealing $400,000 from the sales of foreclosed homes, and was charged with two counts of embezzlement, five counts of obstruction and two counts of making false statements to the FBI.

It was then alleged that the senator sought to silence witnesses in the case by requesting the witness list from a friend in the U.S. Attorney’s office so that he could “take them out.”

Later that same month, state officials began investigating the fate of more than $39,000 earmarked for a charity for inner city youth. While the taxpayer funds went to the group, the nonprofit was unable to provide records for how it was spent. Shortly after the organization received the funds, its leader and Senator Sampson opened the liquor store mentioned in yesterday’s indictment, Gateway Wine & Spirits, and the charity went defunct. The treasurer of the charity said he was never made aware by the group’s leader or the senators office of the $39,560 grant.

At the time, Sampson’s spokesman said that the senator had withdrawn his stake in the liquor store and that questions about it were “moot.”

The spokesperson also made statements at the time that are contrary to allegations made in yesterday’s indictment.

Times Union reported in 2013:

[The spokesperson] said no law enforcement officials had inquired about the matter.

“Why would they?” He asked. “We’re looking for storms in teacups, I suspect. The senator did what any senator, when their constituents petition them, would do.”

The investigation continued to expand in 2013, with three cases of campaign donations that appeared to vanish from Sampson’s accounts, and allegations that businessmen who lobbied his office were charged retainer fees for duties that are supposed to be part of his job as a legislator.

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