Archive for the tag 'courts'

Steven Koifman, one of the defendants (via Facebook)

Authorities unsealed charges against a Manhattan Beach man and six others last Thursday, claiming they conspired to commit securities fraud, but when the deal soured they turned on a co-conspirator and threatened to “put slugs into” him if he failed to come up with $350,000.

Alex Puzaitzer, 52, of Manhattan Beach, was one of the seven arrested in three states. The other defendants are Alexander Goldshmidt, 47, of New Jersey; Michael Vax, 54, of New Jersey; Paul Orena, 38, of New York; Yitz Grossman, 58, of New York; Efim Aksanov, 39, of Florida; and Steve Koifman, 41, of Florida.

According to authorities, the group operated what’s known as a “pump and dump” scheme, in which they acquired control of a large block of penny stock shares of Face Up Entertainment Group, a Valley Stream-based online gaming company that operates poker platforms and social media games. The alleged fraudsters inflated the prices and trading volumes of stock in the company, then sought to unload them on the public and reap hundreds of thousands of dollars in ill-gotten gains.

Investigators from the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office wiretapped the group, capturing the defendants discussing ways to seize ownership of stock and then inflate the value through false press releases disseminated online. They coordinated trading to create an impression of high trading volume and attract unsuspecting investors.

However, their tactics failed, and they did not reap a profit, according to investigators.

As a result, the seven indicted members of the ring turned on an eighth co-conspirator, who then began cooperating with authorities. Several members of the ring, including Puzaitzer, allegedly met with the cooperating conspirator in Manhattan, demanding they pay him $350,000 and return his shares – or else Efim Aksanov, one of the Florida-based members of the ring, would “put slugs into” his chest.

The cooperating conspirator was allegedly harassed by the defendants in subsequent phone calls and meetings, and, during a meeting in March, Puzaitzer, Goldshmidt, Orena and Vax issued more threats to the conspirator and his family if he didn’t come up with the money.

All seven defendents are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and one count of conspiracy to commit extortion, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

A photo from Smith’s drivers license.

ONLY ON SHEEPSHEAD BITES: Emergency responders left Shaun Smith to die because she is transgender, claims a lawsuit brought by the victim’s mother. The Sheepshead Bay attorney representing her says it’s part of a disturbing national trend of discrimination against transgender patients.

The allegations stem from a June 15, 2012, incident, when Smith’s mother, Jenette Cox called 911 after Smith – a transgender woman who was born a man – went into diabetic shock. When EMS responders arrived on the scene and found the victim to be transgender, they failed to render services, Cox alleges.

“This is somebody who needed urgent care and didn’t get it, and basically what stopped them were breasts on an originally male body,” said Ilya Novofastovsky, the Sheepshead Bay attorney representing Cox in the malpractice and discrimination case against the NYPD and the FDNY, which operates the EMS.

Novofastovsky said discrimination against transgender people by emergency responders and medical workers is a nationwide problem that causes a delay or absence of care, and leads to additional suffering and even death for the patient.

Court papers state Smith, who had no history of diabetes, died of diabetic ketoacidosis, which results from a shortage of insulin.

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Dr. Davie’s office in Manhattan Beach. (Source: Google Maps)

Just days after it was revealed that CBS is planning a reality show following Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, the borough’s top prosecutor announced the indictment of a Manhattan Beach plastic surgeon accused of manslaughter by liposuction – a case that will be featured prominently in the television series.

Hynes’ office announced on Thursday the indictment of Dr. Oleg Davie, 51, charging him for recklessly performing liposuction on a patient he knew previously had a heart transplant, causing her death during the operation.

From the DA’s press release announcing the indictment:

According to the indictment, Isel Pineda had received heart transplant surgery on February 20, 2004 at NY Presbyterian Hospital. As a result of that surgery, she had a distinctive eight-inch scar in the center of her chest. In April 2012, Pineda, 51, came to Dr. Davie’s office on Park Avenue in Manhattan for a consultation and filled out forms indicating her medical history. On May 10, 2012, Dr. Davie performed the liposuction procedure on Pineda at his office at 133A West End Avenue in the Manhattan Beach section of Brooklyn. The indictment charges that Dr. Davie knew that Pineda was a former heart transplant patient yet still performed the operation on her. The District Attorney’s Office’s investigation determined that Dr. Davie was reckless and negligent to perform elective surgery on heart transplant patients. In addition, the anti-rejection drugs that Ms. Pineda was taking suppressed her immune system, putting her at risk for infection. After the procedure, Pineda went into cardiac arrest and collapsed in Dr. Davie’s office. Paramedics tried to revive her as she was rushed to Coney Island Hospital, where she died.

District Attorney Hynes said, “Any medical professional would clearly know if a patient has previously had heart transplant surgery because of the obvious scar on the chest. And doctors are well aware of the fact that they are discouraged from performing liposuction and similar procedures on patients with heart disease. To further hide his illegal activity, Dr. Davie falsified forms, concealing his knowledge of Ms. Pineda’s medical history. It is shameful that a medical professional would disregard his patient’s safety, putting her in serious danger. He will be held accountable for his actions.”

The DA also claimes that Davie falsified a copy of Pineda’s medical history forms, altering it to omit a mention of the heart transplant or that she had ever been hospitalized before the surgery. However, investigators say they found a copy of the paperwork from the consultation in Pineda’s purse the day she died, and on it she had disclosed the heart transplant and anti-rejection medications.

Davie had a long history of risking patient safety, according to prosecutors. They say the State Department of Health in 2011 had already restricted his practice to cosmetic medicine only, due to past negligence. He had been charged by the Bureau of Professional Medical Conduct with negligence, mischaracterizing cosmetic treatments, and filing false reports. In December 2012, after Pineda’s death, he surrendered his license to practice medicine.

Davie is charged with manslaughter in the second degree, criminally negligent homicide and several other charges. He faces up to 34 years in prison.

The case will be one of the central storylines of the upcoming CBS miniseries, Brooklyn D.A., which has already drawn fire from other contenders for the office in this year’s election.

Drunk Driving Victim Moshe Berkowitz (Photo:

In 2010, Anel Kolenovic, wasted on Four Loko, was speeding down Ocean Avenue when he smashed into the car of 23-year-old teacher from Midwood named Moshe Berkowitz. Berkowitz died from his injuries. Now, three years later, Kolenovic, sentenced to serve between four and 12 years for his crimes, pleaded for forgiveness from Berkowitz’s family, according to a report in the New York Post.

Kolenovic, who ran a red light at Avenue N and Ocean Avenue before striking Berkowitz’s car, broke down in tears in a Brooklyn court room.

“The pain I caused to the family and friends of Mr. Berkowitz has been tearing me apart since it happened,” Kolenovic said through sobs in Brooklyn Supreme Court before he was sentenced to four to 12 years.

“Although nothing I can say can heal the wounds I caused, I hope someday I can be forgiven.”

Jack Berokowtiz, Moshe’s father, was satisfied with the sentence, telling the New York Post, “Justice was done.”

John Hockenjos, an MTA worker, was charged with reckless endangerment for allegedly try to run over a police officer.

Hockenjos (Source:

Diego Palacios, the police officer kicked off the force after his bogus arrest of a Sheepshead Bay man, may have been sentenced to four days in prison – but he served only one night.

New York Post picked up on our exclusive story last week – without giving credit to Sheepshead Bites – noting that Palacios pleaded guilty in exchange for a sentence of four days in prison and his resignation from the NYPD. The paper learned that Palacios had to spend only a single night behind bars, though.

Palacios was imprisoned after the Thursday afternoon hearing, in which he admitted to filing a false police report that claimed Sheepshead Bay resident John Hockenjos attempted to run the officer over with his car. That four-day sentence meant that Palacios would have been a free man again on Sunday.

But the sweetheart deal for a man who nearly put an innocent man in jail for seven years got even sweeter for Palacios: state law requires that inmates scheduled for discharge on a weekend should be freed on Friday.

Palacios spent the night in jail, and was freed the next day.

Hockenjos is fuming over the short prison sentence, and afraid for his safety.

“He’s a free man to do whatever he wants,” Hockenjos told Sheepshead Bites last week. “And I have to be in pure fear that there could be retribution. I should not be in this position.”

Video that saved Hockenjos from heading to prison after being falsely accused by Palacios of attempting to run him down in his car.

John Hockenjos, an MTA worker, was charged with reckless endangerment for allegedly try to run over a police officer.

Hockenjos in front of the courthouse. (Source:

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A cop who falsely claimed that a Sheepshead Bay man tried to run him down in a car was sentenced to four days in prison – only one day more than his victim was locked up based on the officer’s bogus charges.

Officer Diego Palacios pleaded guilty at a hearing on Thursday in Brooklyn Supreme Court in exchange for a sentence of four days and his resignation from the New York City Police Department, the District Attorney’s office told Sheepshead Bites.

The three-day sentence has Palacios’s victim, East 23rd Street resident John Hockenjos, furious – and afraid for his safety.

“This individual spends four days in prison, with no probation, and he gets out of jail today or tomorrow and he’s a free man to do whatever he wants,” Hockenjos told Sheepshead Bites. “And I have to be in pure fear that there could be retribution. I should not be in this position; there should at least be probation.”

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Video surveillance captured Klass robbing the liquor store.

The man who confessed to killing a beloved Midwood liquor store clerk during a 2010 robbery was sentenced to 35 years in prison, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes announced today.

Eion Klass, 36, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and attempted robbery charges earlier this month, and was sentenced to 25 years and 10 years respectively.

According to the DA’s office, Klass was out on parole on August 19, 2010, when he attempted to rob a Midwood liquor store wearing a mask and a gun. During the robbery, he demanded the jewelry off of a woman in the store who turned out to be the girlfriend of the clerk, Yoseph Robinson. Robinson tried to stop Klass, leading to a struggle in which he was fatally shot.

Klass was arrested the following week.

Robinson himself was a beloved and inspirational figure, having been a repentant Jamaican-born drug dealer who converted to Orthodox Judaism. His death sparked a tremendous outpouring of support from Brooklyn’s Jewish community, and more than 1,000 people attended his funeral.

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Neil Firetog also slapped Klass with 10 years for an unrelated robbery, in which Klass clubbed a man over the head and beat him before stealing jewelry and a cell phone. Klass will serve those 10 years concurrently.

Source: SalFalko/Flickr

A federal judge threw out the conviction of a man sentenced for a 1989 murder in Brighton Beach after already serving 23 years of his sentence, with the judge calling the case “rotten from day one.”

Village Voice has a great rundown:

On Aug. 31, 1989, two men walked into the basement of a crackhouse at 3053 Brighton Fifth St. in Brooklyn and robbed the drug dealer, Elvirn Surria. One of the men shot Surria twice with a double-barreled shotgun and he died. [William] Lopez was arrested and later convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

One witness, Daisy Guadalupe Flores, claimed she came face-to-face and spoke with the shooter, but did not recognize Lopez when she saw him in the courtroom. In addition, she said the shooter was a “tall, dark, black” man taller than 6-foot-3. Lopez is about 5-foot-7 and has a light complexion.

The second witness, Janet Chapman, had smoked 10-to-12 vials of crack in the two hours prior to the shooting. She claimed not to have seen the shooting, but said she saw Lopez with a gun, heard a shot and heard a body fall. During the trial, she changed her story. She claimed she saw the shooting. After the trial, she changed her story a second time, saying Lopez was present at all, and she was intimidated into naming him by prosecutors.

Chapman first identified Lopez as a suspect after she was arrested for prostitution about a month after the murder. When she testified, she had been held at Rikers for five month. “There is conflicting evidence in the record regarding whether, at the time of her testimony, there was an outstanding deal between the prosecution and Chapman whereby Chapman would receive a sentence of time served if she testified against Lopez consistently with her audiotaped statement at the police department,” Garaufis writes.

In other words, Chapman may have had an incentive to name Lopez as the killer.

Indeed, about two months after the trial, Chapman gave Lopez’s brother a typewritten statement saying she had been intimidated by police and prosecutors into naming Lopez.

The prosecutorial misdeeds go on from there, with Chapman recanting three times over the years and even saying that the district attorney “told me never to tell anyone that we cut a deal about my testimony in exchange for my freedom.”

It wasn’t just the prosecutors who bungled the case. Lopez’s trial lawyer failed to call his alibi witnesses, as well as a witness who claimed to know who the real killer was.

The judge, Nicholas Garaufis, has ordered that Lopez be tried again – even though the alibi witnesses are no longer available to testify – or that he be released within 60 days.

The decision is a blow to Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, who oversaw the case early in his tenure. The New York Times writes:

It is the latest official rebuke of the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, which has been faulted repeatedly by judges for misconduct that has put innocent people behind bars.

A spokesman for Charles J. Hynes, the longtime district attorney who is preparing to run for re-election this year, declined to comment in detail, saying only that the office was reviewing the matter.

… In 2010, another federal judge called the office’s conduct “shameful” for the way it handled the case of Jabbar Collins, who later had his murder conviction vacated. In 2011, the office dismissed rape charges against four men after it was revealed that the prosecution against them had continued even after the victim recanted. The office started its own unit to investigate claims of innocence; that unit overturned another case last year.

Hynes is appealing Judge Garaufis’ decision.

New York Law Journal has more on the case.

State Senator Marty Golden. Photo by Erica Sherman

State Senator Marty Golden wants to reinstate the death penalty in New York, particularly for those who kill cops, according to a recent press release.

Golden put forward the bill in light of three cop shootings this past week.

“As a former New York City Police Officer, I know there is evil walking on the streets of the City and State of New York, endangering the lives of every single police officer…It is our responsibility to re-establish the death penalty,” Golden said in the release.

This isn’t Golden’s first attempt to bring back the death penalty, having sponsored bills that passed in the Republican Senate but failed in the Democratic Assembly.

New York State hasn’t officially executed anyone since 1963, and while Governor George Pataki in 1995 signed a statute into law allowing for lethal injections, it was declared unconstitutional in 2004 by New York’s highest court.

The practice of state executions was officially put to an end by former Governor David Paterson via executive order in 2008.

When Superstorm Sandy swept into our lives late last October, there were few basements located in Zone A evacuation areas that were spared. Some people lost treasured family heirlooms while others lost irreplaceable photo albums. Arkady Bukh, a local Sheepshead lawyer who operates his firm (Bukh & Associates) out of a two story house, lost many important files all stored in his flooded basement according to a story in New York Law Journal.

Bukh & Associates, a seven attorney firm, located at 1123 Avenue Z, suffered extensive damage to their offices, with over 40 percent of it flooded, and damages running into the hundreds of thousands. Bukh paints the state of his office in bleak terms.

“The condition is bad. We’re talking about the humidity. We’re talking about the smell. We’re talking about the mold. We’re talking about the whole nine yards,” he said.

To make matters worse, Bukh’s insurance company highly doubts he can recover the loss.

One thing money can’t cover is the recovery of critical documents and files destroyed by flood waters. For example, Bukh’s firm, which deals heavily in immigration law, has no way of replacing the original passports and foreign certificates lost in clients’ files.

“I can’t sell the position to clients [to pay again] for something that was already done. We have to swallow the loss,” he said.

New York Court employees operating in neighborhoods that have seen extensive flooding told the New York Law Journal that they had not seen an influx of water logged files. Even still, Bukh suspects that he isn’t the only firm located in a flood zone dealing with this problem.

According to Bukh, his firm, which normally takes in $1.5 million yearly, is probably going to take a 30 percent loss in revenue.

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