Archive for the tag 'fraud'

I've been told that the owner is definitely an NJ resident who moved from the neighborhood. But the photo is just too good not to use for this post.

I’ve been told that the owner is definitely an NJ resident who moved from the neighborhood. But the photo is just too good not to use for this post.

Apparently, the four car owners in Sheepshead Bay that actually have their car registered in 11235 are paying the highest rates for car insurance of any zip code in New York State.

The data was analyzed by consumer advice website ValuePenguin.com, which attempted to rank the affordability of car insurance across the state. What they found was, lo and behold, New York City has the highest costs, with Brooklyn leading the way. We asked the number-crunchers at ValuePenguin to break it down further, and what they found was that the 11235 zip code covering Sheepshead Bay and Brighton Beach leads all of Brooklyn.

Drivers in 11235 pay, on average, $5,585 a year, according to the report. That’s 2 percent higher than the borough average, $5,308 a year. The borough itself is 30 percent higher than the city average, and 250 percent higher than the state.

The rates were calculated based on a single 30-year-old male and a 65-year-old male who drives a 2010 Toyota Camry about 12,000 miles a year, to commute to work. It’s based on somebody with a good credit history and in good condition, and hasn’t had an accident or traffic violation in the past five years – so, basically a person who is a better candidate for cheap insurance than this neighborhood’s shoddy, luxury-car driving maniacs.

The other zip code covering a big chunk of Sheepshead Bay, pays $5,351 on average, and 11223 – Gravesend – pays $5,354. Collectively, it appears all the zip codes along the Southern Brooklyn coastline* pay more than the borough average for car insurance:

  • 11214 (Bensonhurst) – $5,354
  • 11223 (Gravesend) – $5,351
  • 11235 (Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay) – $5,585
  • 11229 (Sheepshead Bay, Homecrest) – $5,351

* They did not produce numbers for Coney Island, so we can’t say this comprehensively.

So why is the insurance so high along the coastline? It could be the risk posed by storms like Superstorm Sandy, which saw thousands of cars destroyed in the flood. But seeing as how rates were high even before Sandy, maybe, just maybe, it’s something a little more sinister.

But what’s it matter? Chances are that you have Pennsylvania plates, or you’re a chump.

Check out the study.

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.

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Gnomiki Day Care at 2221 Ocean Avenue, which was closed due to its history of violations. Its sister site at 2623 Ocean Avenue has been recommended for closure as well. (Source: Google Maps)

The operators of nine child care facilities – seven in Brooklyn and two in Staten Island – were charged last Friday with submitting false documents to the city to cover up a slew of health and safety problems, according to Commissioner of the New York City Department of Investigation Mark Peters, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, and Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, Jr.

At the centers, which served about 400 children, investigators said they found a long list of egregious conditions, including rat droppings, poison, a mountain of trash, and a fire alarm falling off the wall, the Daily News reported. Additionally, the DOI said they discovered owners had submitted fake educational degrees, forged medical records, and falsified letters stating employees had been trained in child abuse identification.

The city recently closed four of the centers:

  • Gnomiki Day Care, Inc., 2221 Ocean Avenue, closed due to the site’s violation history, city officials said.
  • Next to Home, 1123 Flatbush Avenue, was shuttered due to a city Department of Buildings vacate order issued in response to multiple DOB and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene violations.
  • Next to Home, 1159 Flatbush Avenue was closed because investigators said the program had been operating under an expired DOB certificate of occupancy.
  • One of a Kind Child Care, 6318 Amboy Road, Staten Island, ended operations after DOHMH petitioned to revoke the permit.

At the remaining five sites:

  • Next to Home, 5566 Kings Highway, was “never leased and never provided services to children,” the DOI said
  • ABC Little Star, 2345 85th Street, is still operating and city officials said DOHMH inspected it this week, finding no new violations.
  • Gnomiki Day Care, Inc., Group Family Day Care, 2623 Ocean Avenue, has been recommended for closure.
  • Next to Home, 353 Ocean Avenue, closed after the owner stopped operations, city officials said.
  • One of a Kind Child Care, a group family daycare operating at 6306 Amboy Road in Staten Island, is operating, but the owner that was arrested will be excluded from the program, officials said.

The site owners who were arrested were:

  • Viktoriya Federovich, 38, of Brooklyn, was the owner of Gnomiki Day Care, Inc. She was charged with presenting fraudulent documents to the city, including two Certificates of Completion for Identification and Reporting of Child Abuse and Maltreatment for an assistant teacher and a volunteer, the DOI said.
  • Elena Kaplan, 53, of Brooklyn, was the owner ABC Little Star Day Care, and, according to the DOI’s investigation, she allegedly submitted a number of false documents to the city, including a a fake public school teacher certificate for herself and state Nurses Association Certificates of Completion for various members of the staff confirming they had received training in identifying child abuse, when, in fact, they allegedly had not, the city officials said.
  • Owen Larman, 41, of Brooklyn, a convicted felon who was found guilty of operating a $12 million mortgage fraud scheme in 2007 and who was also charged in this case with stealing close to $60,000 in public funds. He was the owner and operator of Next to Home Child Care, which provided services at three locations in the borough. Next to Home also obtained a registration to operate a fourth child care program at 5566 Kings Highway, but the DOI said this site did not actually provide any services.
  • Gina Schiavo, 44, of Staten Island, was the owner of One of a King Child Care. According to the DOI, she allegedly introduced an individual to a DOHMH inspector under another teacher’s name and fraudulently provided documents with the name and qualifications of the teacher. When the inspector questioned the individual about her identity, Schiavo allegedly admitted that the individual was using another person’s name.

“These defendants forged and falsified documents in order to cover up safety risks and steal money intended for actual child care, as charged,” Peters said in a prepared statement. “Our investigations underscore the importance of continuing to vigorously police the integrity of the city’s child care systems, an effort that is very much continuing.”

In his statement to the press, Thompson too issued harsh words for the defendants.

“Each day parents throughout the city count on child care providers to protect the safety of their children,” he said. “It is disgraceful that greedy operators would circumvent safety provisions for their own benefit. Our parents and children deserve better and that’s why we worked so closely with the Department of Investigation on these cases.”

Photo by Ariela B.

The offices of Grigory Shyknevsky, D.D.S., at 2523 Ocean Avenue, where one of the accused worked. (Photo by Ariela B.)

First phony lawyers, now phony dentists.

Authorities arrested four people for pretending to be dentists and practicing on patients out of two Sheepshead Bay area clinics.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed felony charges against Konstantin Shtrambrand, Ilya Zolotar, Sergey Tolokolnikov and Hakob Gahnapetyan for practicing dentistry without a license. They face up to four years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors say that Shtrambrand, 43, Zolotar, 48, and Tolokolnikov, 54, saw patients at J.S. Atlantic Dental at 1707 Avenue P.

Gahnapetyan, 44, worked out of the dental offices of Grigory Shyknevsky, D.D.S., at 2523 Ocean Avenue.

The first clinic is owned by Joseph Grigory Shyknevsky, the son of the owner of the second clinic. Both are also being investigated, although no charges have been filed.

The sham practices came to light after the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit dispatched undercover investigators to the clinics. There they spotted each of the defendants wearing scrubs and performing dental work. Zolotar was seen drilling a patient’s tooth, and the other three were overheard doling out medical advice.

Schneiderman blasted the alleged frauds for putting unsuspecting patients at serious risk.

“New Yorkers deserve to have confidence that the people providing them healthcare are licensed professionals,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Plain and simple: there is one set of rules for everyone and my office will not tolerate those who seek to skirt the rules, including in the medical profession.”

The August 28 bust, in which the clinics were raided by authorities, comes just weeks after FBI agents raided a Brighton Beach law office. In that bust, a man allegedly had stolen the identity of a retired lawyer and fraudulently represented clients in at least 11 court cases.

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.

Law office of the phony Shlomo Dickerman (Source: Google Maps)

Law office of the phony Shlomo Dickerman (Source: Google Maps)

Authorities are still unsure of the true identity of the man they claim stole a lawyer’s name and set up a phony law firm in Brighton Beach, but they believe he’s a disbarred lawyer with a criminal history.

The man who went by Shlomo Dickerman, or Stephen G. Dickerman, is believed to actually be Steven H. Dickman, a Long Island lawyer who lost his license and was convicted of grand larceny, according to the Daily News.

The unknown man was arraigned on charges of identity theft and making fraudulent statements on Thursday. He was denied bail after the judge agreed that his identity was too uncertain to cut loose.

The New York Times reports:

The confusion over the defendant’s identity continued at a mind-bending arraignment Thursday, where the defendant continued to insist he was Stephen G. Dickerman. Not even the man’s fiancée, a retired public-school teacher, was certain of his true identity, a prosecutor, Lan Nguyen, said.

… At the arraignment, the judge read the charges against the defendant, saying his first and last name were unknown. Jan A. Rostal, a lawyer for the defendant, then spoke up. “I can clarify that the name of my client is Stephen G. Dickerman,” she said.

Ms. Nguyen, the prosecutor, pointed out that when the defendant was arrested, he had a New York State driver’s license in the name of Steven H. Dickman. That man, she said, “appears to be a disbarred attorney with a criminal history”: two convictions on grand larceny charges, of which one resulted in a three-year prison sentence.

“The government has really no idea who the defendant is at this point,” Ms. Nguyen said, adding that she was awaiting the results of a fingerprint analysis to see if the man was indeed Steven Dickman.

Ms. Rostal said the birth date her client had given to court officers, June 1942, did not match the one on the Steven Dickman driver’s license, February 1945.

The alleged fraudster obtained his phony identity by renewing the real Stephen G. Dickerman’s expired attorney registration, altering his address. The real Dickerman appears to have retired after 40 years, and Shlomo used his registration to represent clients he booked in his Brighton 11th Street office.

Apparently, he did a good enough job to fool other lawyers into thinking he was the real deal, even if not entirely capable.

“He did not appear, necessarily, to be a good lawyer; he didn’t appear to be a nonlawyer,” David S. Stone of Stone & Magnanini, who dealt with Shlomo last year, told the Times.

Correction (12:34 p.m): The suspected identity of the alleged fraudster is Steven H. Dickman, not Steven H. Dickerman as a previous version of this article erroneously stated. It has been corrected.

Law office of the phony Shlomo Dickerman (Source: Google Maps)

Law office of the phony Shlomo Dickerman (Source: Google Maps)

Authorities cuffed a man who they say stole a lawyer’s identity, set up a phony law firm in Brighton Beach, and represented clients in at least 11 court cases.

According to FBI investigators, a man claiming to be “Shlomo G. Dickerman” solicited clients through his 128 Brighton 11th Street office for approximately four years, despite that the would-be lawyer held no license to practice law or any law degree.

The accused, whose actual identity is still unknown to investigators according to the arrest affadavit, obtained the credentials of an actual lawyer named Stephen G. Dickerman.

The real Dickerman had allowed his New York attorney registration, which must be renewed every two years, to expire in 2008.

The following year, a man claiming to be Dickerman showed up at the registration office in Manhattan asking to renew the registration. He was shown a copy of the delinquent notice sent to the real Dickerman – which shared his name, birth date, address, Social Security number, the law school he attended and other private information.

Using a section of the form to update the information, the phony Dickerman changed his first name to Shlomo, claiming it was his Hebrew name, and entered a new home and business address. After paying a $350 registration fee, he went on his way as a registered attorney, and continued to renew the registration every two years.

The con artist then went on to represent clients, including a pair of undercover agents who recorded a meeting with him as recently as July 29. The phony Dickerman asked the pair for a $10,000 retainer, in addition to his $400-an-hour fee, before generously knocking it down to just $5,000.

They also recorded a court appearance on July 15, in which the accused man claimed to be the lawyer whose identity he duped.

FBI agents raided the office earlier this week, seizing computers, files and other documents belonging to the so-called Dickerman. The other lawyers at the same office are not suspected of wrongdoing and appear to be unaffiliated with the accused man, except for having rented space to him.

clothing-bins

Clothing donation bins are nothing new to the area, although the handful of organizations behind them place them with varying degrees of legality.

One company in particular appears to have thrown caution to the wind, with several placements around Southern Brooklyn that are blatantly illegal. These bins may not be placed on public property, as it is in the photo above, but we’ve seen these pink boxes from Narciso Recycling Company doing just that from here to Bensonhurst.

And it’s not just us. The Manhattan Beach Community Group took notice, too, sending the following note to their members:

In case you haven’t noticed there are a growing number of pink clothing boxes being place in and around Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay and elsewhere. These boxes are illegal, the owners, we are told, take the clothing and sell it!

The Department of Sanitation will remove the boxes. All you have to do is call 311 and report the location of a box you see.

MBCG President Judy Baron told Sheepshead Bites that the bins have been spotted on Shore Boulevard, at a construction site near Girard Street. The one above is on Ocean Avenue and Shore Parkway.

The New York Times looked into these bins earlier this month and found that they were not only illegal, but have become a burden to taxpayers.

A growing number of companies — many of them based in New Jersey — are illegally placing used-clothing bins throughout New York City, blocking sidewalks and serving as magnets for litter and graffiti. The receptacles typically have signs that indicate donated goods will go to the poor or, in some cases, to legitimate charities. But, city officials said, the needy do not benefit from much of what is collected. Instead, the clothing is often sold in thrift stores or in bulk overseas, with the proceeds going to for-profit entities that can be impossible to trace, or even to contact.

“They have become the bane of our existence,” Kathryn Garcia, the city’s sanitation commissioner, said. “We have seen a significant uptick in the number of clothing bins placed illegally on public sidewalks. A dramatic increase.”

City law bans such bins from being placed on sidewalks and streets; they are legal on private property with the consent of the owner.

We do want to note that not all companies place their bins illegally. As the excerpt above notes, if it’s placed on private property, it’s okay – although it’s up to donors to determine if their clothing will go to a good cause.

City Councilman Vincent Gentile introduced legislation earlier this month that could expedite their removal, and see the companies fined for placing it on public land.

Rabbi Yaakov Weingarten

Yaakov Weingarten (Source: vosizneias.com)

A Brooklyn Supreme Court judge ordered Midwood Rabbi Yaakov Weingarten and his wife, Rivka, to pay more than $520,000 for setting up phony not-for-profit organizations claiming to benefit Israel and then using the donations as their personal piggy bank.

The Weingartens were busted last summer, accused of operating a call center out of 1493 Coney Island Avenue in Midwood to raise millions of dollars through 19 separate charities. The scammers claimed the funds would go to programs in Israel or to religious activities. But prosecutors say the charities never existed, and the funds instead went to Weingarten and his family.

Weingarten, 53, withdrew more than $2 million from the charity bank accounts between 2007 and 2013, prosecutors said. They used the funds to pay for mortgages on their two homes, remodeiling expenses, personal vehicles, video rentals, dental visits and even a trip to Borgata Casino in Atlantic City. They attempted to hide their shenanigans by transferring funds between the non-profit accounts. It appears the setup was too difficult for even the Weingartens to keep track of; they bounced more than 2,100 checks, resulting in more than $65,000 in donations being wasted on bank overdraft fees.

On Wednesday, the judge ordered the Weingartens to forfeit $522,315 as part of a civil judgement. Approximately $360,000 of those funds will go to two Israeli charitable organizations that carry out actual programs similar to the ones Weingarten claimed during his phony fundraising pitches to donors: the Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel, the preeminent pediatric hospital in Israel, and United Hatzalah of Israel, a leading Israeli volunteer emergency medical services organization.

Weingarten previously pleaded guilty to felony tax fraud, allowing him to escape time behind bars. However, he and his associates, Simon Weiss and David Yifat, are barred from any fundraising or charitable activites in the state of New York. He also faces five years probation, and has already paid $90,685 in restitution as part of the criminal charges.

The judge ordered the dissolution of 11 actual non-profits used by Weingarten, as well as eight that existed in name only. They are as follows:

  • Hatzalah Rescue of Israel, Inc.;
  • Shearim, Inc.;
  • Bnei Torah, Inc.;
  • Chesed L’Yisrael V’Chasdei Yosef, Inc.;
  • Yad L’Shabbat, Inc.;
  • Hatzalah Shomron, Inc.;
  • Pulse Foundation, Inc.;
  • Agudath Chesed Bikur Cholim Israel, Inc.;
  • Kupat Reb Meir Baal Haness Bnei Torah Eretz Yisrael, Inc.;
  • Congregation Yad L’Shabbat, Inc.;
  • Shearim Hayad L’Torah Center for Hatzalah L’Shabbat and Chesed L’Yisrael, Inc.;
  • Israel Emergency Center;
  • Magen Israel;
  • Hayad Victim Assistance Fund;
  • Lmaan Hatorah;
  • Our Children;
  • Zaka Israel;
  • Yaldel Simcha Yisrael;
  • Yad Yisrael.

“We are committed to fighting to protect everyday New Yorkers, particularly those who want to use some of their hard-earned money to support charitable causes, because there has to be one set of rules for everyone,” Attorney General Schneiderman said via press release. “My office will use all the tools at our disposal to protect New Yorkers from unscrupulous fundraisers for sham charities.”

grimm2Congressman Michael Grimm, facing a 20-count indictment on tax evasion, fraud and illegal hiring practices, may now head to trial in October, a month before elections.

SILive reports:

Speaking at a status conference in Brooklyn federal court on Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Gatta said that motion procedures and hearings in the case could be held by the end of September, with a trial to begin the following month.

… Gatta said that the discovery in the case is “not particularly voluminous” and that the case itself “is fairly straightforward.”

Grimm’s new attorney, Daniel Rashbaum, said that that “schedule may be OK. I don’t know yet.”

He sought a three- or four-week delay so that he could look at the evidence. By then, Rashbaum said, he’d have a better idea “what the discovery looks like in my mind.”

But U.S. District Court Judge Pamela K. Chen said she would give Rashbaum, who notified the court last week that he was taking over the defense, two weeks to “dive into the material.”

Prior to the conference yesterday, observers believed Grimm would not go to trial until after the November 4 elections, when he faces off against Democrat Domenic Recchia. If the prosecution’s request for an October court date is granted, it would be a significant blow to the pol, who will have to fight simultaneously for his seat and his freedom.

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