Archive for the tag 'scams'

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.”

ezpass

The MTA is warning E-ZPass users of a new e-mail phishing scam that has surfaced, in which digital con artists attempt to get at your private data by warning of phony unpaid tolls.

Phishing scams attempt to dupe users to send the scammer sensitive information, including usernames, passwords or banking information by masquerading as a trustworthy entity.

Scam artists are sending out official looking e-mails carrying the E-ZPass logo, often from an e-mail account that appears to be connected to the service. A screenshot of the e-mail is shown above, stating that the user has not paid for driving on a toll road and that previous invoices have not been responded to. It provides a link to download the invoice.

In reality, the E-ZPass Service Center does not send out e-mail invoices for payments. All bills are sent through the United States Postal Service. The e-mails are not authorized by E-ZPass, MTA Bridges and Tunnels or any other toll agency associated with the service.

The agency is advising customers not to open or respond such e-mail, and instead send them straight to the trash bin. If you think you may have a legitimate e-mail from E-ZPass and want confirmation before opening it, you can call the E-ZPass New York Customer Service Center at (800) 333-8655.

The following is a press release from the MTA:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is reminding customers that if they have lost an item on a train or bus, or at a station, they can submit a lost property claim free of charge and directly to the MTA online, by phone, or in person. There is no charge for submitting a lost property claim to the MTA’s lost and found offices.

Recently, MTA customers have complained that online searches have directed them to an official-looking website, www.lostpropertynyc.com, which asks for personal information, then uses that information to generate a bill to be paid online by credit card.

The website implies that it contacts the MTA on behalf of the customers seeking lost property. However, the MTA’s lost and found offices do not do business with lostpropertynyc.com or any other third party company claiming to act on behalf of people who have reported lost items. The MTA’s lost and found offices return lost items only to those claimants who can identify that they are the rightful owners of the property.

“Anyone looking to submit a claim for lost property needs to go through the MTA’s official website,” said MTA Police Chief Michael Coan. “There is no charge to submit a claim to any of the MTA’s lost and found units.”

The MTA Police Department has launched a criminal investigation into the website. Because the website is also soliciting information from taxi and airport customers, and the MTA has notified the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The MTA’s lost and found offices are accessible from this web page: http://web.mta.info/mta/lost_found.html

The MTA maintains three units that serve as repositories for personal items that are left on trains and buses, or at stations. MTA New York City Transit’s Lost Property Unit, located at the 34th Street-Penn Station stop on the ACE lines, handles items left on the New York City Subway, New York City Buses, and Staten Island Railway. MTA Long Island Rail Road has a lost and found office in Penn Station, and MTA Metro-North Railroad has a lost and found office at Grand Central Terminal.

In 2013, the MTA’s lost and found offices received 67,320 lost items, and returned 34,572 of them to their owners while fielding more than 73,000 queries about lost items from customers.

morales

Police say they’ve caught the man responsible for a pair of burglaries in Brighton Beach that targeted the elderly.

We first told you about the hunt for the perp on January 24, writing that cops were seeking a suspect in two burglaries in which the perpetrator gained the confidence of his victims before stealing their cash and jewelry.

Now they’ve arrested Salvador Morales, 58, of Washington Heights, and charged him with burglary, grand larceny and criminal possession on Friday.

In the two incidents, Morales allegedly followed the seniors to their buildings in Brighton Beach.

NBC reports:

[Morales] told them he was their upstairs neighbor and that water was leaking from his unit into their apartment, according to police.

He said he wanted to inspect the damage so he could pay for them, police said. He then asked the victims for change for a $100 bill so he could leave $50. While in the apartment, he took jewelry and money.

The victims include an 89-year-old woman robbed on December 24 and an 88-year-old woman this past Sunday. The suspect took about $2,400 in cash and several items of jewelry from both. No one was hurt.

Source: wmfawmfa/Flickr

Area resident Petr Murmylyuk was sentenced to 30 months in prison for conspiring to hack into retail brokerage accounts and execute sham trades, the U.S. Attorney announced on Friday.

Murmylyuk, who also went by the name Dmitry Tokar, pleaded guilty in July 2013 to charges of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. He had previously pleaded guilty to charges of identity theft and tax fraud for a separate but related scheme.

According to prosecutors, Murmylyuk admitted to his role in conspiring to steal from online trading accounts at Scottrade, E*Trade, Fidelity and others wit the aid of foreign nations visiting, studying and living in the United States.

Here’s how the scheme went down, according to prosecutors:

Members of the conspiracy first gained unauthorized access to the online accounts of brokerage firm customers. The conspirators then used stolen identities to open additional accounts – referred to in the Information as “Profit Accounts” – at other brokerage houses. They then caused the victims’ accounts to make unprofitable and illogical securities trades with the Profit Accounts, leading to losses in the victims’ accounts and gains in the Profit Accounts. One version of the fraud involved causing the victims’ accounts to sell options contracts to the Profit Accounts, then to purchase the same contracts back minutes later for many times the price.

The members of the conspiracy recruited foreign nationals visiting, studying, and living in the United States to open bank accounts into which illegal proceeds could be deposited. The conspirators then caused the proceeds of the sham trades to be transferred from the Profit Accounts into those accounts, where the stolen money could be withdrawn.

In addition to the prison term, Murmylyuk is ordered to serve three years of supervised release, and pay restitution of $505,357.79.

suspect

Police are looking for help tracking down a suspect in a rash of Brighton Beach burglaries in which the suspect gains the confidence of his victims before making off with cash and jewelry.

CBS reports:

Police said the suspect followed the residents into their apartment buildings, telling them he is their upstairs neighbor and that water from his apartment was leaking into theirs, police said.

The suspect then tells the victims that he wants to inspect the damage and will pay for it, police said.

He asks the victims for change for a $100 bill so he can give them $50 for the damage, then goes through their apartments taking jewelry and money, police said.

The victims include an 89-year-old woman robbed on December 24 and an 88-year-old woman this past Sunday. The suspect took about $2,400 in cash and several items of jewelry from both.

Police say the suspect is a white male last seen wearing sunglasses, a ski hat and a waist-length jacket. He may speak Russian.

Below is surveillance video released by the NYPD:

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto Crime Stoppers’ website or by texting their tips to CRIMES (274637), then entering TIP577.

nypd-flier

The New York Police Department is circulating the above flier to local civic groups and political offices in an effort to quash a new telephone scam.

According to the flier, victims are receiving phone calls from someone claiming to be a relative in need of bail money, or even a kidnapper demanding ransom.

While it might seem like a “duh” to most of us, the fact is that scam artists are good at what they do and manipulate their marks by preying on their emotions and confusion. Stay calm when on the phone, and never wire money in a panic.

If you receive a call that seems suspicious, hang up and call 911.

Honoring real survivors at a Holocaust Memorial Park ceremony. Photo by Erica Sherman

The ringleader of a $57.3 million fraud scheme that siphoned money from of a Holocaust reparations fund was sentenced to eight years behind bars yesterday, announced United States Attorney Preet Bharara.

Semen Domnitser played a pivotal role in the scheme, prosecutors say, having worked as a caseworker and program director that processed the fraudulent applications in return for kickbacks. Domnitser gave his seal of approval to ineligible recipients, many of whom were born after World War II and at least one that was not even Jewish.

In addition to eight years in prison, Domnitser was sentenced to three years of supervised release, ordered to forfeit $59,230 and pay restitution in the amount of $57.3 million.

“As the highest ranking insider to participate in this despicable fraud against the Holocaust Claims Conference, Mr. Domnitser played an integral role in the scheme by processing fraudulent applications to the Conference and turning a profit of thousands of dollars for himself,” said Bharara in a press release. “With today’s sentence, he will be held to account for victimizing Holocaust survivors by diverting funds meant to help them to his own pocket and contributing to this $57 million scheme.”

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Yeah, screw Canada. (Source: mezzoblue/Flickr)

BETWEEN THE LINES: In conjunction with occasional Sheepshead Bites postings of Crime Prevention Tips from the NYPD’s 61st Precinct, here’s my tale of identity theft.

You’ve probably heard the expression, “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Whoever said it was wisely precautious and I nearly found out how accurate that phrase is.

Someone with my fundamental awareness of ID theft tricks, telemarketing and sweepstakes scams and other forms of electronic exploitation, as well as a prior victimization, should never fall for a second scam. But, to paraphrase that insufferable pop song — oops, I almost did it again.

Nonetheless, anxiety, and an opportunity for supplemental income, almost led me into a fraudulent business relationship. Before I made any commitment or revealed too much personal information, I realized it was a rip off-in-progress, parallel to the notorious Nigerian money transfer scam. Ultimately, common sense, a little savvy, and advice from a friend triggered internal red flags and taught me an indispensable lesson without any loss.

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