<![CDATA[NBC New York - Crime and Courts]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcnewyork.com/feature/crime-and-courts http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/4NY_Horizontal.jpg NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.comen-usTue, 06 Dec 2016 01:30:22 -0500Tue, 06 Dec 2016 01:30:22 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Bronx DA Seeks Grand Jury in NYPD Deborah Danner Shooting ]]> Mon, 05 Dec 2016 13:42:10 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/deborah+danner.jpg

The Bronx district attorney says she will ask a judge to convene a grand jury to consider whether criminal charges should be brought against the NYPD sergeant who shot 66-year-old Deborah Danner to death in her apartment earlier this year. 

Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said there was no timetable for the grand jury to be impaneled.

"I have pledged to the people of the Bronx to conduct a thorough, fair investigation into this matter and I believe that presenting the evidence to a grand jury will best accomplish that goal," Clark said in a statement Monday. "It is important to determine exactly what happened in this tragic incident."

Danner, who was schizophrenic, was shot Oct. 18 by NYPD Sgt. Hugh Barry, an eight-year department veteran, who encountered the woman naked and armed with scissors in her Bronx apartment after responding to a 911 call about a disturbance. He persuaded her to put down the scissors but as he was coaxing her out of the room, she picked up the baseball bat and charged him.

Barry fired two shots, killing her.

Top city officials, including Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O'Neill, condemned the shooting. Calling Danner's death a failure of the NYPD, O'Neill said it was clear that some police protocols involving the treatment of mentally ill individuals were not adhered to in Danner's case. 

In an emotional press conference in the days after the shooting, de Blasio said officers are supposed to use deadly force only when faced with a dire situation, and, he said, that standard clearly was not met in Danner's case. 

"Deborah Danner should be alive right now, period," de Blasio said in October. "Something went horribly wrong here." 

Among the questions at the center of the investigation: why Barry didn't deploy his stun gun and why he didn't hold Danner at bay and contain the situation until members of the Emergency Services Unit arrived, as he and thousands of other NYPD officers are tried to do, de Blasio said. 

Less than five years before her death, Danner scribed a searing, eloquent essay on living with schizophrenia in which she agonized over the deaths of mentally ill people like her at the hands of police. 

"We are all aware of the all too frequent news stories about the mentally ill who come up against law enforcement instead of mental health professionals and end up dead," she wrote in the 2012 piece. 

Danner called for "teaching law enforcement how to deal with the mentally ill in crisis," training the city has emphasized in the last two years.

Barry was placed on modified duty immediately after the shooting, stripped of his gun and badge. 

At the time, the president of the NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association, Ed Mullins, said Barry acted as he did in fear for his own life and the lives of others.

Neither the union nor Barry could immediately be reached for comment on Clark's decision to convene a grand jury.

Barry has been the subject of two lawsuits in 2010 and 2011 alleging brutality, according to court records. The first was settled for $25,000 and the second for $10,000.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Climber Cuffed Again After Video Shows Him Atop Building]]> Fri, 02 Dec 2016 22:58:58 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GEORGE+WTC+TEEN+CLIMBER+CHARGED+BROLL+AND+LAWYER+SOT+-+21512314.jpg

The daredevil who pleaded guilty to scaling to the top of One World Trade Center as a teen in 2014 turned himself into police Friday after more video surfaced of him climbing New York City skyscrapers.

Justin Casquejo was initially arrested on felony reckless endangerment and criminal trespassing charges after dozens of photos and videos posted in recent weeks to what appears to be Justin Casquejo's Instagram account shows the man, now 18, hanging off of buildings, cranes and rooftops across New York City.

Prosecutors later charged the teen with misdemeanors, not felonies. 

Prosecutors focused on one video showing Casquejo climbing and suspending himself from the outside of 70 Pine St. in the Financial District in February. A security contractor who works in the building told prosecutors that he routinely sees Casquejo going to the building, and that he recognized the building in the video, according to a court complaint.

The building was under heavy construction in February, with no operating businesses or occupied residences. 

Casquejo was released on $15,000 bail. He said nothing to reporters as he left the courthouse Friday, but his attorney called him "a terrific young man with great potential." 

"This is not a young man who's going out just for thrills as one might think," said Jeremy Saland. 

Saland said the video and images recently posted by the teen were "old footage." 

"There's no allegation that this happened anytime in the recent past. These are old allegations, if true," he said. "This young man has followed the rule of the law, has not been involved in these buildings anytime recently." 

"I'm confident that my client will be a law-abiding citizen," he added. "My client has the utmost respect for law enforcement, has utmost respect for the court." 

Other recent images show Casquejo apparently hanging from scaffolding for a high-rise being constructed near Central Park, while others show him standing atop a roof on the West Side, or gripping the metal beams of Coney Island's iconic Parachute Jump ride.

"What do you mean when you say you can't do something?" reads one caption, which accompanies a photo of what appears to be Casquejo hanging off the side of the Time Warner Building in Columbus Circle.

Casquejo made headlines in 2014 when the Weehawken native sneaked by security at the World Trade Center site and made his way to the top of the building to post a similar death-defying image. 

Shortly after being sentenced to community service in that incident, he was again arrested for trying to scale a building in New Jersey. His sentence for scaling the World Trade Center was subsequently increased to 3 years probation, but courts officials said the term was terminated early due to his compliance.

It's not clear if authorities will seek a stiffer penalty after Friday's arrest.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 NY
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<![CDATA[Exclusive: NYPD Hatchet Attack Survivors Talk to News 4]]> Thu, 07 May 2015 16:51:22 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/WNBC_000000007039683_1200x675_440437827788.jpg The four officers who were attacked in Queens last October speak exclusively to News 4's Jonathan Dienst.]]> <![CDATA[3 on Subway Call Muslim Woman Terrorist, Chant 'Trump': NYPD]]> Sat, 03 Dec 2016 07:51:13 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/muslim+hijab1.jpg

A Muslim woman wearing a religious headscarf was harassed on the subway by three men who allegedly called her a terrorist and chanted "Donald Trump" to her, police say. 

Police are searching for those men, who allegedly targeted the Long Island woman on the 23rd Street subway station serving the 6 line at about 10 p.m. Thursday.

The suspect walked up to the woman, who was wearing a hijab, and began chanting, "Donald Trump! Donald Trump! F****** terrorist, get out of this country, you don't belong here," according to police. 

The men got on the northbound 6 train with the woman when it pulled into the station, and the woman moved to the back of the train, police said. The men eventually moved toward her, again yelling "terrorist, get out of this country." 

One of the men grabbed the woman's bag, breaking one of the straps, police said.

The woman told police she responded to the men, "What the f*** do you want?" and moved away again. When she got off the train at Grand Central, the men yelled after her, "Get the f****** hijab off your head!," according to police.

The woman reported the incident to police at Grand Central. She told them the men, who were white, appeared intoxicated. There was no other immediate description of the suspects, and police are canvassing for surveillance video. 

In a Facebook post late Friday night, the victim spoke out about the attack.

"It breaks my heart that so many individuals chose to be bystanders while watching me get harassed (sic) verbally and physically by these disgusting pigs," she wrote.

The NYPD said last week that bias incidents in New York City have spiked 400 percent in the two weeks since Trump was elected president compared to the same period last year. NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill, however, stopped short of saying that Trump's victory played a role in what he described as a troubling trend. 

Demonstrators outraged over the recent attacks gathered in Jackson Heights Friday night, calling it a "hate-free zone." 

"We're horrified by the incident in and of itself," Afaf Nasher of the Council on American Islamic Relations said of the subway harassment of the Muslim woman. "Anyone going through some kind of attack is absolutely unacceptable. But then you feel this overwhelming empathy because we know that this is not the only person who has been assaulted in mass transit, but also on streets." 

There are "swastikas showing up, people who are dressed wearing religious garb being targeted," said Nasher. "We're seeing it on every level from young kids in school to adults in the streets." 

Stefan Holt contributed to this report

Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA[3 NYC Men Arrested in Armed Rockland Robbery: Police]]> Thu, 01 Dec 2016 19:43:21 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/home+invasion+suspects.PNG

Three New York City men have been arrested in an Orange County home invasion, accused of holding up a man at gunpoint before taking off with jewelry and cash, police say. 

Clarkstown police said the 49-year-old victim encountered the robbers when he went into his garage to get something Wednesday night. Two men were pointing guns at him, and demanded valuables. 

He complied, and the robbers ran to a waiting vehicle, police said. No residents were hurt in the robbery. 

Police stopped the men in the car on the New York Thruway and took them into custody without incident, authorities said. A search near the car turned up a loaded 9-mm gun and a loaded 40-caliber pistol. 

The suspects, a 30-year-old Bronx man, a 33-year-old Bronx man and a 26-year-old Brooklyn man, were charged with felony counts of robbery, burglary and criminal possession of a stolen property. 

They were expected to be arraigned later Thursday. 

Photo Credit: Clarkstown Police Department]]>
<![CDATA[Kissing Groper Forces Self on Woman in Subway Elevator: NYPD]]> Wed, 30 Nov 2016 21:31:31 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/ELEVATOR+KISSING+SUSPECT+BK+-+01001120_WNBC_000000014068872.jpg

Police are looking for a man captured on surveillance video forcibly kissing and groping a woman inside a Brooklyn subway elevator.

Police said a 50-year-old woman entered the elevator at Jay Street/Willoughby station Tuesday, Nov. 22, when a man approached her, kissed her and groped her while the doors were closed.

When the elevator opened, the man ran away.

The terrifying incident was captured by surveillance video, seen above.

The suspect is described as about 50 years old, 5 feet 11 inches, and 220 pounds, with salt-and-pepper hair. He was last seen wearing a black jacket and blue pants.

Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-577-TIPS.

Photo Credit: NYPD ]]>
<![CDATA[Killer Sentenced in Cold Case Murder of NYC Teen Runaway]]> Tue, 29 Nov 2016 19:14:42 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/james+martin+marleny+cruz.jpg

A Pennsylvania man incarcerated in the murder of his wife has been sentenced to another 20 years in the cold case murder and rape of a 14-year-old girl found dead in a gutter in the Bronx in 1998.

James Martin was already imprisoned in the 2005 murder of his wife in Pennsylvania when the NYPD Cold Case Bureau reopened its investigation into Marley Cruz, a runaway from a group foster home who was found dead on Valentine Avenue on Feb. 23, 1998. 

She had been strangled, authorities said, and investigators were not able to be identify her until April 1998, through dental records.

Evidence collected from the sexual assault kit was re-examined, and technology advances allowed forensic experts to pull a full DNA profile, which was loaded into a database. The DNA matched that of Martin.

Martin pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter, and a judge Tuesday ordered his 20-year sentence to begin after the completion of his Pennsylvania prison term. When asked if he had anything to say, Martin said no. 

Photo Credit: NBC New York]]>
<![CDATA[Thief Jacks 86-Pound Bucket of Gold Flakes Worth $1.6M: NYPD]]> Wed, 30 Nov 2016 19:17:56 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/gold+bucket+thief.jpg

A quick-moving crook capitalized on a 20-second window of distraction by armored truck guards in bustling midtown Manhattan to steal a bucket of gold flakes worth nearly $1.6 million, surveillance video obtained exclusively by NBC 4 New York shows. 

The theft happened in broad daylight on a September afternoon on West 48th Street. Surveillance video shows a man loitering, keeping watch on an armored truck.

Then one guard leaves to make a pickup, and the other guard heads to the front seat to grab his cellphone. Those 20 seconds were long enough for the thief to strike. He goes to grab the 86-pound bucket and makes a run for it, though he clearly has difficulty maneuvering it.

"I think he just saw an opportunity, took the pail and walked off," said NYPD Det. Martin Pastor, who's overseeing the investigation. Police believe the man had no clue what was inside the bucket. 

The video shows the thief setting down the heavy bucket, putting it on his shoulder, then taking a breather. He takes another few steps and pauses again. The normally 10-minute walk takes him an hour. He then jumps into a van at 49th Street and Third Avenue. 

Police believe the man is hiding out in the Orlando or Miami area with the bucket of gold -- something Pastor believes the thief never knew until he opened it up.

"I think when the lucky charm opened up the bucket, he seen the rainbow and seen the gold." 

Photo Credit: NBC 4 NY]]>
<![CDATA[NYC Firefighter Accused of Selling Pills at Firehouse]]> Tue, 29 Nov 2016 17:08:23 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/179*120/11-10-2011+9-55-00+AM.jpg

A 33-year-old FDNY firefighter has been accused of selling prescription pills in front of his Brooklyn firehouse and at a gas station near a school, according to prosecutors. 

Daniel Torres, of Rahway, New Jersey, was arrested on conspiracy and criminal sale of a controlled substance on or near school grounds after authorities said he sold Vicodin and Xanax in front of his Red Hook firehouse and at a gas station.

The 8-year FDNY veteran assigned to the department's recruitment unit is being held in lieu of $25,000 bail after a hearing in Manhattan on Tuesday. 

Torres was previously assigned to Engine 279/Ladder 131 in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. He faces multiple state charges of criminal sale of a controlled substance on or near school grounds and conspiracy, prosecutors.

Prosecutors say the gas station from which Torres sold the prescription pain pills is one block from the Al-Noor School, an Islamic private high school.

Prosecutors say the firehouse in front of which Torres sold pills is three blocks from a childcare center, the Choo Choo Train Daycare.

Authorities said that Torres set up the drug sales through calls and text messages.

In at least two of the buys, the firefighter was accused of selling more than 160 tablets of Vicodin, a narcotic painkiller, and 28 Xanax tablets, an addictive anti-anxiety drug. On one of the occasions, Torres allegedly gave a customer a sample of heroin as well. 

The investigation was conducted by the New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force comprised of DEA, NYPD, and New York State Police investigators, along with the New York City Department of Investigation.

Attorney information on the man wasn't immediately available. 

<![CDATA[Queens Dad Arrested in Death of Infant Daughter]]> Tue, 22 Nov 2016 20:44:06 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/baby+homicide+queens.jpg

A 36-year-old Queens father has been arrested on murder charges in the death of his 5-month-old daughter.

Police announced the arrest of Jorge Baque on Tuesday after his daughter, identified as Alaia Baque, was found unconscious at her home in Queens in July. She was taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Prosecutors say the baby died of "abusive head trauma."

If convicted, Baque faces up to 25 years to life in prison. Information on his lawyer was not immediately available.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Driver Talked About Wanting to Attack NYC: Officials]]> Tue, 22 Nov 2016 00:07:07 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/terror-suspect-1121.jpg

A permanent U.S. citizen who drove for a car service in New York City has been accused of traveling to the Middle East to join ISIS and talked about wanting to carry out an attack in Times Square.

Mohamed Rafik Naji, 37, faces charges of providing material support for terrorism, according to court documents and law enforcement officials. The Yemen-born Brooklyn resident was arrested in his home borough. 

"As alleged, the defendant was persistent in his efforts to join ISIL and support its terrorist objectives,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Capers. “We will continue to identify and prosecute individuals like Naji who seek to empower our nation’s enemies and endanger our citizens and partners around the world.”

Authorities said that the man allegedly traveled to Yemen in 2015 in an attempt to join ISIS, but returned after several months when he was unable to join the terrorist organization.

The documents said he made it as far as Turkey, but never was able to cross the border to Syria. He allegedly asked relatives for money on more than one occasion and had said he tried to cross the border 5 times but there was too much security. He also allegedly sent an associate files with sounds of gunfire and claimed to have lamost been killed by the "army."

He later expressed support for ISIS after an attack in the French city of Nice killed 86 people and injured more than 400 others.

The documents allege that he "expressed support for staging an attack in Times Square" during a conversation with an undercover FBI operative on July 19, four days after the attack in Nice. There was no indication that he ever did anything to carry out such an attack.

Authorities also said that he expressed support for ISIS in posts on a Facebook account, making the page's profile picture an image of men with guns walking toward the visage of the terror group's flag. The cover photo of the page also featured images of ISIS symbols.

Officials in court said that Naji drove cars for Uber, but the company denied that he worked for the service.

His attorney, Susan Kellman, said that Naji had "a legitimate purpose" for being in Yemen. 

"I have no idea what my client said and what the confidential source said," she said."He had a legitimate purpose for being in Yemen. He has family there."

He's being held without bail. 

Naji is the latest area resident to be arrested on charges related to supporting terror groups. At least a half-dozen other have been accused of supporting ISIS or attempting to join the group since mid-2015. 

<![CDATA[DNA Yields Arrest in '04 Killing of Teen Found Naked in NYC]]> Fri, 18 Nov 2016 07:39:15 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/bushwick+cold+case.jpg

Prosecutors say new DNA evidence has helped lead them to a suspect in the 2004 killing of a teenage girl found naked in a Brooklyn alleyway. 

Kwauhuru Govan, 38, was arraigned in Brooklyn Thursday on murder and kidnapping charges in the 2004 killing of 17-year-old Sharabia Thomas, the Brooklyn district attorney's office announced.

Thomas' naked body was found inside two laundry bags on the side of alleyway near 130 Palmetto St. in Bushwick on Feb. 11, 2004, prosecutors said. She'd suffered blunt force trauma to her head, face and torso, and had marks around her wrists and ankles indicating she'd been tied up. 

The medical examiner determined she'd been strangled. There was no evidence of a sexual assault, authorities said. 

Thomas never went to school that day and was last seen earlier in the morning when her siblings left for school, prosecutors said. DNA testing at the time turned up no results. 

Then, in June 2016, the NYPD cold case squad and the district attorney's forensic science unit requested another DNA testing from Thomas' fingernail clippings. This time, a full profile was developed and uploaded to the national DNA database maintained by the FBI, and turned up a match to a man arrested in 2014 for an armed robbery in Polk County, Florida, officials said. 

After Govan, formerly of Gates Avenue in Bushwick, was released from Florida prison on the robbery conviction, he was extradited to Brooklyn on the murder indictment, prosecutors said. 

Govan, who lived two blocks from Thomas' home in 2004, has denied knowing the teenager.

In court Thursday, he looked at the teen's family and told them he didn't kill the girl. His attorney, Fred Spiegel, suggested the DNA could be false. When prosecutors requested Govan get another DNA swab, he spoke up and did not object. 

He was ordered held without bail. 

Photo Credit: NBC 4 NY]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Sentenced in Violent Mugging of 103-Year-Old Woman]]> Thu, 17 Nov 2016 16:02:12 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/bronx+elderly+woman+robbed.jpg

A Bronx woman has been sentenced to five years in prison for violently robbing a 103-year-old legally blind woman in her apartment building as she returned from a local community center last spring. 

Sharon McNeil, 53, pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery in September. Proseuctors said she followed Louise Signore into her apartment building on Bellamy Loop in Co-op City on April 1 and got on the elevator with her.

McNeil then followed Signore to her floor, where she knocked her to the ground and grabbed her purse and two meals she got from a local community center, police said.

"See, I thought it was a man and I'm legally blind," Signore told NBC 4 New York at the time. "And they tell me it's a woman."

"She took the cart and everything in it," Signore said. "I had a lot of bags in the cart, things I use every day, like bingo and my magnifier."

Signore was evaluated by EMS at the scene but refused further medical attention, authorities said.

In addition to her prison sentence, McNeil will be under three years of post-release supervision. 

Photo Credit: NYPD
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<![CDATA[Passaic Mayor Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges, Resigns]]> Fri, 18 Nov 2016 07:29:17 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Blanco-sm.jpg

Passaic Mayor Alex Blanco pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges in a Newark court on Thursday and has resigned from office.

Blanco, 44, admitted to taking $110,000 from two unnamed developers for an affordable housing project in 2011. He signed a plea agreement in September.

"He regrets his actions. He takes responsibility for his actions. He will submit a letter of resignation today," Blanco's attorney told NBC 4 New York.

The Democratic mayor will be sentenced Feb. 23. 

The U.S. Attorney's office said Blanco, a podiatrist who was first elected in 2008, approached developers about a project for low-income housing on Paulison Avenue in 2011 and told them they would have to give him a sizeable payment for the project to go forward.

Then, after the city released $216,4000 in federal Department of Housing and Urban Development money for the project, prosecutors said that Blanco arranged another meeting with the developers and accepted $65,000 in bank checks. A few days later he took another $40,000 in cash. He received the final $5,000 several months later.

Prosecutors said that most of the money Blanco took came out of HUD money provided to the developers. U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said that Blanco's behavior "demonstrates aggressive and appalling greed."

"By soliciting these payments from developers, he took for himself federal money that was intended to help provide housing for the city's poorest residents," Fishman said. "We expect our public officials to behave differently."

As part of the plea agreement, Blanco will pay $110,000 in restitution.

He won office on a platform of fighting corruption after his predecessor Samuel Rivera was convicted of taking bribes in 2008 and made history as the first Dominican-American mayor elected in the U.S. Yet Blanco now becomes the third Passaic mayor in the last 25 years to be convicted of, or plead guilty to, a federal crime. 

Former Mayor Joseph Lipari was found guilty of extortion and income tax evasion in 1992. 

The community of 70,000 people bills itself as the fastest-growing city in New Jersey. 

In a statement, the Passaic City Council said it is moving swiftly to assure the continuity of local government and would be scheduling an emergency meeting to discuss the appointment of an acting mayor. 

"Today is a very sad day for us all. Mayor Blanco has been a friend, but his actions constitute a violation of the public trust, and that is simply unacceptable," the statement on behalf of the seven councilmembers said. "His guilty plea today will hopefully allow us all to move forward in the best interests of all of Passaic's residents."

Photo Credit: City of Passaic]]>
<![CDATA[Man Accused of Shipping Cocaine in Historic Ship Extradited ]]> Mon, 14 Nov 2016 14:36:31 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Schooner-Drugs-NY-0122.jpg

One of the two Colombian men accused of using a historic ship nicknamed "the floating embassy of Spain" to sail cocaine from South America to New York City has been extradited to Manhattan to face charges, prosecutors said.

Jorge Luis Hoayeck is expected to be arraigned Monday on drug smuggling charges after being brought to the city on Thursday, according to the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for New York City. His alleged accomplice, Jorge Alberto Siado-Alvarez, is also expected to be extradited from Colombia to the Empire State in the near future.

Authorities said the two men allegedly ran a drug cartel and paid two crew members aboard the Juan Sebasian de Elcano -- a 371-foot steel-hulled, four-masted schooner built by Spain in 1927 for training purposes -- to ferry drugs to New York City in April and May 2014.

Authorities say the two crew members were paid about $32,000 to hide the drugs on the boat during a voyage to Manhattan. When the boat docked on Manhattan's west side on May 14, 2014, the two crew members allegedly traveled to the Bronx to deliver the cocaine to dealers for the cartel.

Authorities say that two days later DEA agents and NYPD officers along with and state police moved and made seven arrests as the drugs were being moved through Stamford, Connecticut. More drugs and weapons were found at the Bronx safehouse.

Prosecutors allege that Hoayeck and Siado-Alvarez came up with the plan to use the Spanish ship to smuggle 8 kilos of cocaine. Investigators said both men are heard on a wiretap discussing the plan.

When the ship returned to Spain, authorities there conducted a search and found 127 kilograms of cocaine hidden in a storeroom.

In 2014 – after visiting France, Italy and Morocco, it crossed the Atlantic to visit Colombia, the Dominican Republic and New York.

If convicted, the men could face up to life in prison. Information on their attorneys wasn't immediately available.

Photo Credit: Handout]]>
<![CDATA[Alleged NY Russian Mobsters Nabbed in Fed Sting]]> Wed, 09 Nov 2016 19:52:03 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/russian+mob+bust.jpg

Eight alleged Russian mobsters appeared in the Brooklyn Federal Court on Wednesday after being arrested in a series of overnight raids in Brighton Beach, while one alleged mobster is still on the run.

The federal sting saw the men facing felony charges for drug trafficking, extortion, racketeering, loansharking and illegal gambling.

Federal prosecutors said the nine men would regularly extort millions of dollars from people living abroad, threatening to harm their families if they did not pay.

Agents said nefarious activity was also happening behind the doors of a Russian Community Life Center in Brooklyn, and that the men were running high-stakes illegal poker games to make extra cash in an apartment over a Brooklyn bakery.

Despite many of the men being unemployed, they were making thousands of dollars from their illegal acts, and driving high-end luxury cars, prosecutors said.

A task force led by members of the DEA and IRS executed the overnight sting and arrests, with the help of the NYPD in Brighton Beach.

When arrested, some of the accused stated that they were "not criminals" and did not know what they had been charged with.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Arrested in Shove May Be Linked to 2nd Death: Sources]]> Tue, 08 Nov 2016 12:04:21 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/subway+shove+times+square.jpg

A woman died after being shoved in front of an oncoming subway in the heart of Times Square Monday, and a woman arrested in the deadly shove may be linked to another subway death, police sources familiar with the investigation tell NBC 4 New York. 

Police and firefighters swarmed the Times Square station at 42nd Street shortly after 1 p.m. after getting a report of a person pushed in front of a train. The 49-year-old victim was pronounced dead at the scene. 

The suspect, 30-year-old Melanie Liverpool of Queens, was taken into custody at the scene and later charged with second-degree murder, police said. 

It wasn't clear if the suspect and the victim knew each other, nor was it known if they had some type of dispute prior to the alleged shove. 

"It's a horrible incident," said NYPD Chief William Aubry. "Your heart goes out to this victim and her family." 

Witnesses who saw the push were also being interviewed at the precinct in the station. 

Law enforcement officials say Liverpool previously claimed to police she had shoved another person in front of an oncoming train at Union Square station on Oct. 19. 

At the time, police did not find her claim credible; two different witnesses told investigators the victim had jumped in front of the train and treated the death as a suicide, officials said. 

Now the NYPD is reexamining the subway death, law enforcement officials said.

Liverpool has a history of mental illness, police say. 

Subway deaths from pushes are not common, but there have been a few in the past few years. In 2014, Kevin Darden, 34, was charged with killing a 61-year-old immigrant from Hong Kong, Wai Kuen Kwok, by shoving him into the path of a subway train in the Bronx. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and is awaiting sentencing.

In 2012, Erika Menendez, a mentally ill woman who had a history of attacking strangers, shoved an immigrant from India off a subway platform in Queens. She pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 24 years in prison. The victim, Sunando Sen, was 46.

Also in 2012, a homeless man, Naeem Davis, was arrested and charged with shoving Ki-Suck Han, a Korean immigrant, into the path of a subway train at a station near Times Square.

A fatal subway push in 1999 led to a state law, known as Kendra's Law, that allows supervision of certain patients outside of institutions to make sure they're taking medications and don't present a public safety threat. It came after the death of Kendra Webdale, who was pushed to her death by a former mental patient. 

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Paterson City Workers Say Mayor Requested Private Work]]> Fri, 18 Nov 2016 20:21:38 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/paterson+mayor+update.jpg

A Paterson city worker wrote a memo to his supervisor telling him that Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres had asked him to do a private job for him last May, even though the state attorney general was already looking into claims that the mayor had used city workers for private work.

The I-Team obtained the memo, written by DPW worker Terrence Cobb and addressed to Supervisor Manuel Ojeda, late Thursday. In it, Cobb says the mayor asked him to clean an office at 100 Hamilton Plaza, and bring some items back to City Hall including a bookshelf, a world map and an eagle statue. Cobb did not say in the memo whether he was on the clock at the time, but city workers have told the I-Team he was.

City workers said Torres turned to the lone worker after his initial call to the head of DPW requesting a work crew was rejected because it was not city business. 

Since March, the I-Team has documented about a dozen instances where city workers were seen doing private jobs at the mayor’s home and at a business linked to a mayor’s relative. On numerous occasions, records show taxpayers were billed overtime for the apparent private work.

The I-Team reported earlier this month that Torres turned to the lone worker after his initial call to the head of DPW requesting a work crew was rejected because it was not city business.

The I-Team reported last month that Cobb’s memo was one of two reports filed by city workers claiming that the mayor had asked them to do a private job.

Two workers also filed a memo dating to Oct. 19 complaining the Mayor had asked them to take apart a large metal tie rack at the Paterson’s Men Shop so it could be moved to his home.

The mayor continues to deny any wrongdoing.

"Please be informed that at no time have DPW workers, or any other city workers, perform non-government work at my direction," Torres has said in a statement.

A spokesman for the state attorney general declined to comment on the ongoing investigation. Two sources said the workers’ memos in the May 6 and October 16 incidents are now in the hands of investigators.

Last Friday, FBI agents searched City Hall and other Paterson city offices in connection with a separate federal investigation into possible misuse of Housing and Urban Development money meant for a drug re-entry facility. No charges have been filed and FBI and US Attorney spokesmen declined to comment.

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<![CDATA[Teen Arrested in Newburgh Party Shooting That Killed 2]]> Fri, 04 Nov 2016 19:00:48 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/suspect-victims-newburgh-1031.jpg

Police say they've arrested the 17-year-old boy wanted in the shooting deaths of two young women at a Halloween party in Orange County last weekend. 

Nija Johnson of Newburgh was taken into custody outside of New York state Friday afternoon. Police were expected to release more details Monday. 

Tabitha Cruz, 20, and Omani Free, 18, were gunned down at an apartment party in Newburgh at about 1 a.m. Sunday. Authorities said the two women were standing near the DJ booth when gunfire erupted and they were hit. 

Five other people were wounded in the shooting, but they were all expected to survive. Police said some sort of dispute broke out shortly before the shooting.

Free was a high school senior at Newburgh Free Academy and had made a last-minute decision to go to the party, about five blocks from her home, with a friend, said her mother, Rhonda Valentine-Free. 

Valentine-Free said she had left home to go to her own social engagement and didn't know her daughter had decided to go to the party. She said she and her husband first got word that something had happened when a friend of their 15-year-old son who had been at the party called to say their daughter had been shot. She said they went to a hospital, where their daughter died hours later.

Students at Newburgh Free Academy joined others in the community Monday to remember the two women, one of whom was a senior at the school. 

Two other men, 21-year-old Rainier Hamilton and 20-year-old Tyson Oliveira, were arrested hours after the party on charges of tampering with physical evidence. Hamilton is also charged with criminal possession of a weapon. Both men were arraigned Monday in city court and ordered held on $50,000 bail. Their assigned lawyers couldn't be reached for comment. 

Photo Credit: Provided
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<![CDATA[FBI Searches City Offices in NJ Amid Fed Corruption Probe]]> Thu, 03 Nov 2016 21:23:17 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/fbi+in+paterson.jpg

Federal agents executed search warrants at the offices of the economic and community development departments in Paterson, New Jersey, Thursday in connection with a federal corruption investigation, law enforcement sources familiar with the case tell NBC 4 New York. 

FBI agents were seen carrying boxes out of city offices at about 11 a.m. 

The corruption investigation is looking into how the city used federal housing and urban development funding, NBC 4 New York has learned. 

Thursday's search is focusing on the money trail and whether crimes were committed in the way city officials handled federal assistance. No arrests were made in connection with the case Thursday. 

The city's attorney said in a statement to NBC 4 New York: "We are confident that the federal officials will be satisfied with the City of Paterson's adherence to any and all federal regulations." 

The federal probe comes as the office of New Jersey's state attorney general is conducting its own criminal investigation into Paterson Mayor Joey Torres and the Democrat's alleged use of city Department of Public Works employees for personal business on taxpayers' dime. 

The I-Team has documented about a dozen instances where city workers were billing taxpayers for private work at the mayor's home and a business belonging to one of his relatives. The mayor has denied any wrongdoing. 

The findings included video shot by a private investigator that showed city employeees washing a scooter, building bookshelves and doing construction for his nephew's would-be beer business.

City councilman Andre Sayegh, a political rival to Torres, said Thursday that the FBI raid raises additional questions.

"This shows a pattern of misuse of municipal resources, but now the whole issue of misappropriation of federal funds has come into play as well," he said. 

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Suspect in Custody in Slaying of Famed NYC Pizzeria Owner]]> Thu, 03 Nov 2016 22:11:21 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/louis+barbati+killed1.jpg

Federal officials arrested a man in connection with the fatal ambush of the owner of a famed New York City pizza restaurant.

Andres Fernandez appeared in federal court in Brooklyn on Thursday to face murder, robbery and weapons charges. He did not enter a plea. A phone message left with his lawyer, Avrom Robin, wasn't immediately returned.

Court documents say investigators believe surveillance video, cellphone data and witness accounts tie Fernandez to the killing.

L&B Spumoni Gardens pizzeria owner Louis Barbati was gunned down in the backyard of his Brooklyn home in June after arriving home from work carrying a large amount of cash. The shooter, lying in wait and dressed in black, fired five rounds, and then fled on foot empty-handed in what appeared to be a botched robbery, police said.

An attorney for the Barbati family released a statement saying the family was relieved.

"The loss of Louis Barbati leaves a void that will never be filled, however the fact that someone is being brought to justice aides in the healing process," attorney Arthur L. Aidala said in the statement.

The restaurant has been run by Barbati's family for generations and has been featured on several TV food shows.

It also gained notoriety from testimony at the 2012 trial of a reputed Colombo organized crime family associate. A mob turncoat claimed that the defendant, who had married into the L&B family, flew into a rage when he became suspicious that a Staten Island pizzeria with alleged ties to a rival Mafia family stole a red sauce recipe.

The witness testified that as payback, the Colombos plotted to extort $75,000 from the owner of the Staten Island eatery. He said the owner ended up paying only $4,000 to settle the dispute.

<![CDATA[Roommate, Accomplice Arrested in Killing of NJ Hoops Player]]> Thu, 03 Nov 2016 06:28:32 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Michael-Wright-AP_061025019987.jpg

Police have arrested the friend and roommate of a former college basketball star from New Jersey who was found dead in his car in Brooklyn last year, authorities announced Tuesday. 

Mark A. Holdbrooks, 49, was arrested Tuesday in the November 2015 killing of 35-year-old Michael Wright, along with an alleged accomplice, David Victor of Brooklyn, prosecutors said Wednesday. 

Wright, of Closter, was found killed, with his body covered in a trash bag, inside his car on a street in Midwood on Nov. 5, 2015. 

Holdbrooks originally reported Wright missing to Closter police on Nov. 8, 2015, and told investigators he hadn't heard from his close family friend and roommate since Nov. 5. 

Police in New York City later found Wright's body in his white Lexus on East 16th Street in Brooklyn. His body was covered by a large garbage bag in the back of the car, and the medical examiner determined he had head trauma. 

Prosecutors say Holdbrooks and Victor drugged and murdered Wright in his Closter home, then loaded his body into Wright's car. Victor then allegedly drove the car to Brooklyn, where he abandoned it, while Holdbrooks remained at the Closter home, prosecutors say.

Wright, a 6-foot-8 forward, played three seasons for the University of Arizona. He was drafted by the New York Knicks in 2001, but was waived before the start of the season. Wright then went overseas to play in the European leagues for Turkey and France.

New Jersey-based trainer Dave Paladino, who rehabbed Wright after he was injured while in Europe, recalled visiting Holdbrooks after Wright was found dead. 

"Mark answered the door, hugged me, told me Mike loved me, spoke highly of me," Paladino said. "And that was the same man that murdered him." 

That was the same Closter home that Wright and Holdbrooks shared with their two young daughters, according to Paladino.

"It's kind of disturbing, now that they have to learn Mark, who was their guardian, is now their father's murderer," he said. "It's very disturbing, very tragic." 

Known as the gentle giant, Wright's killing elicited $1,300 in donations from gym members who loved him. Paladino said he gave that money to Holdbrooks.

"It's really strange I handed this man money on Mike's behalf, for his daughter," he said. 

Holdbrooks and Victor were arrested Tuesday on charges of murder, weapon possession, desecration of human remains and other counts. It wasn't immediately clear if they had attorneys. 

Bail for each man was set at $3 million. The suspects were being held pending extradition from New York to New Jersey. 

Photo Credit: Associated Press/File]]>
<![CDATA[Sentencing Postponed in Deadly NYC Subway Push]]> Tue, 01 Nov 2016 14:18:11 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/kevin+darden+subway+push+suspect.jpg

Sentencing has been postponed for the man who pleaded guilty to pushing a stranger in front of a moving Bronx subway train two years ago, killing him as his wife looked on in horror.

Kevin Darden, 36, was supposed to be sentenced Tuesday, but the court hearing was delayed because he was sick, officials said.

Darden previously copped to a manslaughter charge in exchange for a lesser prison sentence in the Nov. 16, 2014 death of 61-year-old Wai Kuen Kwok, who was standing with his wife on the southbound D platform at the Grand Concourse and East 167th Street station when Darden shoved him in front of a train.

Police say Darden and Kwok didn't know each other. Darden, who had previously been charged with murder, faces 18 years in prison under the plea deal. 

Surveillance video showed him calmly leaving the scene after the attack. 

Darden has a lengthy criminal record, including a 2011 arrests for trying to burn his brother's Texas home down and a 2014 arrest for pickpocketing near Times Square, according to DNAInfo.

He was released from jail two days before pushing Kwok in front of the oncoming train.