<![CDATA[NBC New York - Crime and Courts]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcnewyork.com/feature/crime-and-courts http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/4NY_Horizontal.jpg NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.com en-us Wed, 02 Sep 2015 06:35:03 -0400 Wed, 02 Sep 2015 06:35:03 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Third Skydiver Who Jumped Off 1 WTC Avoids Jail]]> Mon, 31 Aug 2015 16:22:06 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/markovich.jpg

A third extreme-skydiving enthusiast convicted of reckless endangerment, BASE jumping and other charges after parachuting off of the World Trade Center in September 2013 escaped jail time at his sentencing Monday, authorities say.

Marko Markovich, 28, was sentenced to conditional discharge with 300 hours of community service and a $2,000 fine, more than two months after he was found guilty of the misdemeanors along with 33-year-old James Brady and 34-year-old Andrew Rossig.

Brady, an iron worker who helped construct 1 World Trade Center, and Rossig, were each sentenced earlier this month to conditional discharge with a $2,000 fine and 250 and 200 hours of community service, respectively,

At 3 a.m. on September 30, 2013, the men entered 1 World Trade Center and climbed up 104 flights of stairs to the tower's communication ring, Vance said. They then picked up equipment left by Brady, who worked as an iron worker at the construction site, and parachuted off of the building one by one.

The stunt, captured in a dramatic YouTube video, raised questions about security at the then-unfinished skyscraper.

Prosecutors had asked the men be sentenced to at least 60 days in jail, saying their stunt could have killed a bystander. They said earlier this month it took a "disturbing degree of forethought and planning," and that "at every step they knew what they were doing was wrong."

The parachutists, who were arrested in March 2014 following a joint investigation between the Manhattan District Attorney's office, the NYPD and the Port Authority Police Department, said that they didn't imperil anyone and that the charges were overreaching by embarrassed authorities.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Exclusive: NYPD Hatchet Attack Survivors Talk to News 4]]> Thu, 07 May 2015 17:51:22 -0400 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[Boy, 16, Sentenced in Brutal Abductions, Rapes of Child, Woman]]> Wed, 02 Sep 2015 05:36:19 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/javon+roberts.jpg

A 16-year-old boy who admitted repeatedly raping an 11-year-old girl walking home from a Christmas concert and kidnapping and sodomizing a 23-year-old woman walking home from work last year was sentenced Tuesday to up to 10 years in jail, authorities say.

Javon Roberts, who was 15 at the time of the October and December attacks, is considered a juvenile offender, though he was tried as an adult in criminal court.

Prosecutors say Roberts attacked the 23-year-old woman first, kidnapping her Oct. 20 as she walked home from work in Mount Vernon. He put a knife to her throat and tried to rape her, but determined they were too exposed in their current location so forced her to a nearby elementary school. There, the teenager forced the woman to perform oral sex on him and sodomized her multiple times.

He then let the woman leave. She called police, but they couldn't find the suspect.

Less than two months later, on Dec. 4, prosecutors say the teenager kidnapped an 11-year-old girl walking home from a Christmas concert at a Mount Vernon library. He took her to the same elementary school where he took his previous victim, dragged her to a stairwell near the playground, pulled out a knife and forced her to perform oral sex on him.

Authorities say he also raped and repeatedly sodomized the child.

When she screamed in pain, the teenager said, "Shut up or I will kill you," according to court documents. The attack lasted two hours.

The teenager eventually let the victim go.

Police had no leads in the investigation for some time. Later, they interviewed the teenager in an unrelated investigation. The water bottle he drank from was handed over to the Westchester County crime lab, which linked him to the two sexual attacks.

“The brutal and violent acts this defendant perpetrated against these two victims, one an 11-year-old girl, belie the courage displayed by these women in coming forward," Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore said in a statement. "Additionally, excellent detective work and forensic analysis led to this defendant being held accountable today for the depraved crimes he committed."

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[ISIS Terrorist Allegedly Recruiting NY Plotters Believed Killed ]]> Fri, 28 Aug 2015 21:07:08 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/abu+hussain.jpg

An overseas ISIS terror leader who allegedly tried to recruit attackers in New York, New Jersey and several other states through use of social media is believed to have been killed in a U.S. airstrike, security officials told NBC 4 New York Thursday.

Junaid Hussain, better known as Abu Hussain al-Britani, is believed to have used Twitter and other online media platforms to encourage attacks against the U.S. Senior U.S. officials have said several ISIS suspects arrested this summer in the tri-state area are believed to have been influenced by al-Britani.

A spokesman at the Pentagon declined to confirm al-Britani had been killed in a U.S. airstrike. But officials familiar with the matter tell NBC 4 New York they believed al-Britani had been killed on Tuesday near Raqqa, Syria, but additional confirmation was needed.

Al-Britani allegedly cheered the attempted terror attack in Garland, Texas, in May and also may have used social media to influence a would-be knife attacker in Boston in June.

Officials have also linked him to a group of ISIS hackers who broke into U.S. military social media accounts earlier this year. News of al-Britani’s death was first reported by the BBC.

Photo Credit: Handout]]>
<![CDATA[Feds: Arizona Man Helped Student Get Islamic State Training]]> Thu, 27 Aug 2015 17:16:50 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/217*120/AP_817556148506.jpg

An Arizona man was indicted Thursday for helping a New York City college student obtain ISIS training in Syria.

Ahmed Mohammed El Gammal, also known as Jammie Gammal, 42, of Avondale, Arizona, was arrested on Monday.

Court records charge that El Gammel began communicating through social media with the unnamed 24-year-old college student in August 2014. The pair eventually met in Manhattan in October 2014 to make plans for the student’s travel to the Middle East.

The student traveled to Turkey in January 2015, and received training from ISIS in Syria between February and May 2015.

“This is another example of how social media is utilized for nefarious and criminal purposes around the world,” said Diego G. Rodriguez, assistant director of the FBI’s New York Field Office. 

El Gammal appeared in federal court in Arizona this week. The case has since been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Edgardo Ramos of the Southern District of New York.

Information on an attorney for Gammal was not immediately available.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[DoJ Says it Has Clear Evidence of Menendez Bribe Scheme]]> Tue, 25 Aug 2015 21:20:31 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Robert-Menendez1.jpg

The Justice Department filed motions Monday calling bribery charges against Senator Robert Menendez "clear and unmistakable."

Prosecutors detailed additional information, provided by several current and former leading officials about the Senator’s efforts to help a Florida eye doctor who is accused of stealing millions from Medicare. In exchange, the FBI has said, the senator accepted numerous private jet trips from Dr. Salomon Melgen and then lied about having taken many of them.

In motions that pushed back against defense efforts to get the case dismissed, prosecutors detailed some statements given to the FBI by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

All three told the FBI they believed Menendez was contacting them to try and help the eye doctor with his Medicare problems.

"It was all about Dr. Melgen, the meeting," Sebelius told an FBI agent about why Menendez specifically met with her, according to Monday’s court filing.

And investigators said it was Reid who set up that meeting between Menendez and Sebelius "so that Senator Menendez would have the opportunity to advocate on behalf of Dr. Melgen," the agent told the grand jury.

Then-senator Harkin took a meeting with Menedez about Melgen but prosecutors said he told FBI agents "he felt that Dr. Melgen was, in fact, cheating Medicare."

But the Menendez team said grand jurors never heard from the officials directly, only from the FBI interview summaries. "The grand jury never heard from the Cabinet officials or senators that attended key meetings at issue in this case," said Menendez spokesman Steve Sandberg.

In earlier motions, Menendez and his legal team accused prosecutors and the FBI of misconduct, including misleading the grand jury. Prosecutors issued a lengthy rebuttal to those allegations and called Menendez’s allegations "naked rhetoric."

Part of the debate centers on how unsubstantiated prostitution charges involving the senator and Melgen were the initial tip that led to the FBI investigation. The criminal charges are only bribery-related. Menendez has called the underage prostitution allegation part of an unfair smear campaign, and defense motions alleged the government was out to find "something, anything" to charge him.

But in its filing Monday, prosecutors said the FBI acted properly in opening the investigation. They said the FBI received "specific and corroborated allegations" about "sex with underage prostitutes," but it was unclear if the cited corroboration went beyond the fact that the senator had traveled to the Dominican Republic.

Prosecutors also included claims from two women who made sex allegations in the "Daily Caller," claims which were later retracted.

Prosecutors also said early information included evidence that Melgen allegedly paid young women to fly with him to the Dominican Republic, and his own pilots told investigators how women who "looked like escorts" had traveled on the jet. Prosecutors said opening a case into allegations of human trafficking and underage prostitution was appropriate, even if later "unproven," and the bribery allegations later found would be part of any "normal course" of investigation.

Prosecutors Monday detailed how 36 witnesses and 300 exhibits were presented to the grand jury, and insisted the process was professional and fair. Several women who were girlfriends of Melgen and Menendez, who was divorced at the time, were called to testify. Prosecutors said the women helped substantiate the private jet trips Menendez received to the luxury resort in the Dominican Republic as well as a vacation at a leading hotel in Paris.

In a filing regarding Melgen, prosecutors said a search of his office by FBI agents turned up a black book that they said "appeared to be a ledge of prostitution activities." 

Melgen has denied wrongdoing.

Sandberg said the grand jury heard prejudicial information from the women: "The motions show how DOJ tried to make up for weak allegations about public corruption by soliciting allegations about sex. Today's filings continue that refrain, now with new salacious, baseless allegations, again having nothing to do with the actual charges in this case.”

Prosecutors were expected to file additional motions overnight. 

Judge William Walls is expected to rule sometime this fall on the senator’s motions to dismiss the case.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Feds Raid 'World's Largest Male Escort Site' in Manhattan]]> Mon, 31 Aug 2015 16:17:17 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/rentboy+raid.jpg

Federal agents raided the Manhattan headquarters of Rentboy.com as part of a state prostitution investigation Tuesday, authorities said.

Seven people, including CEO Jeffrey Hurant, were arrested as part of the raid at the Rentboy.com offices on 14th Street and Fifth Avenue. Department of Homeland Security agents and members of the NYPD, which assisted in the raid, were seen removing boxes from the offices Tuesday.

Law enforcement sources had initially told NBC 4 New York the suspects faced money laundering in addition to prostitition charges, but money laundering was not included in the official criminal complaint.

The site bills itself as "the world's destination to meet the perfect male escort or masseur," and boasts a database of more than 10,500 men in more than 2,100 cities worldwide.

Users can search for a rentboy or masseur on the site by country and city, as well as by rate, age, talents and a variety of physical features.

Escorts pay up to several hundred dollars to advertise their services on the site, which charges subscribers a minimum monthly fee of $59.95, according to the criminal complaint. Between 2010 and 2015, Rentboy.com had more than $10 million in gross proceeds.

More than $1.4 million from six bank accounts was seized in connection with the probe, according to court documents. The government said it was taking steps to shut down the website.

A Facebook page for Rentboy.com, says the site, founded in 1997, is the first and largest website to focus on male escorts. The company's Twitter page says, "Money can’t buy you love but everything else is negotiable."

While the site has disclaimers stating that the advertisements are for companionship and not sexual services, prosecutors say Rentboy.com is designed primarily for advertising illegal prostitution.

"As alleged, Rentboy.com attempted to present a veneer of legality, when in fact this Internet brothel made millions of dollars from the promotion of illegal prostitution," Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Kelly Currie said in a statement.

The Department of Homeland Security was involved in the raid in part because the investigation involves transferring money across state lines.

"The facilitation and promotion of prostitution offenses across state lines and international borders is a federal crime made even more egregious when it's blatantly advertised by a global criminal enterprise," Glenn Sorge, acting special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New York, said in a statement.

The seven defendants, all from New York City, are charged with conspiring to violate the Travel Act by promotion prostitution. At their court appearance Tuesday, they denied wrongdoing and were released on bail. If convicted, they could face up to five years in prison.

Defense attorney Anthony Ricco said, "Generally people don’t advertise in the international Internet the commission of crimes. And so it makes one pause and wonder you know what are the boundaries for this type of activity."

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Police Seek Motive in Deadly Federal Building Shooting]]> Sat, 22 Aug 2015 19:02:54 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/federal+building+shooting.jpg

An armed veteran walked into the lobby of a federal building in SoHo on Friday, shot an armed private security guard in the head, killing him, and then shot himself. Now police are trying to figure out the motive behind the attack.

The 53-year-old guard, Idrissa Camara, died shortly after the 5 p.m. shooting on Varick Street, his employer and officials said. He had agreed to stay for an extra shift after his normal work day ended at 4 p.m.

The gunman, identified as 68-year-old Kevin Downing of Fort Lee, New Jersey, also died, officials said. 

Authorities say Downing shot the guard as soon as he neared the metal detector; the shooting was at close range. Downing then went through the metal detector and headed toward the elevators, where he encountered another employee, police said. Downing shot himself at that point.

Downing had two guns on him, and authorities are attempting to determine if he fired both, sources say. 

Authorities said they are trying to learn more about the motive of Downing, who was a former federal employee at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He also had collected Veterans Affairs Benefits, according to police Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller.

"We don't know what his target was," O'Neill said. It appears the gunman acted alone, and O'Neill said there was no indication the shooting was terrorism.

Miller said Downing had left his government job "some time ago.'' A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Labor, which controls the Bureau of Labor Statistics, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. The FBI was assisting in the investigation because Camara was working as a contractor for a federal agency, police said.

It does not appear that Downing had any link to the security agency that employed Camara, FJC Security Services. 

FJC Security Services said Camara had worked for the agency for two years, ever since it was contracted to work the federal building. He'd been stationed at the building previously with another agency. 

He was "an extraordinary senior guard who was well trained, cared deeply about his job and knew that building better than anyone else," said a statement from FJC. "It's clear from the facts that he never had a chance to defend himself in this instance." 

That the guard agreed to stay for extra duty after his shift ended at 4 p.m. "speaks volumes about the person he was," the statement said. 

A family member outside Lenox Health Greenwich Village Hospital, where Camara was taken, collapsed onto the ground in grief. 

Another cousin told reporters: "He was a great man. Anybody who knew him, they would tell you -- at work, home, they would tell you." 

Chopper 4 showed an extensive emergency presence near the scene as law enforcement converged on the federal building from the ground and the air. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson went to the federal building Friday night.

"I intend to express my condolences to his family if I have the opportunity to do so," he said. "I wanted to be here because this is a federal building, and check in on our employees here and be with those employees in the face of this tragedy." 

The 12-story building houses several federal offices, including an immigration court, environmental offices, post office and branch offices for veterans' affairs, the Department of Justice and Department of Labor.

People who live and work in the area posted messages on social media saying they were told not to leave their buildings. One store owner said he was actually told to leave the shop and run. 

"Police said, 'shut down the store and run outside because there is an active shooter,'" said Padel Mahess, who owns a shop across from the federal building. 

Law enforcement also converged on Downing's home in New Jersey Friday evening, and armored tactical teams were seen entering neighbors' homes to safely bring them out as they awaited a court order to begin searching Downing's house, which was in foreclosure, according to relatives and neighors. 

A relative who asked not to be named told NBC 4 New York over the phone that he lived alone and had no children. Downing had a fiancee with whom he lived for years before she died of cancer several years ago. 

The relative said Downing served in the military and was stationed in Europe in the 1960s. He was discharged with distinction.

He was most recently working as a realtor but his home was in foreclosure. And sometime in the last two years, he was struck on a crosswalk. 

"He's had tough few years," said the relative.

Downing was fired by the Department of Labor years ago and had filed a whistleblower lawsuit in 2004, according to the relative, who believes that Downing targeted the Varick Street building because it has a Department of Labor office there and that it was probably the closest branch to his Fort Lee home. 

One Fort Lee neighbor said he knew Downing in passing and only said hello, and another said that Downing's home had been on the market for over a year, and his property was not well kept, with overgrown vegetation taking over the yard. 

"He was a neighborly sort of guy, hello, goodbye," said John Damato. "Just a quiet man. Nothing would convice me he would do something as heinous as this." 

The president of the union that represented the guard said in a statement the union was "shocked and horrified at this terrible news" and sent condolences to the guard's family. 

"Security officers around the city and country serve on the front line each and every day to keep us safe and secure. We are heartbroken that one of our own has fallen," said Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU. "We hope some of our questions in the face of this terrible tragedy will be answered. For now, we are keeping his family and loved ones in our thoughts and prayers." 

FJC said it intended to "do everything we can to stand with his wife and family during this very difficult time." 

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York/Shane Kennedy
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<![CDATA[Man Threatened to Blow Up Statue of Liberty: Officials]]> Wed, 19 Aug 2015 19:49:33 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/jason+paul+smith+liberty.jpg

A West Virginia man has been charged with telephoning a bomb threat into the Statue of Liberty in April, prompting a mass evacuation that affected thousands of tourists, officials say. 

Jason Paul Smith, 42, was arrested by the FBI in Texas early Wednesday.

According to court documents, Smith allegedly called 911 using an iPad at about 11:30 a.m. April 24 and said that "we" are preparing to "blow up" the Statue of Liberty. He identified himself as Abdul Yasin in the 911 call and described himself as an "ISI terrorist," court documents say.

About 3,200 tourists were ferried off Liberty Island as the NYPD Bomb Squad and federal authorities conducted a security sweep of the area. Some visitors had to leave behind their belongings.

A bomb-sniffing dog detected the scent of a suspicious package in lockers near the base of the statue, but authorities found nothing and the all-clear was issued several hours later.

The iPad registered in Smith's name has been connected to other 911 calls, including at least two in May from a user who identified himself as "Isis allah Bomb maker" and threatened to attack Times Square and kill police officers at the Brooklyn Bridge. 

Smith is charged with one count of conveying false and misleading information and hoaxes, which carries up to five years in prison. 

Smith is expected to appear in federal court in Texas later Wednesday. Information on an attorney for him wasn't immediately available. 

Photo Credit: @flyingtigers/Twitter/Handout]]>
<![CDATA[2 Arrested With Heroin at NJ Gas Station After Bathroom Delay: Cops]]> Thu, 13 Aug 2015 14:41:31 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/heroin+arrests+nj.jpg

Two New York men were arrested at a New Jersey gas station for allegedly planning to sell heroin, police say. 

Driton Kukaj, of Brooklyn, and Brian Moore, of Pine Bush, both 31, were both charged with intent to distribute and possession of a controlled substance after they were taken into custody at a Sylvan Avenue gas station in Englewood Cliffs Wednesday night. 

Police say the owner of the gas station noticed one of the men had been in the bathroom for a long time and called police because he was concerned. 

Kukaj allegedly tried to drive off when police pulled up. Officers pulled him over on an adjacent street.

Police say needles were visible in the car. When they went back to search the gas station bathroom, they found 148 bags of heroin, authorities say. 

Both Kukaj and Moore are being held in Bergen County Jail. 

Photo Credit: Handout]]>
<![CDATA[$15M Stolen Picasso Found in NJ to Be Returned to Paris]]> Thu, 13 Aug 2015 17:02:58 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/picasso+stolen.jpg

A Pablo Picasso painting stolen from a Paris museum 14 years ago that was discovered on a cargo ship in Newark in December will be returned to France.

The repatriation of "La Coiffeuse" or "The Hairdresser" follows an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) as a part of Operation Toile. The piece was ceremoniously handed over at the French Embassy in Washington Thursday and now will be sent home.

Federal officials, following up an investigative lead, inspected a targeted shipment in Newark in December and found the painting.

Fraudulent statements regarding the shipment's value, country of origin and description were also recovered; the $15 million Picasso was labeled as a low-value handicraft worth about $30. The painting has been listed on the Interpol Stolen Works of Art database since it was reported stolen in 2001.

"The Hairdresser" was painted by Picasso in 1911 in oil on canvas and is an example of cubism. The painting was last displayed in 1998 in Munich and then returned to Paris’ National Museum of Modern Art. It was reported stolen by the museum in 2001 when museum officials received a loan request and could not locate the painting in their archives.

The painting was authenticated on Jan. 30 by two experts from the Paris museum: Brigitte Leal, deputy director of collections and a former curator of the Musée Picasso in Paris, and Véronique Sorano-Stedman, head conservator.

"Picasso used to say ‘A painting truly exists in the eyes of the beholder,'" Frédéric Doré, Deputy Chief of Mission at the French Embassy, said in a statement. "Returning to the Musée National Museum of Modern Art in Paris, France, [La Coiffeuse] will come back to life and be seen again by the public thanks to this outstanding Franco-American customs cooperation."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Al-Qaida Terrorist in Brooklyn Gets 22 Years in Prison]]> Wed, 12 Aug 2015 18:42:41 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/lawal+babafemi.jpg

A Nigerian terrorist who joined with al-Qaida operatives in Yemen was sentenced to 22 years in prison by a federal judge in Brooklyn Wednesday.

Lawal Olaniyi Babafemi posed for pictures in al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) "Inspire" magazine and called for lone wolf attacks inside the U.S.

Babafemi, 35, also traveled to Yemen from Nigeria to get terror training. Federal prosecutors said he practiced shooting with AK-47’s and even wrote rap lyrics hoping to recruit Westerners to commit terror bombings.

“Babafemi travelled to Yemen to receive weapons training and to learn how to contribute to AQAP’s English-language media operation,” said Assistant Attorney General John Carlin.

Investigators said Babafemi joined AQAP after the failed underwear bomb plot in which an AQAP operative targeted a Delta flight heading to Detroit. The FBI said Babafemi took $9,000 in cash from cleric Anwar al-Awlaki to try to recruit other Nigerians to carry out attacks. Al-Awlaki was later killed in a U.S. drone strike.

Babafemi was arrested and flown to New York for trial.

He pleaded guilty in April 2014.

<![CDATA[Man Tried to Organize 'Small Army' of ISIS Fighters in NY, NJ: Feds]]> Tue, 11 Aug 2015 08:50:46 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/handcuffs-generic-on-black.jpg

A 20-year-old New Jersey man has been charged on terror-related counts for allegedly trying to help organize a "small army" of ISIS fighters in New York and the Garden State and for traveling overseas with the intent to join the terror group, federal prosecutors said Monday.

Nader Saadeh, who lived in Rutherford until he left the country May 5, allegedly to join ISIS, was arrested Monday on charges of conspiring and attempting to provide material support to the terrorist organization, federal officials said. He was previously taken into custody in Jordan.

Saadeh's brother, Alaa, along with at least three others in New York and New Jersey, were arrested in recent months in connection with the alleged ISIS cell.

The FBI said Nader Saadeh posted anti-American messages online beginning in 2012 and repeatedly viewed ISIS videos. The agency said he praised the burning alive of a captured Jordanian pilot by ISIS fighters and said that, as well as the murders of several staff members of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris earlier this year were justified.

Investigators said Saadeh began rallying friends to join the terror group in the last two years. An informant helped the FBI in the investigation.

According to the informant, Saadeh had become a radicalized ISIS supporter by April and planned to travel overseas to join them. He flew out of John F. Kennedy International Airport on May 5, allegedly for that purpose. Emails sent to him from his family members overseas, including his mother, pleaded with him not to join ISIS, according to federal officials.

Saadeh's brother, who was arrested in late June, told authorities an alleged conspirator from Queens gave Saadeh an ISIS contact near the Turkey/Syria border who could facilitate his travel once overseas, federal officials said.

Officials said there was no specific plot, although some suspects arrested earlier this year were allegedly scouting New York City landmarks as possible targets, including the George Washington Bridge.

Saadeh was ordered to be held without bail during a hearing in federal court in Newark Monday afternoon. Each of the charges carries up to 20 years in prison. 

An attorney for the man declined to comment to NBC 4 New York, saying he needed to meet with his client. 

Officials said the parents of the Nader Saadeh were deported more than a decade ago in connection with an alleged credit card fraud case. The Saadeh children were allowed to stay with custodians in New Jersey because they were US citizens, officials said.

<![CDATA[Skydivers Trio Who Jumped Off 1 WTC Avoid Jail]]> Mon, 10 Aug 2015 19:30:32 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/1-WTC-Skydivers-parachute-24-March-2014.jpg

Two extreme-skydiving enthusiasts convicted of reckless endangerment, BASE jumping and other charges after parachuting off of the World Trade Center in September 2013 escaped jail time at their sentences as a judge determined incarceration and probation not to be appropriate punishments.

James Brady, a 33-year-old iron worker who helped construct 1 World Trade Center, and Andrew Rossig, 34, were each sentenced to conditional discharge with a $2,000 fine Monday, about two months after they were found guilty of the misdemeanors. Brady and Rossig also got 250 and 200 hours of community service, respectively.

The third skydiver in the case, Marko Markovich, 28, will be sentenced Aug. 17. All three were acquitted of felony charges of burglary, the most serious offense, in early June.

"I appreciate that the judge was reasonable with us, and I'm looking forward to serving my community service," Rossig said Monday after sentencing. "We won't be parachuting in New York City anymore." 

At 3 a.m. on September 30, 2013, the men entered 1 World Trade Center and climbed up 104 flights of stairs to the tower's communication ring, Vance said. They then picked up equipment left by Brady, who worked as an iron worker at the construction site, and parachuted off of the building one by one.

The stunt, captured in a dramatic YouTube video, raised questions about security at the then-unfinished skyscraper.

At their sentencing Monday, prosecutors asked for at least 60 days in jail with three years of probation, saying their stunt could have killed a bystander. They said it took a "disturbing degree of forethought and planning," and that "at every step they knew what they were doing was wrong."

Manhattan prosecutors slammed the men for, as they described it, failing to acknowledge the danger of cost of their actions despite nearly two years of legal proceedings. They said they rolled out their videos of the jump in stages for self-promotion and celebrated their accomplishments, including posing for a full-page spread in Maxim in front of the tower and selling T-shirts lauding the jump.

The parachutists, who were arrested in March 2014 following a joint investigation between the Manhattan District Attorney's office, the NYPD and the Port Authority Police Department, said that they didn't imperil anyone and that the charges were overreaching by embarrassed authorities.

The judge previously said they created a "substantial risk" of injury to people below. At the sentencing Monday, the judge indicated that despite that risk and the major security breach, he could only sentence them according to the extent of the law.

A lawyer for Rossig and Brady also apologized Monday on behalf of his clients and said prosecutors had been looking to trump up charges in their cases. When he started to talk about how exposing the security lapses at the World Trade Center was a public service, the judge warned him not to "go there" and said he found "that argument offensive."

Ultimately, "we are happy with the result," said lawyer Tim Parlatore. "It is the end of Andrew's illegal BASE jumping career. He will continue jumping in legal locations, cliffs in Europe and things like that." 

Neither the governor nor the mayor could immediately be reached on the sentencing.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Airports Vulnerable to Cyberattacks, Experts Warn]]> Thu, 06 Aug 2015 08:57:25 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/airport-security.jpg

Cyber security experts warn that hackers could have the ability to shut down an airport’s security network with nothing more than a laptop, according to an I-Team investigation.

The cyber security systems are designed to keep airports secure, but security experts warn that the very technology used to keep us safe could also be the weak link for an attack.

“Walking by these devices and knowing how poorly secure they are, it doesn’t sit well with me,” said Billy Rios, a cyber security researcher who makes his living finding security flaws. “It’s pretty bad -- probably no thought has been given to cyber security at all."

In 2013, Rios tested machines --an X-ray scanner, an explosives detector called an itemiser and a time clock -- found at airports throughout the world and uncovered major security flaws.

Rios says the biggest vulnerability he discovered were passwords built into the software used in these security systems.

“So anyone that knew the username and password, which we know, could just log into the device and get access to an airport network,” said Rios. “It just takes one second to abuse some of the vulnerabilities that we’ve seen.”

Once in the system, Rios says a hacker could manipulate an X-ray machine to hide weapons from screeners or steal sensitive data on how to bypass security.

Rios says he alerted U.S authorities after making his discovery, which prompted the Department of Homeland Security to issue a warning about password vulnerabilities in some explosives detection machines.

One machine Rios examined is called the itemiser. The company that makes itemisers says the version Rios bought was only used at foreign airports and the company recently released an update to correct the flaw, it said.

Rios maintains the broader concern continues at domestic airports, where he says he found three time clocks with vulnerable passwords.

Cyber security strategist Jon Miller suspects these vulnerabilities may have already been exploited.

“Now that we have extremists that are gaining these capabilities, they’re going to start using information for other types of attacks we haven’t seen before. It’s going to be a sobering couple of years,” said Miller.

Miller’s firm, Cylance, recently released allegations that a hacker group based out of Iran successfully hacked secure information throughout the world, including from airports.

“We were following them for 18 to 24 months, but it wasn’t until we started seeing them pull things like emergency response times and information that could put the physical safety of people at harm we knew we had to stop it,” says Miller.

“Anyone who has a copy of the plan on how an airport or any facility responds to an emergency now has a blueprint on how to beat that system,” said Kenneth Honig, a former commanding officer for the police department of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

“Now that it’s been brought out into the open, hopefully they will take steps to fix it, but it will take time.” said Honig, who has 20 years leadership on the force..

Officials at Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on the concerns raised by Rios and Cylance.

Rios hopes that by speaking out, TSA will impose more stringent requirements for manufacturers.

“The bar is too low," Rios said. "There will always be security issues, we can’t solve every single security issue, but we shouldn’t have the bar be so low that anybody can hack into these devices. The bar has to be a lot higher."

The company that makes the time clocks says the vulnerability in their devices have been addressed and airports can now change the passwords Rios discovered.

Meanwhile Cylance security experts believes while there have been several cyberattacks on the airline industry; there is no evidence that U.S airports have been compromised.

<![CDATA[Afghani Nationals Face Heroin Trafficking Charges in U.S.]]> Mon, 20 Jul 2015 14:33:09 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/drug-trafficker-0720.jpg

Two major heroin traffickers from Afghanistan charged in the US and caught overseas were brought to the United States by DEA agents late last week, authorities say.

Haji Lajaward, Amal Said Said Alam Shah, and Habibullah are charged with conspiring to import heroin into the U.S., prosecutors said. Lajaward and Shah were arrested in Thailand on June 13. Habibullah remains at large.

“Like many international criminal networks,” DEA Special Agent in Charge Mark Hamlet said. “These alleged drug traffickers have no respect for borders, and no regard for either the rule of law or who they harm as a result of their criminal endeavors. This investigation highlights the significance of Afghanistan as a source for heroin around the world.”

US intelligence officials say they believe this case goes beyond just drug smuggling.

“You can properly say the money earned by smuggling like this goes to fund the Taliban to kill and wound American troops,” NBC military analyst Col. Jack Jacobs said.

Experts say the Taliban makes much of its money from drug smuggling and that Taliban fighters provide the smugglers safe passage in exchange for cash that is used to buy weapons and fund Taliban operations.

“At a time when heroin use and overdoses deaths are on the rise in our communities,” US Attorney Preet Bharara said, “these three men allegedly conspired to import into this country kilogram quantities of heroin from Afghanistan.”

The suspects in this case are not charged with any terror related accounts and pleaded not guilty in court appearances Friday. If convicted, they face life in prison.

<![CDATA[Feds, NYPD Bust Brooklyn Crips Chapter; 20 Arrested]]> Thu, 16 Jul 2015 19:53:33 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Gang-Member-Arests-0716.jpg

Authorities say that 20 alleged members of a branch of the Crips street gang were arrested Thursday in Brooklyn on a bevy of charges including racketeering and murder conspiracy.

Members of the Outlaw Gangster Crips also face drug, weapons and fraud charges after a 75-count indictment unsealed Thursday, U.S. Attorneys say. Authorities arrested several suspects during a raid in East Flatbush, while others were arrested out of state.

The group is accused of a series of crimes in Brooklyn, as well as ones in Norwich, Connecticut, and Martinsburg, West Virginia.

"With this indictment, we are returning the streets of East Flatbush to the people of East Flatbush -- who should not have to live in the midst of gun violence, murder plots, and drug dealing," said Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.

Authorities say that between October 2013 and July 2014, the alleged gang members carried out a series of crimes, including drug dealing, violent robberies, assaults and gang shootouts. Members of the gang also orchestrated at least two shootings, including one inside a deli on Nostrand Avenue.

In another instance, they beat and stabbed a man for playing music by New York City-born rapper Bobby Shmurda, who has been accused of leading a rival gang in Brooklyn.

In another episode, authorities say, members of the gang conspired to rob a check-cashing store by cutting a hole in the ceiling from an apartment above, then dropping down during business hours and forcing employees to open the safe. That plot was thwarted by an employee who noticed damage to the ceiling.

Several weapons and drugs were also seized during the raid near Linden Boulevard and New York Avenue, police say.

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It's the second time that federal agents and police have rounded up alleged gang members this week. On Tuesday, 12 alleged members of the Van Dyke Money Gang were named in a federal indictment charging them with stealing money orders from the mail, changing the amounts payable and cashing them, costing banks along the East Coast more than $1 million.

The NYPD, FBI, ATF and U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force all contributed to the investigation.

<![CDATA[Man Who Allegedly Stole Cop's Gun After Attack Arrested: Sources]]> Thu, 16 Jul 2015 23:00:27 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/samuel+thornton+suspect+nypd+officer+robbery1.jpg

The 21-year-old man suspected of punching an off-duty NYPD officer in the face and stealing her gun as she headed to work in the Bronx earlier this week has been arrested in Philadelphia, law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation tell NBC 4 New York.

The suspect, identified Wednesday as Samuel Thornton, was taken into custody by U.S. Marshals, the Regional Fugitive Task Force and local police. Authorities traveled to Philadelphia after getting a tip Thornton was there and arrested him on the street, the sources said.

The gun he allegedly stole from the officer was recovered, the law enforcement sources said. It wasn't clear when Thornton would return to New York to face charges, nor was it known if he had an attorney.

"God is good. Tonight we can sleep," said neighbor Beryl Green, who lives in the building where the NYPD officer was attacked. 

Cynthia McFarlane was relieved when she learned of the arrest. 

"I'm a little bit surprised that he got to Philadelphia so fast," she said. 

The 41-year-old officer was headed to her precinct at about 5:20 a.m. Wednesday when the suspect approached her inside a basement parking garage in her building on Bronx Boulevard and East 226th Street in Wakefield, according to the NYPD.

The suspect snatched the officer's gold chain from around her neck and demanded her wallet. The officer reached into her bag, but the suspect grabbed her purse and punched her in the face, causing her to fall to the ground, authorities said.

The purse also fell to the ground during the confrontation, but the suspect was able to get the woman's gun. He ran away after the mugging, police say.

The officer, who wasn’t in uniform at the time, was treated at a hospital for abrasions and a facial contusion. 

"I'm glad they caught him. I'm very glad," said landlord and superintendent Robert Rodriguez, who said he saw the suspect loitering in the garage last week and chased him away. 

<![CDATA[12 Alleged Gang Members Charged in Fake Money Order Scheme]]> Tue, 14 Jul 2015 19:32:33 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Police-Mail-Bust-NYC-Brooklyn-0714.jpg

Twelve alleged gang members face fraud, aggravated identity theft and other charges in connection with a federal indictment accusing them in a money order scheme at banks in the New York area and along the East Coast, authorities said Tuesday.

Eight of the 12 suspects were arrested early Tuesday during a raid at the Van Dyke Houses in Brownsville by Department of Homeland Security agents, U.S. Postal Inspectors and NYPD, officials say.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the case suggests that "members of street gangs, like the Van Dyke Money Gang, have expanded their criminal repertoire to include white collar crimes like bank fraud and identity theft."

"Today’s arrests dismantle a gang that allegedly used bank fraud and identity theft to line their pockets with cash using a scheme that cost New York banks over $1.5 million dollars," HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Raymond J. Parmer Jr. added in a press release. 

According to the indictment, the defendants fraudulently obtained blank postal and Western Union money orders and printed a specific dollar amount, usually under $1,000 on them. They allegedly recruited bank account holders and used their accounts to deposit the fake orders.

The defendants, allegedly members of the Van Dyke Money Gang, then withdrew the money from those accounts; they used more than 350 accounts for those purposes, the indictment alleges.

The scheme defrauded New York-area banks, as well as ones along the East Coast from Boston to Washington, D.C., out more than $1 million, authorities said.

<![CDATA[Fugitive Rape Suspect Captured in NYC: U.S. Marshals]]> Thu, 09 Jul 2015 16:22:59 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/angel+acevedo+copy.png

A rape suspect who allegedly impregnated his 12-year-old victim in Massachusetts, then fled the state, has been located by U.S. Marshals in New York City, authorities say.

Angel Acevedo, 39, was wanted on a state warrant out of Springfield, Massachusetts, on two counts of rape of a child with force, U.S. Marshals said.

Authorities executed an operation to locate and arrest Acevedo after they traced him to an East Harlem address, authorities said. 

He is currently being held by the New York City Department of Corrections until he's taken back to Massachusetts, the U.S. Marshals said. 

It wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney.