<![CDATA[NBC New York - Crime and Courts]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcnewyork.com/feature/crime-and-courts http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/4NY_Horizontal.jpg NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.comen-usThu, 29 Jun 2017 11:15:21 -0400Thu, 29 Jun 2017 11:15:21 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Indicted Paterson Mayor, DPW Workers Decline Deal, For Now]]> Wed, 28 Jun 2017 08:37:32 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/LMX___THOMPSON+MAYOR+TORRES+ARRAIGNMENT+NJ+PKG+430_WNBC_0000000.jpg

Paterson Mayor Jose "Joey" Torres returned to criminal court Tuesday for a hearing in his ongoing corruption case. 

The mayor of New Jersey's third largest city is accused of using city workers to do private construction work at a relative's planned beer business, all the while billing taxpayers. He was arrested in March

Three Department of Public Works employees -- Joseph Mania, 51; Timothy Hanlon, 30; and Imad Elmowaswes, 52 -- are also facing charges in the case, and they've been offered a no-jailtime deal if they cooperate with prosecutors against the mayor.

But both the mayor and the workers decided in the Jersey City courthouse Tuesday that they would continue to fight the corruption charges. The workers have until September to decide whether to go to trial or to take the deal. 

Defense lawyers said in court they needed more time to go over the grand jury evidence, including the hours of video that show the mayor and DPW workers doing work at the planned beer business and time sheets that allegedly show how taxpayers paid for private work. 

Torres has held at least two fundraisers to pay for his legal team, including one on a yacht attended by city employees, friends and local businessmen. It was clear he was in no mood to speak to the I-Team when cameras showed up outside one of them. 

After court Tuesday, the mayor again declined to disclose how much money he has raised or how is spending all the money he is privately raising. 

At the next court hearing in September, Torres is expected to say whether he'll take the plea offer of five years in prison and whether the DPW workers will take the offer of no jail time. 

Photo Credit: NBC 4 NY]]>
<![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[Getaway Driver Sentenced in Deadly NJ Mall Carjacking]]> Mon, 26 Jun 2017 18:16:08 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/dustin+friedland+inset.jpg

The getaway driver convicted of murder in the carjacking death of a young Hoboken attorney at a New Jersey mall in 2013 has been sentenced to life in prison. 

Basim Henry was found guilty in March of murder and other felony charges in the shooting death of Dustin Friedland, who was killed in front of his wife in The Mall at Short Hills parking lot just 10 days before Christmas in 2013.

Henry had been the first of four men to go on trial in Friedland's death. 

At sentencing Monday, Henry declined to offer a defense of his actions and didn't express remorse. He smiled at the judge at one point. 

Friedland's widow, Jamie Schare Friedland, who testified during the trial, addressed Henry during sentencing.

"Your intentional decision -- it wasn't just someone's car," she said in tears. "It was someone's life. You stopped my life that night. You did real, lasting, permanent damage."

Friedland's mother, Rose Friedland, called Dustin a "perfect husband, cherished brother, beloved son." 

The murder charge alone carried a sentence of 30 years to life in prison. Henry was on probation at the time of the killing, and the judge at sentencing said if released, Henry would almost certainly commit another crime. 

Henry won't be eligible for parole until he's 101 years old. 

The other suspects, Hanif Thompson, of Irvington, and Newark residents Karif Ford and Kevin Roberts have pleaded not guilty to felony murder and other charges in connection with the carjacking. They await trial.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Rabbi, 7 Others in Major New Jersey Welfare Fraud Bust]]> Mon, 26 Jun 2017 14:25:54 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Lakewood+Mugshots.png

Four couples from Lakewood, New Jersey -- including a well-known local rabbi -- have been arrested for allegedly defrauding public assistance programs of more than $1.3 million in benefits, prosecutors said Monday.

At the heart of the charges is the allegation that they all, in one way or another, failed to report or otherwise concealed significant income that would have made them ineligible for the wide variety of assistance programs in which they had enrolled. 

Rachel and Mordechai Sorotzkin face federal charges, as do Yocheved and Shimon Nussbaum. The Sorotzkins allegedly obtained state Medicaid benefits that they did not qualify for, while the Nussbaums allegedly did the same with Medicaid, housing and food assistance benefits. 

Seperately, the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office filed state charges against Mordechai and Jocheved Breskin and Zalmen and Tzipporah Sorotzkin. (The relationship between the two Sorotzkin families was not immediately clear). Both couples allegedly underreported income to collect Medicaid, food, housing and Social Security benefits. 

Zalmen Sorotzkin is the Rabbi of Congregation Lutzk in Lakewood. 

"Financial assistance programs are designed to alleviate family hardships for those truly in need. My office gave clear guidance and notice to the Lakewood community in 2015 of what is considered financial abuse of these programs. Those who choose to ignore those warnings by seeking to illegally profit on the backs of taxpayers will pay the punitive price of their actions," Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato said in a statement. 

The FBI and several state agencies executed the arrests in the Lakewood area. Four of the suspects are expected to appear in federal court in Trenton later Monday. Others will appear in New Jersey Superior Court in Ocean County. 

Photo Credit: OCPO]]>
<![CDATA[$60K Raised for Scholarship in Honor of Slain Jogger]]> Sat, 24 Jun 2017 18:47:04 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/karina-bench-inset.jpg

Friends and family of Karina Vetrano, who was killed while jogging in Queens last summer, raised $60,000 for a scholarship in her name. 

A walk/run was held overnight, with participants running through the rain. In the morning, a mass was held, followed by brunch and the dedication of a bench in her honor. 

Vetrano graduated from Archbishop Molloy High School in 2004. The school said money raised would establish the Karina Vetrano Memorial Scholarship Fund, "which will provide scholarships for deserving young women who are entering Molloy in her memory."

Vetrano's Aug. 2, 2016, death shocked the city, and it stayed in the spotlight for weeks, driven by her father Phil's relentless search for her killer.

Police arrested 20-year-old Chanel Lewis in early February and charged him with murder and sexual abuse. They said evidence included genetic material found under the 30-year-old Vetrano's fingernails and on her phone and neck.

Police officials also said Lewis made detailed, incriminating statements to detectives. According to police sources, Lewis twice confessed on video -- once with the NYPD and the other time during an interview with the Queens district attorney's office.

Lewis' family has insisted he is innocent.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York
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<![CDATA[Health Aide Arrested at JFK as He Readied to Join ISIS: Feds]]> Thu, 22 Jun 2017 20:10:05 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/jfk8.jpg

A Bronx home health aide was arrested at Kennedy Airport Wednesday night as he prepared to board a flight to Turkey in an apparent attempt to join ISIS, federal prosecutors say.

Saddam "Adam" Mohamed Raishani, 30, was allegedly planning to leave his family and life in New York City to support the deadly terrorist organization in Syria, Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim alleges. He was planning to get into the country through Turkey. 

Raishani has been charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and was set to face a judge in federal court later Thursday. It wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney. 

The FBI and NYPD began investigating Raishani in January when he contacted a confidential source working with law enforcement to tell him he wanted to join ISIS, authorities said. He told the source he'd already helped another person get from New York to the Middle East to join ISIS and regretted not having gone with him.

Raishani told the source he wanted to wage jihad and that he believed that the Quran could be read to justify the violence, including beheadings, used by ISIS.

That source introduced Raishani to an undercover officer who pretended he also wanted to travel abroad to fight for ISIS.

Whenever the three of them met, Raishani would talk about being in touch with other ISIS supporters and show videos that appeared to depict ISIS terrorists killing civilians in Yemen, prosecutors alleged. 

Also during those meetings, Raishani advised the other two to avoid detection by law enforcement by covering their computer's cameras and turning off the microphones when watching pro-ISIS videos online, according to prosecutors. He told them he even put on gloves while watching such videos. 

He also said if the two went abroad, he could pose as a nurse and the undercover officer could pose as a refugee aid worker in order to cross international borders without being stopped and questioned by authorities, the criminal complaint stated. 

By April, Raishani was actively planning to travel abroad to join ISIS, and he contacted a second undercover officer, an FBI employee, to figure out how to travel overseas to join ISIS before the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month that runs from about May 26 through June 24 this year.

He told the undercover FBI officer he'd contact the officer about travel arrangements and said he didn't care if he was arrested, "because Allah would know that he tried," according to prosecutors.

Then in June, Raishani told the initial confidential source he was getting ready to leave, including paying off his remaining debts; the two men bought clothing they intended to wear for their training in ISIS, the criminal complaint alleges. Raishani then told the undercover FBI officer he was planning to meet an ISIS member in Turkey in the next few days, who would then help him join ISIS in Syria.

Raishani bought a plane ticket for a flight scheduled to leave JFK Airport on June 21 for Istanbul, via Lisbon, Portugal, according to federal authorities. He was arrested by the FBI after he tried to board that flight to Lisbon.

Raishani faces up to 20 years in prison if he's convicted. 

Photo Credit: Seth Wenig/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Paterson Mayor Cancels Luxury Watch Fundraiser]]> Sat, 17 Jun 2017 14:02:16 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/TLMD-joey-torres-paterson-villa-story.jpg

Paterson Mayor Jose "Joey" Torres canceled a planned legal defense fundraiser set for Sunday where a $13,500 watch was set to be a raffle prize.

The "Breitling for Bentley" event was first questioned, News 4 New York learned, by state officials who voiced concern the raffle was not licensed, did not benefit a registered not-for-profit, and was improperly being held on a Sunday at an establishment that served alcohol, all apparent violations of state rules governing raffles.

Torres disputed the event was a raffle, and rather a “door prize drawing.” But even then, it did not conform to state rules that set a small maximum value for door prizes. He pulled the plug, he said, after learning that on Friday.

A promotional flier for the event said tickets were being sold for $250 each and that 150 tickets would be sold. The drawing was to be held at The Brownstone, a restaurant in Paterson.

Torres told the Paterson Press people who bought tickets would get refunds if they wanted them. But that seemed unlikely, he said, because “they were trying to help out the cause.”

He also told the newspaper the diamond-encrusted timepiece was donated by a friend and he would offer to return it, “or else it’s mine.”

In New Jersey, there are no disclosure rules for a politician's legal defense fund as there are for campaign fundraising. So who gives money and how the money is eventually spent is unknown.

In May, Torres held a legal defense fundraiser on a rented yacht and declined to tell News 4 New York how much money was raised.

Torres was indicted on state corruption charges in March for allegedly using city workers to do construction work at a relative's planned beer business while billing taxpayers.

Torres and three Paterson Department of Public Works employees have pleaded not guilty to the corruption charges.

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<![CDATA[Ex-NBA Player Sebastian Telfair Arrested in Brooklyn: Police]]> Mon, 12 Jun 2017 13:32:03 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/gunssebastian.jpg

Former NBA player Sebastian Telfair was arrested early Sunday in Brooklyn on gun possession-related charges, police told NBC 4 New York. 

Telfair, 32, and his nephew, Jami Thomas, 18, were found with three loaded firearms, a semi-automatic rifle, ammunition and a bullet-resistant vest, police said. Two bags of marijuana and a burning marijuana cigarette were also allegedly found in the 2017 Ford F-150 pickup with Florida plates. 

They were parked illegally on the median on Atlantic Avenue near Classon Street, police said.

As officers approached, they started to drive off, according to the source. Police who pulled them over smelled marijuana and saw a lit "blunt" on the dashboard, authorities said. 

The pair were arraigned Sunday night. Telfair's attorney said the weapons are licensed in Florida. He said the pair had just left a club when they were pulled over and that police were targeting people leaving the club. 

Telfair's wife and children live in Florida, but he is in New York because he is separated from his wife, his attorney said.

Telfair, a Brooklyn native, was a standout high school player at Abraham Lincoln High School and bypassed college to become a first-round draft pick in 2004. He played for the Portland Trail Blazers and many other teams before finishing his career in China in 2014. 

He is a cousin of former Knicks star Stephon Marbury. 

Telfair and a friend were arrested in 2007 on a gun charge after a traffic stop. He was stopped for speeding on the Bronx River Parkway, then found to be driving with a suspended license. Police found a .45 caliber handgun under the passenger seat. Both Telfair and his friend said they didn't know how the gun got there. 

Telfair pleaded guilty in 2008 to criminal possession of a weapon and was sentenced to three years of probation. The NBA suspended him for three games. 

Photo Credit: AP/NYPD
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<![CDATA[Hezbollah Operatives Scouted Targets in NY, Panama: Feds]]> Fri, 09 Jun 2017 01:40:08 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/ali+kourani.jpg

Two men with ties to Hezbollah conducted “pre-operational surveillance” on possible targets for attack in New York, as well as U.S. and Israeli embassies in Panama, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

No specific plot was underway but the men were allegedly scouting the targets to assess their vulnerabilities, including LaGuardia Airport and FBI headquarters in New York. 

The two men allegedly received weapons and bomb-making training in Lebanon. Ali Kourani, of the Bronx, was arrested last week on the terror-related charges. Samer El Debek was arrested in Livonia, Michigan, and sent to New York last week for trial.

Kourani attended Hezbollah-sponsored weapons training program starting at age 16, and lied on his immigration application, stating he had no ties to any foreign terrorist organization, the FBI said. He became a naturalized citizen in 2009. 

Prosecutors said Kourani was an active member of the Islamic Jihad Organization – a branch associated with Hezbollah and had traveled to China Guangzhou where Hizballah in the past had been known to obtain bomb making materials for the group. They said he also sought to buy weapons in the U.S. to send to the group.

El Debek allegedly joined Hezbollah in 2008 and traveled to Lebanon for training on numerous occasions, officials said. Investigators said he undertook bomb-making training while there.

Officials said in 2009 he traveled to Thailand on his U.S. passport to help clean up explosive residue left behind in a safehouse used by members of a Hezbollah backed terror cell.

In 2011, he allegedly went to Panama to photograph the American and Israeli embassies security measures. In 2012, he went back to scout vulnerabilities of the Panama Canal, officials said.

A search of Debek’s computer turned up over 250 searches for sites like “Hezbollah martyrs” and “martyrs of Islamic resistence.” 

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim called the terrorism charges “serious,” adding Debek and Kourani "received military-style training, including in the use of weapons like rocket-propelled grenade launchers and machine guns for use in the support of the group’s terrorist mission."

Kim said Kourani specifically "conducted surveillance of potential targets in America, including military and law enforcement facilities in New York City.”

NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said the men were involved in “pre-operational surveillance” in New York.

Hezbollah is a Shia organization in Lebanon founded in the 1980s after Israel’s invasion there. With support from Iran, the group has been involved in numerous terrorist attacks – some which killed Americans.

At the request of law enforcement, NBC New York did not report news of the investigation last week because officials cited ongoing security concerns connected to the case. Documents associated with the case were made public Wednesday.

Debek’s family did not answer requests for comment at the Michigan home. Attempts to reach Kourani’s attorney Peggy Cross-Goldenberg and Debek’s attorney Robert Soloway were not immediately successful. Prosecutors said both men have already appeared in court and are being held without bail.

<![CDATA[Alleged Mob Group Indicted Over 10,000 Pounds of Chocolate]]> Thu, 08 Jun 2017 11:47:18 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/meltingchocolategeneric_1200x675.jpg

More than 30 members and associates of a New York City-based Russian organized crime group are named in federal court papers charging them with racketeering, murder for hire and other crimes, including trafficking tens of thousands of pounds of stolen chocolate, law enforcement sources familiar with the case tell NBC 4 New York.

The FBI’s Joint Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force arrested more than two dozen members of the group, called the Shulaya Enterprise, in the NYC area and elsewhere early Wednesday, law enforcement sources said. The seven other suspects remain at large.

The group is accused of trafficking stolen goods -- including large quantities of cigarettes and 10,000 pounds of chocolate confections, court papers say.

The suspects also face charges of extortion, gambling, narcotics trafficking, wire fraud, credit card fraud, and identity theft, according to law enforcement sources. Some of the charges carry a maximum penalty of decades in prison.

Many of the suspects are from Brooklyn, and range in age from 22 to 59.

The group conspired to carry out a “dizzying array of criminal schemes,” including a murder-for-hire conspiracy, a plot to rob victims by seducing them and drugging them with chloroform, and a fraud involving the hacking of casino slot machines, a federal complaint says.

The leaders of the organization, 40-year-old Razhden Shulaya, of Edgewater, New Jersey, and 37-year-old Zurab Dzhanashvili, of Brooklyn, are among those arrested. Most of the organization’s members were born in the former Soviet Union and maintain ties to Ukraine, Georgia, and the Russian Federation.

Shulaya was the “vor,” or “thief-in-law” of the group, and offered assistance and protection to members of the criminal enterprise, the complaint says.

The Shulaya Enterprise operated in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Nevada, the court papers say.

Among a long list of crimes, the complaint says the enterprise tried to operate an illegal poker business in Brighton Beach, defraud casinos in Atlantic City, and steal shipments from cargo ships.

The suspects arrested Wednesday were expected to appear in federal court.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dad Who Threw Baby Off Bridge Gets 70 Years in Prison]]> Wed, 31 May 2017 18:31:00 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Tony+Moreno+and+Aaden+Moreno.jpg

A Middletown father found guilty of murder in the death of his 7-month-old son has been sentenced to 70 years in prison.

Prosecutors said 23-year-old Tony Moreno threw his son Aaden off the Arrigoni Bridge in 2015.

Moreno maintained through the trial that he never intended to kill his son and that the child slipped from his arms and into the Connecticut River 90 feet below. 

In court Wednesday, prosecutors said Moreno betrayed the sacred trust between himself and his son and should get life in prison without parole.

He has been sentenced to 60 years for the murder charge and 10 years for risk of injury to a minor to be served consecutively.

"The utter depravity of the crime, a father killing his infant son, speaks for itself," Middletown Superior Court Judge Elpedio Vitale said.

"I won't see my son grow up, to reach one, to take his first step, to see his first tooth or say his first word," Aaden's mother, Adrianne Oyola, said Wednesday. "You took my whole world right from me. In seconds, you destroyed my whole life."

On the stand during the trial, Moreno held a baby doll in his arms that he said represented his son, and he spoke about what happened on the night of Sunday, July 5, 2015.

Two days passed before a canoeist found Aaden's body in the water, near the East Haddam Swing Bridge.

Moreno claimed that his intention was to take his own life on the bridge, not his child’s, and that Aaden slipped from his hands into the water.

Moreno jumped from the bridge but survived after emergency crews received a call from Aaden’s mother, who said that Moreno was suicidal, and responded to the scene.

In February, jurors found Moreno guilty of murder. He was also found guilty of risk of injury to a minor. 

"Sitting here listening to people speak of him as this monster he's portrayed is not the man I gave birth to," Tony Moreno's mother, Denise Moreno, said.

Oyola said she tried to forgive Moreno, but she cannot.

"My heart only holds hate for you and all that you've done to me," Oyola said. 

Photo Credit: Middletown Police and Silver Alert]]>
<![CDATA[School Guard Busted in Case of 4 Bodies at Ex-NY Cop's Home]]> Thu, 01 Jun 2017 20:36:25 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/4-dead-chester.jpg

Joseph Biggs, a school security guard in New York, was arrested by the FBI early Thursday in connection with the killings of four men whose bodies were discovered last year on property owned by retired Westchester County cop Nicholas Tartaglione, law enforcement officials tell NBC 4 New York. 

Biggs and Tartaglione, a former cop in Briarcliff Manor, are named in a superseding indictment charging them with murder and with operating a cocaine distribution operation. The law enforcement officials couldn't immediately say which school system employed Biggs.

The duo allegedly lured Martin Luna, Urbano Santiago, Miguel Luna, and Hector Gutierrez to the Likquid Lounge, a Hudson Valley bar, last spring, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, which said the four men were held captive, shot and killed. 

The four men were last seen alive in a Chevrolet SUV in Chester on April 11, 2016. Their bodies were found on Tartaglione’s Otisville property months later, in December. 

Tartaglione was indicted shortly after the bodies were found. At the time, prosecutors alleged he killed them as part of a conspiracy to distribute more than 11 pounds of cocaine. The 49-year-old Yonkers native pleaded not guilty to the charges and remains held without bail. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

Biggs, 55, was set to appear in federal court in White Plains later Thursday. Attorney information wasn't immediately available.

Biggs and Tartaglione face a slew of charges, including multiple counts of murder and kidnapping resulting in death, and conspiracy to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine. They also face weapons charges and charges for use of an interstate facility with intent to commit a crime of violence, resulting in death. 

The two face life in prison or death if convicted of some of the charges, including kidnapping resulting in death. 

The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan is expected to release additional details on the charges and investigation later Thursday. 

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<![CDATA[NYPD Sgt. Charged With Murder in Mentally Ill Woman's Death]]> Thu, 01 Jun 2017 00:17:51 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/fatal+police+shooting+bronx.jpg

The NYPD sergeant who shot and killed a 66-year-old mentally ill woman in her Bronx apartment last year faces second-degree murder and other charges in her death, NBC 4 New York first reported Wednesday.

Sgt. Hugh Barry, 31, surrendered to authorities and pleaded not guilty Wednesday afternoon in the October 2016 death of Deborah Danner, who was schizophrenic. 

Prosecutors said at Barry's arraignment they have a "strong case" for the murder charge. High-profile bondsman Ira Judelson has posted the $100,000 bail for Barry. 

"This is an absolute disgrace," Sergeants Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins said in a statement, insisting that no crime was committed and that Barry was being used as a political pawn. 

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Hank Newsome, president of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, said the indictment is a "small piece of justice" and praised the district attorney, noting that his group has spent months protesting in front of the courthouse demanding justice for Danner.

Barry, an eight-year department veteran, encountered Danner naked and armed with scissors in her Castle Hill apartment Oct. 18 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 a baseball bat and charged him. 

Barry fired two shots, killing her. 

Top city officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O'Neill, condemned the shooting at the time. 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." 

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. 

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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. The sergeant joined the NYPD in July 2008. He was promoted in November 2014. 

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[Ex-Air Force Mechanic Who Tried to Join ISIS Sentenced]]> Wed, 31 May 2017 19:17:40 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/tairod+pugh.jpg

A onetime Air Force serviceman turned ISIS supporter has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for supporting ISIS. 

Tairod Pugh, 49, was sentenced in federal court Wednesday following his March conviction of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. 

Pugh tried to travel to Syria in 2015 to join with ISIS fighters but he was stopped in Istanbul and sent back to the U.S. where he was arrested by the FBI.

"The defendant turned his back on his country, and the military he once served, to attempt to join brutally violent terrorist organization committed to the slaughter of innocent people throughout the world," said Bridget M. Rhode, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. 

During his trial, prosecutors pointed out his writings, including one letter to his wife voicing support for ISIS and telling her he was trying to become a martyr.

Pugh had served in the Air Force as a mechanic more than 20 years ago. But officials said he became increasingly radical after the 9/11 attacks, culminating with his attempts to travel overseas in 2015.

Authorities seized Pugh's laptop after his arrest and found Internet searches for "borders controlled by Islamic state," an ISIS propaganda video and ISIS execution videos. On Facebook, he advised followers "to [support] ISIS with your bodies." 

Pugh is one of dozens of suspects arrested for trying to travel overseas. The FBI has said it has investigations ongoing in all 50 states into suspected extremists.

Pugh’s lawyers have promised to appeal the conviction. Judge Nicholas Garaufis is expected to hand down the sentence on the terror-related charges in Brooklyn federal court, charges which carry a maximum of up to 35 years in prison.

CORRECTION (May 31, 2017, 7:15 p.m.) An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the New York judge. He is Judge Nicholas Garaufis, not Judge Nicolas Garrafus.

Photo Credit: Government Exhibit]]>
<![CDATA[12 Gang Members Busted on Fed Gun, Drug Charges in the Bronx]]> Wed, 31 May 2017 11:26:30 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/handcuffs15.jpg

More than 12 alleged members of a violent street gang based in the Bronx's Hunts Point were arrested on federal firearms and narcotics charges early Wednesday, law enforcement officials tell NBC 4 New York.

Teams of agents from the ATF and Homeland Security, along with NYPD officers, executed the arrests of the suspects, who are affiliated with the Bloods street gang, the sources said. 

The suspects were brought to the 49th Precinct for processing and are due in federal court in Manhattan later Wednesday. 

The U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan is expected to release additional details of the investigation and charges later in the day. 

<![CDATA[Top Members of Lucchese Crime Family Snared in NY Mob Bust]]> Wed, 31 May 2017 15:46:49 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/white+plains+matthew+madonna.jpg

Nearly two dozen members and associates of the notorious Lucchese crime family, including the purported top leaders, were arrested on federal charges in a sweeping bust early Wednesday, law enforcement officials tell NBC 4 New York.

The FBI's Organized Crime Task Force and members of the NYPD executed the arrests on charges that include racketeering, wire fraud, possession of a weapon, gambling, narcotics and murder, law enforcement sources said. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan said 15 people were taken into custody Wednesday, while four others were already in custody on other charges. 

The defendants, including street boss Matthew Madonna and underboss Steven Crea Sr., are expected to appear in federal court in White Plains later Wednesday. Four of the suspects are Capos, who rank right below the underboss on the totem pole, and another five are soldiers, who rank below that. The rest are associates.

In addition to the various alleged financial crimes, Madonna and Crea Sr. are charged with ordering the murder of a family associate in Nov. 2013. 

The indictment reads like a 1980s tabloid crime story, with defendants like "Paulie Roast Beef, " "Wonder Boy," "Big Joe," "Big John," "Joey Glasses" and "Spanish Carmine."

They allegedly engaged in a 17-year-long pattern of crimes that included extortion, money laundering, trafficking in contraband cigarettes and the attempted murder of informants. 

All but two of the men face life in prison if convicted. 

"As today's charges demonstrate, La Cosa Nostra remains alive and active in New York City, but so does our commitment to eradicate the mob's parasitic presence," said Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim. "The defendants allegedly used violence and threats of violence, as the mob always has, to make illegal money to enforce discipline in the ranks and to silence witnesses." 

"Organized crime families believe their way of life is acceptable and continue to show through their criminal behavior that they don't plan to stop," said FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney. "Their crimes aren't victimless, and this case proves they're willing to use murder and many other violent tactics to enforce their dominance." 

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York/AP
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<![CDATA[Ex-Teacher at NY School Sentenced in Student Sex Abuse Cases]]> Tue, 30 May 2017 16:48:18 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/sexting+cell+phone.jpg

The former drama teacher who admitted to sexual contact with students at the prestigious Westchester high school where he taught will serve three years of probation and be required to register as a sex offender. 

Christopher Schraufnagel, 42, pleaded guilty in August to misdemeanor sexual contact with two Horace Greeley High School students and to endangering the welfare of a third between May 2011 and June 2015.

He was sentenced in New Castle Town Court in New York Tuesday. Serving probation with sex offender conditions means he'll face work and residency restrictions. He was also required to give up his New York state teaching license. 

Because Schraufnagel is living in New Jersey, probation supervision will be transferred to that state.

A sex offender registration hearing for Schraufnagel is scheduled for July 12.

David Engelsher, a lawyer representing the families Schraufnagel abused, said in a statement, "There's no closure here. This was closure for the defendant. This was not closure for my clients. The hurt, the pain, the damage this man caused is permanent for the kids that I represent." 

<![CDATA[Survivor's Family Questions Ramapo PD’s Fatal Accident Probe]]> Fri, 26 May 2017 19:15:00 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/WNBC_18_ASI_HR_131402243478680000.jpg

The family of a yeshiva student critically injured in an accident in Rockland County last September is questioning how the police accident investigation was handled. They are alleging special treatment because one of the drivers involved in the crash was an off-duty police officer.

With alcohol and prescription pills for an illness found in one car, the family of surviving victim 19-year-old David Maldonado alleges the Ramapo Police Department should have conducted a breath test or field sobriety test on off-duty police officer Jonathan Mosquera and the second driver Tzvi Hakakian.

Accident scene photos and the police report show an opened bottle of cognac was in the trunk and prescription pills for a virus were present in the car of the off-duty officer. But officials defend the lack of a field test saying both Mosquera and Hakakian had no obvious signs of impairment.

In addition to injuring Maldanado, the accident killed yeshiva student Marcos Tawil. Both students were standing along State Route 202 near Haverstraw Road.

Research by the I-Team shows in past fatal accident investigations by the Ramapo Police Dept., officers did conduct a field test on driverbs to try to detect the presence of alcohol. But in the Route 202 fatal crash, that test was not performed.

It was nearly midnight on Route 202, and according to the accident report obtained by the I-Team, Officer Mosquera was on his way to begin the night shift with the Peekskill Police Dept. Mosquera admitted to driving 64 mph in a 50 mph zone. Ahead of him, Tzvi Hakakian was approaching a yeshiva, where students were standing by the side of the road.

Mosquera was driving his Lexus sedan and attempted to pass Hakakian, who may have been over the double yellow line and slowly turning left into the Yeshiva. The two vehicles collided. Accident reports say Mosquera’s car ended up striking the two pedestrians with his car, prior to landing in a ravine.

The reports say 17-year-old Tawil died while in transport to Good Samaritan Hospital. Maldonado was severely injured, suffering broken bones and severe cuts.

Inside one car, investigators found a pill bottle with opioid painkillers and a half empty bottle of Hennessey Cognac. The accident report says it was in the trunk of Mosquera’s car. Additionally, beer bottles were photographed lying just outside Mosquera’s driver’s side door.

The accident report indicates that neither driver was physically tested for possible alcohol impairment. Maldanado’s father said with alcohol at the scene and painkillers in the car, Mosquera should have been tested.

“They didn't check to see if he was impaired,” Maldonado said, claiming they only said, "Oh, I didn't smell liquor on him."

The I-Team requested a copy of the Town of Ramapo Police Dept.'s General Orders, which act as a policy guide for police officers while on the job.

The section that covers Driving While Intoxicated/Impaired guides officers saying, “an Alco-Sensor test shall be given” in “all fatal or serious personal injury accidents.”

The test is done by asking a driver to blow into a device that could detect the presence of alcohol. Test results are not admissible in court. But sources in multiple law enforcement agencies tell the I-Team that an Alco-Sensor test provides probable cause for investigators to conduct further sobriety tests, like a full-blown breathalyzer or blood test.

Yet, the day after the accident Lt. Mark Emma told News 12 Westchester that “We gave a screening test to the drivers of the cars and no signs, uh, with the screening test or in the behavior of the drivers that there was alcohol involved.”

But Maldonado wonders why Alco-Sensor Tests weren’t done. “They didn't do it to him. They didn't do it to the other boy,” he said. “Why not do it to both of them?”

As for the beer bottles lying next to the front door of Mosquera’s car, it is unclear if they were open, were there coincidentally or related to the accident. The beer bottles are never mentioned in the accident report.

When the I-Team requested the accident report from the Ramapo Police Department, the official copy sent by the Town of Ramapo blacked out any mention of alcohol and pills.

Ramapo Police Chief Brad Weidel declined to answer questions on camera, citing a lawsuit filed by the families. He issued a statement saying in part that his department “conducted a diligent and professional investigation.” It says the investigation found that “there was no evidence that indicated drugs or alcohol were a cause of this tragic incident.”

The I-Team found six other fatal accidents investigated by Ramapo Police since 2011 and requested copies of the documents. In four of them, Alco-Sensor tests were given to drivers involved in the accidents. The accident reports indicate the device found “negative results for alcohol," “results were negative” and “reading of 0.00 percent.”

In the fifth accident, the driver of the single car accident struck a guard rail and died at the scene, so no test was possible. In the sixth and last accident found by the I-Team, Ramapo officers weren’t aware of a fatality at the hospital until after they returned to the police station (see map and chart below). 

The accident reports provide a track record of Ramapo officers conducting Alco-Sensor tests in past fatal accidents, as advised by the department’s General Orders.

Andrew Quinn is Mosquera’s attorney and responded in a statement to the questions being raised:

This accident was nothing more than that: a tragic accident. The investigation revealed that both drivers bear some level of responsibility for the death of the young man. Truthfully, these conspiracy theories are being perpetuated simply because Jonathan Mosquera happened to be an off-duty police officer. Had the investigators asked officer Mosquera to consent to a breath test, he would have agreed. All medical personnel who observed and treated Mosquera agreed that he exhibited no indicia of impairment.

But Maldonado says he still has questions.

“The badge should not give you special privilege,” he said.

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<![CDATA[3 NYC Federal Prison Officers Charged with Raping Inmates]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 22:08:28 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/WNBC_18_ASI_HR_131402215402010000.jpg

Three federal correction officers from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn have been arrested for allegedly raping and sexually abusing female inmates after a nearly year-long investigation.

Two of them are lieutenants with the Federal Bureau of Prisons who now face life in prison if convicted. The third was already out on bail after being arrested earlier this year for allegedly taking bribes to smuggle drugs into the MDC. 

They are expected to appear in federal court in Brooklyn later Thursday. The two lieutenants, Carlos Martinez and Eugenio Perez, were arrested at the jail, a law enforcement source said. The third, Armando Moronta, was arrested at home.

“By using their authority and power to prey upon and abuse female inmates in their care, these defendants violated their oaths of public service as well as numerous criminal laws,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Rohde.

Spokespeople for the Bureau of Prisons were not immediately available to comment. 

Moronta was previously charged with bribery in January for allegedly accepting money from an inmate's girlfriend to smuggle contraband into the jail. He faces four counts of sexual abuse involving three different women in the new case, with a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison.

Perez faces multiple counts involving five women, who he allegedly raped after luring them to clean his office at night over a period of three years. Martinez also faces multiple counts involving one alleged victim, who he allegedly raped multiple times every weekend for months on end.  

Attorney information for the three officers was not immediately available. The Justice Department said both lieutenants will be suspended without pay; Moronta had already been suspended without pay after the January charges. 

The investigation was conducted by the FBI and the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General.  

The MDC houses both male and female offenders -- just over 1,900 in total, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. 

The facility's last audit under the Prison Rape Elimination Act, conducted in September 2014, found it met or exceeded all the standards set under federal law for preventing sexual abuse.

<![CDATA['I Wanted to Kill Them': Times Sq Driver Charged With Murder]]> Fri, 19 May 2017 20:00:15 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Rojas+Arraignment.png

The driver who mowed down nearly two dozen people in Times Square Thursday, killing one of them and critically injuring others, allegedly said he wanted to "kill them all" and that officers should have shot him to stop him, prosecutors said Friday. 

Richard Rojas, 26 Bronx, appeared subdued during a brief court appearance as prosecutors outlined the litany of charges against him, including murder and multiple counts of attempted murder and aggravated vehicular homicide.

The Bronx man did not enter a plea. His attorney, Enrico Demarco, did not comment. Rojas was remanded and is due back in court next week.

The court hearing came as police officials briefed reporters on their investigation, saying Rojas patiently let people and cars pass before starting his rampage.

Sources familiar with the probe have told NBC 4 New York Rojas told investigators he heard demons telling him to hurt people before he turned the wrong way on Seventh Avenue at 42nd Street Thursday and barreled into the lunch-hour crowd. Alyssa Elsman, an 18-year-old tourist from Michigan, was killed in the mayhem. Her 13-year-old sister, who had been walking alongside her at the time, was among the 22 people injured.  Authorities said Friday the younger sister suffered a collapsed lung and broken pelvis.

"He waited for those cars to pass and he accelerated, waiting for those pedestrians to pass ... that goes to his state of mind," Chief William Aubry said. 

Law enforcement sources say Elsman's father was so angry he went into the midtown precinct where Rojas was being held and told officers he wanted to kill him. NYPD officials did not publicly walk the suspect as a precaution. 

A cause of the crash is under investigation, but law enforcement sources have said Rojas appeared under the influence when he was taken into custody. He blew a 0.0 at the precinct Thursday afternoon, but law enforcement sources say certain statements and tests suggests he may have smoked something. 

He told police that he had smoked marijuana laced with PCP, according to a criminal complaint. Aubry said police were expediting search warrants and were hoping to get blood tests back in the next few days. 

Rojas has a history of DWI arrests, including one where he was driving faster than 99 mph in a 50 mph zone. A former member of the Navy, where he served aboard the USS Carney, Rojas was dishonorably discharged for resisting arrest in Florida in 2014. Charges were dropped in the case.

Harrison Ramos, a friend, told reporters that Rojas hadn't been the same since he returned from active duty in the Navy. He says Rojas was posting "crazy stuff" online that has since been taken down, according to The Associated Press. Other friends say he was having money troubles.

Rojas was most recently arrested on a menacing charge last week for allegedly pulling a knife on an acquaintance in the Bronx.

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<![CDATA[Music Teacher Tried to Buy Sex With Girls Young as 8: Feds]]> Tue, 16 May 2017 20:12:53 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Sohngen.jpg

A noted Queens music teacher has been arrested for a litany of alleged sex crimes against young children, including trying to buy sex with girls as young as 8 and engaging in sexual contact with teenagers.

Oliver Sohngen, founder and director of the Long Island City Academy of Music on 23rd Street, faces an eight-count federal complaint charging him with sex trafficking of a minor and other acts. 

Homeland Security Investigations agents and members of the NYPD arrested Sohngen -- who is originally from Germany -- on Tuesday and police were searching his music school for evidence. They were also searching his nearby home.

Sohngen allegedly used a "pimp" to find and bring him the young children. Investigators said he specifically requested young girls, in some cases as young as eight. Officials did not say if any students at his Long Island City school were victims.  

On at least two occasions, Sohngen allegedly engaged in sexual contact with 15- and 17-year-old girls. He also allegedly exchanged text messages with an individual for the purpose of purchasing sex acts with girls ranging in age from 8 to 17. One law enforcement official said there were "numerous" victims but investigators are still trying to determine the total number. 

In one series of text messages, which the government reproduced in the criminal complaint, Sohngen allegedly negotiated a $1,600 price to conduct various sexual acts with two girls, ages 8 and 13, and to then drop them off with family at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant afterward.

The criminal complaint says Sohngen had also been talking via cell with an undercover NYPD officer posing as a 15-year-old girl since January 2016. He allegedly tried to meet her for sex as well. 

Information on his attorney wasn't immediately available; a message was left at the school. Sohngen is expected to appear in federal court in Manhattan later in the day. 

According to the Queens Ledger, Sohngen came to the United States on a scholarship in 1990 to study at the Cleveland Institute of Music; he received a bachelor's degree in opera singing and later a master's in vocal performance. Sohngen opened the academy in 2010.

Photo Credit: Nancy A. Ruhling]]>
<![CDATA[NYPD, Feds Bust 13 Alleged Gang Members in Drug and Gun Bust]]> Thu, 18 May 2017 10:14:56 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-624902494-handcuffs.jpg

Authorities arrested more than a dozen suspected gang members in a sweeping drug and gun bust Wednesday, law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation tell NBC 4 New York.

The NYPD and FBI executed the arrests in the Bronx. 

Prosecutors said the suspects were members of the Crips gang and used violence while battling the rival Bloods for territory in the North Bronx. The gang members in custody have flooded the streets with heroin, crack and cocaine, prosecutors said. 

"The dismantling of this crew and the amount of evidence seized represents a significant blow to criminal networks operating in the Bronx," NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said. 

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Tearful Weiner Pleads Guilty to Sexting Charge, Faces Prison]]> Fri, 19 May 2017 21:40:37 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/weiner+leaves+court.jpg

Former Rep. Anthony Weiner pleaded guilty on Friday to one federal count related to "sexting" with minors, an offense that means he will have to register as a sex offender.

His estranged wife Huma Abedin -- once one of Hillary Clinton's closest aides -- filed for divorce hours later. 

Weiner surrendered to the FBI Friday morning, and tearfully confessed his transgressions in a brief hearing. 

"I have a sickness, but I do not have an excuse," Weiner said in court. (Read his full statement)

Weiner quickly left the Manhattan courthouse after the proceedings, being hustled into a waiting car and taking no questions from the throngs of reporters.

The government is seeking a term of 21 months to 27 months in jail on the single count of transferring obscene material to a minor, though with no mandatory minimum the judge could still give him probation. He will be sentenced Sept. 8, and had to surrender his passport and iPhone in the meantime. 

Federal prosecutors had been weighing whether to file child pornography charges against the disgraced ex-Democratic congressman since last year, sources previously told NBC 4 New York.

The charge stems from the sexually charged text messages and Skype conversations Weiner, now 52, exchanged with a 15-year-old girl from January to March 2016. The messages were revealed when online news outlet DailyMail.com interviewed the girl last September.

"I knew this was as morally wrong as it was unlawful," Weiner said in his statement. 

The investigation into Weiner ended up intruding on last year's presidential campaign. It was during the probe into Weiner that the FBI found emails on a laptop that related to a past investigation into Clinton's email practices. 

The New York Times first reported Weiner's surrender and expected plea. 

Weiner resigned from Congress in 2011 after admitting to a series of online sexual relationships. But his rehabilitation was swift, and in 2013 he mounted a campaign for mayor. He held a commanding lead in the Democratic primary race as late as June 2013, until more, newer relationships came to light.

In late 2014 he admitted his political career was likely over -- aside from an idle boast last summer that he would beat beat Donald Trump Jr. "like a rented mule" if the president's son ran for mayor. 

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[No Bail for 28-Year-Old Suspect in Vicious Attack on Tourist]]> Fri, 12 May 2017 21:52:06 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/suspect+keon+robinson.jpg

Keon Robinson, the sex offender suspected in the horrific sex attack and robbery of a 31-year-old German tourist as she walked back to her Airbnb in Manhattan last week was sent back to jail after facing a judge on Friday.

Robinson, 28, was remanded after being charged with a number of crimes, including assault, robbery, sex abuse and attempted rape.

Police believe Robinson was the man who violently attacked the tourist on May 4, an attack that was caught on surveillance video.

The video shows a man grabbing the woman from behind, appearing to choke her while taking her bag, prosecutors say. He then grabs her bag, and when she tries to get it back, punches her, causing her to fall to the ground.

The man in the video continues to punch the woman as she’s on the ground, eventually removing some of her clothing and sexually assaulting her repeatedly while continuing to punch her, according to prosecutors’ account of the video. He then stole her bag and left her passed out and partially naked on the sidewalk, prosecutors said.

The woman suffered a number of physical injuries, including a gash to her head, a broken tooth, and bruising, prosecutors said.

Robinson was also charged in connection with another robbery on Bradhurst Avenue in Hamilton Heights on April 24. Detectives had also been looking to question him in connection with that attack, and another one on April 27.

In the April 24 robbery, prosecutors say a man followed behind a woman at 4 a.m. before coming up to her with his hand in his pocket and saying, “I have a gun, give me your bag.” The woman screamed and the man punched her in the face before grabbing her bag, which had a credit card in it.

Prosecutors say video from a Target store shows Robinson using the credit card hours after the attack.

He was arrested after police found him hiding in a home in Schenectady around 9 a.m. Thursday. He resisted arrest and fought with law enforcement officers before he was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Regional Fugitive Task Force, along with members of the NYPD, New York State Police and local Albany police, officials said. His arrest came after the U.S. Marshals worked several leads.

In addition to the two robberies, police believe Robinson may be connected to other unsolved sex crimes in New York City.

Robinson is a former parolee who served seven years for first-degree robbery and first-degree sexual abuse. He was released in 2014 and is a registered Level 3 sex offender, meaning authorities believe him to have a high-risk for repeat crimes and consider him an ongoing potential threat to public safety.

Robinson was jailed again, this time on a parole violation, last summer, NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said at a news briefing Monday. He got out in January. The pattern of attacks began several months later, Boyce said.

<![CDATA[NY Terrorist Who Plotted to Bomb LIRR Gets Out This Summer]]> Thu, 11 May 2017 16:30:55 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/terror+suspect2.jpg

A Long Island man who joined al-Qaida and once plotted to bomb LIRR trains heading to and from Penn Station will be released from prison this summer.

Bryant Neal Vinas, who also plotted attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan while he was a commander of an al-Qaida branch there, pleaded guilty to charges connected to the train bomb plot in January 2009. 

On Thursday a judge in Brooklyn federal court sentenced Vinas to time served plus 90 days. On his release he will be required to continue cooperating with the government. 

"I apologize for my actions.  There is no excuse for them. I blame only myself," Vinas said in court. "I want to turn a bad thing into a good thing."

Government officials say Vinas has cooperated in more than 30 terror investigations; some of his interviews were prior to his arrest, and authorities say he was instrumental in exposing the LIRR plot he was involved in, which apparently was never set in motion. 

U.S. authorities credit the Patchogue native with helping them identify al-Qaida members, pinpoint their hideouts, understand their communication structure and disrupt terror plots.

The government took no position on whether to release him. Federal officials acknowledge Vinas's cooperation could not have been "more timely," but say his crimes were extremely serious. 

Judge Nicholas Garaufis said he was "… cautiously optimistic he’s learned from the error of his ways."

<![CDATA[Sex Offender Wanted in Vicious NYC Attack in Custody: Source]]> Fri, 12 May 2017 02:22:33 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/sex+offender5.jpg

The sex offender suspected in the horrific sex attack and robbery of a 31-year-old German tourist as she walked back to her Airbnb in Manhattan last week is in police custody and being questioned, a senior law enforcement official tells NBC 4 New York.

The official says detectives are speaking to 28-year-old Keon Robinson in connection with the 3 a.m. May 4 attack in Harlem. Robinson was found hiding upstate on the second floor of a home in Schenectady around 9 a.m., the official said.

He resisted arrest and fought with law enforcement officers before he was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Regional Fugitive Task Force, along with members of the NYPD, New York State Police and local Albany police, officials said. His arrest came after the U.S. Marshals worked several leads. 

Authorities expect he will be transferred to the 32nd Precinct in Manhattan for processing. He faces charges of attempted rape, robbery, assault and sex abuse. 

Officials had been hunting Robinson in connection with the vicious attack, which was caught on surveillance cameras, for nearly a full week. 

Video of the attack shows the suspect snatch the woman's purse, then repeatedly punch her; police say she was hit so hard her teeth fell out. The woman falls to the ground, unconscious, and the suspect gropes her all over her body. (Warning: some may find elements of the above video disturbing.) 

Police believe Robinson may be connected to other unsolved sex crimes in New York City. 

Robinson is a former parolee who served seven years for first-degree robbery and first-degree sexual abuse. He was released in 2014 and is a registered Level 3 sex offender, meaning authorities believe him to have a high-risk for repeat crimes and consider him an ongoing potential threat to public safety. 

Robinson was jailed again, this time on a parole violation, last summer, NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said at a news briefing Monday. He got out in January. The pattern of attacks began several months later, Boyce said.

Detectives had also been looking to question Robinson in connection with at least two other violent attacks, including a similar attack on April 24 in Hamilton Heights and another one April 27.

In the April 24 attack, the suspect walked up to a woman in her 30s on Bradhurst Avenue in Manhattan and told her, "This could be easy. I have a gun. This could be your day," according to NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce. The woman started screaming and the man punched her, then stole her purse, Boyce said. 

The April 27 attack involved another robbery, but Boyce said the May 4 attack was the only one of the three to involve a sex crime.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[NJ Mayor Fends Off Reporter Questions With Life Preserver]]> Thu, 11 May 2017 19:43:34 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/joey+torres+life+preserver.jpg

Embattled Paterson Mayor Jose "Joey" Torres held a life preserver over his head and declined to take questions about a legal defense fundraiser he was hosting on a large rented yacht. 

When asked, "Sir do you know how many people will be attending?” the indicted mayor raised the life preserver in front of his face and waved it at the camera and the reporter who was trying to ask questions. 

Torres was indicted in March for allegedly stealing from taxpayers. Prosecutors said he ordered city Department of Public Works employees to do construction at a relative’s would-be beer store on city time. The mayor and three DPW supervisors charged in the case all deny wrongdoing. 

Guests arriving for the yacht party last Thursday told NBC 4 New York they paid $150 to $250 per ticket to attend. The yacht -- the “Cornucopia Majesty” -- is 30,000 square feet, three stories tall and can hold up to 1,200 people. 

The yacht company said it takes a $2,900 down payment plus a minimum of 200 guests billed at about $118 per person -– before liquor and entertainment -- to rent the vessel. That comes to a rental fee of about $26,000 before any additional funds can go into the mayor’s legal defense fund. 

Torres declined to say how much money was raised or provide any specifics on how and where the money will be spent. 

Experts said political fundraising does require full disclosure under New Jersey law. But they said details on a legal defense fundraiser can be withheld. 

Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who is a candidate for governor, said the disclosure rules for legal defense funds in the state must change. 

"It raises the implications of who is giving the money and what are they getting for it in return,” Wisniewski said. “I believe disclosure should be the rule and currently it is not." 

While Torres declined to comment as he walked the dock to the party boat, doling out hugs and handshakes, guests suggested the money was going to help the mayor keep from drowning in legal fees. 

“You hope your friends never have a problem but when they do they find out whether or not you are a friend,” said Pat Kramer, who said he has been friends with Torres for years. 

“I think he is innocent and that is why we are here to support him,” said one woman who declined to give her name, adding the business she works for bought a block of tickets. 

Some other guests identified themselves as city police officers. Paterson business administrator Nellie Pou declined to answer questions as she walked to the ship’s plank except to say, "I am glad to be here." 

Councilwoman Maritza Davila attended, saying, "I was invited as a guest -- not by the mayor -- and I came."

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>