<![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, 04 Mar 2015 18:14:09 -0500 Wed, 04 Mar 2015 18:14:09 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Man Arrested in 2013 Beating Death of Transgender Woman]]> Tue, 03 Mar 2015 16:48:21 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/islan+nettles+death.jpg

A 24-year-old man has been arrested in the 2013 beating of a transgender woman who was attacked by a group of men in Harlem and died several days later.

James Dixon, of Brooklyn, faces manslaughter and felony assault charges in the Aug. 17, 2013 attack on 21-year-old Islan Nettles, who died of blunt impact injuries to the head five days later.

Nettles, who also went by Vaughn Nettles and Alon Nettles, was out that night with a friend, another transgender woman, when they met a group of men near 148th Street and Eighth Avenue, according to police.

The two groups began arguing, apparently after the men realized the victims were transgender, police said. One man made anti-gay remarks and a physical altercation ensued.

The victim was punched in the face and lapsed into a coma, police said. She spent several days on a ventilator before she died.

Hundreds rallied to denounce hate crimes against the gay and transgender communities after her death.

Nettles' mother, Delores Nettles, thanked supporters out one of the Harlem rallies and said, "I'm going to make sure this doesn't happen again."

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

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<![CDATA[Menendez Aides Decline to Answer in Federal Grand Jury: Report]]> Mon, 02 Mar 2015 13:17:18 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/tlmd_bob_menendez_en_lios.jpg

Two legislative aides to U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) have declined to answer questions in front of a federal grand jury probing the senator, citing the speech or debate clause of the U.S. Constitution, the New Jersey Law Journal reported on Friday.

Menendez has been under federal criminal investigation in connection with his ties to Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen. The senator has admitted he accepted free private plane trips from Melgen, including a 2008 trip to the luxury resort of Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic. The senator has said he later repaid almost $70,000 for his trips on the doctor’s jet.

The Justice Department is looking into whether, in exchange for the gifts, Menendez improperly lobbied U.S. officials to help Melgen with business matters. Two key issues include whether the senator improperly helped Melgen in Melgen’s efforts to secure a port security deal worth tens of millions of dollars, as well as helping the eye doctor with Medicare regulators looking into whether Melgen had overbilled Medicare.

Melgen and Menendez deny any wrongdoing.

The New Jersey Law Journal (NJLJ) reports the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered a hearing into whether the two Menendez staffers must testify or can claim legislative privilege under Article 1, Section 6 of the Constitution.

Federal judge Anne Thompson previously had ordered Menendez aides Michael Barnard and Kerri Talbot to testify about the meetings they had with Health and Human Services officials, as well as Custom and Border Protection officials about Melgen, the NJLJ report said.

The report said Barnard declined to answer 50 questions during his initial grand jury appearance. A spokesman for Menendez declined to comment on the report.

The Third Circuit Appeals Court said the congressman has the burden of showing the speech or debate clause applies in a case like this. Prosecutors are looking into whether Menendez’s actions on behalf of Melgen were corrupt and not part of the “manifestly legislative” process, NJLJ said.

The documents cited in the NJLJ report are no longer on the courts electronic database suggesting normally sealed grand jury materials might have been posted on the Court’s website by mistake.

Calls made to clerks for Third Circuit Judges D. Michael Fisher, Kent Fisher and Cheryl Ann Krause seeking access to the documents were not returned.

Investigators have said they are also looking into the senator’s relationship with two fugitive Ecuadorean bankers living in Florida. Brothers William and Roberto Isaias have been sentenced in absentia in Ecuador for looting a bank they once ran there. Isaias family members gave campaign donations to numerous politicians including Senator Menendez. Menendez’s office repeatedly contacted State Department and Homeland Security officials in support of the bankers efforts to stay in the US.

Brothers William and Roberto Isaias have said they are innocent of banking crimes in their home country, and are the victims of a political witchunt by Ecuadorean authorities, and along with the senator, deny any wrongdoing.

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<![CDATA[4th Man Questioned in Connection With NYC ISIS Probe: Sources]]> Mon, 02 Mar 2015 13:17:57 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/bratton-islamic-state-presser-AP_617894346352.jpg

A fourth man is being questioned in connection with the federal investigation the so-called Brooklyn ISIS conspiracy, law enforcement sources tell NBC 4 New York.

Investigators want to know if this fourth man – located in Virginia -- played any role assisting three Brooklyn men who allegedly plotted to travel to Syria to join ISIS and carry out domestic attacks if they failed.

Officials said this fourth man is now in custody in Norfolk, Virginia. He is being held on an immigration charge and has not been charged criminally in connection with terror.

The investigation continues, law enforcement officials said, with the FBI looking into any potential ties he may have to the three suspects rounded up Wednesday -- 24-year-old Abdurasul Hasanofvich Juraboev, 19-year-old Akhror Saidakhmetov and 30-year-old suspect Abror Habibov.

Authorities allege the men -- two Uzbekistan citizens and a Kazakhstan citizen, all three of whom lived in Brooklyn -- conspired to join ISIS overseas and return to New York to shoot police officers and FBI agents if they failed. Two planned to travel; one is accused of funding the operation.

The youngest man, Saidakhmetov, allegedly posted on an Uzbek-language website in the last six months that he would buy a machine gun and shoot police officers and FBI agents if his plan to join ISIS was thwarted, according to the complaint unsealed Wednesday. In August, 24-year-old Juraboev posted on the board that he would kill President Obama if ISIS asked him to and asked for help getting weapons, according to the complaint.

He also said he would plant a bomb on Coney Island if the terror group asked, the complaint said.

Law enforcement officials say any potential homegrown threat was aspirational, not operational, but authorities moved in because they believed the suspects' plans to travel abroad were imminent and their alleged intent to join ISIS real. Agents had been tracking the men for about eight months.

Those who knew the young men were still trying to grasp the news Thursday. Zakarya Khan, the owner of Gyro King in Flatbush, where Juraboev worked as a salad preparer, said his employee became more quiet and reserved in the last month but he didn't seem radicalized.

"I had never heard him, not even a single sentence, talk about politics or jihad or about army," said Khan.

The president of the Vatandosh Uzbek-American Federation knew Habibov, the man arrested in Florida, and said he became alarmed after a recent conversation with him.

"We had an argument with the gentleman about the way he understands Islam and the principles," said Farhod Sultan. "I don't want to dive into the contents of the conversation, but that was a red flag for me." 

Saidakhmetov was arrested early Wednesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where he was attempting to board a flight to Istanbul. Juraboev had already bought a plane ticket to Istanbul from New York and was scheduled to leave March 29. According to the complaint, the Habibov, operated a domestic support network that helped fund Saidakhmetov's efforts to join ISIS abroad.

All three suspects have been charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a terror group, officials said. Juraboev and Saidakhmetov are being held without bail in Brooklyn. Habibov, who was arrested in Florida, was arraigned there Wednesday afternoon.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the suspects made statements that indicated their intent to carry out a domestic attack -- specifically by attacking police officers -- if they couldn't join ISIS.

"This is real," the police commissioner said. "This is the concern about the lone wolf inspired to act without ever going to the Mideast -- or the concern of once they get to the Mideast, acquire fighting skills, capabilities and then attempting to return to the country."

The Brooklyn arrests come about a month after an audio recording purportedly released by ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani urged supporters to carry out lone wolf attacks. The message was posted on Twitter and jihadi forums. Intelligence analysts said the recording, which praised recent attacks in France, Australia, Canada and Belgium, appeared to be authentic, NBC News reported.

In September, members of online ISIS message boards encouraged similar "lone wolf" attacks on Times Square and other high-profile locations around the U.S. using homemade explosives. Bratton said at the time there was no credible information pointing to any terror plot against the city, though security was stepped up as a precautionary measure.

Karen Greenberg, director of The Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, said young people looking for a place to fit in are often prime targets for radicalization.

"Sometimes it's because they're looking for a home, sometimes they're looking for a community, they're looking for an acceptance they don't otherwise find," she said. 

The NYPD routinely enhances security based on threats or terror acts overseas, but the additional measures are in line with standard police procedure and not a response to a specific threat.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for killing several American hostages, including journalists James Foley, Steven Sotloff and aid worker Peter Kassig. Another captive American, 26-year-old aid worker Kayla Mueller, was confirmed dead on Feb. 10, four days after ISIS claimed she had been killed in an airstrike in Syria.  



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[3 Men Allegedly Planned to Join ISIS, Attack NYC if They Failed]]> Mon, 02 Mar 2015 13:15:45 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/bratton-islamic-state-presser-AP_617894346352.jpg

Three Brooklyn men who allegedly plotted to travel to Syria to join ISIS and posted online messages about planting a bomb on Coney Island and shooting police officers were taken into custody during FBI terror raids Wednesday, authorities said.

The men, 24- and 30-year-old Uzbekistan citizens and a 19-year-old Kazakhstan citizen who all lived in Brooklyn, allegedly planned to return to New York to commit a domestic act of terror if they failed to join the group overseas, law enforcement officials said.

The youngest man, identified in a criminal complaint as Akhror Saidakhmetov, allegedly posted on an Uzbek-language website in the last six months that he would buy a machine gun and shoot police officers and FBI agents if his plan to join ISIS was thwarted. In August, 24-year-old suspect Abdurasul Hasanofvich Juraboev posted on the board that he would kill President Obama if ISIS asked him to and asked for help getting weapons, according to the complaint.

He also said he would plant a bomb on Coney Island if the terror group asked, the complaint said. 

Law enforcement officials say any potential homegrown threat was aspirational, not operational, but authorities moved in because they believed the suspects' plans to travel abroad were imminent and their alleged intent to join ISIS real. Agents had been tracking the men for about eight months.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the suspects made statements that indicated their intent to carry out a domestic attack -- specifically by attacking police officers -- if they couldn't join ISIS.

“This is real," the police commissioner said. "This is the concern about the lone wolf inspired to act without ever going to the Mideast -- or the concern of once they get to the Mideast, acquire fighting skills, capabilities and then attempting to return to the country."

Court documents highlight the extent of the suspects' alleged intentions. In a recorded conversation in January, Saidakhmetov told an FBI informant he would "just go and buy a machine gun, AK-47, go out and shoot all police," if he could not get travel documents to Syria, according to the complaint.

"We will go and purchase one handgun ... then go and shoot one police officer. Boom ... Then, we will take his gun, bullets and a bulletproof vest ... then, we will do the same with a couple of others. Then we will go to the FBI headquarters, kill the FBI people," Saidakhmetov said, according to the complaint. 

Saidakhmetov was arrested early Wednesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where he was attempting to board a flight to Istanbul. Juraboev had already bought a plane ticket to Istanbul from New York and was scheduled to leave March 29. According to the complaint, the 30-year-old suspect Abror Habibov, operated a domestic support network that helped fund Saidakhmetov's efforts to join ISIS abroad. Habibov operates kiosks that sell kitchenware and repair mobile phones in retail malls in several states; he employed Saidakhmetov last fall and winter.

Last week, Saidakhmetov called his mother to ask for his passport, and when she asked him where he was going, he said, "If a person has a chance to join Islamic State and does not go there, on judgment day he will be asked why, and that it is a sin to live in the land of infidels," according to the complaint. Around the same time, federal agents observed Saidakhmetov and Habibov arrive at a Coney Island Avenue travel agency. That was when Saidakhmetov bought the ticket to Istanbul. 

Frank Cakir, the travel agent who sold Saidakhmetov the ticket, said the 19-year-old seemed young, "like a kid, not even an adult." Cakir said the suspect spoke English well and seemed calm. He only spent five to 10 minutes in the travel agency and bought a ticket to Istanbul on Ukraine Airlines. Federal officials say Habibov waited outside for Saidakhmetov and the two left in a car together. 

Cakir said there was "nothing unusual about him." He said he was shocked to learn the young man was allegedly trying to join ISIS, and that his hands hadn't stopped shaking. 

All three suspects have been charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a terror group, officials said. Juraboev and Saidakhmetov appeared in Brooklyn court later Wednesday, and were each ordered held without bail, with U.S. Attorney Douglas Pravda arguing that the suspects "present a flight risk and pose a threat to the community." 

Habibov had an additional court appearance in Florida. If convicted, each man faces up to 15 years in prison.

Saidakhmetov's attorney says his client was a "young, innocent kid." Juraboev's attorney didn't comment.

"We all take the threat of ISIS very seriously The vigilance levels that we maintain every day are our best shield," Mayor de Blasio said. "We are going to continue to deepen our anti-terrorism capacity. A lot of what we are trying to do is not only making sure we have the number of officers on anti-terror duty that we need, the training, the equipment, but that we are constantly deepening our relationship with communities all over the city so that there is a flow of information."

The mayor referred questions about the Brooklyn investigation to the FBI.

“The defendants looked to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, by flying to Turkey in a vain attempt to evade detection. And several of the defendants planned to commit acts of terror here—in America—if they could not travel, to include killing FBI agents," FBI Assistant Director in Charge Diego Rodriguez said in a statement. " The defendants violated the true tenants of their faith in pursuit of their radical, violent agenda. We rely on help from the community, the public and religious leaders to be mindful of those who could be radicalized. We cannot do this alone.”

The Brooklyn arrests come about a month after an audio recording purportedly released by ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani urged supporters to carry out lone wolf attacks. The message was posted on Twitter and jihadi forums. Intelligence analysts said the recording, which praised recent attacks in France, Australia, Canada and Belgium, appeared to be authentic, NBC News reported.

In September, members of online ISIS message boards encouraged similar "lone wolf" attacks on Times Square and other high-profile locations around the U.S. using homemade explosives. Bratton said at the time there was no credible information pointing to any terror plot against the city, though security was stepped up as a precautionary measure.

The NYPD routinely enhances security based on threats or terror acts overseas, but the additional measures are in line with standard police procedure and not a response to a specific threat.

Such potential "lone wolf" threats as the ones mentioned in the purported January ISIS recording were a particular focus of a November NYPD counterterrorism conference, and Bratton said the department is investing more time and resources in monitoring extremist-influenced websites and social media.

In September, federal authorities in upstate New York charged a Rochester-area man with terror-related charges after they say he alleged tried to buy guns to support ISIS and boasted about wanting to kill American soldiers.

ISIS is notorious for using message boards and social media to lure recruits. Authorities are continuing to look for three missing London schoolgirls believed to have left home to join the terror group; authorities believe they have already crossed into Syria.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for killing several American hostages, including journalists James Foley, Steven Sotloff and aid worker Peter Kassig. Another captive American, 26-year-old aid worker Kayla Mueller, was confirmed dead on Feb. 10, four days after ISIS claimed she had been killed in an airstrike in Syria. 

-Pete Williams and Michael George contributed to this report



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Teen, Dad Arrested on Sex Assault, Child Porn Charges]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 09:16:53 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/dad+son+arrest+child+porn.jpg

A New Jersey father was arrested on child porn charges after police executed a search warrant at his home in a sexual assault investigation involving his teenage son, prosecutors say. 

Richard Stoldt, 58, and James Stoldt, 19, were arrested after the search at their Midland Park home in Bergen County Tuesday.

Prosecutors had been investigating James Stoldt for an alleged sexual assault of a now 14-year-old girl. According to the Bergen County prosecutor's office, James Stoldt assaulted the girl when she was 13, but she only recently disclosed to a friend what happened. 

The friend contacted police, who in turn interviewed the girl and then went to arrest James Stoldt, prosecutors said.

When authorities executed a search warrant at his home, they seized computers that allegedly revealed that both James Stoldt and his father Richard were each accessing child pornography independently. 

James Stoldt was arrested on sex assault and child endangerment charges, while Richard Stoldt, a software engineer, was arrested on a charge of child endangerment. 

The teen was remanded to Bergen County Jail on $125,000 bail and Richard Stoldt was released on his own recognizance. 

Attorney information wasn’t available. A person who picked up the phone at the number listed for the residence hung up when asked for a comment.

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<![CDATA[Chopper 4 Captures Dramatic Police Chase Across Verrazano]]> Wed, 25 Feb 2015 10:16:16 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/police+chase+chopper.jpg

A man wanted on a federal warrant for failing to appear for sentencing in an aggravated assault case set off a wild chase that started in New Jersey and ended on the Brooklyn side of the Verrazano Bridge when he tried to flee the U.S. Marshals searching for him, authorities say.

Chopper 4 exclusively captured the dramatic sequence of events Tuesday. 

It started when a U.S. Marshals task force working with the Monmouth County Sheriff's Office went to a home in Old Bridge, New Jersey to act on a lead they'd gotten on 41-year-old Anthony Mazza, the U.S. Marshals' Regional New York/New Jersey Task Force said. 

The officers were staking out the home when the suspect's vehicle appeared, with Mazza in the front passenger seat, according to authorities. A woman was driving the car, and another man was in the backseat. 

Mazza apparently noticed the Marshals, and the car took off, authorities said. The task force officers attempted to pull over the vehicle in a traffic stop, and as they got close, Mazza allegedly pushed the woman out of the car and onto the road.

Mazza took off in the vehicle, and U.S. Marshals gave pursuit. He was believed to be dangerous, sources said. 

The woman was found to be OK.

As the car approached the Garden State Parkway, the U.S. Marshals reached out to New Jersey State Police, who took over the pursuit, according to the Marshals. As Mazza went onto the Outerbridge Crossing into Staten Island, Port Authority police were then notified, and they tried to set up roadblocks on the New York side.

Mazza managed to avoid the roadblocks and continued onto the Verrazano Bridge and into Brooklyn, at which point the NYPD and MTA police got involved, according to authorities.

Police radio transmissions obtained by NBC 4 New York reveal officers communicating urgently to have the bridge closed. 

"Could you have the highway shut down please? And notify TBTA to shut the bridge," one dispatch stated. 

TBTA is short for Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, the legal name for the MTA.

Chopper 4 showed nearly half a dozen vehicles, many with sirens blaring, zipping across the span of the Verrazano and on residential streets before the runaway vehicle crashed on the Brooklyn side shortly after 2 p.m.

The runaway car wove to either side of the road as it tried to evade the police cars and managed to separate from the cruisers for a moment on the Brooklyn side of the span before police caught up. 

Chopper 4 showed the getaway car and the law enforcement vehicles speed past other cars in the Bath Beach neighborhood, including ones stopped at a traffic light, before a marked police car bumped into the getaway car from behind. 

A person in a red shirt was seen getting out of the passenger side of the vehicle and trying to run after the crash. Mazza momentarily appeared to try to flee again, but the banged-up car couldn't go far. 

MTA Bridges & Tunnels officers surrounded the vehicle and took Mazza into custody on 14th Avenue, the agency said. The person in the red shirt, identified as Timothy Isaksan, was also apprehended. 

Resident Danny Castillo was inside his home when he heard the chase-ending crash that wrecked his red van parked outside. 

"I hear 'boom, boom, boom,' he hit three cars here. I see cops and helicopters everywhere," he told NBC 4 New York. "They ran out and chase some guy." 

"It was unbelievable, I've never seen anything like that happen, over here, especially," said Castillo.

Local police protocol for chases generally calls for a balance between apprehension and maintaining public safety. 

Mazza was charged with eluding and aggravated assault on police, and Isaksan was charged with obstruction. They were first taken into custody at the 68th Precinct station in Bay Ridge. and then moved to the 121st Precinct station on Staten Island. 

It's not clear if they had attorneys. 

Two Port Authority police officers were treated for minor injuries. No one else was hurt, officials said. 

Mazza's aggravated assault case stemmed from a domestic violence incident, officials said. 



Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[4 Accused of Kidnapping 13-Year-Old Girls in Prostitution Scheme]]> Mon, 02 Mar 2015 12:22:07 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/handcuffs-generic-on-black.jpg

Four Brooklyn residents face charges in connection with the 2014 kidnapping of two 13-year-old girls they allegedly hoped to lure into prostitution, authorities say.

One of the suspects named in the 32-count indictment remains at large. Authorities say the other three range in age from 25 to 57 and live at the same address on Classon Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

According to prosecutors, the two teenagers were on their way home from a party Aug. 30 when they met the 25-year-old suspect near the Franklin Avenue train station. They went back to his apartment with him and had sex, authorities say.

The girls left the apartment the next day, but the 25-year-old suspect followed them to the train station and asked them to come back, telling them they could make money as prostitutes, prosecutors allege.

The teens went back to the man's apartment and another suspect allegedly took photos of them in scanty clothing, which authorities say he tried to post on Craigslist.

According to the indictment, at some point a concerned relative texted one of the teens and allegedly got back a text from the suspect accused of taking the girls' photos that said, "Want a date?"

The relative replied, "Yes," and asked for a price and location, prosecutors say. He went to the apartment, paid for the alleged services and took the girl. The other girls' relatives later found her and took her from the apartment as well.

It wasn't clear how long the girls were in the apartment.

The three suspects in custody were arraigned Friday on varying degrees of kidnapping, rape, unlawful imprisonment and promoting prostitution.

"These defendants are accused of disgraceful actions involving young girls who should be protected, not exploited, by men who should know better," Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said in a statement. "Few crimes are as dehumanizing and degrading as prostitution. Luckily, the young girls who were abducted are now safe and their abusers will now face justice.”

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<![CDATA[Pot, Child Porn Seized From Teacher's Home: Officials]]> Thu, 19 Feb 2015 19:27:35 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/porn+teacher.jpg

A 37-year-old New Jersey gym teacher and wrestling coach has been arrested for allegedly uploading child porn through a school computer, and authorities say they found a shotgun, silence and 40 pot plants at his house when they searched it in connection with their investigation.

Justin Bozinta, of Roselle, was arrested Friday on child pornography, drug and weapons charges. He teaches at Costly Middle School in East Orange and has worked in the district since 2000, prosecutors say. Bozinta also is the head wrestling coach at East Orange Campus High School.

Investigators began looking into Bozinta after getting a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that child pornography images had been uploaded from an IP address within a school using an email account later traced to the suspect.

Authorities say Bozinta allegedly uploaded several images to a Google+ photo account using a computer within the school. Investigators conducting a search warrant in connection with the child pornography probe allegedly found more sexual images on Bozinta's external computer hard drive. They also discovered 40 marijuana plants in what prosecutors called a major "grow room" equipped with a special ventilation system, high-powered lights and chemicals.

Bozinta's computers were seized along with the plants and a small armory he had in his home -- seven handguns, four rifles, a shotgun and a homemade silence, prosecutors said.

It wasn't clear if Bozinta had an attorney. He's being held in lieu of $275,000 cash bail.

"It’s appalling that a man entrusted with instructing and mentoring young students as a teacher and coach allegedly was dealing drugs and sexually exploiting children by viewing child pornography online,” Acting New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman said in a statement. "For a teacher to engage in those crimes, which drive so much harm and abuse of children, is a shocking betrayal."

“Our investigation is ongoing and we will continue to follow all leads to expose the full scope of Bozinta’s alleged drug dealing and involvement with child pornography,” added Division of Criminal Justice Director Elie Honig. “He already faces a first-degree drug charge carrying a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison, but it is critical that we determine if others were involved and whether his conduct impacted students in the district. We urge anyone with information to contact us confidentially.”



Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Court Strikes Down Nassau Sex Offender Residency Law]]> Wed, 18 Feb 2015 20:59:19 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/sex+offender+ruling+li.jpg

New York state's highest court has struck down a Nassau County law that prevents all sex offenders from living near schools and places of worship, ruling that the state law targeting only the most dangerous sex offenders supersedes the tougher local laws.

The decision came after a low-level sex offender named Michael Diack challenged the Nassau law.

"Most state supreme courts agree with the proposition that a local law cannot violate a state law, and state law takes precedence," said Sal Marinello, Diack's lawyer.

But child advocates like Laura Ahearn say the high court's ruling now leaves kids more vulnerable to the roughly 9,000 sex offenders on Long Island and the five boroughs.

"All of those offenders can now move wherever they want, including right next to an elementary school," she said.

But the lawyer who argued Diack's case before the Court of Appeals disagrees, saying, "There's absolutely no evidence these laws make kids safer."

"In fact, they keep people unstable and ostracized," said Kathy Manley.

Child advocates say it's now up to state lawmakers to clear up the confusion and pass legislation that will ensure children's safety.

"All our parents and families will feel a lot safer if those residency restrictions were in place," said Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano.

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<![CDATA[Woman Arrested in Hate Crime Misidentified as Suspect, Charges Dropped: NYPD]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 14:57:24 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/145th+street+station.jpg

A New York City Department of Social Services worker who had been charged with assault as a hate crime after law enforcement sources said she allegedly grabbed a woman by the hair at a Manhattan subway station, threw her into a pole and made racial remarks has been cleared of wrongdoing, and police say her arrest stemmed from a witness misidentifying her at the scene. 

The arrest of the 43-year-old woman in connection with the attack inside the 145th Street A-C-B-D station around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday has been voided, the NYPD said Thursday afternoon.

The reversal came about 12 hours after the NYPD announced her arrest on hate crime charges. 

It's not clear how police realized her arrest was based on misinformation, nor is it known if they have another suspect in the case. 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Man, 22, Pleads Guilty in Cop Shooting]]> Tue, 17 Feb 2015 19:29:51 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/new+hydge+park+officer+shot+insets.jpg

A 22-year-old man from China who came to the U.S. several years ago and lived in Brooklyn has pleaded guilty in the August 2013 shooting of a veteran Long Island police officer responding to a home burglary.

Cong Xu's guilty plea to assault and burglary charges Tuesday stemmed from the shooting of Nassau County police officer Mohit Arora, a 33-year-old who had been with the department six years at the time he was shot.

Arora was shot once in the groin as he responded to a home invasion in New Hyde Park; he was hospitalized for more than six months and had at least one surgery.

Arora was in court as Xu's plea deal was announced Tuesday. He said it has been a difficult time for him and his family. Arora has returned to work, but is only on light duty.

"I want to leave this bad dream behind me and move on," he said. 

Xu is expected to get 30 years in prison when he is sentenced. His lawyer, Scott Tulman, said, "He feels genuine remorse for what happened but unfortunately there's nothing we can do about that now." 

Arora's fellow officers joined him in court Tuesday in a show of solidarity. 

"Thank God he wasn't killed," said James Carver of the Nassau PBA. "We've gone through five line-of-duty deaths since 2012, and we're all thankful this wasn't number six." 

Prosecutors said Xu was running from the home on Campbell Street in New Hyde Park early Aug. 14, 2013, when he was confronted by officers. As he ran away, he allegedly turned and fired several rounds, hitting Arora, police said.

An alleged conspirator, Renhang Qiu, was also taken into custody at the scene of the shooting. Authorities had alleged he hatched the plan to rob the New Hyde Park home; the homeowners owned a takeout restaurant and authorities speculated the suspects had been after their cash.

Qiu pleaded guilty to burglary charges in May. He is expected to be sentenced to seven years in jail at a hearing later this month. According to Xu's lawyer, Qiu was prepared to testify against Xu.  



Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[NYC Ramps Up Security for NBA All-Star Weekend]]> Fri, 13 Feb 2015 16:30:35 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/nypd+generic+resizzed.jpg

Security is being stepped up this weekend across New York as the city plays host to the NBA All-Star Game, and authorities will be on the lookout for scam artists trying to sell knock-off jersey and counterfeit memorabilia to unsuspecting sports fans.

NYPD officers along with FBI and Homeland Security agents will be out in force to help provide security for events being held near Madison Square Garden where the game is being played. Brooklyn’s Barclays Center is also hosting All-Star related events.

Intelligence officials are monitoring threat streams from overseas and inside the U.S. The FBI said there is no new specific threat to New York, but the agency's Joint Terrorism Task Force has a command post up and running all weekend as a precaution.

“It’s one team, one fight,” said FBI Assistant Director Diego Rodriguez. “We treat a special event the same way we do a crisis event; we always have our folks ready to go.”

Representatives from dozens of law enforcement agencies will be helping to keep track of security issues, Rodriguez said.

Police records from the last three All-Star games -- in Orlando, Houston and New Orleans -- show a spike in arrests during All-Star Weekend. Crimes like assault, prostitution and counterfeiting were reported blocks from the arenas in the respective host cities.

Agents with Homeland Security Investigations will join NYPD officers in searching for scam artists selling knock-off jerseys and bogus tickets.

“We will have teams out at all the locations, looking for individuals who are out there trying to take advantage of the public,” said Deputy HSI Special Agent Anthony Scandiffio. “It’s a very big problem, businesses lose over $200 million a year.”

NBA Security Chief Jerome Pickett said the league works with law enforcement to help them know how to identify counterfeit merchandise. Experts said some of the fake jerseys and other memorabilia is ordered from China and shipped into New York by criminal groups. Customs agents at the airports and seaports have been trying to keep a close eye on these shipments.

Officials say they are expecting all to go smoothly with the larger security presence being put in place as a precaution.

“People should come out and have fun,” Pickett said.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Boy, 15, Kidnapped, Raped Girl, Woman at Knifepoint: DA]]> Thu, 12 Feb 2015 20:44:00 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/javon+roberts+mount+vernon+rape.jpg

Police have accused a 15-year-old Westchester boy in two knifepoint abductions and rapes, including one where an 11-year-old girl who was walking home from a Christmas concert at a local library last December.

The 15-year-old boy from Mount Vernon was arraigned Wednesday on a 28-count indictment that included charges of rape, kidnapping, sexual abuse and child endangerment, the Westchester County District Attorney said. 

The teen allegedly abducted a 23-year-old woman walking home from work in Mount Vernon on Oct. 20 and forced her to the nearby Grimes Elementary School while holding a knife to her throat, prosecutors said. 

He forced her to perform sex acts on him and raped her several times, prosecutors said. After the attack, he walked with the victim to the corner and let her leave and she immediately notified police.

The teen also allegedly abducted an 11-year-old girl while she was walking home from a Christmas concert at a local library in Mount Vernon at about 8 p.m. on Dec. 4. He took her to Grimes Elementary School, where he forced her into sex acts and raped her multiple times during a two-hour attack, prosecutors said. 

When the child screamed at one point, the teen, who was holding a knife, allegedly threatened to kill her, according to prosecutors. The girl was eventually let go.

Police had no leads in the investigation until they interviewed the teen in an unrelated case, prosecutors said. They collected DNA the teen left on a water bottle he drank from, and forensics teams matched the one found in the two rapes.

The teenage suspect, identified as Javon Roberts, is being charged as an adult, but the district attorney's office said that because of his age, he's considered a juvenile offender under state law. The maximum sentence he can receive if convicted is 10 years. 

Roberts has been remanded to jail until his next court appearance on May 12.

No one answered the door at Roberts' listed home address Thursday. 

Parents picking up their children at Grimes Elementary School Thursday were shocked to hear about the violent attacks, especially on the younger girl walking home alone. 

"It's scary, it's really scary," said Priscilla Brinkley. "Being the mother of children so young, and nowadays parents have to work to support their children and they expect children are going to be safe in this area." 

"That's a wake-up call for a lot of these parents," said Robin Mitchell. "You have to monitor your kids and just watch your surroundings."

-- Michael George contributed to this report

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<![CDATA[2 Arrested in NJ Child Sex Abuse Cases: Pros.]]> Tue, 10 Feb 2015 04:34:08 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/julio+peralta+aguilar+daniel+obrien.jpg

Bergen County prosecutors say they've arrested two men in separate child sex abuse cases. 

Julio Peralta-Aguilar, 47, of Cliffside Park, was arrested Friday on charges of aggravated sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child after investigators say he abused a 7-year-old girl, according to prosecutors. 

The girl told her mother about the alleged incident, and her mother took her to a medical center in Teaneck to be examined, authorities said. 

Peralta-Aguilar remains in Bergen County Jail on $250,000 bail until his arraignment on Thursday. Attorney information wasn't immediately available. 

Also Friday, Daniel O'Brien of Saddle Brook was arrested on charges of aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child, prosecutors said. 

Prosecutors said O'Brien abused a 9-year-old girl, who disclosed the alleged incident to a coordinator from the NJ Child Abuse Prevention Program who was speaking at her school. 

The coordinator contacted authorities, who interviewed the girl.

O'Brien was jailed on $300,000 bail pending his arraignment Tuesday. 

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<![CDATA[Building Inspectors to Be Arrested for Corruption: Sources]]> Tue, 10 Feb 2015 17:03:41 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/handcuffs-generic-on-black.jpg

UPDATE: NYC Landlords Handed Cash to Undercover Inspector: Prosecutors

About a dozen New York City building inspectors are expected to be arrested on corruption-related charges Tuesday, NBC 4 New York has learned.

Law enforcement sources say the investigation focuses in part on improper payments made to inspectors at construction sites to avoid violations. More than a dozen contractors and others are also expected to be charged in connection with the probe.

Officials would not disclose the specific nature of the alleged payoffs or how much money was involved. They did not identify any of the individuals expected to be arrested.

The arrests are expected to be announced by the Manhattan District Attorney, the Department of Investigation Commissioner and NYPD officials. More than 100 law enforcement officers will take part in processing the more than two dozen people who are expected to be charged.

A spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney's office declined comment, saying only news briefing was scheduled for 12 p.m. Tuesday. An NYPD spokesman referred calls to DOI, a spokeswoman for which declined to comment on the expected charges.

The Department of Buildings did not immediately return a request for comment.

Past law enforcement investigations in 2009 and 2012 resulted in arrests of building inspectors. Officials alleged some contractors in those sweeps had ties to organized crime. 

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<![CDATA[Man Arrested in Union Square Box Cutter Slashing Spree]]> Sat, 07 Feb 2015 10:27:53 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/267-15+Assault+9+and+13+Pct.jpg

Police say a 24-year-old Brooklyn man is in custody in connection with a string of box cutter slashings earlier this week that started on a subway in the East Village and ended on a street near Union Square.

Derrick McLeod was taken into custody Friday, two days after the slashing spree that left three people with slash marks on their cheeks.

Police said a fight started between two people on the No. 4 northbound train near Bleecker Street at about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. The fight escalated and the slasher, who had a box cutter in his hand, punched the victim and slashed his right cheek, according to police.

The two stayed on the train until it stopped at Union Square, according to police. The slasher then got off and walked to 13th Street and Fourth Avenue where he asked a homeless man for $2. When the homeless man refused, he slashed the homeless man on the right cheek and fled, police said.

The two victims were treated at Bellevue Hospital Center, when a third slashing victim walked in, saying he was slashed on the right cheek by the same man at Union Square, according to police. McLeod had allegedly told him on the no. 6 train, "Don't look at me," before slashing him. 

Police said McLeod also is believed to have slapped a woman between the first and second slashings. 

McLeod has been arrested 30 times in the past, including on eight assault charges, according to police. He also has several restraining orders against him, and was on probation when he was picked up by police Thursday night, after he allegedly got into a fight with his girlfriend. 

McLeod was scheduled to be arraigned Friday night on five counts of assault and four counts of criminal possession of a weapon in Wednesday's assaults. It wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney.

-- Brynn Gingras contributed to this report 

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<![CDATA[Former State Sen. Malcolm Smith Found Guilty in Bribe Scheme]]> Thu, 05 Feb 2015 14:05:53 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/malcolm+smith+probe.jpg

Former Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Smith has been found guilty of scheming to bribe Republican party leaders so he could run on the GOP line in a New York City mayoral race, making him the latest ex-Albany leader to be convicted of corruption.

A federal jury convicted Smith Thursday of all four charges, including bribery conspiracy, wire fraud, use of interstate facilities to commit bribery and extortion.

Smith and former councilman Dan Halloran were arrested in April 2013 on conspiracy, wire fraud and extortion charges after the pair allegedly plotted to get Smith onto the ballot by paying off GOP county chairmen. Because he's a Democrat, Smith would have needed three leaders' permission.

The indictment alleged two Republican Party leaders, including Smith's co-defendant, former Queens Republican Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone, accepted tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for helping get Smith on the ballot.

Tabone was convicted Thursday of bribery and witness tampering, among other crimes.

A first trial for Smith ended in a mistrial in June 2014 because of conflicts with jurors' schedules.

The jurors had only committed to stay with the case through late June and, because of their schedules, could not commit for another month, the judge said.

Smith is the latest line in Albany's corrupt legacy. Sheldon Silver, speaker of the State Assembly for more than two decades, was arrested late last month on federal corruption charges. He has said he will be vindicated. Last week, NBC 4 New York reported federal investigators are looking into state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos' sources of income in connection with a broader corruption probe.

In a statement, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the spate of convictions of high-profile current and former politicians shows that New York has become the "show me the money" state.

"It should not be asking too much to expect public officials at least to obey the law," Bharara said. "This office will continue the vigorous prosecution of political corruption until every public official understands that violating the public trust will likely land you in prison."

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<![CDATA[NYPD: Historian Killed in Park by Croatian Author]]> Mon, 02 Feb 2015 18:38:50 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/13115astoria.jpg

A Croatian author living in Queens fatally shot a 42-year-old friend inside Astoria Park Saturday afternoon over a failed real estate deal in northeast Italy, authorities say. 

The alleged gunman, 50-year-old Alexander Bonich and the victim, William Klinger, of Rome, Italy, were inside Astoria Park when they began to argue, according to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown. 

Details of the real estate deal were unclear but Brown said Klinger had been seeking his friend's help "in starting a new life in this country."

When Klinger started to walk away, Bonich allegedly ordered him to stop. Klinger ignored his friend and walked on, and Bonich shot him once in the back of the head, according to prosecutors. 

Klinger fell to the ground, and Bonich allegedly shot him once more in the head, said prosecutors. 

Bonich then got rid of the clothes he was wearing, as well as all the weapons, ammunition and spent shells from the scene, according to prosecutors. 

Klinger was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead. 

NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce told reporters Monday that Bonich admitted to shooting Klinger with an antique revolver he later threw in the East River. 

Boyce described the 49-year-old Bonich as an author and translator.

He said detectives identified Bonich on surveillance cameras with Klinger before the Saturday shooting in Queens. He said investigators later watched him remove bags of Klinger's possessions from his home.

Boyce described Klinger, who was staying in Ridgewood, New Jersey, as an historian and expert on Yugoslavia's former leader, Josip Broz Tito.

He said the exact nature of the dispute over real estate wasn't clear.

Bonich is being held pending arraignment on charges of second-degree murder, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and tampering with physical evidence. It's not clear if he has an attorney. 

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