Brooklyn Gang Member Sentenced to 37 Years to Life in Prison For Killing Teenage Girl, Injuring another Man in Separate Shootings

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, April 25, 2017

 

Brooklyn Gang Member Sentenced to 37 Years to Life in Prison
For Killing Teenage Girl, Injuring another Man in Separate Shootings

Defendant Apprehended Following Police Foot Chase, Admitted Role in Each Shooting

Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a 22-year-old man was sentenced to 37 years to life in prison for a revenge shooting spree – spanning two Brooklyn neighborhoods – that took a teenager’s life and seriously wounded another man. The defendant was apprehended following a police chase after he shot into a crowded Brownsville courtyard.

Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said, “This defendant’s decision to seek revenge had tragic consequences for two innocent people, costing a young woman her life and causing another man serious injury. These shootings were acts of gang violence, fueled by gang violence. With today’s sentence, at least one participant in this vicious cycle will be off the streets for many years to come.”

The Acting District Attorney identified the defendant as Clayton Gravenhise, 22, of Brooklyn. He was sentenced today to 37 years to life in prison by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice John Ingram. The sentence includes 24 years to life for the defendant’s second-degree murder conviction plus 13 years, to run consecutively, for the first-degree attempted assault conviction. The defendant was also sentenced to 13 years for each of two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, to run concurrent to the murder and attempted assault. The defendant was convicted following a jury trial earlier this month.

The Acting District Attorney said that, on July 13, 2014, at approximately 1:23 a.m., the defendant repeatedly shot Ubequeen Turner, 17, in the head, chest, back, buttocks and arm as she stood on the sidewalk in the vicinity of Quincy Street and Marcy Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, according to trial testimony. She died as a result of her injuries. The defendant later admitted that he shot the victim because she was related to a man the defendant believed killed his brother earlier that month.

Furthermore, on November 11, 2014 – the defendant’s brother’s birthday – at approximately 10:49 p.m., the defendant drove with others to Brownsville, Brooklyn with the intent of continuing his revenge plot. Upon approaching a crowded residential courtyard on Lott Avenue near Mother Gaston Boulevard, passengers exited the defendant’s car and opened fire into the crowd, according to trial testimony. A 32-year-old man was struck in the back and survived his injuries; the bullet still remains lodged in his body.

According to trial testimony, the defendant was apprehended fleeing the Brownsville courtyard shooting after engaging police officers, first in a vehicle pursuit and then on a foot chase, until he was caught.

The defendant, a member of the HoodStarz street gang, later admitted to his role in both shooting incidents and told investigators of his revenge motives.

The case was investigated by New York City Police Department Brooklyn North Homicide Squad, the 79th Precinct Squad and the 73rd Precinct Squad.

The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Bernarda Villalona, of the District Attorney’s Homicide Bureau and Assistant District Attorney Stephen Shuovsky, of the District Attorney’s Orange Zone Trial Bureau, under the supervision of Timothy Gough, Homicide Bureau Chief.

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Bronx Sex Offender Sentenced to 65 Years to Life for Raping Senior Citizen inside her Brownsville Apartment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, April 25, 2017

 

Bronx Sex Offender Sentenced to 65 Years to Life for
Raping Senior Citizen inside her Brownsville Apartment

Helped Victim Carry Plant to Her Home, Then Sexually Assaulted Her

Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a 31-year-old Bronx man has been sentenced to 65 years to life in prison following his conviction on charges of predatory sexual assault and burglary for raping a 64-year-old woman inside her apartment in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

Acting District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant is a repeat sexual offender who is clearly a danger to society. This depraved, brutal and calculated attack on a senior citizen in the sanctity of her home justifies the lengthy sentence he received today.”

The Acting District Attorney identified the defendant as Darrell Kinard, 31, of Claremont Village in the Bronx. He was sentenced today by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Vincent Del Giudice to 65 years to life in prison following his conviction on March 13, 2017 of two counts of predatory sexual assault and one count of second-degree burglary as a sexually motivated felony after a jury trial. The defendant has been deemed a predatory felon, based on a prior conviction for which he was designated a level-3 sex offender, and faced a mandatory life sentence.

The Acting District Attorney said that, according to trial testimony, on March 26, 2015, at approximately 4 p.m., the defendant was in the lobby of the victim’s building in Brownsville, Brooklyn. He helped the 64-year-old victim carry a plant to her apartment. Once inside, the defendant raped the woman in the living room and again in the bedroom. When the victim locked herself in the bathroom, he punched the door and broke it open.

The defendant then forced the victim to bathe and to wash the sheets and her clothing. After he left, the victim, who suffered a bruised and swollen lip, went to the hospital, where a sexual assault evidence collection kit was performed. A DNA sample matched the defendant and he was apprehended in September 2015.

The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Deborah Cohen and Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Payne, of the District Attorney’s Special Victims Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Miss Gregory, Chief.

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East New York Man Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison For Shooting Man in the Head

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, April 25, 2017

 

East New York Man Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison
For Shooting Man in the Head

Coldly Fired at Victim, Who Lost his Right Eye

Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a 32-year-old man from East New York, Brooklyn was sentenced to 30 years in prison for shooting a 22-year-old man, at close range, between his eyes and causing him to lose sight in his right eye.

Acting District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant coldly shot a person in the face at point-blank range and it is a miracle that the victim survived. There is no place in our society for those who commit acts of gun violence. Today’s sentence is well-deserved and should serve as a warning to others that shootings such as this will not be tolerated in Brooklyn.”

The Acting District Attorney identified the defendant as Eric Brewster, 32, of East New York, Brooklyn. He was sentenced today by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Bruce Balter to 30 years in prison following his conviction earlier this month on charges of second-degree attempted murder and first-degree criminal use of a firearm after a jury trial.

The Acting District Attorney said that on July 12, 2014, at about 7:50 p.m., the victim, 22-year-old Dasia Pettiway, got off a bus and headed with two friends to a corner store located at 1017 Hegeman Street in East New York. As he entered, the defendant approached the store and then called the victim to come out, the evidence showed.

The defendant and the victim engaged in a brief conversation and then, as the victim was distracted by a friend handing him a cigarette, the defendant shot him in the head at close range. The bullet struck the victim directly between his eyes and tore through his right eye, according to testimony. The victim underwent surgery to remove the remnants of his right eye. A surveillance video shows the defendant getting dropped off by a silver sedan about a block from the store and additional footage captures him fleeing the location after the shooting, with one video clearly showing him holding a firearm.

The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Scott, of the District Attorney’s Violent Criminal Enterprises Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Nicole Chavis, Bureau Chief, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief of the Investigations Division.

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AG Schneiderman, DA Gonzalez Announce the Indictments of Nine Defendants for Stealing Over $1 Million in Mortgage Fraud Scheme

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, April 24, 2017

 

AG Schneiderman, DA Gonzalez Announce the Indictments of Nine Defendants for Stealing Over $1 Million in Mortgage Fraud Scheme

Defendants Are Alleged to Have Fraudulently Obtained Short-Sale Discounts and Loans
By Submitting False Information to Mortgage Companies
Defendants Include Disbarred Attorney, Tax Preparer, New York City Department of Investigation Investigator, and Loan Originator

Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, together with New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, today announced that nine individuals have been variously charged with money laundering, mortgage fraud, grand larceny, conspiracy, and other charges related to their participation in a scheme to defraud mortgage lenders that spanned two New York City boroughs and resulted in over $1 million in ill-gotten mortgage loans.

Acting District Attorney Gonzalez said, “These defendants—among them a disbarred attorney, a tax preparer, a loan originator, and a New York City investigator—allegedly engaged in an elaborate scheme to manipulate the mortgage process by using lies, sham companies and fake documents to steal millions of dollars from lending institutions. Those who wish to profit from fraudulent and criminally dishonest business practices in Brooklyn will be fully investigated and prosecuted and we thank the New York State Attorney General’s Office for their diligence and hard work on this case.”

Attorney General Schneiderman said, “Our investigation uncovered a brazen and elaborate scheme to defraud mortgage lenders and steal over one million dollars. We have zero tolerance for anyone who tries to cheat the system – and we won’t hesitate to bring them to justice. I thank the Acting District Attorney for his partnership on this case.”

The defendants are Janelle Defreitas, 37, of Uniondale, Long Island; Raymond McKayle, 53, of East Flatbush; Lester Wayne Mackey, 63, of Wyandanch, New York; Darren Downes, 36, of Baldwin, New York; Jaipaul Persaud, 54, of Fresh Meadows, NY; Roxanne Harmon, 51, of Jamaica, New York; June Whyte, 54, of Ozone Park, New York; Rickley Gregoire, 33, of Brooklyn, New York; and Paula Blackwood-Sambury, 50, of Cambria Heights, New York. The defendants were variously charged with money laundering, grand larceny, residential mortgage fraud, offering false instruments for filing, conspiracy, and related charges before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun.

According to the indictment, from 2012 to 2015, defendants Defreitas, McKayle, Mackey, and Persaud allegedly engaged in a scheme to defraud mortgage lenders and steal mortgage proceeds. In the course of the scheme, the defendants allegedly used sham corporations to acquire title to four properties in Brooklyn and Queens, and then conspired with defendants Downes, Harmon, Whyte, Gregoire, and Blackwood-Sambury to obtain mortgages to “buy” the properties in manufactured resales. The defendants are alleged to have concealed the fact that the buyers couldn’t afford the homes by submitting fraudulent mortgage applications showing grossly inflated incomes from fake jobs, bank accounts with fabricated balances and other false information.

According to the investigation, Defreitas acquired title to properties located at 546 Chauncey Street in Ocean Hill, Brooklyn; 158 Tompkins Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn; 85-17 Sutter Avenue in Ozone Park, Queens; and 115-87 223rd in Cambria Heights, Queens, through shell corporations that included West North Capital, Inc., Housing Enhancement and Lifetime Planning (“HELP”), and others. Defreitas allegedly used defendants Downes, Whyte, Gregoire and Blackwood-Sambury to “purchase” the acquired real estate from Defreitas and her companies at significantly higher prices. To facilitate the sales, it is alleged that McKayle, a licensed mortgage loan originator, would direct Defreitas on how to alter and falsify material information in loan applications so that unqualified buyers would be approved for loans they could not afford.

According to the indictment, Persaud, a tax preparer, helped Defreitas establish sham corporations and then prepared fake pay stubs and W-2 statements purporting to show that the buyers worked for – and were paid by — the sham companies. In at least one instance, Persaud also allegedly altered income documents from a legitimate employer to show inflated earnings. McKayle, a mortgage loan originator, is alleged to have knowingly submitted the false and fraudulent applications and supporting documents to unsuspecting mortgage companies. It is also alleged that Mackey, a disbarred attorney, falsely represented that he had received the down payments that buyers were required to make; in fact, in some instances, the supposed down payments were provided by Defreitas, which Mackey sometimes helped to conceal by depositing checks into his attorney escrow account and then returning the funds to Defreitas. Mackey is also alleged to have represented Defreitas or the defendant buyers at the closings for most of the fraudulent real estate transactions.

In certain instances, it is alleged, the defendants would acquire properties via a short-sale—an option available for property owners who are unable to afford their mortgage payments and cannot sell the home for enough money to repay the mortgage. According to the investigation, Harmon, who is an investigator for the New York City Department of Investigation, owed approximately $512,000 on her mortgaged property at 85-17 Sutter Avenue. Harmon and Defreitas allegedly conspired to fraudulently apply for a short-sale via Harmon’s mortgage holder. Defreitas concealed her involvement by purporting to represent Harmon through one of the shell companies. Eventually, based on Harmon’s supposed hardship, the mortgage company agreed to a $100,000 short sale to West North Capital – which was also owned by Defreitas. As a result of misrepresentations made by Harmon and Defreitas to the mortgage company, Harmon’s debt was reduced by approximately $412,000, and Defreitas owned the property without a mortgage lien. A few months later, Defreitas and McKayle submitted a fraudulent mortgage application so that defendant June Whyte, Harmon’s sister-in-law, could “buy” the property from West North Capital. Whyte’s fraudulent application, including fake paystubs and W-2 statements created by Persaud, was approved and West North – and Defreitas — collected almost $400,000 in mortgage loan proceeds.

The investigation originated from a 2014 complaint to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit, as well as an automobile insurance fraud case handled by the New York State Attorney General’s Office involving Defreitas and Downes, for which Downes is currently incarcerated. It culminated in a joint investigation and prosecution of the mortgage fraud allegations by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau and the Real Estate Enforcement Unit of the Attorney General’s Criminal Division.

The Acting District Attorney asked that anyone who believes they may have been a victim of this scheme to contact the DA’s Action Center at 718-250-2340.

The charges against the defendants are allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The Acting District Attorney and the Attorney General thanked the Department of Investigation, the New York City Office of the Sherriff, the New York City Department of Finance, the New York State Department of State, and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance for their help in this investigation.

The case was investigated by Detective Investigator John Rodriguez, under the supervision of Jim Fenrich, Supervising Detective Investigator, and William Pettie, Deputy Chief Investigator, of the District Attorney’s Investigations Bureau and Investigator Steven Pratt under the supervision of Deputy Chief Investigator John McManus and Chief Investigator Dominick Zarrella, of the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

The case was also investigated former Forensic Auditor Matthew Croghan and Forensic Auditor Kristina Kojamanian, under the supervision of Chief Edward J. Keegan Jr. and Deputy Chief Sandy Bizzarro.

The case is being jointly prosecuted by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and the New York State Attorney General’s Office. The case is being handled by Assistant District Attorney Liz Kurtz, of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau and Assistant Attorney General Scott Mendelsohn, of the Attorney General’s Real Estate Enforcement Unit, who is cross-designated as an Assistant District Attorney in the Investigations Division, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Felice Sontupe, Chief of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, and Assistant District Attorney Richard Farrell, Chief of the Real Estate Fraud Unit, under the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.

The Attorney General’s Real Estate Enforcement Unit is headed by Special Counsel to the Criminal Justice Division, John Spagna, under the supervision of Public Integrity Bureau Chief Daniel Cort and Deputy Bureau Chief Stacy Aronowitz. Legal Support Analyst Allen George assisted in the prosecution of this case.

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An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.

 

Queens Man Sentenced to 76 Years to Life in Prison For Shooting Two Brownsville Security Guards, Killing One and Paralyzing the Other, after Invading Nearby Home

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, April 24, 2017

 

Queens Man Sentenced to 76 Years to Life in Prison
For Shooting Two Brownsville Security Guards,
Killing One and Paralyzing the Other, after Invading Nearby Home

Victims Shot Outside of Housing Complex Where They Worked

Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a 22-year-old Queens man has been sentenced to 76 years to life in prison following his conviction earlier this month on charges of second-degree murder, attempted murder, burglary and other charges for shooting two security guards – killing one and paralyzing the other – outside of a housing complex in Brownsville, after invading a nearby home and threatening two other people earlier that morning.

Acting District Attorney Gonzalez said, “The victims in this case were two innocent young men simply doing their jobs who got caught in the cross-hairs of gang-related violence. Gang members should be on notice that shootings like this will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Today’s lengthy sentence is well-deserved and necessary to protect the residents of Brooklyn.”

The Acting District Attorney identified the defendant as Antonio Mahon, 22, of Queens, New York. Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice ShawnDya Simpson today sentenced him to 76 years to life in prison. The defendant was convicted earlier this month of second-degree murder, second-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault, first-degree burglary, second-degree burglary, two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, two counts of second-degree assault, criminal possession of a firearm and second-degree menacing following a jury trial.

The Acting District Attorney said that, according to trial testimony, on November 28, 2014, at approximately 8:45 a.m., near Rockaway Avenue and Livonia Avenue in Brownsville, Brooklyn, the defendant, a member of the Bloods street gang, was walking down the sidewalk and approached two on-duty security guards employed at the nearby Riverdale Towers housing complex, home to several of the defendant’s rival gang members. The defendant passed the guards, turned around and fired two shots at point-blank range, striking one guard in the head and the other in the back.

The guard who was shot in the head, 30-year-old Aaron Locklear, died five days later, on December 3, 2014 at Brookdale Hospital. The guard shot in the back was treated at Kings County Hospital and is partially paralyzed from the waist down as a result of the shooting.

According to trial testimony, the shootings followed a home invasion and threats the defendant committed nearby earlier that morning. At approximately 2:30 a.m., the defendant chased a man associated with a rival gang into an apartment on Dumont Avenue. The defendant pointed a black and silver handgun at the man’s head and threatened to kill him. Then, shortly before the shootings, at approximately 8:30 a.m., at 330 Bristol Street, video surveillance recorded the defendant pointing a gun at another victim’s head.

A New York City Police Department investigation recovered two shell casings near the crime scene at Riverdale Towers, along with a loaded black and silver .40 caliber pistol in a garbage can less than a block away. Two shell casings were also recovered a block away from 330 Bristol Street. Ballistic analysis determined that all the recovered shell casings had been fired from the recovered pistol.

The defendant was arrested on January 9, 2015 inside a relative’s home in Queens. In a subsequent statement to NYPD detectives, he admitted to shooting two men with a black and silver handgun. He also was identified in a line-up by three witnesses.

The case was investigated by New York City Police Department Detective James Tillman of the 73rd Precinct Detective Squad.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Patrick O’Connor, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Violent Criminal Enterprises Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Nicole Chavis, Bureau Chief.

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Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez Announces New Policy Regarding Handling of Cases against Non-Citizen Defendants

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, April 24, 2017

 

Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez Announces New Policy
Regarding Handling of Cases against Non-Citizen Defendants

Will Aim to Prevent Collateral Consequences of Convictions by
Being Aware of Immigration Status of Defendants and Offering Appropriate Pleas;
Two Newly-Hired Immigration Attorneys will Train Staff and Advise on Offers

Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that his Office is implementing a new policy aimed at minimizing collateral immigration consequences of criminal convictions, particularly for misdemeanor and other low-level offenses. The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office has hired two immigration attorneys to train all staff on immigration issues and to advise prosecutors when making plea offers and sentencing recommendations on cases of non-citizen defendants in an effort to avoid disproportionate collateral consequences, such as deportation, while maintaining public safety.

Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Gonzalez said, “I am committed to equal and fair justice for all Brooklyn residents – citizens, lawful residents and undocumented immigrants alike. Now more than ever, we must ensure that a conviction, especially for a minor offense, does not lead to unintended and severe consequences like deportation, which can be unfair, tear families apart and destabilize our communities and businesses. In Brooklyn, we have been proactive in protecting immigrants from fraud and hate crimes and now, with the unprecedented hiring of immigration attorneys and the implementation of this policy, we continue to lead on this important issue.”

“I want to emphasize that our Office is not seeking to frustrate the federal government’s function of protecting our country by removing non-citizens whose illegal acts have caused real harm and endangered others. Rather, our goal is to enhance public safety and fairness in the criminal justice system and this policy complements, but does not compromise, this goal. We will not stop prosecuting crimes, but we are determined to see that case outcomes are proportionate to the offense as well as fair and just for everyone.”

The New York Immigration Coalition Executive Director Steven Choi said, “The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) congratulates Acting District Attorney Gonzalez on this significant initiative. This is an important step to protect Brooklyn’s large and diverse immigrant population. Misdemeanors and low-level offenses often trap immigrants who are unfamiliar with the legal process – and potentially expose them to harsh ‘double punishment’ of being deported and ripped from their families. The New York Immigration Coalition looks forward to the program’s success and eventual expansion. After all, this is our New York, one that fights for justice of all people.”

Hispanic Federation President Jose Calderon said, “”Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez’s decision to inform non-citizens of immigration-related consequences when facing possible criminal conviction is a game-changer and long overdue reform. For far too long, our justice system has carelessly triggered double jeopardy for immigrants, who were unaware of all their legal options that may impact their ability to remain with their families in this country. We applaud this new policy and hope it will serve as a national model for truly fair, humane justice for all.”

The Black Institute Founder and President Bertha Lewis said, “The Black Institute has been working on immigration issues from a black perspective for over seven years, and we are grateful and excited that DA Gonzalez has given recognition to this timely and extremely necessary matter. About a third of Brooklyn’s population hails from another country with Africans, Caribbean, Latinos, Afro-Latinos, Eastern Europeans, Mexicans, Asians and immigrants from every corner of the globe calling this borough home. We need to protect their rights now more than ever.”

The Acting District Attorney said that non-citizen defendants may face harsh immigration penalties as a result of criminal convictions, even for minor offenses. Lawful residents (green card holders or students, workers, visitors, refugees and asylees with valid visas) can face deportation, detention during removal proceedings, bars to re-admittance into the country and negative effects on applications for permanent residency or citizenship. A conviction for undocumented immigrants can make them a priority for deportation enforcement or eliminate the possibility of the cancellation of removal proceedings that might be otherwise available based on length of stay, marriage, extreme hardship and other factors.

According to federal law, four factors primarily affect how a conviction impacts a defendant’s immigration consequences: 1. Nature of the crime. Certain offenses, like those involving a controlled substance, domestic violence, firearms, crimes against a child and crimes of moral turpitude, are prioritized and can be determinative on how a state offense is treated for immigration purposes. For instance: some state misdemeanors, like possession of marijuana and petit larceny, are considered felonies for immigration purposes, while trespass and unauthorized use of a vehicle are not. 2. Length of sentence. Certain misdemeanor dispositions are tantamount to aggravated felonies for immigration purposes. 3. The length of the defendant’s stay in the United States. 4. Whether the defendant has prior convictions and the nature of such convictions.

Given the complexity of the law, a blanket set of guidelines is not applicable when attempting to prevent unintended collateral consequences, and any determination must be made on a case-by-case basis. Accordingly, the new policy instructs the following:

  • When reviewing a case, whether at the initial stages or further along its pendency, all staff must be alert to a defendant’s possible non-citizen status. If such possibility exists, the Assistant District Attorney must flag that fact to defense counsel and note that immigration consequences may be an issue.
  • In determining an appropriate plea offer or a sentencing recommendation after trial, every case must be evaluated on its merits so that justice is served. Among the several factors to be considered are the defendant’s present and future immigration status and any humanitarian factors, such as hardships if the defendant were deported. Whenever possible, if an appropriate disposition or sentence recommendation can be offered that neither jeopardizes public safety nor leads to removal or to any other disproportionate collateral consequence – the ADA should offer that disposition or make that recommendation.

    To reach an immigration-neutral disposition, ADAs may consider alternative offenses the defendant can plead to as well as reasonable modifications to the sentence recommendation. When possible, the alternative should be similar in level of offense and length of sentence to that offered to a citizen defendant, while the charge may be different. For example, a plea to a misdemeanor trespass may be offered when appropriate instead of a misdemeanor drug offense. In certain instances, it may be appropriate to offer a non-citizen defendant a plea for a lesser offense in light of the disproportionate immigration consequences a higher level offense may result in.

  • Two attorneys with specific expertise in immigration laws as well as broad knowledge of other collateral consequences (bars to housing, education opportunities, etc.) are joining the District Attorney’s staff. They will act as a resource to the entire Office, consulting on individual cases and providing targeted training to all ADAs.

The District Attorney’s Office recognizes that there may be times when crafting an immigration-neutral disposition would be very difficult and there may be stumbling blocks that cannot be overcome in certain cases. It also recognizes that many felony convictions, especially for violent felonies, will come attached with inevitable – and often appropriate – collateral immigration consequences. Finally, the policy complements current practices pursuant to New York City’s status as a sanctuary city, under which the Office does not share immigration status of victims and witnesses with federal authorities and encourages all residents to report crimes and cooperate with investigations without fear of reprisals.

The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office has done much to prevent immigrants from becoming victims of crime and to assist those who become victims. That includes well-attended Immigration Forums in several communities that are now being held on a monthly basis; an active Hate Crimes Unit and a robust Immigrant Fraud Unit that is specifically tasked with investigating crimes against immigrants; a regular review of U-Visa applications of witnesses and victims; a culturally diverse team of counselors in the Victims Services Unit; and more. The Office has also been responsive to defense attorneys’ requests to take immigration status of their clients into account when offering or reviewing dispositions.

The Acting District Attorney said that while these efforts have been important, prosecutors must do more and take a more proactive role in making sure that a conviction for a minor offense does not lead to a severe and unjust outcome.

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Disbarred Lawyer Sentenced to up to 22 Years in Prison for Stealing Over $1 Million through Fraudulent Real Estate Deals

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, April 21, 2017

 

Disbarred Lawyer Sentenced to up to 22 Years in Prison for
Stealing Over $1 Million through Fraudulent Real Estate Deals

Made Bogus Sales of Two Brooklyn Homes He didn’t Own by Pretending to Be an Attorney and Filing Forged Documents, Including Deed Falsely Claiming a House Was Sold to Him for $10

Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a disbarred lawyer from Staten Island was sentenced to 11 to 22 years in prison following a trial conviction for running long-term frauds in connection with two distressed properties in Brooklyn. The defendant, who graduated from Georgetown Law in 1987 and was convicted of felony larceny in 2001, stole over $1 million in the present case from a number of different victims, sometimes pretending to be a legitimate attorney when it suited his schemes.

Acting District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant can only be described as a financial predator, stealing as much money as he could from as many victims as he could find. Using his knowledge of the law, he repeatedly exploited the victims to enrich himself. I will not allow con artists to profit from Brooklyn’s rising home values, and my Office will continue to target shameful frauds like these.”

The Acting District Attorney identified the defendant as Domenick Crispino, 53, of Tottenville, Staten Island. He was sentenced today by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Alexander Jeong to an indeterminate term of 11 to 22 years in prison. The defendant was convicted on March 31, 2017, of numerous counts of second-degree grand larceny, third-degree grand larceny, first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and first degree falsifying business records, after a jury trial. Based on convictions in 2001 from three separate felony larceny indictments in Manhattan – conduct that caused him to be imprisoned for approximately six years and disbarred from the practice of law – he was adjudicated a predicate felon.

The Acting District Attorney said that, according to trial testimony, between February 15, 2011, and June 29, 2015, the defendant executed long-term frauds designed for personal profit, using two private homes in Brooklyn that were subject to foreclosure actions: 35 Bay 7th Street in Bath Beach and 1848 West 7th Street in Gravesend.

The defendant represented himself as an attorney and offered to help the elderly owner of the Bay 7th Street property keep the house despite missed mortgage payments. The homeowner, who was a frail 95-year-old and knew the defendant through a late son, was desperate to remain in the house he had lived in for many decades. According to the trial evidence, in June 2011, Crispino persuaded Bruce Abdenour, a close friend of the homeowner who had been helping with some of the loan payments, to assume ownership of the property and write checks to Meritus Group, a corporation that Crispino created. The defendant claimed that this corporation would hold the funds in escrow while the defendant negotiated the mortgage with the banks and secured a favorable discount on Abdenour’s behalf.

Through April 2013, Abdenour issued checks totaling $597,750 to Meritus and Crispino. The defendant stole every penny, writing checks to himself, making ATM and teller cash withdrawals, and making debit card purchases. After the homeowner died, Abdenour asked Crispino for proof that the payments were being properly held as promised. On February 28, 2014, the defendant emailed Abdenour a forged escrow agreement with Merrill Lynch, which had begun foreclosure proceedings.

In April 2014, Crispino sent a contract of sale to the lawyer for two sisters who were interested in buying the Bay 7th Street property. Crispino promptly stole a down payment from the sisters totaling $86,800. In December 2014, Abdenour was informed during the closing that the mortgage would have to be paid from the proceeds of the sale, not from the now-empty escrow account, and the sale was cancelled. Both Abdenour and the lawyer for the sisters subsequently reported Crispino to the District Attorney’s Office. The property was foreclosed on and sold in an auction in January 2015, with a mortgage surplus of about $400,000. In June 2015, the defendant filed a claim on that surplus, purportedly on behalf of Abdenour’s company – he had no authority to do so and did not obtain those funds.

Also in 2011, Crispino initiated a long-term fraud related to the West 7th Street property, which was the subject of a separate foreclosure proceeding. On February 15, 2011, he filed a forged deed with the city’s Department of Finance. According to this fictitious deed, the owner transferred a house – worth about $385,000 – to Crispino’s Meritus Group for just $10. In June 2012, the defendant stole a down payment of $47,500 from a husband and wife who wanted to buy the house. The couple tried repeatedly to get their money back from the supposed owner of the house, but were unable to do so.

On February 21, 2014, Crispino filed a fictitious satisfaction of mortgage for the West 7th property with the City Register, falsely claiming that the mortgage on the property had been paid. A few months later, in May 2014, he “sold” the same house, which he had never owned, to a different husband and wife, stealing $252,461.27

The Acting District Attorney said that, all told, the jury convicted Crispino of stealing a total of $981,436.27 from Abdenour and from the three potential buyers, the entirety of which he then spent on personal expenses. He also fraudulently induced a potential buyer to pay $112,000 to clear a lien on 1848 West 7th Street – a sum she would not have paid had she known of the true status of the property – for a total larceny of more than $1 million.

The case was investigated by Detective Investigator Jacqueline Klapak, of the District Attorney’s Investigations Bureau, under the supervision of Detective Investigator Michael Seminara, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Richard Farrell, Chief of the District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit. Paralegal Megan Carroll and Financial Investigator Arthur Criscione, assisted in the investigation.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Michael Spanakos, Chief of the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Bureau, and Senior Assistant District Attorney Adam Libove, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief of the Investigations Division.

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Two Defendants Charged with Stealing Over $375,000 from Banks In Money Order Forgery Scheme

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 20, 2017

 

Two Defendants Charged with Stealing Over $375,000 from Banks
In Money Order Forgery Scheme

Defendants Allegedly Deposited Forged Money Orders
And Withdrew Funds Before Banks Discovered the Forgeries

Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that two Brooklyn residents have been indicted on charges of grand larceny, criminal possession of forged instruments and related charges for forging United States Postal Service and Western Union money orders, depositing them into banks and withdrawing funds before the banks discovered that the money orders were fraudulent. In total, the defendants allegedly stole over $375,000 from three financial institutions.

Acting District Attorney Gonzalez said, “These defendants allegedly carried out an elaborate scheme to systematically steal hundreds of thousands of dollars. Financial crimes of this scale not only hurt our banks – they undermine the public’s trust in institutions we all rely upon for our livelihoods and our economy. I am determined that these two individuals be brought to justice for their alleged criminal actions.”

Postal Service Inspector in Charge Philip R. Bartlett said, “These individuals must have thought no one would catch on to their criminal activity. Let me be clear that when you misuse and damage the US Postal Service brand by using the Postal Money Order to steal from financial institutions, Postal Inspectors and their law enforcement partners will aggressively investigate these crimes and bring you to justice for your illegal activities.”

The Acting District Attorney identified the defendants as Jkwon Roney, 26, an alleged GS9 gang member, and Shanaya Nelson, 29, both of Brooklyn. The defendants were charged with first-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, third-degree grand larceny and criminal possession of forgery devices. Defendant Roney also was charged with second-degree grand larceny. Roney was arraigned yesterday before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun and was ordered held on $1 million bail. Nelson was arraigned before Judge Chun today and was ordered held on $10,000 bail.

The Acting District Attorney said that, according to the indictment, from approximately April 24, 2013 to January 6, 2017, the defendants allegedly engaged in a scheme to deposit forged United States Postal Service (USPS) money orders and forged Western Union (WU) money orders into accounts held at Bank of America, TD Bank and Citibank in Brooklyn and elsewhere, and then withdrew funds before the banks discovered the money orders were forged. In all instances included in the indictment either the bank deposits were made in Brooklyn, the bank accounts were opened in Brooklyn, the bank withdrawals were made in Brooklyn or the deposited money orders were unlawfully obtained in Brooklyn.

According to the indictment, to carry out the alleged scheme the defendants initially would steal money orders with no value or purchase money orders with low face values – from $1 to $6 – and then forge the money orders to reflect large face values of up to $1,000.

The defendants also allegedly took advantage of the common practice among financial institutions, including Bank of America, TD Bank, and Citibank, to permit funds from deposited instruments, such as checks or money orders, to be available to customers within a short time of deposit even if the deposited instrument had not yet cleared with the issuer. If the money order or check should fail to clear, and funds had already been used by the customer, then the banks incur losses when the customer does not repay the banks for the overdraft.

According to the indictment, from approximately February 10, 2016 to March 3, 2016, 111 USPS money orders were allegedly purchased as part of the scheme for face value amounts of between $1 and $6 from a single post office in Williamsburg, After purchase, most of these money orders were forged to reflect a $1,000 face value and deposited into approximately 20 accounts at Bank of America and TD Bank. Roney either purchased or deposited approximately 94 of these money orders. The funds from the deposited money orders were withdrawn or transferred from these accounts before the banks discovered the forgeries.

Further, according to the indictment, on September 26, 2016, in Oklahoma, Roney allegedly deposited 45 forged WU money orders into three different Bank of America accounts, all within a two-hour period. After the deposits, money was withdrawn or transferred from these Bank of America accounts. All three Bank of America accounts were opened in Brooklyn – two of them just days prior to the deposits.

In addition to the three banks, the defendants allegedly also used Community Financial, a retail check-cashing company, to cash money orders as part of their scheme.

According to the indictment, from approximately April 24, 2013 to June 7, 2014, Roney and Nelson allegedly cashed USPS money orders at Community Financial that were purchased with debit cards linked to bank accounts in which forged money orders were deposited. Specifically, these money orders were purchased using debit cards linked to a total of 22 accounts at Bank of America and Citibank that had forged USPS and WU money order deposits made the same day, or immediately before, the purchase of the cashed money orders. In one instance, both defendants separately cashed money orders at Community Financial that were bought with a debit card linked to the same Bank of America account. This account received forged WU money order deposits made earlier that day.

Finally, according to the indictment, from approximately April 8, 2014 to January 6, 2017, Roney allegedly deposited forged USPS and WU money orders into 13 additional accounts at Bank of America and then withdrew the money before Bank of America discovered that the deposits were forgeries. Regarding at least two of the accounts, Roney deposited the forged USPS money orders in Brooklyn.

Over the course of the scheme, the defendants allegedly stole approximately $306,498; $61,200 and $9,000 from Bank of America, Citibank and TD Bank, respectively, with a total of $376,698.

The case was investigated by United States Postal Inspection Service Inspector Joseph Marcus.

The case was investigated by, and is being prosecuted by, Senior Assistant District Attorney Ron Carny and Assistant District Attorney Paul Wooten, both of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Dana Roth, Deputy Chief, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief of the Investigations Division.

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An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.

 

Attorney Sentenced to State Prison for Stealing Almost $600,000 From the Estate of Deceased New York City Civil Court Judge

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 20, 2017

 

Attorney Sentenced to State Prison for Stealing Almost $600,000
From the Estate of Deceased New York City Civil Court Judge

Stolen Funds Include Proceeds from Sale of Historic Slave Theater in Bedford-Stuyvesant

Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Howard Beach attorney was sentenced to one to three years in state prison following his guilty plea earlier this year to second-degree grand larceny for siphoning off approximately $600,000 from an estate that he was hired to represent and using the funds for his personal expenses.

Acting District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant disregarded his duty to his client, stealing nearly all of the proceeds due to the estate of the beloved Hon. Judge Phillips, including from the sale of the historic Slave Theater. He’s now been held accountable for his brazen theft and shameful conduct.”

The Acting District Attorney said that the defendant, Frank Racano, 54, of Howard Beach, Queens, was sentenced today by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun to one to three years in prison and required to sign a judgment order or restitution for $587,160.56 payable to the estate of John Phillips, at the request of the District Attorney’s Office. Racano pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny in January.

The Acting District Attorney said that between February 2013 and May 2015, the defendant stole approximately $587,160.56 from the estate of New York City Civil Court Judge John L. Phillips, Jr., who died unmarried, childless and without a will on February 16, 2008.

The Acting District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on January 16, 2009, Samuel Boykin, a nephew by marriage, successfully petitioned the Kings County Surrogate to be appointed administrator of the estate.

In early 2010, Boykin hired Racano, a licensed attorney, to assist in the sale of the estate’s real estate holdings, which included the Slave Theater, located at 1215-1217 Fulton Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant and 10 Halsey Street, a vacant lot behind the theater. In 2012, the properties went into contract for a total of $2.2 million and the buyer paid the estate a down payment of $220,000. That check, payable to “Frank Racano, as attorney,” was deposited into the defendant’s attorney trust checking account.

Kings County Surrogate Diana Johnson approved the sale of the properties on December 19, 2012. On February 25, 2013, at the closing for the properties, the buyer’s attorney paid closing expenses and taxes that were owed on the property. The net proceeds of the sale, $517,339.65, were paid to the estate in two checks payable to “Frank Racano, as attorney.”

Racano deposited those two checks into his trust account, thus the total proceeds from the sale of the properties credited to the estate should have been $737,339.65. Between February 2013 and May 2015, Racano paid estate expenditures for tax assistance and other services totaling $150,179.09. During this same period, he wrote and cashed over 300 checks to himself in amounts ranging from $45 to $7,500, without authorization from the estate or the Court and completely depleted the account, stealing a total of $587,160.56.

The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Frank Dudis, of the District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Richard Farrell, Unit Chief, and Assistant District Attorney Felice Sontupe, Chief of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.

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Midwood Travel Agent Sentenced to State Prison for Stealing More Than $350,000 From Over 25 Pakistani Customers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, April 19, 2017

 

Midwood Travel Agent Sentenced to State Prison for Stealing
More Than $350,000 From Over 25 Pakistani Customers

Victims Missed Pilgrimages to Mecca and Family Visits When Defendant Failed to Book Trips

Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a travel agent in Midwood has been sentenced to two to six years in prison for stealing more than $350,000 from Pakistani immigrants for whom he was supposed to make travel arrangements. Instead, he pocketed their money.

Acting District Attorney Gonzalez said, “Many of the victims of this defendant were hardworking Pakistani immigrants who were cheated out of a lifelong dream of taking a pilgrimage to Mecca. Today’s prison sentence is a small measure of justice for them, but represents my Office’s commitment to protecting the immigrant community from con men who seek to prey on them.”

The Acting District Attorney said that the defendant, Junaid Mirza, 51, of Brooklyn, was sentenced today to two to six years in state prison today by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun following his guilty plea earlier this month to one count of third-degree grand larceny.

The Acting District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, between July 2011 and September 2015, the defendant, at various times, owned and operated travel agencies, doing business as Travel Treat and Pearl Travel, that specialized in the sale of travel packages to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and airline tickets to Pakistani immigrants. He advertised discounted trips and tickets in widely-read Urdu language newspapers such as the Pakistan Post and Urdu Times, and in pamphlets distributed in mosques.

All physically and financially capable Muslims must make at least one Hajj, or trip to Mecca, in the fall, once in their lifetime. A Muslim cannot incur debt for their Hajj, making this for many a once-in-a-lifetime event. An Umrah is a pilgrimage to Mecca that can be taken at any time of the year. Among the victims are taxi cab drivers, home health aides, postal workers and Uber drivers.

It is alleged that the defendant stole amounts ranging from approximately $1,075 to $14,000 from his victims, many of whom he spoke to in Urdu, gaining their trust. The victims paid more than $6,000 per person for a Hajj package, which was supposed to include round-trip airfare, hotels and visas.

The Acting District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, Mirza defrauded his customers in various ways, including guaranteeing low fares in exchange for payment by cash or check, which he would deposit the same day, but failed to provide airline tickets, or in some instances provided victims with receipts and printouts, which he claimed were tickets.

Some of the victims realized he had not purchased tickets when they called the airline to arrange a special meal or to change a seat number or when they arrived at the airport.

The Acting District Attorney thanked United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and Homeland Security Investigations for their assistance in the investigation.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Jose Interiano, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Immigrant Fraud Unit, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Kin Ng, formerly Chief of the Immigrant Fraud Unit and currently Chief of the District Attorney’s Red Zone Trial Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief of the Investigations Division.

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