Fare Beater To Serve 25 Years In Prison For Shooting Cop In Leg

Prosecutors today announced that a 29-year-old Brooklyn man has pleaded guilty to aggravated assault on a police officer for shooting a New York City Police Department officer in the leg after the cop and his partner, who were both in uniform, stopped the man for boarding a bus without paying his fare. The defendant is expected to be sentenced to 25 years in prison in September.

District Attorney Thompson said, “This defendant showed utter contempt for police officers when he opened fire on them three times over a fare beating stop. He deserves the 25-year prison term that he will get in September.”
The District Attorney identified the defendant as, Rashun Robinson, 29, of 692 East 48th Street, in East Flatbush. The defendant today pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated assault on a police officer before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Alan Marrus who indicated he would sentence the defendant to a determinate term of 25 years in prison when he is sentenced on September 3, 2014.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, the shooting stemmed from an incident that occurred on February 26, 2014, at approximately 5 p.m., in the vicinity of Empire Boulevard and Utica Avenue, when Police Officer James Li and Police Officer Randy Chow observed the defendant entering the rear of a New York City Transit Authority B46 bus and ordered the defendant to get off of the bus. The defendant got off of the bus and ran across Empire Boulevard, turned and fired multiple shots at both officers, striking Officer Li in the leg and groin.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, both officers returned fire. The defendant was not hit. He was apprehended in a stairwell on Schenectady Avenue shortly after the shooting by officers assigned to the 71st precinct. The defendant had a .45 caliber handgun in his hand when he was caught. Three .45 caliber shell casings were recovered.

Officer Li, who graduated from the Police Academy two months prior to the shooting and was assigned to the 71st precinct, suffered significant nerve damage to his leg and walks with a cane. It is unknown at this time whether the nerve damage is permanent.

Greenfield Fights for More Parking at Avenue L Mega Development

Councilman David G. Greenfield spoke out against a request for a reduction in required parking spaces at a new office and retail building soon coming to Coney Island Avenue and Avenue L. The proposed mega development at 1504 Coney Island Avenue will bring over 160,000 square feet of new development to the intersection. The plans include a 49,332 square foot department store, 23,737 square feet of additional retail space, 3,413 of office space, 56,569 square feet of health care facilities 28,314. Zoning regulations for this site would require a minimum of 346 parking spaces due to the large size of the project. However, the developer has asked the Board of Standards and Appeals to provide only 272 parking spaces. That would mean 74 less parking spaces for the neighborhood.

This project is across the street from the popular Pomegranate Supermarket. Local residents know this intersection is already the most traffic-congested intersection in all of Midwood. Every parking space available is essential, and in an effort to prevent an exacerbation of current problems Councilman Greenfield is pushing back against the applicant’s request to provide less parking for the new facility which is sure to bring more traffic to Coney Island Ave.

“I frequently drive by Avenue L & Coney Island Avenue and am stuck among double and triple-parked cars. It’s really ridiculous that anyone would suggest that the lack of parking is not a problem in this neighborhood. That is why I am fighting to make sure the community gets the required amount of parking for this new mega development,” said Councilman David G. Greenfield.

On Tuesday a representative from Councilman Greenfield’s office testified in opposition to the requested parking reduction at the BSA and cited the frequent nuisances local residents already face, such as driveways blocked by parked cars, as examples of why any development in the area must provide sufficient parking for its patrons.
Community Board 12 District Manager Barry Spitzer also testified before the BSA in opposition to the project. The zoning committee of Community Board 12 and the full community board also voted down this plan.

“I have no doubt that a failure to provide the necessary parking spaces along this stretch of Coney Island Avenue will generate hardship for the residents of Midwood,” said Barry Spitzer, District Manager of Community Board 12.

The current proposed development at 1504 Coney Island Avenue can be built as of right, which means there is no community approval process for what sort of building or offices may go up on the site. The community does have a role in approving special requests made of the city by the developer for relief of zoning requirements, such as a reduction in parking requirements.  The Board of Standards and Appeals, which consists of a Chair and several Commissioners, is charged with reviewing these requests and the public has the opportunity to give testimony before the board. Councilman Greenfield will continue to advocate that the Board of Standards and Appeals to reject the developer’s request to reduce parking in this neighborhood.

Brooklyn Fundraiser Who Solicited Donations For Fraudulent Charities In The Name Of Israeli Causes Convicted

Yaakov Weingarten

Prosecutors today announced the felony tax fraud conviction of Yaakov Weingarten and a more than $520,000 civil judgment lodged against him and his wife for activities related to the Brooklyn-based charitable fundraising ring he operated, which solicited donations from thousands of donors for phony not-for-profit organizations. The judgment, signed by Kings County Supreme Court Justice Carolyn Demarest on Wednesday, resolves a civil lawsuit filed by Attorney General Schneiderman’s office last year against Weingarten and his wife, Rivka, who are alleged to have been the biggest beneficiaries of the scheme and are, under the judgment, required to pay $522,315. Approximately $360,000 of those funds will go to two Israeli charitable organizations that carry out genuine programs similar to the causes for which Weingarten’s fraudulent solicitations raised donations from the public.

The judgment also permanently bars Weingarten and his associates, Simon Weiss and David Yifat, from any fundraising activities or other charitable activities in the State of New York.

Weingarten pleaded guilty May 19 in Brooklyn Supreme Court before Judge Matthew A. Sciarrino to Criminal Tax Fraud in the Third Degree, a Class D felony. He paid $90,685 in restitution to the state Department of Taxation and Finance, and on June 23, he was sentenced to five years’ probation. As a condition of his felony probation, Weingarten is forbidden from engaging in any charitable fundraising activities for five years.

In June 2013, the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau filed a civil lawsuit and obtained a temporary restraining order closing Weingarten’s fundraising operation, which Weingarten, together with associates Weiss and Yifat, ran out of a Brooklyn storefront at 1493 Coney Island Avenue. According to the suit, Weingarten, Weiss and Yifat raised donations for 19 sham charities from Jewish donors throughout North America, ostensibly for Israeli charitable causes such as emergency medical services and programs for sick children, terror attack survivors, cancer victims, and the poor. Large amounts of the money raised — an estimated $2 million — was then withdrawn from charity bank accounts. Some of that money was used to pay workers operating Weingarten’s Brooklyn telemarketing boiler room. Other funds were used by Weingarten and his family to pay for personal expenses, such as mortgages, dentist bills, car loans, and home improvements. The complaint also detailed gross mismanagement of charitable assets by Weingarten, including extensive mixing of charitable and personal funds and of funds raised for one charitable cause with those raised for another, which is barred by law. More information on the lawsuit is available here.

Under the order, Weiss, 29, and Yifat, 68, are also permanently barred from charitable fundraising in New York.

As part of his guilty plea, Weingarten, 53, admitted that between approximately June 2007 and June 2012, he solicited charitable donations for multiple entities, many of which did not exist, and obtained donations from thousands of donors. He further admitted that from January 2009 through December 2011, he paid over $270,000 in personal expenses from bank accounts set up in the names of the purported charities, including mortgages on his two homes, various home improvements, and Cablevision and Con Edison bills. Weingarten admitted that with intent to evade New York State taxes, he failed to report this money as income on his 2009, 2010 and 2011 tax returns.

On Wednesday, Justice Carolyn Demarest signed the Attorney General’s civil judgment. It permanently shuts down Weingarten’s operation and requires Weingarten and his wife, also 53, to pay a total of $522,315. Of that, $360,000 will go to the United Jewish Appeal/Federation of New York, to be distributed equally to Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel, the preeminent pediatric hospital in Israel, and United Hatzalah of Israel, a leading Israeli volunteer emergency medical services organization. The remaining portion of the judgment payment is for penalties and costs to New York State.

The judgment also requires the dissolution of 11 incorporated entities Mr. Weingarten used to implement his fraudulent fundraising scheme. These entities include four “religious corporations” that on paper purported to be synagogues but in reality were mere shells that helped hide much of his activity behind a cloak of religious freedom. Weingarten also made up names of eight other entities, which were never incorporated, and used those names in his scheme. The 19 Brooklyn entities are permanently barred from operating under the order. They are: Hatzalah Rescue of Israel, Inc.; Shearim, Inc.; Bnei Torah, Inc.; Chesed L’Yisrael V’Chasdei Yosef, Inc.; Yad L’Shabbat, Inc.; Hatzalah Shomron, Inc.; Pulse Foundation, Inc.; Agudath Chesed Bikur Cholim Israel, Inc.; Kupat Reb Meir Baal Haness Bnei Torah Eretz Yisrael, Inc.; Congregation Yad L’Shabbat, Inc.; Shearim Hayad L’Torah Center for Hatzalah L’Shabbat and Chesed L’Yisrael, Inc.; Israel Emergency Center; Magen Israel; Hayad Victim Assistance Fund; Lmaan Hatorah; Our Children; Zaka Israel; Yaldel Simcha Yisrael; and Yad Yisrael.


Brooklyn Man Charged With Stealing Over $42,000 From 87-Year-Old Woman

Prosecutors today announced that a Brooklyn man has been charged with grand larceny and criminal possession of a forged instrument in the theft of $42,500 from an 87-year-old retired social worker he befriended and drove on errands.

District Attorney Thompson said, “This defendant allegedly ran a scam and preyed on a vulnerable woman who trusted him. We will not tolerate such shameful acts of elder fraud anywhere in Brooklyn.”

Ariel Lemos Hernandez, 41, of 625 Ocean Avenue, in Flatbush, is presently awaiting arraignment in Brooklyn Criminal Court on a criminal complaint charging him with one count of third-degree grand larceny and 17 counts of second-degree possession of a forged instrument. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.

According to the criminal complaint, the victim, Margaret O’Donnell, met Hernandez in 2012 when Hernandez was employed as a car service driver. O’Donnell became friendly with Hernandez and frequently wrote him checks for car service trips and for what she believed were emergency car repairs, totaling $59,000, between May 2012 and March 2014.

But beginning in November 2013 through April 2014, Hernandez is accused of stealing $42,500 from O’Donnell by writing 17 checks against her account payable to himself for $2,500 each.

A review of Hernandez’s bank accounts shows the checks going into his account and about $42,000 cash being removed from the account via ATM withdrawals. About $400 was a debit charge at a restaurant.

The case was investigated by Detective Investigator Anthony Schembri of the Kings County District Attorney’s Office, under the supervision of Chief John Bilich.

10 Year Old Girl Drowned While Swimming In Coney Island

A 10-year-old Staten Island girl has drowned while swimming in the waters off Coney Island.

Police say Takara McDuffy and her 9-year-old girl were pulled from the water by good Samaritans after struggling in the water near Stillwell Avenue on Coney Island Beach at about 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Police say McDuffy was taken to Coney Island Hospital where she was pronounced dead. Her sister was not injured. (more…)

Mysterious White Flags Appear Atop Brooklyn Bridge

bkbridgewhiteflagSomeone has replaced two American flags on the Brooklyn Bridge with mysterious white flags.

The white flags – international symbols of surrender – fluttered Tuesday from poles on the stone supports that hold cables above the bridge connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan.

One of the flags, viewed via video, appeared to have faint traces of stars and stripes on it.

Police say it isn’t clear what time they were placed there – or by whom.

Several officers scaled the bridge and were seen lowering the flag on the Manhattan side around 11 a.m. as traffic inched along the bridge.

The bridge is one of the most heavily secured landmarks in the city, constantly monitored by surveillance cameras.

The city’s Department of Transportation is referring all queries to the New York Police Department. (more…)