Drunk Driver Sentenced to Up to 9 Years in Prison for Crash That Fatally Pinned Coworker at South Slope Job Site

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, August 15, 2019

 

Drunk Driver Sentenced to Up to 9 Years in Prison for Crash
That Fatally Pinned Coworker at South Slope Job Site

Defendant Pleaded Guilty to Manslaughter in the Second Degree

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a 36-year-old Bronx man has been sentenced to three to nine years in prison following his guilty plea to manslaughter for fatally pinning a coworker against a wall while drunkenly trying to park a van at a South Slope job site.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant’s recklessness in drinking and driving took the life of a beloved man who was a husband, a father and a brother. The defendant’s actions changed the lives of his victim’s devastated family forever, leaving them heartbroken. He has now been held accountable for this senseless death.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Leonel Ortega-Flores, 36, of Fordham Heights in the Bronx. He was sentenced today to three to nine years in prison by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Martin Murphy. The defendant pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Matthew Sciarrino on August 1, 2019.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on June 30, 2018, at approximately 8:03 p.m., the defendant went to park a 2004 GMC Savannah van after drinking four to five Corona beers with coworkers at a jobsite on 21st Street near 4th Avenue in the South Slope section of Brooklyn. The investigation revealed that the defendant, who was unlicensed, floored the gas pedal, drove the van onto the sidewalk and struck the victim, Jose Cardoso, 32. The crash pinned the victim, who had unlocked and opened a garage gate for the van to enter, between the front of the van and the wall of a warehouse.

The victim was taken to Lutheran Hospital where he died. The defendant fled the scene following the crash, returning to his home in the Bronx where he was arrested later that evening. The defendant identified himself in still photos taken from surveillance video at the scene.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Michael Boykin and Assistant District Attorney Queenie Paniagua, of the District Attorney’s Green Zone Trial Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney James Lin, Bureau Chief, and overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney David Klestzick, Deputy Chief of the Trial Division.

 

Long Island Man and California Lawyer Indicted for Allegedly Conspiring to Steal Over $250,000 From Three Victims in Fraudulent Scheme

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, August 14, 2019

 

Long Island Man and California Lawyer Indicted for Allegedly Conspiring to Steal Over $250,000 From Three Victims in Fraudulent Scheme

Allegedly Told Victims that Defendant’s Son was Critically Ill and
Urgently Needed Funds for Treatment Overseas

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that two men have been indicted on charges of grand larceny, scheme to defraud and money laundering for allegedly conspiring to steal over $250,000, using fraudulent claims about an investment opportunity, a real estate sale and a gravely ill child to induce three people to lend or pay them money. It is alleged that the defendants falsely claimed that the victims’ money would be used to pay for life-saving medical treatment for one defendant’s son, and further claimed that the victims would be compensated when the defendant inherited a valuable estate from his elderly, dying uncle.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “These defendants allegedly preyed on the sympathy of their victims to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars. I strongly encourage anyone considering investing money or purchasing real estate to be prudent and look into the backgrounds of those with whom they are doing business.”

The District Attorney identified the defendants as Douglas Mills, 57, of Baldwin, New York and an indicted co-conspirator who was arrested yesterday in California and is awaiting extradition. Mills was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on a six-count indictment in which he is charged with fourth-degree conspiracy, second-degree grand larceny, first-degree scheme to defraud and second- and third-degree money laundering. He was ordered held on bail of $20,000 bond or $10,000 cash and to return to court on October 16, 2019. The defendants face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the top count.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, the defendants allegedly conspired to induce the victims to lend or pay them money based on fraudulent representations that Mills’ young son was critically ill and required medical treatment at a clinic overseas. The defendants also falsely claimed that Mills would soon inherit a property on Ninth Street, in Brooklyn, which was owned by his uncle. It is alleged that Mills’ son was not ill and did not require treatment overseas, and that Mills’ uncle did not own the Brooklyn property.

In December 2016, Mills allegedly told the first victim, who he met through a mutual acquaintance, that he urgently needed $150,000 to bring his young son to Switzerland, where the boy could receive treatment for his life-threatening illness. Mills proposed an investment opportunity, whereby the victim would lend Mills $150,000 to pay for the medical treatment, and Mills would repay the victim $300,000 within a few months. According to the investigation, Mills claimed that he would be able to repay the victim when he inherited his uncle’s property on Ninth Street.

The indictment further alleges that the indicted co-conspirator, an attorney, claimed to represent Mills. The attorney sent the victim documents that purported to formalize the investment agreement and assured him that he would be paid $300,000 by April 2017. As a result of the defendants’ representations, the victim wired $150,000 to his attorney trust account. The day he received the funds, the co-defendant allegedly transferred $80,000 from his trust account to other accounts he owned or controlled at the same bank and transferred an additional $55,000 to outside accounts held by other entities.

The victim was not repaid in April 2017. Instead, Mills and the co-defendant allegedly offered the victim a series of excuses, including the claim that Mills’ uncle had died, but that the defendants did not have access to Mills’ inheritance because the estate had not been settled.

The indictment further alleges that, later in 2017, Mills and the co-defendant stole approximately $116,000 from two more victims, a married couple who were looking to purchase a home in Brooklyn. Mills allegedly claimed, again, that he would inherit the property on Ninth Street after his uncle passed away and offered to sell it to the victims for approximately $100,000 on the condition that the husband pay immediately. As with the first victim, Mills and the co-defendant allegedly told the couple that Mills needed the money to cover the cost of his son’s medical treatment at a clinic in Switzerland. Mills also allegedly told the victim that he would pay him $425,000 if he was unable to deliver the title to the Ninth Street property for any reason. The defendant asked for a cashier’s check for $34,000 and accompanied the victim to his bank, where he received the money. The following day, at Mills’ direction, the victim allegedly wired $72,000 to the co-defendant’s attorney trust account.

The co-defendant allegedly sent the victim and his wife a fraudulent real estate contract memorializing Mills’ agreement to sell the victim the Ninth Street property, and personally guaranteed that the victim would be paid $425,000 if Mills was unable to deliver the title for any reason.

Several months later, Mills allegedly told the victim’s wife that he needed $10,000 to fly to Switzerland to be with his son, who was on his deathbed. The defendant went to the victim’s wife’s workplace to receive the money and allegedly said he would repay her within weeks, when his uncle finally passed away. The victims did not receive title to the property and were never repaid.

Anyone who believes they were victimized by these defendants should call the District Attorney’s Action Center at 718-250-2340.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Kurtz, of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Richard Farrell, Chief of the District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit, Assistant District Attorney Michel Spanakos, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.

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

 

Brooklyn Contractor Indicted for Allegedly Stealing over $700,000

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, August 13, 2019

 

Brooklyn Contractor Indicted for Allegedly Stealing over $700,000 by Charging Midwood Couple for Construction Work That Wasn’t Performed

Allegedly Made Fraudulent Misrepresentations About Permits and Other Required Expenses; Spent Money on Travel, Fine Dining, Luxury Apparel and More

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Brooklyn contractor has been charged in a 55-count indictment with larceny and forgery for allegedly stealing over $700,000 from a Midwood couple by charging them for a large-scale home renovation project but performing little to no work.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant allegedly engaged in a lengthy and brazen scheme that took advantage of homeowners who put their trust in him. We will continue to investigate fraud and corruption in the construction industry and to seek justice for those who are victimized by unscrupulous or dishonest contractors.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Steven Crystal, 45, of Midwood, Brooklyn, who is the owner of House Doctor LLC. He was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on a 55-count indictment in which he is charged with second-, third-, and fourth-degree grand larceny and second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. He was ordered held on bail of $50,000 bond or $25,000 cash and to return to court on October 29, 2019.

The District Attorney said that between December 2012 and February 2018, the defendant allegedly devised a series of schemes to defraud a Midwood couple who hired him to perform minor repairs to their home. The scope of work soon expanded to include the following projects: excavation and renovation of the basement in order to create a medical office for the male victim’s practice; building a six-story extension to the two-story home with a parapet wall; construction of an enclosed balcony with a retractable roof; repair of various leaks from the old roof; installation of an elevator; and installation of new gas and water lines.

The investigation found that the victims wrote over 300 checks to the defendant, based upon various fraudulent misrepresentations regarding the construction and renovation of their home. For instance: the defendant allegedly asked for money to pay for environmental reviews, architectural designs, construction permits and much more. To bolster the scheme, the defendant allegedly sent emails purportedly from government and other entities to show the necessity of the funds and presented the victims with other requests for fees that were actual forgeries. Furthermore, multiple checks written to the defendant by the victims were visibly altered and re-deposited multiple times into his accounts, the investigation found.

As a result of these multifaceted schemes, the victims lost over $700,000 in total.

A forensic analysis of the defendant’s bank records indicated that, unbeknownst to the victims, he utilized all of the funds for his own personal gain, including: $225,000 in ATM withdrawals; over $38,000 in purchases from Coach, Diane von Furstenburg, Oscar de la Renta, Burberry and other luxury retailers; $6,000 on flights; dinners at Tao, the Russian Tea Room and other restaurants; and more.

There were no debits on his accounts from the NYC Department of Buildings, the NYC Board of Standards & Appeals, the NYC Department of Transportation or the Department of Environmental Protection, nor were any permits issued by any of those agencies. In addition, there were no debits against his accounts for the various vendors and subcontractors that he represented were working on the numerous projects on the property. There were only $9,000 in expenses on building materials. While the defendant initially made some cosmetic repairs, little to no work was ever performed on the property.

The case was investigated by a Detective Investigator from the District Attorney’s Investigations Bureau, Supervising Financial Investigator Deborah Wey of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division, and Detective William Wilson of the New York City Police Department’s 70th Precinct Detective Squad.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Deidre Moskowitz with the assistance of Assistant District Attorney David Vargas, of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, under the supervision of Senior Assistant District Attorney Laura Neubauer, of the Frauds Bureau, and Assistant District Attorney Gavin Miles, Counsel to the Frauds Bureau, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.

 

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

 

Former NBA Player Sebastian Telfair Sentenced to 3½ Years in Prison

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, August 12, 2019

 

Former NBA Player Sebastian Telfair Sentenced to 3½ Years in Prison
For Possession of Loaded Gun

Defendant Arrested Following Traffic Stop in Brooklyn

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that former National Basketball Association player Sebastian Telfair has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison for gun possession. He was convicted of criminal possession of a weapon in April. Police recovered a loaded gun from his vehicle during a traffic stop in Prospect Heights in July 2017.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant exercised his right to a jury trial and was found guilty of possessing an illegal firearm. The mandatory prison sentence he received today is required by law and he has now been held accountable for the unlawful conduct.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Sebastian Telfair, 33, of Orlando, Florida. He was sentenced today to three and a half years in prison by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice John Hecht. The defendant was convicted of one count of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon in April following a jury trial.

The District Attorney said that, according to trial testimony, on June 11, 2017, at approximately 2:50 a.m., officers in an unmarked police car saw a Ford F-150 parked on a center median at Atlantic Avenue and Classon Avenue in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. The pickup truck then made a U-turn off of the median, in front of the police and continued to drive down Atlantic Avenue without turning on its headlights. When officers approached to perform a traffic stop, the smell of marijuana was present, as was a lit marijuana cigarette in the car’s console, according to testimony.

Telfair was observed in the driver’s seat, and a second man was seated in the front passenger seat. Following the arrest, police conducted a search of the truck and recovered a loaded .45 caliber gun in the console.

The case was additionally investigated by Detective Investigators assigned to the Kings County District Attorney’s Office.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Alfred DeIngeniis, Chief of the District Attorney’s Violent Criminal Enterprises Bureau and Senior Assistant District Attorney James Slattery, also of VCE, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.

 

Brooklyn Man Sentenced to 1 ½ to 3 Years in Prison for Three Hate Crime Attacks in Three Days Against White Men

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, August 7, 2019

 

Brooklyn Man Sentenced to 1 ½ to 3 Years in Prison for Three Hate Crime Attacks in Three Days Against White Men

Defendant Targeted the Victims Because of Their Race in Three Separate Neighborhoods

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a 40-year-old Brooklyn man has been sentenced to one-and-a-half to three years in prison for three racially motivated attacks against white men during a three-day crime spree in July 2018. He pleaded guilty to third-degree assault as a hate crime in May.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “As hate-fueled speech continues to emanate from the highest levels of government, leading to despicable acts of violence, it is important to set a different tone in Brooklyn where we will not tolerate hate crimes against anyone. This defendant attacked his victims based on the color of their skin. There is no place for discrimination or violence against anyone based on race, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity or religious practice. The defendant has now been held accountable for threatening our residents and their safety.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Kevin Raphael, 40, of East New York, Brooklyn. He was sentenced to one-and-a-half to three years in prison today by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun. The defendant pleaded guilty to third-degree assault as a hate crime on May 1, 2019.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, the defendant assaulted or menaced three white males in the following incidents:

• On Sunday, July 29, 2018, at approximately 1 p.m., near Empire Boulevard and Rogers Avenue, the defendant approached a 30-year-old man who was walking with his pregnant wife and stated: “What are you looking at? What are you looking for? I kill white (expletive) like you,” while motioning to his waistband, leading the victim to believe the defendant had a weapon. The defendant then motioned to his backpack and stated: “I will kill every white (expletive) around here.”

• On Monday, July 30, 2018, at approximately 9:55 a.m., on the B25 bus near Fulton and Bond Streets, the defendant approached a 29-year-old law student who was sitting on the bus, punched him in the face and stated: “I hate all you white (expletive). You’re a (expletive).” Defendant then exited the bus at the next stop. The victim suffered redness and bruising to his face and eye.

• On Tuesday, July 31, 2018, at approximately 6:30 p.m., on the B41 bus at Flatbush Avenue and Kings Highway, the defendant approached a 59-year-old man who was seated on the bus and repeatedly struck him about the head while making anti-white comments including: “You white (expletive) think you got it like that. You white (expletive).” The victim suffered bruising and redness to his face and eye, as well as a concussion.

The case was investigated by New York City Police Detective Oscar Fernandez of the Hate Crimes Task Force, under the supervision of Sergeant Charles Senat.

The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Adriana Rodriguez and Senior Assistant District Attorney Prabhalya Pulim, of the District Attorney’s Hate Crimes Bureau, and Assistant District Attorney Paul Gentile of the District Attorney’s Red Zone Trial Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Kelli Muse, Hate Crimes Bureau Chief, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Joseph P. Alexis, Chief of the Trial Division.

 

Drunk Driver Sentenced to 7 to 21 Years in Prison for Wrong Way Collision on Belt Parkway

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, August 7, 2019

 

Drunk Driver Sentenced to 7 to 21 Years in Prison for Wrong Way Collision on Belt Parkway That Killed Passenger in Lyft And Severely Injured Two Others

Defendant Pleaded Guilty to Aggravated Vehicular Homicide

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a 51-year-old Sheepshead Bay man has been sentenced to seven to 21 years in prison following his guilty plea in June to aggravated vehicular homicide for causing a head-on collision with a Lyft share vehicle while driving drunk that killed one passenger and severely injured a second passenger and the Lyft driver on the Belt Parkway in July 2018. The impact of the collision catapulted one passenger into the front seat and caused the car to go up on to the guardrail.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant recklessly and illegally got behind the wheel of a car after drinking heavily, taking the life of a young man and seriously injuring two other people. He has now been held accountable for his criminal conduct. I am committed to keeping Brooklyn’s roads safer for all people.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Aleh Sheipak, 51, of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. He was sentenced today to seven to 21 years in prison by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun. The defendant pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide and aggravated driving while intoxicated before Justice Chun on June 5, 2019.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on July 12, 2018, at approximately 1:51 a.m., the defendant, who was alone in his car, was observed driving his 2011 Volkswagen Tiguan eastbound on the westbound lane of the Belt Parkway. The investigation revealed that the defendant drove over two miles in the wrong direction and collided head-on with a 2018 Honda Accord Lyft at Exit 3, near the Verrazzano Bridge entrance ramp of the Belt Parkway. The impact of the collision caused the Honda to land on the guardrail in the center median.

Furthermore, one of the passengers, 27-year-old Gerald Obah, was trapped in the back seat, while a second passenger, a 29-year-old woman, was catapulted into the front seat. The 20-year-old driver also suffered significant injuries. While at the scene the defendant showed signs of intoxication. The defendant failed a sobriety test administered by responding officers. The two injured passengers, who were coming from John F. Kennedy Airport, were transported to NYU Langone Hospital, where Obah was pronounced dead. The woman was treated for multiple fractures and lacerations to her head, hip and leg. Both drivers were taken to Maimonides Hospital, where the defendant was treated for minor injuries and the Lyft driver was treated for a broken leg, jaw fracture, and lacerations to the face.

A warrant was obtained for the defendant’s blood and an analysis revealed that the defendant’s blood alcohol content at the time of the collision was in excess of .18, more than twice the legal limit.

The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Joseph Mancino, of the District Attorney’s Blue Zone Trial Bureau and Assistant District Attorney Theresa Shanahan, Deputy Chief of the Blue Zone, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Robert Walsh, Bureau Chief. Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Nocella, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Vehicular Crimes Unit and Assistant District Attorney Craig Esswein, Chief of the Vehicular Crimes Unit, assisted in the prosecution.

 

Brooklyn Man Arraigned on Indictment Charging Him with Murder For Fatal Shooting in Sunset Park

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, August 2, 2019

 

Brooklyn Man Arraigned on Indictment Charging Him with Murder
For Fatal Shooting in Sunset Park

Defendant Allegedly Dropped Victim Off at his Home,
Returned Hours Later and Shot Him Twice in the Face

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a 41-year-old Brooklyn man has been arraigned on an indictment in which he is charged with second-degree murder for allegedly fatally shooting a man inside the victim’s Sunset Park residence, a single room occupancy hotel.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant allegedly planned his attack and callously executed the victim as he was asleep in his bed. We intend to prosecute this case vigorously to hold the defendant fully accountable for taking a life.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Sam Chen, 41, of Sunset Park, Brooklyn. He was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Vincent Del Giudice on an indictment in which he is charged with one count of second-degree murder and two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. The defendant was ordered held without bail and to return to court on October 4, 2019. He faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted of the top count.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on June 26, 2019, at approximately 8:16 a.m., the defendant was captured on video surveillance driving a 2014 Nissan NV3 at 51st Street, near 7th Avenue, in Sunset Park. He and the victim then allegedly got out of the vehicle and entered the victim’s residence; the defendant was captured leaving the residence shortly thereafter.

At approximately 12:45 p.m., the defendant was allegedly captured on surveillance video returning to the residence, putting on a surgical mask and entering the victim’s building. Soon after, he was allegedly captured on surveillance video leaving the building and still wearing the surgical mask.

The victim’s body was discovered in his bed two days later, on June 28, 2019, at approximately 1 p.m., by the cleaning staff. He suffered two gunshot wounds to his forehead. Police recovered two 9mm shell casings at the scene. The victim was identified as Da Li, age 46.

Investigators executed a search warrant on the defendant’s vehicle and recovered a Taurus 9mm semi-automatic pistol with a loaded magazine inside of a black plastic bag, which matched ballistic evidence recovered at the victim’s residence.

The defendant was apprehended at John F. Kennedy International Airport on July 3, 2019, as he was boarding a flight to California.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Chow Xie, of the District Attorney’s Homicide Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Timothy Gough, Homicide Bureau Chief.

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

 

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, Joined by Over 40 Elected Prosecutors, Calls Upon Department of Justice to Respect Prosecutorial Discretion

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, August 2, 2019

 

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, Joined by Over 40 Elected Prosecutors,
Calls Upon Department of Justice to Respect Prosecutorial Discretion

Amicus Curiae Brief Urges Department of Justice to Continue to Defer to State and
Local Decisions Impacting Immigration Determinations

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, along with 42 other local elected prosecutors and state Attorneys General from across the country, today filed an amicus curiae brief urging the Department of Justice to maintain well-established immigration court authority that gives deference to state and local decisions that affect immigration determinations. The brief is in response to Attorney General Barr’s call for feedback on a potential rule change that would give federal authorities unlimited ability to consider past convictions and sentences as grounds for deportation from the United States, even when those convictions are minor or deemed unjust and have been vacated or modified by local prosecutors or judges. Amici argue that the proposed rule change would break with decades of precedent thereby infringing on state sovereignty and impairing the ability of elected prosecutors to enforce their own criminal laws and exercise prosecutorial discretion in the interest of their own community’s safety. It would also put countless immigrants at new risk of deportation, including in cases where past convictions and sentences were revisited based on defects in the underlying cases.

“Prosecutors are ministers of justice charged with protecting their community and the integrity of the justice system by pursuing a fair result that promotes trust in the system,” said Miriam Krinsky, Executive Director of Fair and Just Prosecution. “Sometimes that duty includes revisiting old cases where incorrect, unjust or excessive sentences were imposed, and for immigrants, sometimes that means assessing whether penalties would inflict disproportionate harm on that individual, their family, and the community simply because of their immigration status. Any change to decades of immigration procedures and precedent would unduly limit the discretion of elected prosecutors and infringe on state and local rights.”

The brief brings together the voices of 43 elected prosecutors from around the nation – including Attorneys General from 7 states and 36 elected local prosecutors in urban and rural jurisdictions. It was authored by Matthew Biben, David Sarratt, Gabriel Panek, and H. Jacqueline Brehmer of the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, and Tali Farhadian Weinstein, General Counsel to the Brooklyn District Attorney, with the assistance and coordination of Fair and Just Prosecution, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting a justice system grounded in fairness, equity, compassion, and fiscal responsibility.

“Justice requires a careful consideration of the facts of each case,” said DA Gonzalez. “This type of evaluation is best done at the local level with a consideration of community needs, which is why Congress and the Board of Immigration Appeals has long deferred to the state’s discretion to make criminal justice decisions regarding criminal convictions and sentences—including decisions to modify those convictions and sentences. This discretion is critical, and if ignored would create countless injustices that would erode public trust that the justice system is fair, and ultimately harm the ability of law enforcement to keep communities safe.”

To explain the importance of the current scheme, Gonzalez offered the example of a burglary conviction vacated following an investigation by his Conviction Review Unit, in which they found that the defendant, a green card holder who would have faced deportation for the offense, was falsely accused of a crime which never occurred. Underscoring the importance of recognizing these decisions, DA Gonzalez said, “It would have been absurd for the federal government to ignore this post-conviction finding and deport the man anyway and would be equally unjust to ignore countless other discretionary decisions regarding old convictions and sentences made in state courts.”

Amici also emphasized the potential public safety ramifications of changing settled immigration rules.

“If immigrants face deportation for convictions which have been vacated because they were innocent or because of violations of due process, that throws into question the legitimacy of the entire justice system,” said John Chisholm, District Attorney for Milwaukee County (Wisconsin). “When people don’t trust the justice system, witnesses are less likely to cooperate with the police and victims of crimes are less likely to come forward. An adverse ruling in this matter necessarily has the potential to harm the safety of our communities.”

Amici represent a diverse set of elected leaders from across the country, including Attorneys General TJ Donovan (Vermont), Keith Ellison (Minnesota), Robert Ferguson (Washington), Aaron Ford (Nevada), Kathy Jennings (Delaware), Karl Racine (District of Columbia), and Kwame Raoul (Illinois); District Attorneys Sherry Boston (Decatur, GA), John Chisholm (Milwaukee, WI), Satana Deberry (Durham, NC), Michael Dougherty (Boulder, CO), George Gascón (San Francisco, CA), Sim Gill (Salt Lake City, UT), Eric Gonzalez (Brooklyn, NY), Lawrence Krasner (Philadelphia, PA), Beth McCann (Denver, CO), Spencer Merriweather (Charlotte, NC), David Soares (Albany, NY) Raúl Torrez (Albuquerque, NM), and Cyrus Vance (New York, NY); Prosecuting Attorneys Dan Satterberg (Seattle, WA) and Carol Siemon (Lansing, MI); and State Attorney Andrew Warren (Tampa, FL).

List of Signatories

Aramis Ayala
State Attorney, Ninth Judicial Circuit, Florida

Diana Becton
District Attorney, Contra Costa County, California

Sherry Boston
District Attorney, DeKalb County, Georgia

Aisha Braveboy
State’s Attorney, Prince George’s County, Maryland

John T. Chisholm
District Attorney, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin

John Choi
County Attorney, Ramsey County, Minnesota

Darcel Clark
District Attorney, Bronx County, New York

John Creuzot
District Attorney, Dallas County, Texas

Satana Deberry
District Attorney, Durham County, North Carolina

Thomas J. Donovan, Jr.
Attorney General, Vermont

Michael Dougherty
District Attorney, Twentieth Judicial District, Colorado

Mark Dupree
District Attorney, Wyandotte County, Kansas

Keith Ellison
Attorney General, Minnesota

Robert W. Ferguson
Attorney General, Washington

Aaron Ford
Attorney General, Nevada

Kimberly Gardner
Circuit Attorney, City of St. Louis, Missouri

George Gascón
District Attorney, City and County of San Francisco, California

Sarah F. George
State’s Attorney, Chittenden County, Vermont

Sim Gill
District Attorney, Salt Lake County, Utah

Eric Gonzalez
District Attorney, Kings County, New York

Mark Gonzalez
District Attorney, Nueces County, Texas

Andrea Harrington
District Attorney, Berkshire County, Massachusetts

Peter S. Holmes
City Attorney, Seattle, Washington

John Hummel
District Attorney, Deschutes County, Oregon

Kathleen Jennings
Attorney General, Delaware

Lawrence S. Krasner
District Attorney, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Beth McCann
District Attorney, Second Judicial District, Colorado

Spencer Merriweather
District Attorney, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina

Margaret Moore
District Attorney, Travis County, Texas

Marilyn J. Mosby
State’s Attorney, Baltimore City, Maryland

Joseph Platania
Commonwealth’s Attorney, City of Charlottesville, Virginia

Karl A. Racine
Attorney General, District of Columbia

Kwame Raoul
Attorney General, Illinois

Jeff Reisig
District Attorney, Yolo County, California

Rachael Rollins
District Attorney, Suffolk County, Massachusetts

Jeff Rosen
District Attorney, Santa Clara County, California

Dan Satterberg
Prosecuting Attorney, King County, Washington

Carol A. Siemon
Prosecuting Attorney, Ingham County, Michigan

David Soares
District Attorney, Albany County, New York

David Sullivan
District Attorney, Northwestern District, Massachusetts

Raúl Torrez
District Attorney, Bernalillo County, New Mexico

Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.
District Attorney, New York County, New York

Andrew H. Warren
State Attorney, Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, Florida

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Pennsylvania Man Indicted on Attempted Murder and Arson Charges for Allegedly Setting Fire to Rabbi’s Brooklyn Home

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, July 15, 2019

 

Pennsylvania Man Indicted on Attempted Murder and Arson Charges for Allegedly Setting Fire to Rabbi’s Brooklyn Home

Fire Destroyed Victim’s Midwood Home and Severely Damaged Two Adjacent Properties;
Video Surveillance Allegedly Captured Defendant Setting the Fire

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a 41-year-old Pennsylvania man has been arraigned on an indictment in which he is charged with first-degree attempted murder, second-degree arson and related charges for intentionally setting fire to the home of a Brooklyn rabbi. The fire quickly spread to two adjacent houses, injuring 11 people, including a six-week-old infant, four first responders and two police officers.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant allegedly traveled to Brooklyn with the sole intent to kill and had no concern for the dozens of people he deliberately put in harm’s way. Thanks to our firefighters and first responders, no one was seriously injured in this fire. I intend to prosecute this case vigorously and hold this defendant accountable for his alleged crimes.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Matthew Karelefsky, 41, of McKeesport, Pennsylvania. He was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Martin Murphy on a 17-count indictment in which he is charged with first-degree attempted murder, first-degree arson, second-degree attempted murder, and related charges. He was ordered held without bail and to return to court on September 10, 2019. The defendant faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted of the top count.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on June 13, 2019 at approximately 3:50 a.m., a rabbi at a local yeshiva and his wife awoke to a fire in their three-story multi-family home at 1492 East 17th Street in Midwood. The fire spread to homes on either side of the property, causing 13 residents, including a six-week-old infant, to evacuate. Numerous individuals were treated for smoke inhalation.

Fire marshals determined the fire at 1492 East 17th Street was intentionally set and that it spread to the adjacent properties. Investigators also determined the fire began underneath the rabbi’s front porch, where K9 dogs identified the smell of an accelerant and fire marshals discovered remnants of a Kingsford charcoal bag, charcoal, a plastic milk carton, empty lighter fluid containers, lighter boxes and several rags believed to have been drenched in accelerant.

Video surveillance taken from across the street from the victims’ homes allegedly shows the defendant setting the fire. Additionally, video surveillance from a Midwood grocery store captured the day before the incident allegedly shows the defendant purchasing Kingsford charcoal and matches.

Police arrested the defendant in Manhattan on June 15. At the time of his arrest he was wearing a pink shirt with a white collar—a shirt he was allegedly seen wearing walking near the victims’ homes before and after the incident. It is alleged that the defendant has a tattoo on his forearm that reads, “Never let go of the HATRED – KILL Rabbi Max”. He also allegedly wrote numerous social media posts expressing his animosity for and intention to harm the victim.

The case was investigated by New York City Fire Department Marshal Stewart Hines.

Intelligence Analyst Alexandra Aber, of the District Attorney’s Crime Strategies Unit and Paralegal Supervisor Aneudy Mata, of the District Attorney’s Green Zone Trial Bureau, assisted in the investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Sara Kurtzberg, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Green Zone Trial Bureau and Assistant District Attorney Aaron Fishkin, also of the Green Zone, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney James Lin, Bureau Chief.

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

 

Twenty-One Alleged Members of Violent Folk Nation Street Gang Indicted in Connection with Conspiracy to Possess Weapons, Commit Murder of Rivals

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, July 9, 2019

 

Twenty-One Alleged Members of Violent Folk Nation Street Gang
Indicted in Connection with Conspiracy to Possess Weapons,
Commit Murder of Rivals

Defendants Allegedly Plotted to Shoot Rivals in Flatbush, East Flatbush and Canarsie,
Two Individuals Shot and Killed, Four Others Shot and Injured

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, together with New York City Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill, today announced that 21 alleged members of two subsets of the violent Folk Nation street gang have been variously charged in a 65-count indictment with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, robbery, weapons possession and other charges in connection with multiple shootings throughout Brooklyn that left two young men dead and four others injured.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “These defendants allegedly terrorized the streets of Brooklyn by opening fire on perceived rivals and recklessly firing their guns – including in broad daylight – endangering innocent bystanders.  In one instance, an innocent 15-year-old boy was killed when he was mistaken for a rival gang member.  Investigations such as this that target the drivers of crime reflect our commitment to fighting gun violence and holding accountable gang members who take part in these senseless shootings. We believe these kinds of cases are a reason why Brooklyn is the only borough where shootings are down this year.”

Commissioner O’Neill said, “This group posed a significant threat to the members of our community and were known to be involved in serious criminal activity including attempted murder, illegal guns and robberies. The outcome of this investigation is testament to the dedicated investigators of our department and its law enforcement partners.”

The District Attorney said that 19 of the defendants were arraigned before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Martin Murphy last week on a 65-count indictment in which they are variously charged with second-degree murder, second-degree attempted murder, first-, second-, third- and fourth-degree conspiracy, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, second-degree criminal use of a weapon, first-degree reckless endangerment and related charges. They face various penalties, depending on their age and the charges, ranging from probation to 25 years to life in prison. (See defendant addendum).

The District Attorney said that, according to the indictment, the defendants, whose ages range from 17 to 41 years old, and include a father and his two sons, are members of two subsets of the violent Folk Nation street gang. The subsets are known as Super Rich Kids, a.k.a., Street Rich Kartel (SRK-Folk) and Newkirk (Newkirk-Folk) and operate primarily in and around the East Flatbush and Flatbush sections of Brooklyn.

Over the course of the conspiracy, which ran from July 21, 2016 to June 27, 2019, the defendants variously allegedly agreed to commit crimes, including murder, assault, weapons possession and various other crimes to establish and maintain their dominance, according to the indictment, and feuded with rival gangs from East Flatbush and Flatbush, as well as Canarsie, particularly subsets of the violent Bloods and Crips street gangs.

Furthermore, it is alleged, it was part of the conspiracies for SRK-Folk members to engage in armed attacks against rival gang members, running reconnaissance missions in vehicles, and shooting individuals they suspected of being rival gang members, especially in Canarsie, an act commonly referred to by the defendants as “spinning the Floss.” On at least two occasions, these armed hunting expeditions resulted in death.

During the escalating violence over the course of the conspiracy, it is alleged, SRK-Folk and Newkirk-Folk members frequently discussed their intentions and efforts to engage in additional attacks and took credit for past attacks through cell phone messaging and, less often, through social media.

Among the acts of violence charged in the indictment are the following:

  • On December 27, 2016, on Utica Avenue, in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, defendant Khaysean Porter, acting in concert with others, allegedly shot and injured an alleged rival gang member.
  • On December 28, 2016, in the vicinity of President Street and Utica Avenue, in Crown Heights, defendant Travis Laroc, acting in concert with others, allegedly shot and injured a rival gang member.
  • On February 5, 2017, it is alleged, defendant Khaysean Porter, 21, acting in concert with Travis Laroc, Tahir Thomas and others, shot and killed Darren Harrison, 22, an alleged rival and injured a second alleged rival in the vicinity of East 84th Street in Canarsie.
  • On February 20, 2017, it is alleged, defendant Zidon Clarke acting in concert with others, shot and killed Rohan Levy, an innocent 15-year-old, who he mistakenly believed was a rival. A second person was shot and injured in that incident, which occurred on East 55th Street in the vicinity of East Flatbush.
  • On February 24, 2017, Walter Porter and his sons, Khaysean Porter and Keemari Porter, were in a vehicle that was stopped by police in the vicinity of Pennsylvania Avenue, in East New York. Police recovered dismantled pieces of two separate pistols inside the vehicle, a .40 caliber pistol and a .38 caliber pistol that were used in the four shootings detailed above.

The investigation was conducted by New York City Police Department Detectives Sean Feliciano and Veerana Ramayya, of the Gun Violence Suppression Division’s Violence Reduction Task Force, under the supervision of Sergeant Richard Young and the overall supervision of VRTF Commanding Officer Lieutenant Richard Zacarese.

The investigation was conducted for the KCDA by the Violent Criminal Enterprises Bureau led by First Deputy Bureau Chief Jonathan R. Sennett, Senior Assistant District Attorney Giannina Berrocal, Senior Assistant District Attorney Viviane Dussek, Senior Assistant District Attorney Krysten Tendy, and Assistant District Attorney James Buchanan, with assistance from Senior Assistant District Attorney Thomas Teplitsky, under the supervision of VCE Bureau Chief Al DeIngeniis, and the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney for VCE and Crime Strategies Raymond Tierney.

An indictment is merely an accusation and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.

Defendant Addendum 

  1. Rean Awong, 22, of Flatbush, Brooklyn. Remanded.
  2. Lorenzo Bailey, 30, of Flatbush, Brooklyn. Bail set at $250,000/$100,000.
  3. Shaquille Benjamin, 19, of East Flatbush, Brooklyn. Bail set at $100,000/$50,000.
  4. Ameth Best, 22, of East New York, Brooklyn. Bail set at $100,000/$50,000.
  5. Devon Bratton, 26, of East Flatbush, Brooklyn. To be arraigned on July 16, 2019.
  6. Jabare Brim, 22, of Laurelton, Queens. Unapprehended.
  7. Zidon Clarke, 20, of Flatbush, Brooklyn. Remanded.
  8. Christopher Cooper, 18, of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Bail set at $100,000/$50,000
  9. Sherrod Craig, 19, of Jamaica, Queens. Bail set at $25,000/$5,000
  10. Gishanie Gray, 18, of East New York, Brooklyn. Bail set at $150,000/$75,000
  11. Tarell Herbert, 25, of East Midwood, Brooklyn. Remanded.
  12. Khalil Irving, 18, of East Flatbush, Brooklyn. Bail set at $150,000/$75,000
  13. Travis Laroc, 17, of East Flatbush, Brooklyn. Remanded.
  14. Omar Peters, 24, of Flatlands, Brooklyn. Unapprehended.
  15. Keemari Porter, 19, of East New York, Brooklyn. Bail set at $200,000/$100,000.
  16. Khaysean Porter, 21, of Brownsville, Brooklyn. To be arraigned on July 15, 2019.
  17. Walter Porter, 41, of Elizabeth, New Jersey. To be extradited from NJ.
  18. Barrington Songue, 26, of Flatlands, Brooklyn. To be extradited from Florida.
  19. Dandre Stanford, 20, of Cambria Heights, Queens. Bail set at $100,000/$50,000.
  20. Tahir Thomas, 18, of Canarsie, Brooklyn. Remanded.
  21. Darren Wilson, 19, of Canarsie, Brooklyn. Bail set at $250,000/$100,000.

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Note: audio/visual materials that were displayed in the press conference are available here.