Flatbush Man Sentenced for Sex Trafficking of Two Teenage Girls and Gun Charge

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, July 1, 2020

 

Flatbush Man Sentenced for Sex Trafficking
of Two Teenage Girls and Gun Charge

Victims Rescued by Undercover Police Officer Following Tip from the
Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Flatbush man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison following his guilty plea to two counts of sex trafficking of a child and one count of attempted criminal possession of a weapon.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant, who took advantage of two vulnerable young girls, trafficking them for money in exchange for sex, has now been brought to justice. I am committed to rescuing and protecting our at-risk children and teens from predators who are intent on exploiting and abusing them.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Hakeem Bennett, 24, of Flatbush, Brooklyn. He was sentenced today by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun to eight years in prison for two counts of sex trafficking of a child and two years in prison for second-degree attempted criminal possession of a weapon. The judge ordered the sentences to run consecutively, for a total of 10 years in prison. The defendant was also sentenced to five years’ post-release supervision and must register as a sex offender upon his release from prison.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on September 30, 2019, the New York City Police Department received information from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (which received a tip from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children) regarding the possible sex trafficking of a 17-year-old girl. On October 3, 2019, an undercover officer responded to an escort advertisement provided by the FBI, which included photographs of three girls, including the missing 17-year-old and the 15-year-old.

The undercover officer called the phone number provided in the advertisement and engaged in a conversation with a woman regarding sex for money. He later was directed by that same woman to meet her at an address on East 29th Street in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

When the officer arrived at the location, he was met by the 15-year-old victim, who brought him to a house where he met with the defendant and the 17-year-old victim and another, unidentified woman. The undercover and the defendant agreed that the undercover would pay $250 to have sex with the 15-year-old and the 17-year-old. As the undercover, the defendant and the two girls began to walk down the street to a location the defendant agreed to make available for the encounter, he was apprehended by the undercover’s field team.

Upon further investigation, the defendant had been selling both teenagers for sex for several weeks by posting his phone number in escort advertisements and would pretend to be the girl when customers called the number. The defendant would then dispatch the victims to an agreed upon location, after telling them what to do and how much to charge, to meet the customer. In some instances, the defendant had the customers send the money directly to him via payments apps.

The sex trafficking case was investigated by Detective Joseph Spataro of the New York City Police Department, Brooklyn North Vice Module under the supervision of Lieutenant Amy Capogna and in coordination with Detective Elizabeth Gonzalez and Lieutenant Christopher Sharpe, of the NYPD’s Human Trafficking Team. Lieutenant Amy Capogna is the current Commanding Officer of the NYPD Human Trafficking Team.

Supervising Intelligence Analyst Brooke Middleton, of the District Attorney’s Crime Strategies Unit, assisted in the investigation.

The gun case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Nicole Manini of the District Attorney’s Green Zone Trial Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney James Lin, Bureau Chief.

The sex trafficking case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Anna Federico, of the District Attorney’s Human Trafficking Unit, and Assistant District Attorney David Weiss, Deputy Unit Chief, under the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Miss Gregory, Chief of the District Attorney’s Special Victims Bureau.

#

District Attorney Gonzalez and Attorney General James Win Lawsuit Against Trump Administration’s Illegal Policy of Making ICE Arrests at State Courthouses

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 10, 2020

 

District Attorney Gonzalez and Attorney General James
Win Lawsuit Against Trump Administration’s Illegal Policy of
Making ICE Arrests at State Courthouses

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced that they won a major victory against the Trump Administration and Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE), preventing the practice of making civil immigration arrests in and around state courthouses in a manner that interferes with the state’s administration of justice. Judge Jed Rakoff of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted DA Gonzalez and AG James’ motion for summary judgment to immediately end the policy that allowed ICE agents to conduct immigration raids in and around courthouses, thereby jeopardizing public safety.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “For more than three years, I have been calling on ICE to stop its unconscionable practice of conducting immigration raids in and around our courthouses because they jeopardize public safety. But the Trump Administration only escalated this unlawful and dangerous tactic, creating a chilling effect in immigrant communities, which discouraged victims and witnesses from reporting crimes and participating in the legal process. I joined Attorney General James in filing a federal lawsuit to bring this practice to an end, so I am extremely gratified that U.S. District Judge Rakoff today agreed and enjoined ICE from making those arrests, finding that it was a violation of longstanding practices, of their own policies, and interfered with the administration of justice. Allowing every resident equal access to our justice system is crucially important and necessary for maintaining fairness and public safety.”

AG James said, “Our victory over the Trump Administration’s over-policing policies ensures the important work happening in local courts will continue undeterred without the targeting of immigrants seeking access to our courts. By allowing federal agents to interfere with state and local cases, the Trump Administration endangered the safety of every New Yorker, while targeting immigrants. All New Yorkers — immigrant or not — can sleep better tonight knowing justice can continue to be carried out. I thank DA Gonzalez for his invaluable partnership in bringing this lawsuit forward and fighting for New York’s immigrant community.”

Lilia I. Toson, supervising attorney in the civil law reform unit, The Legal Aid Society, said, “We commend Attorney General Tish James’ strong advocacy on behalf of New Yorkers seeking justice and all those who should have unfettered access to our courts. Today’s decision is a clear statement that our judicial system will no longer stand for brazen abductions by ICE agents, and we hope that a forthcoming decision in our parallel lawsuit reinforces that statement.”

Last September, AG James and DA Gonzalez filed a lawsuit against ICE and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, challenging the legality of the federal government’s expanded policy of arresting immigrants in or around state courthouses. The suit sought to halt a three-year pattern of civil immigration arrests by federal ICE agents in and around state courts, which have caused a major disruption to state court operations. By targeting witnesses and victims for arrests, noncitizens and immigrants are deterred from assisting in state and local law enforcement efforts or protecting their own rights in court. As a result, valid prosecutions have been abandoned — or never pursued — making communities less safe.

After the lawsuit was filed, President Trump and his Administration immediately filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, but, in December, Judge Rakoff denied the motion, saying, “Courts cannot be expected to function properly if third parties (not least the executive branch of the government) feel free to disrupt the proceedings and intimidate the parties and witnesses by staging arrests for unrelated civil violations in the courthouse, on court property, or while the witnesses or parties are in transit to or from their court proceedings.”

Earlier this year, both sides in the case asked the district court to rule expeditiously in the case, and, last month, the court heard oral arguments on both plaintiffs’ and defendants’ motions for summary judgment.

Since President Trump took office, ICE courthouse arrests have skyrocketed in New York, leading to a widespread, chilling effect on noncitizens’ willingness to initiate and participate in the judicial system. Hundreds of immigrants have been arrested while appearing in and around state courts since January 2017, including those accused of a crime; parents appearing in child support matters; survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other crimes; people who are mentally ill or homeless; and LGBTQ+ individuals; among others. These arrests have happened on a near-daily basis.

Moreover, ICE courthouse arrests disrupt court functions, trample the due process rights of the accused, imperil public safety, and deter immigrants from reporting crimes. By using the court system to trap immigrants for detention and deportation, ICE is effectively keeping immigrants from ever accessing state courts in the first place and actively interfering with and violating the rights of individuals, associations, and organizations across the state.

The case was handled by the District Attorney’s former General Counsel Tali Farhadian Weinstein, Chief of Policy Jill Harris, Civil Litigation Bureau Chief Toni Lichstein and John Carroll, Deputy Bureau Chief. The District Attorney’s Chief of Staff Maritza Mejia-Ming and Domestic Violence Bureau Chief Michelle Kaminsky testified in depositions.

#

Police Officer Charged with Assault of Woman During George Floyd Brooklyn Protest

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, June 9, 2020

 

Police Officer Charged with Assault of Woman
During George Floyd Brooklyn Protest

Allegedly Violently Pushed 20-Year-Old to the Ground Causing Physical Injury

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a New York City Police Officer has been charged in a criminal complaint with assault, criminal mischief, harassment, and menacing for allegedly shoving a demonstrator to the ground during a march to protest police brutality and the killing of George Floyd. The incident was captured on video recording.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “I fully support the long-held American tradition of non-violent protest. As District Attorney I cannot tolerate the use of excessive force against anyone exercising this Constitutionally guaranteed right. This is especially true of those who are sworn to protect us and uphold the law. I am deeply troubled by this unnecessary assault. We will now seek to hold this defendant accountable.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Vincent D’Andraia, 28, of the 73rd Precinct in Brownsville, Brooklyn. He is expected to be arraigned today in Brooklyn Criminal Court on a criminal complaint in which he is charged with third-degree assault, fourth-degree criminal mischief, second-degree harassment and third-degree menacing.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on May 29, 2020, at approximately 8:44 p.m., near the Barclays Center, the defendant was walking with a contingent of police officers assigned to monitor a large crowd of demonstrators protesting racial injustice and the May 25 killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The victim, a 20-year-old woman, was in the street when the defendant told her to move. As she asked why, the defendant allegedly smacked her cell phone out of her hand, and violently shoved her to the ground, according the investigation. She can be seen rolling on the street and into a curb. Meanwhile, the defendant and fellow officers can be seen to continue walking.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Daphney Gachette, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patrick O’Connor, Chief of the Law Enforcement Accountability Bureau and Executive Assistant District Attorney Joseph P. Alexis, Chief of the District Attorney’s Trial Division.

#

A criminal complaint is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.

 

Rep. Rose, DA Gonzalez and DA McMahon Announce PPE Donation to Help Protect Brooklyn and Staten Island DA Staff

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 20, 2020

 

Rep. Rose, DA Gonzalez and DA McMahon Announce PPE Donation to
Help Protect Brooklyn and Staten Island DA Staff

Axon donated 35,000 masks, 15,000 gloves, and 350 gallons of hand sanitizer to Richmond and Kings County DA offices

Photos from the drop-offs HERE.

Congressman Max Rose announced today with Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon that Axon Enterprise, Inc., a company which develops connected public safety technologies for law enforcement agencies, donated critical supplies to help protect prosecutors, criminal investigators, and support staff in the District Attorney’s offices who are on the front lines working with victims of crimes to ensure justice is served.

“In order to bring our courts and justice system back online, those on the frontlines of our justice system need to have the protection and equipment necessary to protect themselves as well as victims and witnesses of crimes,” Congressman Max Rose said. “As someone who worked in a District Attorney’s office, I’ve seen first-hand how important it is for investigators and prosecutors to be on the ground and at the scene to ensure victims are heard and justice is served. We’re all very grateful to Axon’s generous donation to ensure that work will be able to continue safely.”

Axon donated to the Kings County District Attorney’s Office: 25,000 blue medical masks, 8,000 gloves (4,000 pairs), and 175 gallons of hand sanitizer, and to the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office: 10,000 blue medical masks, 7,000 gloves (3,500 pairs), and 175 gallons of hand sanitizer.

“Throughout this public health crisis the men and women of the Brooklyn DA’s Office have been committed to continue the work of keeping Brooklyn safe and strengthening community trust.” Brooklyn DA Gonzalez said. “The majority of prosecutors and non-legal staff successfully transitioned to remote operations at the start of the coronavirus pandemic but, beginning this week, the number of employees returning to court will start to increase as we resume hearings and work with the public. The timing makes this generous donation of personal protective equipment and hand sanitizers especially helpful. I extend my warmest and deepest thanks to Congressman Max Rose and Axon for stepping up during this difficult time to help ensure that we are able to do the essential work of our office and to carry out our mandate as court operations expand, while keeping our staff, our witnesses and our victims safe. I commend Congressman Rose for the much appreciated leadership and thoughtfulness in remembering our front line workers in the criminal justice system.”

“While much of the City’s operations have been shut down for months, I’m proud of our incredible team at the Staten Island District Attorney’s Office who have re-doubled their efforts to ensure the continued safety of the people of Staten Island,” Richmond County DA McMahon said. “Although we have many staff who are able to do their work from home, there remains a core group of prosecutors, investigators, and support staff that simply must continue reporting to work and interacting with the public. This frontline group will grow starting next week and will continue to expand in the weeks ahead as court functions begin to reopen. I am grateful that Congressman Rose, working in partnership with Axon, has recognized these essential women and men by providing this generous donation of personal protective equipment (PPE), which we will put to immediate use in furthering our shared goal of a safe and just Staten Island for all.”

“Even throughout this global pandemic, first responders are still stepping forward and risking their lives to assist people in need,” Axon CEO and founder Rick Smith said. “Axon’s mission is to protect life and when technology isn’t the answer, we must look for another solution. In this case, helping people meet the most basic needs is the most important thing we can and will do.”

Axon has committed over $1 million for personal protective equipment (PPE) for first responders, including a partnership with the National Police Foundation and will match up to $500,000 in community donations. 100 percent of funds will go directly towards helping reduce first responder exposure to COVID-19 by purchasing medical masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.

#

 

Staten Island Man Indicted for 1980 Cold Case Murder of Lorraine Snell

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 12, 2020

 

Staten Island Man Indicted for 1980 Cold Case
Murder of Lorraine Snell

Defendant Allegedly Strangled Woman,
Her Body Was Found in Vehicle Parked in Rear of Flatbush Supermarket

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, together with New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, today announced that, following a lengthy and thorough reinvestigation of the 1980 strangulation death of 19-year-old Lorraine Snell, a 63-year-old Staten Island man who was married to her cousin at the time of the crime has been indicted for the murder.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “My thoughts today are with Lorraine Snell’s mother, Pearl, who has waited for decades to see her daughter’s killer brought to justice. With this indictment, the result of a thorough reinvestigation of the case and the evidence, including a crucial DNA association, we will now seek to hold the defendant accountable. I commend the NYPD and my Cold Case Unit for the meticulous work they did to put this case together.”

Police Commissioner Shea said, “These charges prove that the best investigators in the world do not ever forget victims, and they do not ever forget the justice that is owed to those victims’ families. I commend the Cold Case detectives whose dedication resulted in this arrest and our colleagues at the Kings County District Attorney’s Office.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as James Burrus, 63, of Staten Island. He was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on an indictment in which he is charged with one count of second-degree murder. He was ordered held without bail and to return to court on March 25, 2020. The defendant faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on September 25, 1980, at approximately 10:30 p.m., Lorraine Snell left her home in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, where she lived with her mother, grandmother and three siblings. She went to the Midwood Terrace catering hall located on Flatbush Avenue to reserve the space for a party for her boyfriend. She was allegedly seen in the company of the defendant at the Midwood Terrace, according to the investigation, and the two left together at approximately 11 p.m.

On September 26, 1980, Lorraine Snell was discovered on the back floor of a station wagon that was parked in the rear of a C-Town grocery store located at 1895 Nostrand Avenue in East Flatbush. The cause of death was strangulation. The station wagon belonged to the owner of the C-Town supermarket, where the defendant was once employed.

The defendant allegedly admitted to police that he was with Snell at the Midwood Terrace and told police he walked her part of the way home. As a result of the reinvestigation, the defendant’s DNA was allegedly positively associated to foreign DNA found under the victim’s fingernail.

The case was investigated by Detective William Simon of the NYPD’s Cold Case Squad and Detective Michael Gaynor, of the Brooklyn South Homicide Squad, under the supervision of Lieutenant Dennis Klein.

Forensic Specialist Susan Horan, of the District Attorney’s Forensic Science Unit, assisted in the investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Lauren Silver, of the District Attorney’s Homicide Bureau and Assistant District Attorney Andrea Orlando, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Blue Zone Trial Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Timothy Gough, Chief of the District Attorney’s Homicide Bureau and Assistant District Attorney Rachel Singer, Chief of the District Attorney’s Forensic Science and Cold Case Unit.

#

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

 

Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office Accepting Applications For Five-Week Paid High School Internship Summer Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, March 10, 2020

 

Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office Accepting Applications
For Five-Week Paid High School Internship Summer Program

Internships Will Offer Insight into Criminal Justice System, Public Service and the Law

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced the launch of the application process for high school juniors and seniors interested in participating in a five-week paid summer internship program. The summer internship is open to students who live and/or attend high school in Brooklyn and are interested in learning about the different careers and responsibilities within the criminal justice system. The summer internship runs from July 7 to August 7, 2020.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “Our goal every year is to provide interns with an understanding of how the criminal justice system operates and how my office works to keep Brooklyn safe and strengthen community trust. We are delighted to offer an opportunity for high school students to gain hands-on experience into how criminal cases develop, from the steps taken to investigate and build a case, to how cases are presented in court. The interns are exposed to a plethora of careers available in the criminal justice system, as they consider their future professional goals.”

Selected students will be assigned to one of the many specialized units within the DA’s Office, while also getting an overview of the criminal justice system. They can expect to assist with legal research and analysis; help prosecutors to prepare for trial; work on discovery; carry out file maintenance and organization of court documents; participate in Trial Zone workshops; participate in judicial, legal and law enforcement-related field trips; and observe criminal proceedings, including trials, guilty pleas and sentencings.

During the five-week internship, participants will receive a $150 weekly stipend plus a MetroCard. Internship hours will be Monday through Thursday 9:30am-4:00pm and Friday 9:30am-Noon. Interested applicants must submit their most recent school transcript, a one-page resume, and a 300-word typed essay (12 pt. font and double-spaced) on why they are interested in interning with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and how the internship will impact their future career goals.

To apply, please visit: http://apply.brooklynda.org  beginning March 9, 2020, to upload transcript, essay and resume. All application materials must be received no later than April 30, 2020. For questions or assistance please contact (718) 250-4873, (718) 250-3191 or email hsinternships@brooklynda.org.

#

 

Seven Brooklyn Men Indicted for Stealing over $1 Million From Owners and Couriers Who Were Delivering Funds to Private ATM Machines

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 4, 2020

 

Seven Brooklyn Men Indicted for Stealing over $1 Million From
Owners and Couriers Who Were Delivering Funds to Private ATM Machines

Allegedly Followed Cars, Deflated Their Tires and Stole Cash When Drivers Stepped Out;
15 Larcenies in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and Bronx Charged in the Indictment

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that seven men from Brooklyn have been variously charged with conspiracy and larceny in connection with a long-running scheme in which they allegedly stole more than $1 million by breaking into vehicles that were delivering funds to replenish private ATM machines throughout New York City. The defendants allegedly surveilled two Brooklyn warehouses, targeted cars that were carrying cash from those locations and used various methods – including releasing air from a tire to facilitate entry – to enter the cars and steal the money.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “These defendants allegedly ran a brazen and lucrative scheme to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from our local businesses. An intensive investigation by the NYPD and my Office has ended their citywide crime spree and we will now seek to hold them responsible for their numerous crimes.”

The District Attorney identified the defendants as Brooklyn residents William Jackson aka “Smoke,” 47, Lance Spearman aka “Lo,” 39, Jamel Cooper aka “Coop,” 44, Jeffrey Blount, 55, Sherrod Coleman aka “Rod,” 45, Johnnie Corbett, 31, and Freddie Barnes, 46. They are named in an 81-count indictment in which they are variously charged with fourth- and fifth-degree conspiracy, multiple counts of second-, third- and fourth-degree grand larceny, third-degree burglary and related charges.

The District Attorney said that, according to the indictment, between December 2017 and July 2019, the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to steal money from ATM owners and their drivers while they were delivering funds to refill private, non-bank-affiliated ATM machines throughout New York City. In order to facilitate the scheme, the defendants allegedly conducted surveillance on at least two ATM warehouses in Brooklyn – in Vinegar Hill and East Williamsburg – where cash is packaged and distributed to refill ATMs.

It is alleged that the defendants targeted commercial vehicles that left these facilities and used multiple cars to conduct the surveillance, the lookout, the theft and the get-away. The conspirators allegedly entered the target vehicles through unlocked doors, by force or, in some occasions, by releasing air from the rear passenger tire to gain entry when the driver attended to the flat tire. In total, the defendants allegedly stole $1,003,670 in 15 incidents charged in the indictment.

Those incidents include:

  • On February 27, 2017, defendants Jackson, Spearman, Blount and Coleman allegedly followed a van to a gas station in New Hyde Park, Queens. Surveillance video shows a sedan driven by one of the defendants obscure the van, which was left unattended, while Blount opens the back door and removes a box containing $4,000. Shortly thereafter, he is seen entering another vehicle with the box and drives away.
  • On March 2, 2018, defendants Jackson, Spearman, Blount and Coleman allegedly followed an ATM owner from the East Williamsburg warehouse after he withdrew $480,000. When he reached his Queens home and exited his vehicle to open the garage, one of the conspirators entered his car and drove away. The defendants then all drove to Nassau County, LI, and moved bags of cash into their own minivan.
  • On July 30, 2018, defendants Jackson, Cooper and Blount allegedly followed an ATM courier to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, released air from his car’s rear tire and stole $14,000.
  • On September 5, 2018, defendants Jackson, Cooper, Corbett and Blount followed an ATM courier to a location in Bushwick, Brooklyn where the three other defendants were waiting on foot. Spearman and Blount then allegedly entered the vehicle and removed an ATM cassette containing about $73,000 before the group fled in several vehicles.
  • On October 15, 2018, defendants Spearman and Blount allegedly followed an ATM courier in Brooklyn and released air from his vehicle’s rear tire. When he stopped at a gas station to refill the air, they stole $112,000 from his vehicle.
  • On May 14, 2019, defendants Spearman, Cooper and Blount allegedly released air from the vehicle of an ATM courier. When he stopped at a mechanic’s garage in Jamaica, Queens, Blount entered his vehicle and removed $50,000.
  • On May 21, 2019, defendants Spearman and Blount allegedly followed an ATM courier to a gas station in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx. When the driver left his car unattended, briefly, Blount allegedly shattered the rear passenger window and stole $50,000.

The case was investigated by New York City Police Department Detective Javier Munoz of the Organized Theft Squad under the supervision of Deputy Inspector Christopher Flanagan of the Financial Crimes Task Force and Organized Theft Squad, and Deputy Inspector Timothy McCoade, Chief of the Grand Larceny Division. He was assisted by Sergeant Joseph Tarsio, Sergeant Beslity and Detectives Michael McFadden, Rigel Zeledon, Brett Huzar and Edrian Irizarry.

Additional assistance in the investigation was provided by Supervising Analyst Brooke Middleton and Intelligence Analyst Alexandra Aber, of the District Attorney’s Crime Strategies Unit, and Senior Intelligence Analyst Danielle Jackson and Paralegal Kimberly Bifulco, of the District Attorney’s Violent Criminal Enterprises Bureau.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Kyriacou of the District Attorney’s Violent Criminal Enterprises Bureau, under the supervision of Jennifer Cilia, Deputy Bureau Chief, and the overall supervision of Alfred Deingeniis, Bureau Chief, and Raymond Tierney, Executive Assistant District Attorney for Crime Strategies.

# 

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

 

Mill Basin Man Sentenced to Three to Six Years in Prison For Scamming Investors Out of $440,000

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 4, 2020

 

Mill Basin Man Sentenced to Three to Six Years in Prison
For Scamming Investors Out of $440,000

Defendant Stole Money He Offered to Invest for Family and Friends;
Pleaded Guilty to Grand Larceny

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Mill Basin man has been sentenced to three to six years in prison for stealing more than $440,000 that he was supposed to invest in securities for at least 22 people, including his friends, family, neighbors and others. The defendant pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny in September.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant admittedly cheated many people, including friends and family, out of thousands of dollars in savings, betraying their trust. He has now been held accountable for the financial hardship he caused his victims. I strongly advise anyone considering investing with a broker or brokerage firm to make sure they are registered with the Financial Industry Regularity Authority (FINRA) and licensed to sell securities.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Joseph Casertano, 57, of Mill Basin, Brooklyn. He was sentenced today to an indeterminate term of three to six years in prison by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun. The defendant pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny on September 25, 2019.

The District Attorney said that, according to the evidence, between October 1, 2011 and July 31, 2017, the defendant told people that he had an investment company, Shelter Island Leverage, and convinced 22 people to invest in multiple initial public offerings (IPOs) in increments beginning at $12,500.

After the initial investment, the defendant reported high rates of return and some of the victims were given account numbers and statements showing various stock trades and account balances. Many of the victims opted to reinvest and continued to give the defendant more money, believing that the investment was highly profitable. The defendant’s first victim was a man he met at a local gym. Some of the investors convinced their friends and family to invest in the scheme. Among the victims were the defendant’s relatives, lifelong friends and neighbors.

When people attempted to withdraw money, the defendant told them they were precluded from withdrawing due to securities regulations. In some instances, he would give small amounts of money back as proof that the accounts were real.

Financial records show that the defendant never made any investments or opened any accounts, but instead deposited the investment checks into one of three accounts that he controlled. All expenditures from those accounts were personal, including vacations, restaurants and personal credit card payments. He also made cash withdrawals totaling more than $200,000.

The case was investigated by the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.

The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Pamela J. Murray of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, under the supervision of 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.

#

 

Long Island Man Sentenced to One-and-a-Half to Four-and-a-Half Years in Prison for Forging Deed in Scheme to Steal Brownstone Worth Over $1 Million from Elderly Brooklyn Homeowner

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 26, 2020

 

Long Island Man Sentenced to One-and-a-Half to Four-and-a-Half Years in Prison for Forging Deed in Scheme to Steal Brownstone Worth Over
$1 Million from Elderly Brooklyn Homeowner

Defendant Pleaded Guilty to Grand Larceny and Money Laundering;
Ordered to Pay Restitution of $850,000

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Long Island man has been sentenced to one-and-a-half to four-and-a-half years in prison for stealing a vacant brownstone worth over $1 million in a deed fraud scheme targeting an 80-year-old Bedford-Stuyvesant homeowner. The defendant pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny and second-degree money laundering in December 2019.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant targeted an elderly homeowner, forging her signature and capitalizing on her absence in an underhanded effort to steal her home. I remain committed to protecting Brooklyn homeowners and I hope today’s sentence sends a clear message to those trying to take advantage of seniors or those considering selling their homes —you will be prosecuted and held fully accountable for your crimes.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Craig Hecht, 52, of Mount Sinai, New York. He was sentenced today to one-and-a-half to four-and-a-half years in prison by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun, who nullified the deed the defendant forged and issued a judgment order of restitution for $850,000 to the title insurance company for losses it incurred reimbursing the home buyer. The defendant pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny and second-degree money laundering on December 4, 2019.

The District Attorney said that, according to the evidence, Hecht and an unapprehended co-defendant stole the deed to 260 Clifton Place, a two-story Bedford-Stuyvesant brownstone owned by an 80-year-old retired teacher. The victim and her family lived in the residence for over three decades. In 2010, the family vacated the property after a fire made the building uninhabitable.

Hecht formed an entity called Ernestina Thomas LLC that he filed with the New York State Department of State on April 20, 2015. Ten days later, the co-defendant opened a bank account called Ernestina Thomas LLC (ET). The victim did not know about or consent to any of this.

On September 18, 2015, according to the evidence, Hecht set up a closing where 260 Clifton Place was transferred to an entity called TDA Development. A deed with the victim’s forged signature, which transferred the property from her to TDA, was filed and recorded with the City Register. The bulk of the proceeds of the sale went into an ET account which the co-defendant controlled.

Shortly thereafter, Hecht offered 260 Clifton Place to a prospective buyer. On November 5, 2015, the co-defendant opened a bank account for TDA and the following day the property was transferred from TDA to the buyer at a closing for $850,000, with most of the proceeds of that sale going into the co-defendant’s TDA account. From the funds stolen out of the two closings, the co-defendant wired $190,000 to an account he had in Athens, Greece, withdrew another $120,000 in a series of cash withdrawals and transferred over $250,000 to an account held by Hecht’s wife.

The victim was notified of the theft when a neighbor called to tell her that someone was working on the house and introduced himself as the new property owner. She then notified the District Attorney’s Office.

The case was investigated by Detective Investigators assigned to the KCDA Investigations Bureau. Supervising Financial Investigator Vincent Jones, of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division, assisted in the investigation.

The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Linda Hristova, with assistance from Senior Assistant District Attorney Elliott Wertheim and Senior Assistant District Attorney Patrick Cappock, 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 and 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.

#

 

Brooklyn Woman Sentenced to 18 Years in Prison for Drowning 2-Year-Old Daughter Inside a Storage Container Filled with Water

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 26, 2020

 

Brooklyn Woman Sentenced to 18 Years in Prison for Drowning
2-Year-Old Daughter Inside a Storage Container Filled with Water

Child Was Found Unresponsive by Emergency Medical Services Personnel

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Sunset Park woman has been sentenced to 18 years in prison after being convicted of manslaughter for the 2016 drowning death of her 2-year-old daughter, Melody Zheng. The defendant put the victim in a container and held her under water until she stopped struggling. The jury also convicted her of attempted assault for holding her 4-year-old son’s head under water a day earlier.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant had a duty to care for her children and to keep them safe, but instead she used inexplicable and dangerous methods to discipline them – and caused the violent death her daughter. Nothing can bring back little Melody, who had an entire life ahead of her. But, with today’s sentence, we have obtained a measure of justice in this terribly tragic case.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Lin Li, 28, of Sunset Park, Brooklyn. She was sentenced today by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Deborah Dowling to 18 years in prison. The defendant was convicted of first-degree manslaughter and first-degree attempted assault on June 4, 2019, following a jury trial.

The District Attorney said that, according to trial testimony, on March 13, 2016, at approximately 8:50 p.m., in an apartment on 47th Street in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, the defendant took her 2-year-old daughter Melody Zheng into the bathroom to punish her. She placed Melody inside a storage container in the tub and filled it with water. The defendant then submerged the child’s head under the water until she stopped struggling, according to evidence presented at trial. She submerged her son under water a day earlier.

The defendant called 911 after submerging her daughter, who was found to be unconscious and unresponsive by EMS. She was taken to Maimonides Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 9:20 p.m. The Medical Examiner determined that Melody had multiple bruises and contusions that were consistent with her being held under water and drowned.

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

#