Timothy Bolger

Timothy Bolger is the Editor in Chief of the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.

2 Arrested for Murder of Teen Found Dead in Massapequa Preserve

Photo by www.houstondwiattorney.net

Two men were recently arrested for killing a 19-year-old man who was found dead in Massapequa Preserve five months ago, Nassau County police said Tuesday.

Carlos Portillo, 22, of Hempstead, and 19-year-old Kevin Granados-Coreas of Rosedale were each charged with second-degree murder.

Homicide Squad detectives alleged that the duo killed Julio Cesar Gonzales-Espantzay, whose body was found in the preserve near Seaview Avenue and Ocean Avenue at 2 p.m. Thursday, March 23.

Investigators said the suspects killed the victim to gain stature in their gang, MS-13, which authorities have blamed for a slew of other recent murders on Long Island. Police had initially released a sketch of the victim before he was identified two weeks after his discovery.

The arrests come after Nassau police said they are adding security cameras to the preserve to deter crime in the area, which included several cases of nude men harassing female joggers along the pedestrian path in the park last year.

Portillo, who was arrested on July 29, was ordered held without bail. He is due back in court Sept. 9. Granados-Coreas will be arraigned Wednesday at First District Court in Hempstead.

Hempstead Man Arrested for Triple Murder

Sirens Blue Caravan Red Lights Police Cars Car

A man was arrested for killing three women–his mother, sister and an acquaintance–and seriously injuring a fourth in Hempstead early Saturday morning, Nassau County police said.

Bobby Vanderhall was charged with three counts of second-degree murder and one count of second-degree attempted murder.

Homicide Squad detectives alleged the 34-year-old suspect entered a Perry Street home and hit the victims with a hammer at 1:15 a.m. Saturday.

The victims were identified as 58-year-old Lynn Vanderhall, Melissa Vanderhall and Janel Simpson, both 29. Police did not identify the survivor, who was taken to a local hospital, where she is listed in stable condition.

The suspect will be arraigned Sunday at First District Court in Hempstead.

Homicide Squad detectives are continuing the investigation.

As Hurricane Season Peaks, Forecasters Warn More Storms Likely

A satellite image of Sandy (NOAA)

The nation’s top weather forecasters are warning that the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season is likely to produce more tropical storms and cyclones than they originally predicted shortly before the season started June 1.

Experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Wednesday that they are upgrading the odds of an above-normal season from 45 to 60 percent since there have already been six named storms—twice as many as typically form by early August.

“We’re now entering the peak of the season when the bulk of the storms usually form,” said Gerry Bell, the lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “The wind and air patterns in the area of the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean where many storms develop are very conducive to an above-normal season. This is in part because the chance of an El Nino forming, which tends to prevent storms from strengthening, has dropped significantly from May.”

NOAA initially predicted 11 to 17 named storms, of which 5 to 9 could become hurricanes—including 2 to 4 major hurricanes. The prediction for the number of hurricanes remained the same, but the agency has increased its forecast to 14 to 19 named storms and 2 to 5 major hurricanes.

A storm must have sustained winds of at least 39 mph to be named. For a storm to be declared a hurricane, it must have at least 74 mph sustained winds, the threshold for a Category 1. A major hurricane is defined as a Category 3, which has sustained winds of at least 111 mph, or stronger.

The agency said the season has the potential to become “extremely active,” possibly the most active since 2010. Peak hurricane season runs from mid-August through October. The season ends Nov. 30.

Of the six storms that have formed so far, two hit the US. Cindy made landfall June 22 at the Louisiana-Texas border and Emily struck July 31 in Anna Maria Island, Fla. The updated hurricane forecast comes as Franklin is about to hit Mexico.

Trump Narrows Picks for Next Top Federal Prosecutor on Long Island

US District Court Central Islip
US District Court in Central Islip.

President Donald Trump reportedly narrowed down the list of candidates he’s suggesting to be the next top federal prosecutor on Long Island to two prominent attorneys.

The candidates to be the next U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York are Richard Donoghue and Edward McNally, according to the New York Daily News, Buzzfeed and other media outlets that all cited anonymous sources.

McNally is a partner in the Manhattan-based law firm of Kasowitz Benson Torres, which was co-founded by Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s former outside counsel handling the president’s response to the federal probe into suspected ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Donoghue, a former prosecutor who served more than a decade in the Eastern District, is the chief counsel to Islandia-based CA Technologies.

Whichever one gets the nod will require confirmation by the U.S. Senate, where Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), the Senate Democratic Minority Leader, can block their approval if they object.

If approved, one or the other would replace Bridget Rohde, who has been acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York since U.S. Attorney Jeff Session dismissed her predecessor, Robert Capers. Capers replaced Loretta Lynch, who led the office until former President Barack Obama appointed her U.S. Attorney.

Besides Nassau and Suffolk, the Eastern District also prosecutes federal cases—often involving terrorism, the mafia and Wall Street—in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. The office has numerous high-profile prosecutions awaiting trail, including cases against members of MS-13 who committed a quadruple murder in Central Islip—a crime that prompted visits by Sessions and Trump.

Other current high-profile unresolved cases include the prosecution of Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, Hempstead Town Councilman Ed Ambrosino and an investigation into the office of Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota.

Delayed, Blue Point Brewery’s New LIRR-themed Beer, Coming Soon

The Penn Station emergency track repairs that caused the Long Island Rail Road’s “Summer of Hell” has spawned carpools, ferries and other commuter alternatives—and now it’s also inspired a new beer.

Blue Point Brewing Co. unveiled Tuesday its new LIRR-themed beer, a Pilsner the brewers have dubbed Delayed and hope will ease riders’ stress of waiting for late trains. It will be exclusively available in Penn Station, the Patchogue-based company said.

“Myself, our brewers and our employees have spent a lot of time ‘delayed’ in Penn Station waiting for the train back to Long Island, albeit with a beer happily in hand,” Blue Point President Todd Ahsmann said. “Since the delays are expected to increase during construction, we figured we would brew a beer perfect for that extended wait… This beer should hold you over while you wait for the train but provide just enough bite to keep you critical of current state of transit.”

It’s not the first time Long Island’s largest craft brewery—which was bought in 2014 by AB InBEv, the world’s largest brewery—has churned out beers timed with events in the news. At last year’s presidential debate at Hofstra University, they unveiled a remake of Colonial Ale based on a recipe originally concocted in 1757 by George Washington before he became America’s first president. LI’s dozens of other craft brewers have done the same, sometimes in collaboration, as they did when they created a Sandy Relief Ale in ’13.

As for Blue Point’s mass-transit themed beer, the company said it’s brewed with a blend of floral, spicy hops for subtle apple and lemon-lime aroma, balanced by slight honey notes from a creamy malt body.

The release party for Blue Point Brewing Co.’s Delayed Pilsner will be held at Shake Shack in Penn Station 4-8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 14. For more information, visit bluepointbrewing.com

Snortable Chocolate: Coming to A Store Near You?

A company selling snortable chocolate powder is marketing the snuff as an energy booster, but critics say the product is dangerous and are calling for an investigation into its potential health impacts.

Florida-based Legal Lean sells Choco Loko through its website, but U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said recently that he expects it to soon hit store shelves in New York State. The senator wrote a letter the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last month asking the agency to investigate the product.

“I can’t think of a single parent who thinks it is a good idea for their children to be snorting over-the-counter stimulants up their noses,” Schumer said. “This product is like cocaine on training wheels.”

Snorting chocolate powder has become popular in recent years among partygoers in Europe, which is where Legal Lean reportedly got the idea to bring the trend to the US.

“You get a nice minor euphoric rush,” Nick Anderson, the company’s 29-year-old founder, told CNN. “You feel a calm energy and focus. You feel motivated to want to go out and dance or be social.” 

The FDA said it will have to evaluate the product to determine if it’s within its jurisdiction. If the FDA acts on Schumer’s request, it wouldn’t be the first time caffeinated products caught the agency’s attention. Four Loko, the fruit flavored alcoholic beverage, cut its caffeine content after the FDA began investigating it and Aeroshot caffeine inhalers changed their labels after the agency warned that its labels were misleading.

The company said that besides chocolate, Choco Loko contains ingredients commonly found in energy drinks, such as gingko biloba, taurine and guarana. Schumer cited a 2015 Mayor Clinic study that found there was a 31-percent increase in adolescents aged 12-17 being rushed to the emergency room for an energy drink-related issue between ’07 and ’11. The company has said it will add labeling stating that it’s not intended for anyone under age 18, but hasn’t said how much caffeine is in Choco Loko.

Local health officials and drug counselors said they haven’t seen any cases involving Choco Loko, which has only been on the market for two months. But some local doctors warn against using it.

“All of the problems that people have with taking too much energy drinks are going to be magnified by doing this through the lungs,” Dr. Paul Pipia, chief medical officer at Nassau University Medical Center, told News 12 Long Island. “It’s going to turn out to not be safe.”

Levittown Man Pleads Guilty to $3M Fraud

A former investment adviser from Levittown has admitted to conning 38 investors out of about $3 million over a year-long span.

Eric Erb pleaded guilty Monday to wire fraud at Central Islip federal court.

“With his investors relying on him to act with professionalism and integrity, Erb instead took millions of dollars from them,” said Bridget Rohde, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Prosecutors said the 39-year-old man promised his victims that he would follow their instructions on how to invest their money, but instead lost their money in other investments and gave victims false statements indicating they were earning profits between January 2016 and February 2017.

He also made unauthorized fund transfers and falsified payee information on checks investors wrote so that he could use the money for himself and his Babylon-based company, authorities said.

He faces up to 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced next year. As a part of his plea deal, he agreed to pay $5.3 million in restitution to victims of his crime, forfeit $215,000 in proceeds that he earned from the sale of his former Bay Shore home and the net proceeds from the sale of his Porsche and his 25-foot Regulator boat.

Sen. Flanagan Admits Seeking Help for Alcohol Abuse

John Flanagan
New York State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan.

New York State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport), the highest ranking Republican elected official in the state, admitted to recently seeking treatment after work-related stress led him to alcohol abuse.

The lawmaker made the announcement in a statement issued Sunday, more than a month after the state legislative session ended in June and six months before it resumes in January. The statement indicated that he would continue in his role as the powerful state Senate leader next year, when state legislators are up for re-election to their next two-year terms.

“I recognized that alcohol was becoming a crutch to deal with pressure I was under related to my responsibilities as Majority Leader of the New York State Senate,” he said. “Therefore, I proactively took control of the situation and sought immediate help so I could overcome it and move forward.”

The 56-year-old married father of three is one of the so-called three men in a room—the other two being Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx)—that hold the most sway over the state’s legislative agenda and budget.

Flanagan ascended to leadership after his predecessor, former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Sklelos (R-Rockville Centre), ceded control in 2015 following Skelos’ arrest on federal corruption charges. Skelos, who was expelled from office upon his conviction, is appealing.

News of Flanagan seeking treatment sparked a slew of well wishes from his colleagues in the state’s capital in Albany.

“Alcoholism is a disease,” Cuomo tweeted. “[Flanagan] deserves our respect & support for seeking help & for talking about it as an example for others.”

State Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore), also applauded the announcement.

“I want to commend my long-time friend and colleague, @LeaderFlanagan, for publicly acknowledging a problem he was facing,” Boyle tweeted. “The bravery and honesty John has shown demonstrates why he is, and will continue to be, a great #NYSenate Majority Leader.”

In a four-paragraph statement, Flanagan said he sought for “myself and for my family” and “to ensure this dependency would not affect my ability to do my job or represent my constituents.”

He suggested that others who are dependent on alcohol follow his lead.

“I would hope my actions serve as a reminder to all those who find that alcohol has become a means to confront personal or professional stress,” he said. “It never has been and never will be. If you find yourself becoming dependent you not only have a responsibility to your family and colleagues to recognize it, but to proactively engage the programs that are in place that will help you.

“No one is immune,” he concluded. “Seek help and regain your personal pathway through life.”

Hicksville Gets $10M Downtown Revitalization Grant

Hicksville may be getting a big makeover (Long Island Press/Rashed Mian)

Hicksville was awarded a $10 million New York State grant that will fund much-needed improvements to the community’s business district that have been in the planning stages for years, officials announced Wednesday.

The investment comes as the Long Island Rail Road is about to spend $121 million to rebuild the Hicksville train station that is at the heart of the downtown area where several major roadways and LIRR branches merge.

“When you put this downtown revitalization, together with a brand new $100 million train station, and a transformed LIRR that is reliable once again, I think Hicksville is going to be stronger than it has ever been before,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Hicksville is the lone Long Island community to win the $10 million grant this year as a part of the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative in which municipalities statewide submit plans to compete for the funding. This is the second round of $100 million grants divided between the state’s 10 regions. The Village of Westbury was LI’s winner last year.

The Hicksville train station is where the Port Jefferson and Ronkonkoma branches of the LIRR meet. It’s also near where Routes 106 and 107—Newbridge Road and South Broadway, respectively—intersect. The transit and road mergers have long contributed to a congested yet disjointed business district in Hicksville.

The goal of the grant is to create jobs and support sustainable redevelopment that attracts workers as well as residents to the ethnically diverse community. The funds will also be used to create a public event space and make the downtown area more pedestrian friendly. The Town of Oyster Bay will kick the process off by developing a $300,000 Strategic Investment Plan in which government officials, community leaders and planning experts will identify projects that will support their vision.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues from the town, state and more importantly the community to see our downtown revitalized in a way that will rejuvenate our neighborhood like never had been seen before,” said Nassau County Legis. Rose Marie Walker (R-Hicksville).

Amy Goodman to Discuss Ideology vs. Fact on Long Island

Amy Goodman, the Bay Shore native who hosts the increasingly popular global independent news hour Democracy Now!, is returning to Long Island to discuss the demonization of the news media.

She will be on a panel called The New Normal in News: Ideology vs Fact that is part of the Hamptons Institute series at Guild Hall in East Hampton in August. The discussion will be moderated by actor Alec Baldwin, who was also raised on LI, has a home in Amagansett and has been impersonating President Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live of late.

“I believe the media can be the greatest force for peace on Earth,” Goodman recently told the Fire Island News. “Instead, all too often it’s wielded as a weapon of war. And that’s why we have to take the media back.”

The panel comes amid national concern over the proliferation of fake news, a phenomenon in which websites posing as legitimate news organizations publish fictional stories that often go viral with the goal of profiting off ad revenue or misleading the public. Further confusing the issue, Trump, who called the media “the enemy of the American people,” has also used the term to refer to news organizations that run stories critical of his administration.

Gooodman has said her show, which was launched in Manhattan in 1996 and is broadcast on 1,400 stations nationally and worldwide, has been picked up by about a station a week. Last year, she released her new book, Democracy Now!: Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America.

She made news herself last fall when North Dakota authorities had a warrant issued for her arrest on riot charges after she and her team captured footage of attack dogs being used on Standing Rock Sioux tribe protestors rallying against the Dakota Access pipeline project that Native Americans say jeopardizes their drinking water and cuts through sacred grounds. The charges were later dropped.

“This is an unacceptable violation of freedom of the press,” Goodman said at the time the warrant was issued. “I was doing my job by covering pipeline guards unleashing dogs and pepper spray on Native American protesters.”

It wasn’t the first time Goodman faced charges while covering protests. She and her producers were arrested in 2008 while reporting on the rallies against the Republican National Convention in Minnesota. Those charges were also dropped and three years later, authorities agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a lawsuit stemming from the arrests.

Worse still, before launching Democracy Now!, the Bay Shore High School graduate witnessed Indonesian soldiers massacre 250 people in East Timor, which is 300 miles above Australia. She and her colleague were beaten by soldiers but survived. They later released a documentary called Massacre: The Story of East Timor.

“That really taught me a lot,” she said. “The horror of seeing so many people gunned down…what I saw there, how important it was that we be there on the ground. That the Indonesian military would have denied that the massacre had taken place if they didn’t have to answer to Western journalists who had witnessed what had taken place.

“And also we had pictures,” she continued. “And how critical it is, especially coming from the most powerful country on Earth…that we reflect back what is done in our name in other parts of the world.”

Also appearing on the panel will be Bob Garfield, who hosts NPR’s On the Media, and Nicholas Lemann, who is the Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor of Journalism and Dean Emeritus of the Faculty of Journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Invited to speak were CNN President Jeff Zucker and Megyn Kelly, the NBC broadcaster formerly of Fox News.

The panel discussion will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 21 at Guild Hall, which is located at 158 Main St. in East Hampton. Tickets cost $25. There will also be a post-event reception with Baldwin and the panelists held at Maidstone Hotel restaurant, which is located at 207 Main St. Tickets to the reception cost $500.