Timothy Bolger

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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.

Merrick Man Admits to $86M Stock Pump-and-dump Scam

insider trading

An attorney from Merrick admitted to using the online university he founded to con investors in an $86-million stock pump-and-dump scheme with the help of his company’s former CEO four years ago.

Darren Ofsink, 48, pleaded guilty Wednesday at Brooklyn federal court to conspiracy to commit securities fraud along with 56-year-old Ira Shapiro of Congers.

Prosecutors said the duo led CodeSmart Holdings, a publicly-traded company, when they engineered a reverse merger with a public shell company, gained control of CodeSmart’s three million unrestricted shares and twice fraudulently inflated the company’s share price and trading volume before selling their shares at a profit between May and September 2013.

The first time, they pumped stock prices from $1.77 to $6.94 before dumping it and months later, they pumped it from $2.19 to $4.60 before selling, authorities said. But company paperwork they filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission listed only $6,000 in total assets, $7,600 in revenue and a net loss of $103,141. By July of the following year, the company’s stock was valued at one cent per share.

They face up to five years in prison, a fine, forfeiture of proceeds and will be required to make full restitution to their victims when sentenced by U.S. District Judge Eric Vitaliano.

Nassau Exec Hopefuls Face Off in Latest Debate

From left: Nassau County Legis Laura Curran and ex-New York State Sen. Jack Martins.

Nassau County Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin) and ex-New York State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury) faced off Tuesday in their latest debate as they race to be the next Nassau County executive.

The candidates largely agreed on what they say are the most pressing issues in the county—better managing Nassau’s $2.9-billion budget, increasing affordable housing and enacting new ethics reforms. But they parted ways on who they believe makes a better candidate.

“I think this election comes down to experience,” Martins said, emphasizing that his tenure as Mineola village mayor gives him a background in executive-level decision making.

Curran touted her crossing party lines to vote with the county legislature’s GOP majority as making her the independent candidate, saying: “I’m running to fix this culture of corruption, to break it up.”

The candidates are running to replace outgoing Republican Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, who pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges last year. The debate, held at LIU Post in Brookville and organized by the Nassau County Village Officials Association, was the eighth in which Curran and Martins went toe-to-toe in the race.

Both candidates said they would reopen the Nassau County Police Department’s sixth and eighth precincts that Mangano closed under a controversial initiative that shuttered half of the eight police precinct station houses—a plan that was abandoned halfway through its implementation.

They also agreed that the county needs independent ethics oversight. Nassau’s commissioner of investigations and ethics commission are both staffed by the county executive’s appointees, which the candidates say creates the appearance of a lack of independence required of such responsibilities.

In addition, they agreed that Nassau needs to reduce the amount of money it spends on employee overtime to help close perennial county budget gaps that contributed to the creation of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the state-appointed fiscal watchdog agency that has controlled the county’s finances for nearly 20 years. The candidates differed on how to revamp the property tax assessment system’s contribution to the county budget woes.

“There is nothing more important to restoring trust in county government right now than getting this assessment system right,” Martins said, noting that Nassau is one of only two counties in New York State where the county handles property tax assessment instead of the towns.

He proposed transferring the assessment responsibility to the towns. Curran noted that Mangano proposed same idea, but the towns didn’t want to take it over. She said the county needs to get assessments in order before reconsidering the idea of transferring responsibility, but Martins said Nassau needs to act sooner rather than later.

Among the recurring themes of the debate was the need for inter-party cooperation so the county can handle the public’s business without the bickering that is regularly displayed at county legislative meetings.

“There’s no Republican or Democratic way to fill a pothole,” Curran said.

The candidates are scheduled to debate again at 8 a.m. Thursday, Oct 26 at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. That event will be run by the Long Island Association. For more information, click here.

Ex-North Hempstead Dem Leader Admits to Tax Evasion

Gerard Terry
Gerard Terry

The ex-Democratic leader for the Town of North Hempstead has admitted to federal tax evasion for failing to pay about $1 million in taxes.

Gerard Terry, an attorney who held numerous local government titles in addition to his former party leadership role, pleaded guilty to tax evasion Thursday at Central Islip federal court.

Prosecutors have said the 62-year-old Roslyn man failed to pay more than $1.4 million in federal taxes since 2000 despite earning more than $250,000 annually working for the town, the Nassau County Board of Elections, the Long Beach Housing Authority, the North Hempstead Housing Authority, the Freeport Community Development Agency, the Roosevelt Public Library, the Village of Port Washington and the Village of Manorhaven.

After the IRS pursued him, he filed paperwork that included false information, but still failed to file returns for 2009 and 2010 and later provided false, misleading and incomplete information to obstruct internal revenue laws, authorities said. He then tried to evade IRS collections by cashing more than a half million dollars worth of checks instead of depositing them in bank accounts where they could be seized, according to investigators. He instead only deposited enough to cover his bills, making it impossible for the IRS to collect.

The guilty plea comes two weeks after he pleaded guilty to similar charges in Nassau County court. He faces up to five years in prison and $100,000 in fines.

Fire Island Breach Stable 5 Years After Sandy, Study Finds

The breach in Fire Island caused by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. NPS photo.

Five years after Sandy breached Fire Island, the new channel between the Atlantic and Great South Bay is shifting, but stable and unlikely to increase bay-front storm flooding, a new study found.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) made the findings in what the federal agency billed as one of the most detailed scientific studies ever conducted of the early stages in the life of a barrier island breach.

“Storm strikes are the force that drives the geomorphology—the geologic shape and evolution—of barrier islands along the Northeast coast,” said Cheryl Hapke, a USGS oceanographer, FI erosion expert and lead author of the report released last month. “But until this event, no one ever had the opportunity to watch a breach open and evolve, and to study that process in depth.”

The breach is in the 7-mile-long Otis Pike High Dune Wilderness, the only federally designated wilderness in New York State, on the eastern half of the Fire Island National Seashore. It is one of three Long Island barrier beach breaches—one near Smith Point on FI, the other at Cupsogue County Park—that the Oct. 29, 2012 superstorm caused, but the other two were filled in with sand.

The remaining breach opened in an area of FI known as Old Inlet, where a gap in the barrier island was open from 1763 to 1825. The study found that the new breach followed the path of a boardwalk destroyed by Sandy, suggesting the lack of vegetation under the boardwalk may have contributed to the breach since there was little to slow the wave action.

The day before Sandy struck, researchers gathered data on the island’s geology using what’s known as lidar—laser pulses that reveal surface contours more precisely than radar. They also examined data from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration buoy 30 miles off the southern coast of FI that recorded a 31 ½ foot wave during the storm.

The original 177-foot opening widened to 1,879 feet, or nearly one-third of a mile, after seven nor’easters struck LI in the year following Sandy, the report found. The breach moved west and grew rapidly until it reached what researchers described as “a state of near-equilibrium” 18 months after the storm.

Sediment from that part of the island, which was scoured out at a depth of 13 feet, formed a delta and shoals on the bay side of the breach, according to the study. The shoals continue to shift as big storms hit the area, usually between fall and spring.

Researchers noted that a study based on USGS-led data collection found that high tides arrive slightly earlier than they did before due to the increased rate of water flowing through the breach, creating the potential for floodwaters to increase up to three inches in the eastern part of the bay during storms. But they added that the majority of water flowing into the bay—storm or not—comes from pre-existing inlets.

The scientists noted that breaches are naturally occurring and can improve the quality of water in the bay by flushing out pollutants. They also said the goal of the study was to understand how the breach evolved, anticipate its effects on surrounding areas and predict what may happen in future storms. The study was provided to FINS’ parent agency, the National Park Service, to help officials develop a plan for managing the breach.

During the Fire Island Association’s summer meeting in Ocean Beach, FINS Superintendent Chris Soller said the seashore doesn’t have any plans to close the breach and is instead continuing to take a wait-and-see approach, although officials previously put plans in motion in case they needed to fill it in.

“How soon it’s going close is anybody’s guess,” he said.

Long Island Native Among 58 Killed in Las Vegas Shooting

John Phippen
John Phippen

A 56-year-old Long Island native was among 58 killed when a gunman opened fire last week at a Las Vegas music festival, leaving more than 500 wounded before the shooter committed suicide.

John Phippen, a contractor, father of six and grandfather of one residing in California, was at the Route 91 Harvest Festival with his 24-year-old son, Travis, when the shooting happened, according to multiple reports. They were both reportedly helping victims when they were shot, although Travis survived.

“He gave his life for somebody he didn’t even know,” Travis Phippen told NBC Los Angeles.

Authorities have yet to determine a motive for the mass shooting committed by Stephen Paddock, 64, an accountant and high-stakes gambler from Nevada who shot at the crowd from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay hotel and casino. The shooting is the deadliest mass murder committed by a lone gunman in US history.

John Phippen lists Hempstead as his hometown on his Facebook page. Newsday reported that he’s originally from Massapequa.

His family has reportedly filed suit to freeze the assets of the gunman, who was a multi-millionaire. And Phippen’s neighbor set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for his family. The fundraiser collected $64,793 as of Monday evening.

John Phippen’s wife died three years ago and his youngest daughter is 14.

Plainview Man Shot, Killed in NYC Workplace Dispute

Photo by Nick Allen

A 37-year-old construction foreman from Plainview was shot and killed Thursday at a work site in Manhattan by a former employee who then committed suicide, according to New York City police and reports.

NYPD officers responded to a shooting inside a building near the corner of Riverside Boulevard on the Upper West Side, where they found Christopher Sayers suffering from multiple gunshot wounds at 7:10 a.m., police said.

The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. A 44-year-old man was found with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head on the 5th floor of the same building, police said. Authorities did not identify the shooter, but he was identified in published reports as 44-year-old Samuel Perry of Far Rockaway.

“He was fired two days ago,” NYPD Deputy Chief Christopher McCormack told reporters, referring to Perry. “Talking to some of the workers so far, they said he was a bit of a hothead.”

The New York Times reported that the five-acre construction site is a $2.3-billion luxury development called Waterline Square with three towers containing more than 1,000 units expected to open next year.

No arrests have been made and NYPD detectives are continuing the investigation.

3rd Suspect Nabbed in Gang-related Massapequa Murder

From left to right: Laura Christina Campos, Carlos Portillo and Kevin Granados-Coreas (NCPD)

A Maryland woman became the third suspect arrested in what authorities have described as the gang-motivated killing of a teenager found dead in Massapequa Preserve six months ago, Nassau County police said.

Laura Christina Campos, 28, of Bladensburg, Md. was charged Thursday with second-degree murder in the death of 19-year-old Kevin Granados-Coreas of Rosedale, police said.

Her arrest comes a month after Carlos Portillo, 22, of Hempstead, and 19-year-old Kevin Granados-Coreas of Rosedale were each charged with second-degree murder in the case.

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

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.

Portilla and Granados-Coreas both pleaded not guilty and were ordered held without bail. Portilla is due back in court Oct. 4 and Granados-Coreas is due back Oct. 13. Campos will be arraigned Friday at First District Court in Hempstead. 

Police had released this sketch of the victim before he was identified.

Hempstead Teen Arrested for Uniondale Murder

www.houstondwiattorney.net
Photo by www.houstondwiattorney.net

A 19-year-old Hempstead man was arrested for allegedly killing a teenager in the victim’s hometown of Uniondale two weeks ago, Nassau County police said.

Nerlin Omar Chacon-Ruano was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Ayamiguel Ayala-Hernandez. The suspect was ordered held without bail following his arraignment at First District Court in Hempstead.

Police said the teen shot 18-year-old victim on Walnut Street at 11:59 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15. First Precinct officers responding to a report of shots fired found the victim laying on the ground. He was taken to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, where he was pronounced dead a half hour later.

The suspect “was in possession of a loaded 9mm firearm” when he “intentionally fired multiple gunshots at the victim…causing his death,” Homicide Squad detectives alleged in court documents obtained by the Press.

Chacon-Ruano is due back in court Thursday.

Appeals Court Overturns Skelos Corruption Conviction

Dean Skelos
New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre)

A federal appeals court in Manhattan overturned the 2015 corruption conviction of ex-New York State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and his son, Adam, on Tuesday, triggering the possibility of a retrial.

The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled that part of U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood’s instructions to the jury was invalidated by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision. The decision in the Skelos case was hailed by his attorney and assailed by prosecutors.

“Senator Skelos is grateful for the court’s careful consideration of the issues and looks forward to the next steps,” said Alexandra Shapiro, the attorney who won Skelos’ appeal. “We believe that as events unfold it is going to become clear that this is a case that never should have been brought.”

Joon Kim, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York whose office tried the case under the leadership of his predecessor, Preet Bharara, issued a statement signaling that another trial is on the horizon.

“While we are disappointed in the decision and will weigh our appellate options, we look forward to a prompt retrial where we will have another opportunity to present the overwhelming evidence of Dean Skelos and Adam Skelos’s guilt and again give the public the justice it deserves,” Kim said. “Cleaning up corruption is never easy, and that is certainly true for corruption in New York State government. But we are as committed as ever to doing everything we can to keep our government honest.”

Wood had sentenced the former GOP majority leader of the state Senate to 5 years in prison and his son to 6 ½ years behind bars, but stayed the execution of their sentencing while the appeals were pending.

Prosecutors said Dean pressured Roslyn-based medical malpractice firm Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers (PRI), New Hyde Park-based developer Glenwood Management and Arizona-based storm water filter manufacturer AbTech Industries for no-show jobs and payments for his son in exchange for favorable legislative treatment.

All three companies had business before the state at the time. The senator’s defense attorney argued that there was no quid pro quo because he never changed his vote on legislation in exchange for anything.

The overturning of the Skelos verdict comes two months after the federal appeals panel reversed the conviction of ex-state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), who was convicted on corruption charges days before Skelos. Silver, whose 12-year sentence was also stayed pending appeal, is additionally facing a retrial.

Related Story: An Inside Look At How Skelos Trial Exposed Slimy Side Of NY Politics

Hurricane Maria Kicking Up Surf, But Sparing Long Island

Surfers off of Monroe Blvd in Long Beach try their luck and skill from the strong waves created by approaching Hurricane Jose on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. (Photo by Joe Abate)

Hurricane Maria is forecast to head out to sea Tuesday, sparing Long Island the kind of close call that the region went through last week when Hurricane Jose passed by, experts said.

Maria, a category one storm with 80 mph sustained winds about 300 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, prompted the National Weather Service (NWS) to issue a high surf advisory for ocean beaches in Suffolk County on Monday.

“The dangerous conditions may persist through the middle of the week,” Upton-based NWS forecasters said in a statement that warned the wave action may cause “localized beach erosion.”

Meteorologists predict the storm will stay far enough off the southern coast of LI that no tropical storm watches or warnings will be issued like those that happened with Jose, which also spared the island—although only after getting close enough that authorities were preparing for potentially damaging winds and rain.

While preparing for Jose last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said New York State emergency response resources would remain deployed on LI until it was clear whether or not Maria would impact the area.

Ocean waves between five and nine feet were expected off the South Shore. Wave height was slightly lower at points west.

The entire South Shore of LI, including Nassau County and New York City, were experiencing rip currents, NWS added. The agency reminded the public to only swim at beaches with lifeguards on duty and if they do get caught in a rip current, to swim parallel to shore until free.

The forecast for the rest of the second half of the week is expected to be more autumn-like with temperatures in the 60s and 70s. Dense fog Monday night with a chance of showers Tuesday and Wednesday is all the rain on the radar for LI.