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.

MS-13 Gang Member from Freeport Gets 40 Years for 2 Murders

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An admitted MS-13 street gang member from Freeport was sentenced Thursday to 40 years in federal prison for killing two other gang members in a two-week span five years ago.

Melvin Marquez-Sanchez pleaded guilty to murder and racketeering charges last year at Central Islip federal court for the Aug. 25, 2012 murder of Douglas Martinez in Brentwood, the Sept. 8, 2012 murder of Jose Vallejo in Hempstead as well as a conspiracy to kill a rival gang member in Maryland in early 2013.

“This defendant killed two young men here on Long Island, before fleeing to Maryland, where he sought to continue the murderous agenda of the MS-13,” said Bridget Rohde, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Prosecutors said the 22-year-old, who is not a citizen, shot Martinez multiple times at point-blank range with a .38 caliber revolver, killing him. The gang targeted the victim, a fellow MS-13 gang member, for not committing violence against rival gang members, not sending enough money to gang leaders in El Salvador and because he was suspected of being an informant, authorities said. Marquez-Sanchez is one of seven MS-13 members charged in connection with the Martinez murder.

Two weeks after that slaying, Marquez-Sanchez and several other MS-13 members killed Vallejo, a suspected rival gang member who was selling drugs in Kennedy Park in Hempstead, which the MS-13 considered to be its turf, according to investigators. The gang lured the victim to the park under the guise of buying marijuana from him when Marquez-Sanchez shot Vallejo multiple times with the same .38 caliber revolver and another MS-13 member attacked Vallejo with a machete, slashing his throat and face, prosecutors said. Four other MS-13 members were also charged in the Vallejo murder.

After committing those two murders, Marquez-Sanchez fled to Maryland, where he and other members of MS-13 conspired to kill a suspected member of the rival 18th Street gang, authorities said. Marquez-Sanchez and others set out to kill their target, but were unable to locate him. His co-conspirators eventually did murder that victim after Marquez-Sanchez was arrested on March 12, 2013.

Nassau Legis. Carrié Solages Arrested for Assaulting Girlfriend, Cops Say

Carrié Solages
Nassau County Legis. Carrié Solages 9-Elmont)

Nassau County Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Elmont) was arrested early Wednesday morning for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend in Valley Stream, Nassau County police said, sparking swift and bipartisan calls for his immediate resignation.

Solages, who is running for his fourth term this fall, was charged with assault and child endangerment after he allegedly grabbed the victim by the arm and neck, then threw her against a wall while her daughter jumped on his back to get him to stop, according to court documents. He is among the Democratic legislative minority’s most vocal critics of the GOP-controlled county legislature and Republican administration of County Executive Ed Mangano. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle wasted no time in demanding that he step down.

“All domestic violence incidents should be taken seriously, and we work each day to ensure all families in Nassau feel safe in their homes,” said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport). ”If the allegations are true, we find them reprehensible and Leg. Solages should remove himself from office immediately.”

The 38-year-old lawmaker, a partner in his law firm, Solages & Solages, is a former Bronx prosecutor who won his seat in a 2011 upset when he unseated his predecessor, the late Legis. John Ciotti (R-Valley Stream), who had served 16 years on the legislature since its formation in 1996. Solages’ sister is New York State Assemb. Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont). The Nassau Republican Committee nominated Paul A. Sapienza to challenge Carrié this fall.

Solages represents the county’s third legislative district, which is made up of communities in southwestern Nassau, including Elmont, Valley Stream, South Floral Park Inwood as well as parts of Lawrence and North Woodmere. Calls to Solages’ office seeking comment were not immediately returned.

During his tenure, Solages helped broker a deal to re-staff the Nassau police Fifth Precinct station house—where his arrest was processed—that had been downgraded in a consolidation initiative. He also fought plans to build a mini-casino and soccer stadium at Belmont Park and most recently had led rallies opposing tax breaks for Green Acres Mall.

Both major party nominees in the Nassau County executive race called for Solages to resign less than an hour after news of his arrest broke.

“There is zero tolerance in society for domestic violence,” said former State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury), the GOP nominee for the county’s top job. “And there is no place in public office for anyone who would raise their hand to a woman.”

Martins’ Democratic rival, Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin), also questioned her colleague’s ability to govern in wake of the allegations.

“No person should ever commit violence against another individual and Legislator Solages’ actions have completely undermined his ability to appropriately represent the people of his district,” she said. “Elected officials need to be held to the highest standards and must be held accountable for their actions.”

A spokesman for Mangano, who has rebuffed calls to resign and not said whether he will run for a third term after pleading not guilty to federal corruption charges in October, did not respond to a request for comment.

Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), who declined to run for an 11th term this fall after her campaign was recently fined for financial reporting violations, told reporters that if Solages refuses to resign, he should be barred from the Democratic caucus and stripped of his committee assignments.

“The acts he is charged with committing disqualify him from holding high public office,” she said, adding that she is calling for a special prosecutor to try his case. 

Solages is not the first sitting Nassau legislator to be arrested in the past two decades since the panel was formed. Former Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) served three months in federal prison in 2015 after pleading guilty to bilking $2 million from a client of his law firm. And ex-Nassau Legis. Roger Corbin (D-Westbury), who was released from federal prison in 2011 after being sentenced to 18 months behind bars for tax evasion, is appealing his 2014 conviction for taking more than $200,000 in bribes.

Solages pleaded not guilty and was released without bail following his arraignment at First District Court in Hemsptead. The victim was treated at the scene. Her daughter was not injured.

Ex-Suffolk Conservative Party Chair Ed Walsh Sentenced to 2 Years

Ed Walsh Trial
Ed Walsh leaving court on Monday, March 21, 2016. (Timothy Bolger/Long Island Press)

Ex-Suffolk County Conservative Party Chairman Edward Walsh was sentenced Tuesday to two years in federal prison for golfing, gambling and politicking while he was on the clock at his county jail job.

Walsh, a former corrections lieutenant, had been convicted of wire fraud and theft of government services following a three-week-long trial at Central Islip federal court in the spring of 2016. Judge Arthur Spatt also ordered Walsh to pay $202,225 in restitution for time he was paid for while not at work.

“What Walsh did was steal taxpayer money, plain and simple,” said William Sweeney, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York office. “He misrepresented the hours he worked with the intent of deceiving his employer, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s office…We certainly expect more from our public servants.”

Prosecutors said the 51-year-old East Islip man, who retired shortly before the trial began, routinely left work to golf or conduct party business between 2011 and ’14. His defense attorneys argued that he was free to come and go as he pleased and make up the hours later.

The trial featured testimony from a who’s who of local political elite, including Suffolk County Democratic Committee Chairman Richard Schaffer, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), Suffolk County Judge Anthony Senft and Frank Tinari, who succeeded Walsh was head of the Suffolk Conservative Party, which boasts the largest membership of the influential minor party statewide.

The prosecution’s star witness was Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, Walsh’s former boss who Walsh helped get elected since DeMarco is a Conservative. DeMarco testified that when he learned Walsh was being paid for time he was supposed to be at the jail, he launched an intern investigation and presented the findings to Suffolk County District Thomas Spota, who declined to prosecute. DeMarco then took the case to federal authorities, who had him indicted in 2015.

Federal prosecutors made their case by comparing Walsh’s time sheets to his billing records and cell phone data that indicated he was not at the county jail in Riverhead when he was on the clock. The jury convicted him after about an hour of deliberations.

Spatt additionally ordered Walsh to forfeit $245,811 and sentenced him to three years of post-release supervision.

Huntington Station Man Convicted of Killing Woman

Fernando Romualdo
Fernando Romualdo

A man was convicted Monday of killing a 23-year-old woman whose body was found in the Froehlich Farm Nature Preserve in Huntington four years ago.

A Suffolk County jury found Fernando Romualdo guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Sarah Strobel. Both the killer and the victim were from Huntington Station.

A person walking on a nature path found her body on Oct. 3, 2013, authorities have said. Romualdo had strangled the victim and was linked to the crime via DNA evidence, prosecutors said.

Romualdo was serving three years in upstate Mohawk Correctional Facility for an unrelated second-degree rape conviction at the time of his arrest last year.

He faces up to 25 years to life in prison when he is sentenced Aug. 1 by Judge Barabara Kahn.

22% of Long Island Villages Don’t Hold Pledge of Allegiance

One-fifth of villages on Long Island don’t hold the Pledge of Allegiance to start off their monthly board meetings, contrary to the traditional routine at most local government meetings, the Press has found.

At least 22 of the 97 villages in Nassau and Suffolk counties skip the salute to the flag that is common practice at other legislative bodies locally and nationwide. The revelation comes on the eve of Flag Day, which commemorates the adoption of the stars and stripes as the national symbol 240 years ago.

Dennis Dietrich, commander of Massapequa American Legion Post 1066, said he was shocked to hear the statistic. His veterans group is among organizations nationwide that host an annual “Pause for the Pledge,” scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, in honor of Flag Day.

“To me, that’s really being unAmerican,” he said of villages skipping the pledge. “This is the United States of America. People died for their freedom…and to not say the Pledge of Allegiance at municipal meetings is disgraceful.”

Voluntarily spending about 10 seconds standing to face the flag and recite the 31-word pledge of allegiance is how board meetings begin at the 13 towns on LI, Glen Cove and Long Beach cities, the Nassau and Suffolk county legislatures, the New York City council, both chambers of the state legislature as well as both chambers of Congress.

Of course, neither American governments nor their residents are legally required to recite the pledge, although state law does mandate the patriotic oath be recited in classrooms at the start of each school day. Those in attendance at meetings or classrooms where the pledge is recited are free to abstain, as the courts have long settled the right to silently protest by not saluting the flag. Although not doing so has occasionally sparked local controversy, such as in the case of two Copiague High School teachers that knelt during the pledge on President Donald Trump’s inauguration day.

“To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous instead of a compulsory routine is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds,” the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson famously wrote in the landmark 1954 ruling that found students cannot be compelled to recite the pledge.

Still, most villages on LI consider the pledge important enough to document it in either their board meeting minutes or agendas, sometimes both. Those that don’t hold the pledge are sometimes called out to publicly justify their decision.

“I am not going to do the Pledge of Allegiance,” Saltaire Mayor John Zaccaro told residents when one noted that it was Fourth of July weekend upon asking the mayor to lead the room in the pledge during a village board meeting on July 2, 2016. “Not that I’m not American or patriotic, but I don’t feel comfortable going forward doing that…I apologize if that offends your sensibilities, but that’s the way I’d like to proceed.”

That was one of the first village board meetings as mayor for Zaccaro, the son of the late U.S. Rep. Geraldine Ferraro (D-Queens), who went down in history in 1984 as the first female candidate female vice presidential candidate for a major political party. Saltaire officials historically did not recite the pledge at every meeting but it was a change from the prior village mayor, who had done so at each meeting for six years until being unseated last spring.

When the change in practice was reported in the Fire Island News, Zaccaro wrote a letter to the editor defending his decision.

“My choice of meeting procedures is in no way a reflection on my patriotism or love of this country, both of which are deeply-felt and undivided,” he wrote.

Other local villages where officials have said they do not regularly hold the pledge at their meetings are Belle Terre, Centre Island, Cove Neck, Great Neck Plaza, Hewlett Bay Park, Hewlett Neck, Hewlett Harbor, Kensington, Kings Point, Lattingtown, Lawrence, Lloyd Harbor, Mattinecock, Munsey Park, Old Brookville, Old Westbury, Russel Gardens, Sands Point, Thomaston, Upper Brookville and Woodsburgh. East Hills was the only village on LI that did not answer repeated requests for comment on whether it holds the pledge.

Villages skipping the pledge had irked State Assemb. Gary Finch (R-Springport) so much that he passed a resolution proclaiming June 14 as Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag Day in the state in 2004 to mark the 50th anniversary of the oft-debated decision to add the words “under god” to the pledge. Critics argue those two words violate the constitutional separation of church and state.

Finch said: “As I stood at the Capitol listening to the pledge reverberate through the great halls, I grew perplexed as to why anyone would want to deny this great oath.”

First Cop in Shootout With Pulse Gunman is a Long Island Native

Adam Gruler
Orlando Police Det. Adam Gruler, who was off-duty working security at the Pulse nightclub, was captured on video when he was the first member of law enforcement to confront the gunman who killed 49 in the early morning hours of Sunday, June 12, 2016 (Photo courtesy of ClickOrlando.com)

Orlando Police Det. Adam Gruler, the first member of law enforcement to exchange fire with the Pulse nightclub shooter a year ago Monday, is a Long Island native, the Press has learned.

Gruler’s local ties deepen the region’s link to the nation’s deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman, who killed 49 people before he was fatally shot by police after a three-hour standoff. The mass murderer, Omar Mateen, 29, grew up in Westbury before moving to Florida. And among the 58 wounded survivors was 29-year-old Marissa Delgado of Glen Cove.

“He’s on the patio!” Gruler yelled to two fellow officers who responded after he first confronted Mateen at 2:02 a.m. June 12, 2016, according to Orlando Police Department documents on the case published in April by WKMG-TV. Moments later, as he and team of four officers tried to apprehend the shooter, he was seen and heard on video yelling, “Guys, approach, let’s go!”

The revelation that Gruler is a native Long Islander, first reported by the Press, comes amid remembrances honoring the victims nationwide during LGBT pride month celebrations. During one such event Sunday in Long Beach, 49 surfers representing the victims paddled out into the Atlantic while mourners gathered on the shore tossed flowers into the ocean.

Gruler, who joined the Orlando police force in 2001, was an off-duty officer moonlighting in uniform as security for the Pulse nightclub on the night of the shooting. His search of the parking lot for an underage patron with fake ID was interrupted when he heard the first shots ring out, ran inside and got into a brief shootout with Mateen before retreating and calling for backup, the Orlando Sentinel reported. In the year since, Gruler became a detective and was awarded by police brass for valor on that night, according to the department.

The detective was unavailable for comment because the investigation into the massacre is continuing, said Lt. Wanda Miglio, an Orlando police spokeswoman. He was born and lived on LI for several years before moving to Florida, according to his family.

Delgado, the Pulse victim from LI, was reportedly still reeling from survivors guilt six months after the shooting.

“I got shot 12 times and there’s people that just got shot once and didn’t get to make it,” she told WPTV in December. “Especially my best friend who I came in with. We were supposed to leave together and I couldn’t really do anything to save him.”

Mateen, who was born in New York, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State during the massacre. His widow, Noor Salman, pleaded not guilty earlier this year to federal charges of obstruction of justice and aiding a foreign terrorist organization. Authorities alleged that she misled investigators and aided an abetted Mateen before the shooting.

Survivors and the victims’ families are also suing Salman and Mateen’s former employer, G4S Security, for allegedly ignoring signs that Mateen was a threat, although the company defended its background check on the gunman, WPEC reported.

NYC Man Kidnapped Teen Girlfriend in Elmont, Cops Say

Arturo Gurley
Arturo Gurley

A man was arrested for kidnapping his girlfriend from Elmont, locking her in the trunk of his car and driving her to his hometown of Brooklyn this week, Nassau County police said.

Arturo Gurley, 20, was charged with kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, obstruction of breathing and unauthorized use of a vehicle.

Fifth Squad detectives alleged the suspect met the 19-year-old victim on Navy Walk, convinced her to exit his vehicle, took her cell phone and keys away before pushing her into the trunk, closing it and driving off at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.

When Gurley let the victim out of the trunk 45 minutes later, she noticed she was in Brooklyn, police said. He then walked the victim inside his apartment, placed a sock inside her mouth and duct taped her mouth shut, police said. She was in the apartment for about five hours before she was finally released, drove home and notified police.

Gurley was arrested Friday will be arraigned at First District Court in Hempstead.

Hempstead Man Filmed Himself Raping Unconscious Women, DA Says

Cameron McDermott
Cameron McDermott

A Hempstead man was indicted for allegedly raping two unconscious women on several occasions in Manhattan after investigators found video footage of the attacks on his computer earlier this year, prosecutors said.

Cameron McDermott was charged in Manhattan court with predatory sexual assault, first-degree rape, sexual abuse and unlawful surveillance. Garden City village police had uncovered the footage while executing a search warrant at the suspect’s home following his arrest in January for allegedly flashing several women and possession of child pornography.

“Cameron McDermott is accused of brutally raping and sexually assaulting two vulnerable victims who were incapable of giving consent,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said. “He is accused of further violating these women by recording the acts without their knowledge.”

Prosecutors said the 31-year-old man sexually assaulted an unconscious woman inside apartments in the Murray Hill and Gramercy neighborhoods of Manhattan on eight occasions in 2010, and recorded and photographed the sexual assaults. He also recorded and photographed himself raping and sexually assaulting a second unconscious woman inside an apartment on the Upper East Side on five occasions in 2013, authorities said.

McDermott was initially arrested in Garden City on Jan. 19, when police found him in possession of a cell phone and a laptop that contained several pictures and videos of him exposing himself, police have said.  One video depicted two girls under the age of 16 engaging in a sex act, authorities have said. There were at least half dozen incidents in which he allegedly exposed himself to women over a five-month span, according to investigators.

McDermott allegedly approached a 21-year-old woman at Adelphi University, exposed himself and urinated on her leg on Sept. 25, police have said. Five days later, he allegedly exposed himself to a 20-year-old woman he called over to his car on Hamilton Place, authorities have said. A month after that, he similarly victimized a 44-year-old woman on 9th Street, according to investigators.

In two incidents a half hour apart on the evening of Nov. 23, the suspect allegedly started speaking to women before they realized he had no pants on in Parking Field 7N, police have said. And on Jan. 5, he asked a 15-year-old girl a question on Chestnut Street while he was exposing himself, authorities have said.

He was previously charged with possessing sexual performance of a child, public lewdness and endangering the welfare of a child in those cases.

Manhattan prosecutors ask anyone who may have also been victimized by the suspect to call their Sex Crimes Hotline at 212-335-9373.

Driver Admits to Fatal Franklin Square Hit-and-run

Duke Obule
Duke Obule

A Queens man who killed a 47-year-old taxi cab driver in a Franklin Square hit-and-run crash last year admitted to the crime on Wednesday, the day his trial was set to begin.

Duke Obule pleaded guilty at Nassau County court to second-degree manslaughter, assault, leaving the scene of an accident and driving without a license.

“Duke Obule’s outrageous conduct, driving his BMW at more than 100 miles per hour, cost an innocent man his life,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said.

Prosecutors said the 24-year-old man was speeding eastbound on Hempstead Turnpike with a 20-year old woman in the front seat after leaving a hookah lounge in Farmingdale when he crashed into a taxi cab at the corner of Lincoln Road, killing the cabbie, Paul Mitacek, of Elmont, at 4:16 a.m. on April 23, 2016.

The victim, who was a father of three, was pronounced dead at the scene. Obule ran from the scene, abandoning his passenger who was not able to move because of her injuries, but he was apprehended nearby, authorities said.

Obule faces up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced by Judge Christopher Quinn.

Valley Stream Man Charged With $1M Medicaid Fraud

A medical supply company owner from Valley Stream was indicted for stealing more than $1 million by billing Medicaid for expensive nutritional formula while supplying patients with a lower-priced substitute, authorities said.

Kester Atumonyogo, who owns Brooklyn-based Monack Medical Supply, Inc., was charged with health care fraud, grand larceny, welfare fraud and offering a false instrument for filing, all felonies.

“New Yorkers pay into Medicaid to meet the healthcare needs of the most vulnerable in our communities,” New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. “They deserve to know their dollars are going to help people, not profit unscrupulous business owners.”

Prosecutors said the 49-year-old man filed false claims to Medicaid and Healthfirst, a Medicaid managed care organization, indicating that his company provided pediatric patients with a highly specialized and expensive prescription nutritional formula intended for babies that must obtain nutrients via a feeding tube when he in fact only dispensed “Pediasure” or similar over-the-counter nutritional supplements, or nothing at all.

The Medicaid reimbursement rate for the specialized formula is higher than off-the-shelf or over-the-counter nutritional supplements, the AG’s office noted.

Atumonyogo also allegedly used two different dates of birth and claimed to have been born in two countries—false identifying information he used to obtain two different social security numbers that he has used interchangeably since the 1990s, prosecutors said. He allegedly used the second social security number to enroll Monack as a Medicaid-participating provider of medical supplies.

Atumonyogo was arraigned Wednesday in Brooklyn court. He faces up to 25 years in prison, if convicted.