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.

Islip Terrace Man Arrested for Killing Wife

Photo by www.houstondwiattorney.net

An Islip Terrace man was arrested Wednesday for allegedly killing his 40-year-old wife in Centereach two months ago, Suffolk County police said. 

Steven Strub
Steven Strub

Steven Strub, 39, was charged with second-degree murder for strangling Rachelle Weeks-Strub to death, police said.

Police found the victim dead inside her basement apartment on Towne Lane after being called to check on her shortly after 10 a.m. Thursday, June 1, authorities said.

Strub will be arraigned Thursday at First District Court in Central Islip.

CareConnect, Long Island-based Health Insurer, Going Out of Business

CareConnect, the health insurance unit of Long Island-based Northwell Health hospital group, is pulling the plug on its four-year-old operations, leaving 125,000 enrollees scrambling to find a new insurer, the company announced Thursday.

The company blamed its failure on the fact that it had to pay $112 million—44 percent of its revenue last year—into the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) risk-adjustment pool that was designed to prevent insurers from “cherry-picking” healthy customers who are less expensive to cover.

“It has become increasingly clear that continuing the CareConnect health plan is financially unsustainable, given the failure of the federal government and Congress to correct regulatory flaws that have destabilized insurance markets and their refusal to honor promises of additional funding,” said Michael Dowling, Northwell’s president and chief executive officer.

The insurer is the second in the New York State of Health insurance marketplace created under Obamacare to be put out to pasture. Health Republic tanked in 2015.

CareConnect will provide the New York State Department of Financial Services with its plan to withdraw from the marketplace as the insurer begins to wind down over the next year, the company said. It will continue to serve members, patients and providers as well as pay claims throughout the transition period, it added. Northwell will help CareConnect’s more than 200 employees find positions elsewhere in the system.

Dowling noted that despite the death of CareConnect, Northwell will continue in its mission to better manage the health of its patients and slow the growth of health care costs.

“The market challenges confronting us require that we continue to be bold in our thinking,” he said. “Moving forward on our population health journey, we will continue to explore new models of care delivery that will help us accomplish the triple aim of improving the patient experience and the health of our communities, and reducing the per capita cost of care.”

3 Long Island Financial Execs Charged With $9M Scam

Three men were among three financial executives at a Long Island-based mortgage lender who were arrested for an alleged scheme to fraudulently obtain nearly $9 million in loans, federal authorities said.

Edward Bohm, 39, of Nissequogue, 42-year-old Matthew Voss of Northport and 40-year-old Edward Sypher of Scarsdale were each charged Tuesday with conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud at Central Islip central court.

“The defendants sought short-term loans from financial institutions that served as a repository for lenders,” said William F. Sweeney, Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York office. “They then allegedly took the money, which is typically intended for borrowers looking to purchase a home, and used it for their own personal gain.”

Authorities said the trio, who were senior executives at Vanguard Funding, LLC, obtained more than $8.9 million worth of warehouse loans for Vanguard to fund mortgages, but then allegedly misused the loans to pay personal expenses and to repay earlier fraudulently obtained loans between August 2016 and March 2017.

Voss is the company’s chief operating officer, Sypher is the chief financial officer and Bohm is the president of sales.

Voss and Syphe were released on $30,000 bond. Bohm was released to home detention. If convicted, they face up to 30 years in prison.

2 Arrested for Murder of Teen Found Dead in Massapequa Preserve

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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.