Police & Fire

Paul Greenberg. Photo from Miller Place Fire District

One of the Miller Place Fire Department’s longest serving captains, Paul Greenberg, died Jan. 22. He was 78.

Greenberg was born July 4, 1941 in Manhattan to the late Sidney and Ida Greenberg. 

Paul Greenberg. Photo from Miller Place Fire District

Greenberg has been captain for 10 years, according to Commissioner Larry Fischer, and has been with Miller Place fire for around three decades. In addition to his service with the department, he also had a 37 year career with the Civil Service Department of Suffolk County, according to his obituary from O.B. Davis Funeral Home. In his free time, it was said he enjoyed building model boats.

Miller Place Fire Chief Rick Batchelder said he had known Greenberg since 2004, saying that he “has always been involved in department functions.” 

“He was always a great guy, and he always approached me with questions that needed answers,” the chief said.

He had especially been involved with the Miller Place Fire Police. Lieutenant Tom Van De Kieft served with him for several decades in the fire police section, adding that Greenberg was active as one of the ambulance drivers.

“He was good with all the members,” Van De Keift said. “He was very active as a leader — well liked.”

He was the husband of Tasha Greenberg (née Hewett), who is the secretary for the fire department; the father of Glenn (Anna) Greenberg and the late Diana Hewett-Ridgewell; the adoring grandfather of Michael Greenberg and his fiancée Tiana Rooney and Brian Greenberg; the brother of Marty (Jo Ann) Greenberg; the uncle of Mark Greenberg and great uncle of Tyler and Caleb Greenberg; and brother-in-law of Charles Hewett and his partner Charles Olbricht.

A memorial visitation for Greenberg will be held Sunday, Jan. 26 from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at O.B. Davis Funeral Homes, 1001 Route 25A, Miller Place, NY 11764.

 

File photo
Paige Relyea was reported missing Monday, Jan. 20. Photo from SCPD

Police have reported that Paige Relyea, who had been reported missing Jan. 20 after she was last seen leaving her home in a 2009 gray Toyota Corolla was found dead in Syosset Jan. 23.

Nassau county Police Department detectives are currently investigating.

*Original story*

Suffolk County Police reported a Nesconset woman has been reported missing.

Paige Relyea, 19, was reported missing by a family member Jan. 20 at approximately 12:45 p.m. Relyea lived at 3 Premier Court, and was last seen leaving her home Jan. 19 at around 12:30 p.m. in a 2009 gray Toyota Corolla with New York plate HSA 5877.

Relyea is white, 5 feet 3 inches tall and approximately 160 pounds. She has brown hair, brown eyes, wears glasses and has multiple ear piercings. She was last seen wearing jeans, a green sweater and brown boots.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on Relyea’s location to call 911 or the 4th Squad at 631-854-8452.

by -
0 619
File photo

As his former office sits empty on North Country Road in Setauket, former investment adviser Steven Pagartanis will be spending time in jail.

The 60-year-old East Setauket resident appeared in Central Islip’s federal court Jan. 9 where U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack sentenced Pagartanis to 14 years in prison and also ordered him to pay more than $6.5 million in restitution, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. The former investment adviser was arrested May 30, 2018, and in December of the same year, pleaded guilty to charges of mail and wire fraud for orchestrating a securities fraud scheme for 18 years.

“Today’s sentence is a well-deserved reckoning for Pagartanis, who preyed on elderly investors, many of whom trusted him with their life savings, for nearly two decades,” said U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue. “Protecting investors, especially those that are vulnerable, from white-collar criminals is a priority of this office and the Department of Justice.” 

According to the press release, from January 2000 to March 2018, Pagartanis targeted elderly women to invest in two publicly traded companies. He requested the victims write checks payable to an entity he secretly controlled. After laundering the investments using a series of bank accounts, he used the money to pay for personal expenses. He also funded failed business ventures that included his wife’s pet store. 

The defendant’s victims invested more than $13 million and sustained losses of over $9 million, according to the EDNY office.

Pagartanis’ attorney Kevin Keating, of Garden City, declined to comment.

Frank Napolitano’s mother, Roseanne Maggio, of Middle Island, lost nearly $70,000 in the scam. Since Maggio died in 2018, Napolitano attended the sentencing along with other victims.

He said he was satisfied with the sentencing and was surprised that the judge ordered Pagartanis to prison immediately. While to his knowledge his mother’s $70,000 is the smallest amount lost by a victim, he said money is relative to everybody.

“Seventy thousand to one person is $3 million to another person,” he said. “It’s really kind of all my mother had in terms of investing.” 

Napolitano said it was crazy to hear of all the luxury items Pagartanis purchased with the money, including vacations and luxury cars, especially since he targeted elderly women, most of whom had recently suffered an illness or death of a family member.

“It breaks your heart,’” he said.

Despite her passing, Maggio’s family will still see some restitution. Her son said his mother had hoped to leave money to her four grandchildren.

“They’re able to see a little something of grandma’s investment so it helps a little bit,” he said.

Geoffrey Girnun hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Photo supplied by Geoffrey Girnun for a previous article

Federal prosecutors announced Jan. 14 that Geoffrey Girnun, 49, a former professor at Stony Brook University, has pled guilty to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in government funds from cancer-related research grants.

At federal court in Central Islip, Girnun, of Woodmere, pled guilty to stealing $225,000 in those grant funds. The ex-professor issued fraudulent invoices for research equipment to SBU from sham companies he created to conceal his theft of funds from cancer-related research grants issued by the National Institutes of Health and SBU. Prosecutors said this went to pay for things like Girnun’s mortgage.

Prosecutors said Girnun faces up to 10 years in prison as well as restitution, forfeiture and a fine, which are all to be determined by the judge at that time.

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard Donaghue said the ex-professor is being held responsible.

“With today’s guilty plea, Girnun has been held accountable for his unconscionable scheme to embezzle for his personal use hundreds of thousands of dollars in government funds that were intended to help find a cure for cancer,” he said in a release.

The professor had been arrested in September last year and was charged in a seven-count indictment with theft of state and federal government funds, wire fraud and money laundering. 

Girnun was featured in a March 25, 2015, TBR News Media article. At the time, the researcher was exploring the role of different proteins that either promote or prevent various cancers. The one particular protein in the liver cell he was studying is one that classically regulates the cell cycle, according to the article.

Girnun discovered that the protein promotes how the liver produces sugar, in the form of glucose, to feed organs such as the brain under normal conditions. In diabetic mice, the protein goes back to its classic role as a cell cycle regulator.

Girnun made the move to SBU from the University of Maryland in 2013 and said at the time he was inspired by the opportunity to create something larger.

“I want to build a program in cancer metabolism,” he said. “I want to build something beyond my own lab.”

An attorney for Girnun did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

 

Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and Suffolk County Police 6th Precinct Crime Section officers are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate the man who allegedly stole merchandise from a South Setauket store this month.

A man stole a Dyson vacuum from Target, located at 265 Pond Path,  Jan. 3 at approximately 12:20 p.m. The vacuum was valued at approximately $300.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS, utilizing a mobile app which can be downloaded through the App Store or Google Play by searching P3 Tips or online at www.P3Tips.com. All calls, text messages and emails will be kept confidential.

by -
0 442
File photo

Police said a woman was hit and killed Sunday night in Shoreham after she allegedly was crossing over Route 25A.

Suffolk County Police said in a statement a yet-to-be-named adult female was crossing westbound in front of the Rocky Point Fire Department at 49 Route 25A, Jan. 12, when she was struck by a 2018 Hyundai SUV at around 6:10 p.m. The woman was transported to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson where she died from her injuries.

The driver of the Hyundai, Paula Avent, 36, of Rocky Point, was alone in her vehicle and not injured.

The event is under investigation why the woman was crossing the road. The Hyundai was impounded for a safety check.

This story will be updated when the name of the woman is released.

Mourners march in Iran after Qassim Suleimani was killed in a U.S. airstrike. Photo from Iranian leader’s website

By David Luces and Kyle Barr

The assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq three days into the new year sent shock waves nationally and globally. In response, Iran has threatened to retaliate. 

For people on the North Shore, it has meant a period of uncertainty and anxiety. As the fallout from the attack continues to make headlines, locals are left wondering what will be the outcome to the posturing and threats from both the U.S. and Iran.

The U.S. military recruitment office in Selden. Photo from Google Maps

Bernard Firestone, a professor of Political Science at Hofstra University, said there has already been conflict between the two nations, including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordering attacks on American military targets directly, rather than through allied militias, as it has done so in the past.

On Tuesday, Jan. 7, Iran launched missiles at two separate U.S. military bases in Iraq, though officials said there were no American or Iraqi casualties. National newspapers reported the Iranian foreign minister said they had “concluded” attacks on American forces, adding they would step back from escalating into a war.

That does not mean that tensions between the two nations have stabilized, nor that there is the possibility for further contention down the road. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump (R) called on other western countries, who have largely condemned the Iranian rocket attacks, to defy Iran, and announced his intent to install new sanctions on the country.

“Over the past two weeks the U.S. has responded more forcefully to attacks by Iraqi militia allied with Iran, including the killing of Soleimani,” Firestone said. “So, we are already in armed conflict with Iran.”

Paul Fritz, an associate professor of Political Science from Hofstra, said the missile strikes were a “somewhat surprising” escalation of hostilities, and appear to be a direct challenge to the U.S. military, and a further escalation of strong rhetoric.

“The Iranian regime can’t be seen as folding to an outside power with an attack like last week and decided it had to do something big to maintain legitimacy, given strong nationalistic feelings following the killing of Soleimani,” he said.

Fritz said there is always a chance, however small, that armed conflict can spark between the two countries, most likely through an unsanctioned expression of military force that escalates into a full-scale war. America’s past wars against Spain and its entrance into World War I started much in that way, specifically when Spain and Germany attacked ships, killing American civilians, though of course there are differences today.

“When the rhetoric is sometimes over the top, what that can do to the other side is the Iranian regime has to respond in kind,” Fritz said.

At home, planning also begun, but for potential attacks to the U.S., New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and city police announced they would be going on high alert Jan. 3 fearing any kind of retaliation from Iran.

The Suffolk County Police Department said in a statement that it has a robust and long-standing homeland security program, which now includes our SCPD Shield program in partnership with NYPD Shield. They also said there is currently no credible threat to Suffolk County. 

With the U.S. military at a state of readiness, local recruiting centers on the North Shore said they couldn’t comment to the media about whether they are seeing any change in recruitment numbers. 

‘We are already in armed conflict with Iran’

— Bernard Firestone

Lisa Ferguson, chief of media relations for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, said they have not seen much of a difference.

“At this point we have not seen an impact on our ability to recruit, and too many variables exist to draw a comparison to previous situations,” she said. 

The days after the Iranian general’s death have been a roller coaster. Residents opinions are split over whether Suleimani’s killing was a necessary act, or a way of painting a target on America’s back.

“I think it was a necessary evil,” said Lake Grove resident Patrick Finnerty. “The man [Suleimani ] was threatening people, threatening us.”

During a 2019 Veterans Day ceremony in Greenlawn, Lenny Salvo, a Vietnam War veteran had one message he wanted the public to know: “Stop war.”

“For me it’s not about politics,” he said. “All I see is the harm that it is going to do to people.”

In the days that have now passed, with tensions escalating and Iran potentially returning to build nuclear bombs, Salvo said his position has changed. He said he’s supporting the president. 

“If there’s going to be a conflict, it’s better now [than when they have a nuclear weapon],” he said.

Groups nationwide are already planning
protests. On Jan. 9 at 3:30 p.m., the North Country Peace Group is planning a protest at the corner of Route 112 and Route 347 in Port Jefferson Station against any further war in the Middle East. 

If anything, the threat of attack to New York has stirred harrowing memories of 9/11. Almost 20 years later, the memory of that day’s events has filtered down into the blood of those who witnessed it.

Port Jefferson Village mayor, Margot Garant, shared memories of that fateful day at the village meeting Jan. 6. On Sept. 11, 2001, the trains were down, cars jammed the highways and the Bridgeport to Port Jefferson ferry was one of the very few means for people to get off the Island.

Garant said she remembered cars backed up all the way up East Broadway and beyond for days. At the meeting, she said she will speak with code enforcement and the fire department in case any such crisis should happen again.

“It could be a chemical weapon, it could be a bomb, so many things could happen,” the mayor said. “If I’m not thinking about that, I would be negligent … you have a number of people saying they want to take revenge — that’s not normal — you’ve got to be prepared.”

The fear of home terrorism isn’t unfounded, though the experts said any kind of terrorism linked directly to Iran could provoke a full-scale war, something they don’t want. Firestone said that if there were to be terrorist-type attacks, it will more likely be launched at allied or American targets in the home region.

‘The Iranian regime can’t be seen as folding to an outside power with an attack like last week and decided it had to do something big to maintain legitimacy.’

— Paul Fritz

Though statistics say one is more likely to get struck by lightning than be involved in a terrorist attack, people from New York City and Long Islanders have a unique view and anxiety about any such attack.

After the birth of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the western world saw a slew of what was considered “lone wolf” terrorists, or people who conduct violence without the direct support and resources of any one group. 

These, Fritz said, are less likely in this case, since there is no one specific ideology such as seen with ISIS calling for such attacks.

Much depends on what Iran’s next step will be, experts said, and though a full-scale conflict is unlikely, Fritz said it begets people to be informed and to ask questions of one’s local elected representatives.

“Stay informed, but don’t turn this into something all-consuming,” he said. 

Leah Chiappino, Rita J. Egan and Donna Deedy all contributed reporting.

by -
0 273
Erica Lathan was reported missing from a Stony Brook group home in September. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are seeking the public’s help to locate a teenager who was reported missing in September.

Erica Lathan voluntarily left a group home, located at 1413 Stony Brook Road, Sept. 3, 2019, at approximately 8:50 p.m. She left the home with another female resident and could possibly be in New York City.

Lathan, 17, is black, 5 feet 5 inches tall, approximately 165 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on Lathan’s location to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652 or 911.

 

County Sheriff, Corrections Officers Say Judges Need Discretion

Inside the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Yaphank. File photo by Kevin Redding

Depending on who you ask, New York State’s new bail reform is either halting an institution that punished the poor, or it is allowing alleged criminals to return to and terrorize local neighborhoods. 

Back in 2018, after Democrats gained control of both state legislative houses, bail reform became a priority issue for multiple Dems in the State Legislature, with the bail reform coming in as an addendum to the state budget bill. The reform forces judges to release alleged perps without bail for multiple misdemeanors and what are considered nonviolent felony charges.

Over the last few months, on judges’ orders, jails across the state have been releasing inmates who fall under the list of bail-less crimes. In an interview Monday, Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D), whose office oversees the jails in Suffolk County, said approximately 301 inmates have already been released from Suffolk custody over the past month leading up to the law’s enactment. This comes after court orders from judges across the state. He added there is another expected 10 to 15 inmates that will be released this month.

“The biggest thing with this legislation is to give judges back discretion — they can look at criminal history, if they are mentally ill or have a serious substance abuse issue.”

Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. 

Proponents of bail reform have long argued the previous system effectively taxed poor defendants for accused crimes. They argued that people and their families who could not afford bail would languish in jail until their court date, such as the case of Bronx teenager Kalief Browder, who was stuck in Rikers Island prison for three years, unable to pay the $3,000 bail price until 2013 when he was released due to lack of evidence. He later committed suicide.

Bail costs can range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars and are determined by individual judges. People can also make use of a bail bondsman, but fees for those can still be several thousand, plus the money upfront to ensure a person meets their requisite court dates.

A report by John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the originally proposed bail reforms said that if enacted reforms were around in 2018, there would have been 20,349 more individuals in New York City released without bail, a cumulative amount worth nearly $200 million to the state. In 2018, 105,161 cases resulted in pretrial release without bail.

Leading state Democrats have said the reforms are long overdue, and specifically target nonviolent offenses. Advocates pointed out that poor people unable to make bail can easily lose jobs if they’re not available or stuck in jail, and that those who have to pay for bail on a limited income, even for minor offenses, might be forced to use funds they would have used for rent or even food.

Criminal justice reform advocates say the critics are unnecessarily stoking fears. 

In a statement, Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York American Civil Liberties Union, said the new reforms are just a step on the path toward overall prison reforms.

“Thousands of New Yorkers who are presumed innocent of the misdemeanor and nonviolent felony charges they face will no longer be forced to sit in jail awaiting trial,” her statement read.

However, the law enforces no cash bail for several offenses that critics have called overtly aggressive. James Quinn, Queens assistant district attorney, released a list of laws judges cannot set bail to, including aggravated vehicular manslaughter, several types of drug sale crimes and even lesser counts of arson. 

Toulon said he has disagreed with the new bail reforms, especially over the list of crimes people are made to be released. He mentioned one inmate who was just recently released on a partially secured bond of $40,000 out of a $400,000 bail order, without a bail bondsman. The individual, he said, had been accused of rape in the first degree of a child, and had a past history of sex crimes.

He said any sort of new bail legislation should give judges more jurisdiction over determining bail.

“The biggest thing with this legislation is to give judges back discretion — they can look at criminal history, if they are mentally ill or have a serious substance abuse issue,” he said.

State legislators are divided on party lines over the new bail reform. A delegation of Republican state reps from Long Island gathered Dec. 31 to voice their opposition.

State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), the senate minority leader, called the new law “unconscionable,” adding the opposing party has “abandoned crime victims, law enforcement and the public in favor of criminals.”

The delegation noted two criminal cases including one where a woman allegedly assaulted three Jewish women, just one of several during a citywide spree of anti-Semitic attacks during the eight days of Hanukkah. She was arrested again the following day for another assault charge. The law allows for no cash bail on offenders who commit assault without serious injury, and the new bail laws have been enforced since late 2019.

State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said the new law goes against common sense.

“Judges should have discretion in weighing the potential danger of releasing someone who could have violent tendencies or constitutes a real threat to our community,” LaValle said.

Law enforcement groups have also vocalized their frustrations with the bill. 

Louis Viscusi, union president of the Suffolk County Correction Officers Association, said the law doesn’t just force cashless bail for nonviolent offenders, but for drug dealers, sex offenders and gang members.

“A lot of people commit crimes to help fuel that habit,” he said. “At [a corrections facility] they could detox and could make better decisions. This new bail reform removes those options.”

Louis Viscusi

He added he saw Suffolk County actually using the system in the way it was meant to, with the county corrections facility including 24-hour medical care and a space for drug and alcohol addiction. Within the facilities in both Yaphank and Riverhead, he said, inmates could come down from their high and make more informed decisions once or if they are released on bail. Without it, those same people might be out on the street making the same decisions that got them arrested in the first place. 

“A lot of people commit crimes to help fuel that habit,” he said. “At [a corrections facility] they could detox and could make better decisions. This new bail reform removes those options.”

For decades, New York judges were supposed to consider only risk of flight when determining bail, not public safety or safety of the individual. The new law encourages a supervised release program, where municipalities are meant to keep in touch with those accused. 

Toulon echoed Viscusi’s comments, adding his term has focused on giving inmates transferable skills such as plumbing or work with HVAC for when they return to society. He added the new law presents issues for people who may need added protection, such as women who were arrested for crimes, but were subdued in human and sex trafficking schemes. Women who are trafficked are often forcefully addicted to drugs to keep them under control. 

Proponents of the new law point to New Jersey, which has had a similar bail reform bill since 2017, and which a court report showed that while jail populations waned, people still were showing up for their assigned court dates. Unlike Jersey, New York did not have a three-year window between when the law was passed and enacted.

Though Republican officials have looked to paint the issue as a party split, some Democrats have proposed changes to the existing bail reform law. State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport), along with Sen. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood) introduced legislation back in June 2019 that would expand the list of qualifying offenses that judges can determine pretrial requirements, to include assault, manslaughter, sex crimes including against children, terrorism-related charges, all class-A felony drug-related crimes and bribery offenses involving public officials. The bill was introduced but could not be taken up until the State Legislature reconvened on Jan. 8.

“When an individual poses a clear danger to public safety, an unbiased judicial expert must have the discretion to choose whether or not to release them without bail,” Gaughran said in a statement back in June. 

 

by -
0 489

Suffolk County Police Major Case Unit detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a man and injured two women in Greenlawn Saturday morning Jan. 4.

Nicole Khouryawad was driving a 2018 Toyota Corolla on Broadway, near Depew Street, when her vehicle collided head-on with a southbound 2013 Toyota Corolla at approximately 7:50 a.m.

Khouryawad, 19, of Bellmore, was transported by the Greenlawn Fire Department to Huntington Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. The driver of the 2013 Toyota Corolla, Courtney Muller, 28, of Greenlawn, was transported to Southside Hospital for treatment of serious injuries. Muller’s passenger, Rahman Thomas, 43, of Greenlawn, was transported to Huntington Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The vehicles were impounded for safety checks and the investigation is continuing. Detectives are asking anyone with information on the crash to call the Major Case Unit at 631-852-6555.