Police & Fire

A man allegedly entered a Port Jefferson Station gas station Oct. 13, displayed what appeared to be a gun and demanded cash. Photos from SCPD

A man wearing a ski mask allegedly entered Speedway gas station in Port Jefferson Station Oct. 13, displayed what appeared to be a hand gun and demanded cash, according to Suffolk County police.

Sixth Squad detectives are investigating the incident, which occurred at the gas station located at 501 Patchogue Road in Port Jefferson Station at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning, police said. When the masked man made the request, the gas station employee did not comply, and the robber fled, and there were no injuries, police said.

Detectives believe this robbery is connected to an armed robbery that occurred at Sunoco gas station, located at 1575 Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station, Oct. 7 at 9:45 a.m. During that incident, a man entered the store, displayed what appeared to be a gun and demanded cash. The clerk complied and the man fled. No one was injured.

The suspect, pictured above, is described as light-skinned black, 25 to 30 years old, 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet tall with a medium build and a goatee.

Detectives are asking anyone with information about these incidents to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652 or anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.

File photo

Suffolk County Police Department 6th squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a motorcyclist in Centereach Oct. 12.

George Kellerman, 58, of Centereach, was riding a 2003 Harley-Davidson motorcycle northbound on Horseblock Road when his motorcycle collided with a southbound 2004 Toyota that made an illegal U-turn on Horseblock Road at approximately 11 a.m.

Kellerman was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The driver of the Toyota, Jose Diaz Benitez, and his 2-year-old son, who was in a car seat in the vehicle, were not injured.

Diaz Benitez, 39, of Centereach, was issued tickets for Unlicensed Operator and Improper U-Turn.

Both vehicles were impounded for safety checks. Detectives are asking anyone with information about this crash to call the 6th squad at 631-854-8652.

A Northport-East Northport Community Theater member has been arrested for allegedly masturbating in front of a 15-year-old girl.

Northport police arrested Robert Miller, 35, on charges of first-degree public lewdness and endangering the welfare of a child Oct. 5 at approximately 8:15 p.m., according to police. Miller’s arrest took place during a rehearsal of the Northport-East Northport Community Theater group at the William J. Brosnan Administrative Building of the Northport school district.

Robert Miller. Photo from Northport Police Department

Northport police said Miller, a technical director with the theater group, requested a teenage girl accompany him outside to the parking lot to check on a motor issue with his car.

Once outside, Miller instructed the teen to sit in the car and rev the engine while he looked
under the hood. The girl said she was instructed to take off her socks and shoes, so she could “feel the vibration of the gas pedal” and did so, according to police. Police said the girl said she noticed Miller standing behind her, outside the driver’s side door with his pants unzipped, hand down his pants and was allegedly masturbating. The theater director allegedly told the teenager to look forward and watch the car’s dashboard gauges. Police said the girl reported she looked at Miller again and he was still allegedly masturbating.

Robert Banzer, superintendent of the Northport-East Northport school district, sent a letter out to residents Oct. 6 regarding the incident, which occurred on school grounds.

“The Northport police department notified the district of an alleged inappropriate action that took place on school district property, Friday night after school hours,” Banzer wrote, noting the theater group is not affiliated with the school district. “The district will continue to cooperate with police in their investigation to the fullest extent possible.”

The superintendent noted the schools would also make support services available for students Tuesday, after the Columbus Day break.

Smithtown school district Superintendent James Grossane also sent a letter out to district parents to address Miller’s arrest, as he has worked in that district for 14 years.

“[D]uring the teacher’s 14 years working within the district there have been no incidents reported,” Grossane wrote. “The teacher has been placed on administrative leave, effective immediately, and we will continue to assist in the police investigation as needed.”

The Smithtown superintendent said a math teacher would immediately be placed in Miller’s classrooms Tuesday in order to ensure “no disruption to the academic process” and support services would also be made available to students.

The theater group declined to comment on Miller’s arrest.

Northport police said they have reason to believe there may be other people subjected to allegedly lewd behavior by Miller. Anyone who feels they were a victim of Miller in the Northport area is asked to contact Detective Peter Hayes or Detective Peter Howard at 631-261-7500.

Any individual who believes they are a victim of Miller in the Smithtown area is encouraged to contact Suffolk County Police Department’s 4th Precinct detective squad at 631-854-8452.

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Firefighters battle a fire at Brookhaven Cat Hospital Oct. 7. Photo by Dennis Whittam

By Bob O’Rourk

The Setauket Fire Department tackled a challenging rescue Oct. 5, and just two days later, fought a significant fire during the evening of Oct. 7.

Setauket firefighters rescue a driver from a dump truck that crashed into a large tree on Pond Path. Photo by Bob O’Rourk

On Oct. 5 at 2:08 p.m., the department was called to rescue the driver of a dump truck that crashed into a large tree on Pond Path near Robert Crescent in Setauket, crushing the side of the driver compartment and pinning the motorist under the dash. Both of the fire department’s heavy rescue crews combined to finally release the victim after an hour of work to free his legs from the steering column and dashboard, which had collapsed into him.

With the truck lodged firmly against a 12-inch diameter tree, and the driver’s legs pinned, medical attention was given while he was in the cab and continued until he was freed. He was alert throughout most of the hour he was pinned in the truck.

The truck and driver were part of a crew of contractors, operating for PSEG, who were clearing the power lines along a private driveway that extends from Pond Path for more than 300 feet. The newly paved driveway has some sharp falloffs in several areas. One of those drop-offs apparently caused the truck to veer into two robust trees.

The fire department responded with two heavy rescue trucks and a pumper as well as numerous medical personnel and an ambulance. During the time the driver was pinned, he received a number of injections to relieve pain. Once he was freed, he was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for further medical care.

Suffolk County Police Department Emergency Service also responded and aided with hydraulic tools to supplement those used by Setauket Fire Department personnel.

Firefighters battle a fire at Brookhaven Cat Hospital Oct. 7. Photo by Dennis Whittam

On Oct. 7 at 7:28 p.m., the department was called to a fire at the Brookhaven Cat Hospital at 60 Route 25A in Setauket. The fire was significant and inside a building with many rooms. Two other businesses also occupied the building.

The fire was reported via an automatic alarm. The first responders noticed significant smoke coming from the building and called in the signal for an actual fire which evoked mutual aid from Stony Brook, Port Jefferson, Centereach, Terryville, St James and Selden fire departments, as well as Stony Brook Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Nesconset and Port Jefferson ambulances.

Heavy fire was encountered upon entry to the building. It took firefighters more than two hours to bring the fire under control. There was significant damage to the roof as well as the interior spaces. The SCPD Arson Squad and Town of Brookhaven fire marshal were called to determine the cause, which at this point is still under investigation.

The fire was contained to the cat hospital areas in the building. According to the business owner, three cats were inside. Two were found deceased, and the third one is unaccounted for at this time. One firefighter suffered a minor injury from heat exhaustion and was transported to a local hospital.

FIle photo

The Suffolk County Police Department Property Section will hold a property auction Oct. 10 at 9:30 a.m. at the Property Section building, located next to Police Headquarters at 30 Yaphank Avenue in Yaphank.

Among the items being auctioned are hand and power tools, jewelry, a Dyson vacuum, automotive items, electronics, bicycles, clothing and accessories. Motor vehicles and motorcycles will not be sold at this auction.

A preview of select items will be held on Oct. 9 between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. at the Property Section building.

The event will be held rain or shine and all items will be sold in “as is” condition. All purchases are subject to New York State sales tax and payments must be made in cash. In the event of severe weather, check the department’s website, www.suffolkpd.org or call 631-852-6685 for schedule changes.

Nassau County's Supreme Court. Photo from Facebook

A Smithtown home improvement contractor who pled guilty to scamming Hurricane Sandy victims out of more than $100,000 will serve jail time — on weekends only.

Lee Moser, 50, was sentenced to 45 days in jail, to be served on weekends, and five years of probation. In addition, he also paid $50,000 in restitution that will be returned to the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery.
Moser had previously pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny, a class D felony, and first-degree scheme to defraud, a class E felony, June 1 in Nassau County Supreme Court before Justice Robert Bogle.

Lee Moser. Photo from Nassau County district attorney’s office

“Cases like this are especially outrageous because homeowners were victimized first by Superstorm Sandy, and again by their contractor,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement. “This defendant stole from relief funds that were the lifeline victims needed to rebuild their homes and lives.”

From April 2015 to August 2016, Moser signed contracts with five Nassau County homeowners to perform work on their homes that have been severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy, according to Singas. In most of these cases, the defendants wrote Moser a down payment check for the work, using funds from NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program, made payable to his business Capstone Remodeling.

NY Rising is the state-run program that assists homeowners impacted by natural disasters. The homeowners had applied for and received money from NY Rising to rehabilitate their homes after they were damaged by the Oct. 29, 2012, storm.

Instead of performing the contracted work, Moser repeatedly provided excuses as to why his business had not started, such as he was in the hospital or caring for his sick mother, according to prosecutors. In total, Moser admitted to stealing $100,885 from Nassau homeowners. Moser spent these funds on gasoline, dining at restaurants, telephone services and other expenditures to continue running his construction business that were unrelated to the homeowners’ contracts, according to the district attorney’s office.

The Nassau County Office of Consumer Affairs received five complaints from victims of Capstone Remodeling between June 2016 and April 2017, which were forwarded to the district attorney’s office. An investigation immediately commenced.

NY Rising has since reimbursed the Nassau homeowners who were scammed by Moser.

The Thatched Cottage as it appeared circa July 2012. Photo from Facebook

The former owner of a once-popular Centerport restaurant admitted to forcing immigrants to work at his establishment.

Huntington resident Ralph Colamussi, former owner of the Thatched Cottage and Jellyfish Grill, pled guilty Sept. 26 before U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley in Central Islip federal court to charges of forced labor of employees. He faces up to 20 years in prison, as well as restitution to his victims and a fine of up to $250,000.

East Northport resident Ralph Colamussi was arrested Dec. 11 on charges of allegedly exploiting immigrant workers at his Centerport restaurant. File photo

In December 2017, Colamussi was arrested alongside his former restaurant manager Roberto Villanueva on charges of conspiring to engage in forced labor of immigrants, visa fraud and fraud in foreign labor contracting.

In entering his guilty plea, Colamussi admitted to bringing prospective workers from the Philippines to the United States on H-2B visas that expired shortly after their arrival here. Once the visas expired, the former restaurant owner admitted to encouraging workers to apply for student visas by fraudulently representing they intended to attend school full time and had the resources to do so. Colamussi admitted at times he would deposit funds in the workers’ bank accounts to ensure the appearance of ample financial resources to attend school and then would withdraw the funds once a student visa was approved.

“This case is an example of ruthless labor trafficking hiding in plain sight,” said Angel Melendez, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations special agent-in-charge at the time of Colamussi’s arrest. “These individuals allegedly committed visa fraud while forcing people to work in their catering hall under horrible conditions in what seemed to be an inescapable situation.”

The restauranteur also admitted when immigrant workers objected to performing certain jobs, such as working consecutive shifts or not being paid promptly, he threatened to report them to immigration. In the original indictment, federal prosecutors said Colamussi threatened his employees with physical violence and deportation. In one instance, Colamussi allegedly asked a worker to assist him in burning down the Thatched Cottage, and then threatened the worker with a knife for refusing to aid him.

This is not the first time Colamussi has faced legal issues over his operation and management of the former Centerport restaurant. Colamussi filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy of the Thatched Cottage in January 2014, after which the restaurant was sold at auction for $4.65 million in September 2014. Lawsuits followed as December 2015 court documents claimed he transferred funds to Jellyfish Restaurant, and he was ordered by the judge to pay restitution.

File photo

Suffolk County detectives are investigating a crash that killed a motorcyclist in Centereach Oct. 1.

Steven Benjamin was operating a 2004 KTM motorcycle westbound on Middle Country Road when he collided with a 2010 Jeep Liberty that had been traveling eastbound on Middle Country Road and was making a left turn onto Eastwood Boulevard at approximately 8:05 p.m.

Benjamin, 26, of Selden, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The driver of the Jeep, a 17-year-old female from Selden, remained at the scene and was not injured.

The motorcycle and the Jeep were impounded for safety checks. Detectives are asking anyone with information about this incident to call the 6th squad at 631-854-8652.

A man allegedly driving while intoxicated struck several Boy Scouts from a Shoreham-based troop Sunday while they were walking on David Terry Road in Manorville, killing one, according to police.

Thomas Murphy. Photo from SCPD

Thomas Murphy was driving a 2016 Mercedes southbound on David Terry Road at approximately 1:55 p.m. Sept. 30 when his vehicle struck a group of Boys Scouts who were walking northbound on the shoulder of the roadway. Five scouts, from Troop 161 of the Boys Scouts of America, ranging in age from 12 to 16, were struck by the vehicle. One of the scouts was transported via Suffolk County Police helicopter to Stony Brook University Hospital and the other four were transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead.

Andrew McMorris, 12, of Wading River, died from his injuries sustained during the incident, according to police Oct. 1. He was initially transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center in critical condition, then was ultimately transported via Suffolk County Police helicopter to Stony Brook University Hospital. Thomas Lane, 15, of Shoreham, was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital where he is being treated for serious injuries. Denis Lane, 16, Shoreham, Kaden Lynch, 15, of Calverton, and Matthew Yakaboski, 15, of Calverton, sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

Murphy, 59, of Holbrook, was charged with driving while intoxicated. He will be held overnight at the 7th Precinct and was scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip Oct. 1.

Detectives are asking anyone who may have witnessed this incident to call the Major Case Unit at 631-852-6555 or anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220 TIPS. Attorney information for Murphy was not immediately available.

On Sept. 27, Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) announced the conviction of a 33-year-old Centereach woman for attempting to murder her newborn son by smothering him with a pillow.

Soily Aparacio Santos was convicted for attempted murder for trying to smother her newborn child last year. Photo from the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office

“It’s incomprehensible to imagine a mother trying to murder her newborn baby just minutes after he was born, but that is exactly what this defendant did,” Sini said. “It’s a miracle that the baby survived and now, thanks to the hard work of Assistant District Attorneys Shauna Kerr and Sarah Skahill, justice was served on behalf of this innocent victim.”

Soily Aparicio Santos was found guilty by a jury Sept. 26 of attempted murder in the second degree, attempted assault in the first degree, attempted assault in the second degree and endangering the welfare of a child.

Last year, Santos attempted to smother her newborn son immediately after giving birth to him at her home in Centereach. A family member who was present in the residence saw the baby with a pillow over his head and called the police. The child was transported by the Centereach Fire Department to Stony Brook University Hospital for evaluation. He did not sustain any serious injuries and is currently in foster care.

Santos faces a maximum sentence of up to 25 years in prison. She is expected to be sentenced Nov. 1.

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