Police & Fire

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Suffolk County Police Sixth Squad detectives are investigating a single-vehicle crash that killed a woman in Port Jefferson Station Oct 15.

Kaitlyn Schaal was driving a 2001 Jeep Cherokee southbound on Old Town Road when the vehicle crossed the northbound lane and struck a tree on the east side of the road at Greenhaven Drive at 6:03 a.m.

Schaal, 19, of 60 Chestnut St., Mount Sinai, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check. Detectives are asking anyone with information on this crash to call the Sixth Squad at 631-854-8652.

 

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Suffolk County Police today arrested the driver involved in a fatal motor vehicle crash in Wading River that killed a 90-year-old woman after the driver provided a false name to officers.

Following an investigation, detectives determined that Tara Demauro was the driver of the Jeep that struck a Nissan on Route 25A on October 14. Following the crash, Demauro provided officers with the name of her relative, Meghan Cunningham of Rocky Point, who was not involved.

Demauro, 48, of Rocky Point, was charged with Criminal Impersonation 2nd Degree,  Making a Punishable False Written Statement and Driving with a Suspended License. She was released on a desk appearance ticket and is due to appear at the First District Court in Central Islip on a later date.

 

 

 

 

Port Jefferson shops such as Hookah City on Main Street, above, sell hookahs. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Port Jefferson officials have made explicit their antipathy for the vape and smoke shop in the village, especially after news broke an employee had been cited for selling to children underage.

Hookah City, located at 202 Main St. in Port Jefferson was recently charged with unlawfully dealing with a child in a countywide police sting labeled Operation Vape Out. It was amongst 32 establishments that Suffolk County police said were cited for illicit behavior, most concerning selling tobacco products to children under the legal age limit of 21.

“All eyes are on that place,” said Trustee Kathianne Snaden during a conversation after the Sept. 23 village board meeting.

“It’s immoral to addict a human being to something they can’t get away from.”

— Paul Casciano

Mayor Margot Garant said they had asked Village Attorney Brian Egan about the shop but were told there is nothing in village code that allows the village to affect a business in such a way, adding there was nothing that violated their lease. 

Fred Leute, the acting chief of code enforcement, said constables take reports and inform Suffolk County police regarding businesses selling to people underage. Leute added they had originally sent notice to police about the shop.

“Kids would come in and put their knapsack down — they would have money on the knapsack, and a note stapled to it what they wanted,” the acting chief said. “The guy who they caught would take that note, fill their order, so to speak, and put the stuff in the bag, then the kid would come by and take their bag.”

A manager or owner of Hookah City could not be reached for comment before press time.

New York State was originally set to ban the creation and sale of flavored e-cigarette products Oct. 4, but a day before the deadline the state appellate court put that order on hold until the court reconvenes Oct. 18. The proposed ban came after a wave of health cases the U.S. Centers for Disease Control attributed to vaping, among them were several deaths. As at Oct. 8, there have been 1,080 cases of injury nationwide with 23 deaths. There have been 110 cases attributed to New York, according to the state’s health department. On the same day, the death of a Bronx teen was announced as the first confirmed fatality in New York related to vape products.

Under the 1992 state Adolescent Tobacco Use Prevention Act, each time a vendor is caught selling tobacco products to a person under the age of 21, that vendor will acquire two points on their license. If the vendor acquires three points within a three-year period of time, the vendor will lose its tobacco and lottery ticket licenses.

Though as of recently this is the first infraction in a number of years. Suffolk police’s research section found Hookah City has had no other infractions of selling to minors since the beginning of 2016. 

Nearly 40 percent of 12th grade students and 27 percent of high school students in New York State are now using e-cigarettes, according to New York State health officials.

Parents and school officials in Port Jefferson said not only are kids using vape products excessively in school but are doing so sometimes in the middle of classrooms and clandestinely in bathrooms.

Soon-to-be-outgoing Superintendent Paul Casciano said in a sit-down interview that districts all across the county have been dealing with the same thing. While the district has added vape detectors, students will either blow the smoke into backpacks or lockers to avoid smoke detectors or find areas of the school without the detectors. Incoming Superintendent Jessica Schmettan said at the last school board meeting the district takes away vape products from students, who are then disciplined.

“The kids aren’t producing this stuff, and that for me and among my colleagues is one of the most disturbing parts — adults are creating these things,” Casciano said. “It’s immoral to addict a human being to something they can’t get away from.”

The district recently played host to the countywide peer education pilot program about the dangers of vaping. 

But for the one last vape shop in Port Jeff, the focus has come down hard on its shoulders for the number of students who have continued to vape. Casciano said there is little the district can do to affect the businesses in and around Port Jeff, many of whom sell vape and e-cig products. The most they can do is applaud current activities from New York State and continue to educate young people about vape products.

“The local efforts, whether its local or state officials, those have all helped, because if you can’t get your hands on the flavors … it will be even more difficult for them,” Schmettan said.

The mayor mentioned limiting vaping in village parks, but she later said that, unlike cigarettes which offer physical discomfort and negative health effects to pedestrians, it would be hard to enforce with citations.

“I think it goes back to the household.”

— Margot Garant

Snaden said the issue of vaping needs an effort on all ends. She suggested the school district should include harsher penalties to students who use vape products in schools, including potentially kicking them off sport teams. 

“If everywhere these kids turn, everywhere they turn they’re being shown this is not accepted in this village, they’re either going to take it somewhere else — we’re not going to alleviate the problem altogether — we have to hit them everywhere they turn,” she said. “They have to get turned away everywhere, that’s how we can get the message across.”

Village code currently disallows new smoke shops in Port Jefferson, but Hookah City was grandfathered in when the code was changed in 2016. Garant said during the Oct. 7 village board meeting that with the current code, they are looking to enforce other businesses within the village to limit the sale of vape products. 

“They would all have to become vape dispensaries, so we’re cracking down on them ourselves,” she said. 

She added that vaping, just like any other drug use, often requires work from those closest to the youth.

“I think it goes back to the household,” the mayor said.

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Suffolk County Marine Bureau officers rescued a woman who fell off a floating dock in Port Jefferson. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

Police said three Suffolk County Marine Bureau officers rescued a woman who fell off a floating dock in Port Jefferson Friday, Oct. 4.

Officers John Falcone, John Rodriguez and Neil Stringer had just disembarked from Marine Delta in Port Jefferson Harbor when they saw a woman lose her footing and fall into the water while attempting to set up a ramp between a boat and the floating dock at the Port Jefferson Marina at around 1 p.m, police said.

The officers were able to lift the woman, Donna Butcher, out of the water and on to the dock. Butcher, 66, of Port Jefferson, was treated at the scene by Port Jefferson Fire Department personnel for minor abrasions and hypothermia.

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Suffolk Police were on the scene Thursday, Oct. 3 after an alleged shooting at Port Jeff Liquors. Photo by David Luces

By David Luces and Kyle Barr

Suffolk County police said a man threatening a liquor store clerk with a sword was shot and killed in Port Jefferson last Thursday afternoon by a shop owner on East Main Street.

Police responded to a 911 call that came in at 2:23 p.m. Oct. 3 that a person at Port Jeff Liquors, located at 156 E. Main St., had shot and killed a man who had allegedly come into the shop “swinging a sword,” a police spokesperson said.

The man with the sword was pronounced dead at the scene. No other injuries were reported.

Police later identified the man as Theodore Scoville, 50. Accounts from security footage have largely verified the owner’s accounts of the situation to police, and the owner is not being charged.

Trustee Kathianne Snaden and Deputy Mayor Stan Loucks were at the scene shortly after the shooting and were updating both the public and media.

“His actions posed an eminent threat to the merchant, who, regrettably, was forced to shoot the individual in defense of himself,” Snaden wrote on Facebook after the incident Oct. 3.

Officials with the Port Jefferson School District said Oct. 4 that buses had just left from the high and middle schools after 2 p.m. when a call from the village came in about the incident. The buses were notified en route, which then avoided the area. 

Mayor Margot Garant wrote on Facebook that their hearts go out to shop owner and Port Jeff resident Steve Plunkette and his family, along with the family of the deceased.

“The tragic and abhorrent event that took place today in the Village of Port Jefferson was a rare and isolated event which in no way reflects the beautiful historic community that we truly are,” she wrote.

Fred Leute, the acting chief of code enforcement, said constables were on the scene shortly after the event. Leute said Scoville was known to frequent Port Jeff every two to three weeks on Thursdays, having a schedule of visiting the Port Jefferson Free Library when new magazines became available, or he would arrive when the weather was nice. The chief added the man had never presented a problem for constables previously.

The liquor store closed for a day but was back in business in the rest of the week. Groups of people came down throughout the weekend to show support to the business owner.

This post was updated Oct. 9 to add quotes from Fred Leute, the acting chief of code enforcement .

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Sound Beach Fire District is asking residents to vote for a bond to repair the firehouse at 152 Sound Beach Blvd. Photo from Google Maps

Sound Beach residents were invited to a public information meeting Sept. 24 at the Sound Beach Fire District headquarters to provide public comment on a proposed bond resolution to fund repairs and renovations to the building.  

The scope of work for the fire district headquarters would cost $2,920,000, officials said. Repairs to the parking lot and concrete apron replacement would cost $750,000, while $250,000 would go toward epoxy floor finishing in the ambulance bays and apparatus room. Window replacements on both floors of the building would cost $400,000. Other repairs include a sprinkler system replacement and a new fire alarm system. The last major renovation on the building was 30 years ago. 

The tax rate impact for homeowners would approximately be $4.53 per 100 of assessed value. Homeowners would see a $91 tax increase. 

The referendum vote for the proposed projects will be held on Oct. 15 from 2 to 9 p.m. at 152 Sound Beach Blvd. If passed, construction could begin during fall 2020. 

The Town of Smithtown recoups $222,000 in losses from V. Garofalo Carting after sentencing with restitution in a plea agreement. Photo from the Town of Smithtown

A Smithtown garbage contractor has been sentenced for defrauding the Town of Smithtown for $222,000.

The scheme entailed illegally passing off over the course of several years consumer waste from locations across Long Island as commercial waste generated by businesses in the Town of Smithtown. 

“These defendants were stealing money from the taxpayers in the Town of Smithtown and from their own hardworking employees,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) at a Sept. 20 press event following the sentencing.

Mario Garofalo, 61, of East Northport, and his cousin Robert “Bobby” Garofalo, 64, of Kings Park, each pleaded guilty to felony charges May 13 for attempted enterprise corruption. The corporate entity, V. Garofalo Carting Inc., also pleaded guilty to enterprise corruption. The three defendants were sentenced by Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice William J. Condon to conditional discharges, which include restitution payments of $222,000 to the Town of Smithtown. The case also found that the business had violated prevailing wage laws and was ordered to pay $32,000 to underpaid company employees.

“That’s $222,000 in residents tax dollars that these defendants pocketed for no reason other than their own greed.”

— Tim Sini

The Garofalo attorney did not respond to a telephone request for comment. Details in the plea agreement show that the company forfeited $1.1 million in cash plus assets that include a front end loader and a metal container. Payments were made to the town from that forfeiture.  The remaining assets were used to cover court costs and other public safety initiatives. 

The case, according to the DA, was an extremely complex investigation and prosecution. 

In 1990, New York State ordered most Long Island landfills closed, according to the town. Consequently, the town has paid Covanta Waste Management for the disposal of commercial waste from certain businesses operating within the town. To be acceptable, the commercial waste must be generated from known businesses within the town, registered by unique accounts with the town, and the registered businesses must pay fees and receive a unique medallion identifying the establishment as part of the plan. Carting companies, including Garofalo Carting, submit a manifest each time Smithtown commercial waste is brought to Covanta, attesting to the contents.

The investigation revealed that the Garofalos and their company repeatedly disposed of waste at Covanta’s facility in East Northport that was collected throughout Long Island from their customers, including through roll-off containers, then falsely attesting that the waste was solely Town of Smithtown commercial waste. 

In total, the investigation found that the Garofalo corporation unlawfully avoided paying $222,000 in fees, which were instead paid by the town as a result of the scheme.

“That’s $222,000 in residents tax dollars that these defendants pocketed for no reason other than their own greed,” Sini said. 

The defendants profited from the scheme by falsifying business records, including their garbage disposal manifests, and submitting them to the Town of Smithtown for payment, the DA stated. The defendants also profited from the fees collected from their private customers for both garbage pickup as well as roll-off container rentals, according to the DA.

“Today’s verdict is the product of an intricate intergovernmental investigation, which was exceptionally well litigated,” said town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R). 

During the course of the investigation, the Town of Smithtown also referred to the District Attorney’s Office the issue of prevailing wage claims by employees of Garofalo Carting. 

With the criminal enterprise effectively shut down, the DA said justice has now been served for Smithtown residents.

“Enterprise corruption cases are often extremely complex, and certainly require a lot of hard work and dedication by investigators and prosecutors, but our office is determined,” Sini said. “We are committed to dedicating resources and utilizing innovative strategies to seek justice in each and every case, and that’s exactly what was done here today.”

“Today’s verdict is the product of an intricate intergovernmental investigation, which was exceptionally well litigated.”

— Ed Wehrheim

This case was prosecuted by county Criminal Investigations Division Chief Megan O’Donnell and Assistant District Attorney Lucie Kwon, of the county Financial Investigations & Money Laundering Bureau.

“I would like to commend the detectives who worked diligently on this case and I hope our strong partnership with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office sends a message that fraudulent business practices will not be tolerated in Suffolk County,” said county Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart.

The Town of Smithtown’s six-year contract with Garofalo Carting, which was from 2014 to 2020, is now void, according to the supervisor’s press office. The Town Board has instead hired National Waste Services, of Bay Shore, to replace services for garbage pickup at its Sept. 3 meeting. National Waste Services recently purchased Garofalo Carting and has retained the Garofalo trucks and employees, according to Smithtown’s Attorney Matthew Jakubowski. 

The town paid $2.1 million to Garofalo Carting in 2018 for its services, which included garbage  pickup for six of the 12 solid waste districts in the town. The contracts are based on weight of waste collected annually. 

Scheme one of the state’s largest

Map of all illegal dumping sites. Photo from DA's office

Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) was joined by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Suffolk County Police Department on Sept. 23 to announce the sentencing of a self-proclaimed “dirt broker” who was indicted as part of the District Attorney’s Office’s Operation Pay Dirt investigation into an illegal dumping conspiracy on Long Island.

“The defendant, with no regard for the safety and well-being of Suffolk County residents, facilitated the dumping of solid waste on residential properties, properties near schools, and other sites,” Sini said. “Many of the sites contained materials that were hazardous or acutely hazardous. This is a major issue for those individual homeowners who were affected and a major issue for the general public.”

“This sentencing should serve as a reminder that there is a cost associated for those who engage in illegal dumping for financial gain.”

— Geraldine Hart

Anthony Grazio, aka Rock, 54, of Smithtown, pleaded guilty on May 2 to two counts of criminal mischief in the second degree, a D felony; two counts of endangering public health, safety or the environment in the third degree, an E felony; conspiracy in the fifth degree, an A misdemeanor; and operating a solid waste management facility without a permit, an A misdemeanor.

Grazio was sentenced today by Suffolk County Court Judge Timothy Mazzei to two to four years in prison. He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $500,000 for a crime that the DA has previously stated is the state’s largest illegal dumping case.  

In February 2018, the DA’s office, DEC and county police department began an investigation into a conspiracy to illegally dump solid waste in various locations across Long Island. The months-long investigation, known as Operation Pay Dirt, involved the use of electronic surveillance, including court-authorized eavesdropping, and physical surveillance. The investigation resulted in a 130-count indictment against 30 individuals and nine corporations for illegally disposing of solid waste at 24 locations. Grazio’s then 19-year old son Anthony was among the 30 people indicted in the case, which was unsealed in November 2018.

Some of the more than 24 identified locations contained acutely hazardous and hazardous materials including pesticides and the metals arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, lead, nickel, zinc and mercury and pesticides.

Between January and July 2018, as part of the illegal dumping conspiracy, Grazio would act as a dirt broker by arranging for locations where trucking companies could illegally dispose of solid waste. Grazio posted advertisements on the website Craigslist and on OfferUp, a marketplace app, for “Clean Fill,” or material that could be used for residential landscaping projects. He also solicited homeowners over the phone and in person for locations to use for dumping.

Grazio would then coordinate with the owners or operators of trucking companies and solid waste management facilities to have solid waste illegally dumped at those properties.

“This sentencing should serve as a reminder that there is a cost associated for those who engage in illegal dumping for financial gain,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said. “The Suffolk County Police Department is committed to working with our partner agencies to apprehend those who commit environmental crimes in our county and Operation Pay Dirt is an example of the success of our collaborative efforts.”

The commissioner also said that the department is not only committed to serving our residents but also dedicated to protecting the land that makes our communities a great place to live.

Operation Pay Dirt was part of a statewide DEC law enforcement initiative known as Operation TrashNet. To date, Operation TrashNet has led to the discovery of more than 100 illegal dumping sites throughout New York’s downstate region, including 44 in Suffolk County, and resulted in 582 DEC-issued tickets involving 40 trucking companies.

“Illegal dumping poses a serious threat to our environment, and New York will not allow businesses to continue to harm the state’s environment and its citizens while putting profits over public health,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “I commend the work of DEC’s officers and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office in bringing this case to fruition.”

This case was prosecuted by assistant DAs Adriana Noyola and Laura Sarowitz of the Enhanced Prosecution Bureau and former assistant DA Luigi Belcastro.

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Owners and employees at the Portside Bar & Grill have been cited by police for giving alcohol to people underage. Photo by Kyle Barr

A Port Jefferson bar has come under heavy scrutiny over allegedly providing alcohol to children underage.

Suffolk County Police said they have investigated Portside Bar and Grill, located at 252 East Main Street, in response to community complaints. Working with the New York State Liquor Authority, the investigation led to the arrest of Christopher Chernis, 34 of Holbrook on Saturday, Sept. 21. He was charged with unlawfully dealing with a child 1stdegree, and was issued a field appearance ticket.

The owners of the bar were also cited for numerous Alcohol and Beverage Control law violations by the state Liquor Authority, according to police.

Bar owners could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Suffolk County Police said they are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a Miller Place man in Middle Island the morning of Saturday, Sept. 21.

Police said Keisha Dalton, of Middle Island, was driving a 2011 Buick Regal northbound on Miller Place-Yaphank Road when her vehicle struck a pedestrian who was walking in the road at around 5:50 a.m.

The victim, Timothy Petrulo, 35, of Miller Place, was transported to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson where he was pronounced dead. Dalton, 45, was not injured.

The Buick was impounded for a safety check. Detectives are asking anyone who may have witnessed the crash to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.