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Commack

Aventura in Commack was cited by feds for allegedly giving Chinese-made technology to the U.S. Govt. Photos from U.S. Attorney’s Office

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is charging a Commack company, Aventura Technologies Inc., and seven current and former employees with allegedly selling Chinese-made electronic equipment with known cybersecurity vulnerabilities to the federal government and private customers, while falsely representing the equipment as made in the United States.

Yacht seized from the owners of Commack business Aventura. Photos from U.S. Attorney’s Office

The individual defendants charged in the alleged scheme include Northport residents Jack Cabasso, Aventura’s managing director and de facto owner and operator, and his wife Frances Cabasso, purported owner and chief executive officer. The Cabassos were also charged with money laundering proceeds from the alleged schemes and fraud for falsely representing Frances Cabasso as chief executive of Aventura to gain access to government contracts set aside for women-owned small businesses. The government froze approximately $3 million in 12 financial accounts that contain proceeds from the alleged unlawful conduct and seized the Cabassos’ 70-foot luxury yacht Tranquilo, which was moored in the gated community where the Cabassos reside. 

“As alleged, the defendants falsely claimed for years that their surveillance and security equipment was manufactured on Long Island, padding their pockets with money from lucrative contracts without regard for risk to the country’s national security posed by secretly peddling made-in-China electronics with known cyber vulnerabilities,” stated U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard Donoghue in a release. 

In addition to Aventura and the Cabassos, the company’s senior executives Jonathan Lasker of Port Jefferson Station, Christine Lavonne Lazarus of Shirley and Eduard Matulik of North Massapequa were charged in the complaint, along with Wayne Marino of Rocky Point, a current employee, and Alan Schwartz of Smithtown, a recently retired employee. 

If convicted, the defendants each face up to 20 years imprisonment on each charge of the complaint, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. No trial dates have been set, according to John Marzulli in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. 

The attorney for Frances Cabasso was out of town. Jack Cabasso’s attorney did not respond before press time to messages left on his answering machine.

Equipment labeled with the Aventura logo. Photos from U.S. Attorney’s Office

“With the arrests, the defendants’ brazen deceptions and fraud schemes have been exposed, and they will face serious consequences for slapping phony ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ labels on products that our armed forces and sensitive government facilities depend upon,” Donoghue said.

Case documents state that the company lied to its customers, including the U.S. military, for more than a decade. Aventura reportedly generated more than $88 million in sales revenue from November 2010 and the charged scheme has allegedly been ongoing since 2006. 

“Greed is at the heart of this scheme, a reprehensible motive when the subjects in this case allegedly put into question the security of men and women who don uniforms each day to protect our nation,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney Jr. 

The money laundering scheme allegedly entailed siphoning illegal profits out of the company through a network of shell companies and intermediaries, including transferring hundreds of thousands, and in some cases, millions of dollars into an attorney escrow account belonging to an unnamed Long Island-based law firm, where the funds were used to purchase homes, in some cases for relatives. 

The FBI has established an email hotline for potential victims. Anyone with information regarding Aventura’s alleged crimes or anyone who believes they have been a victim can send an email to NY-AventuraVictims@fbi.gov. 

Stock Photo

The Suffolk County Department of Health announced 11 more mosquito samples have tested positive for West Nile Virus, with two samples collected in Rocky Point, one sample from Northport, one from Melville and one from Greenlawn.

Other samples were collected in Holtsville, Mattituck and Greenlawn.

New York State’s health department informed Suffolk County health officials Sept. 13 the new samples bring the total reports of West Nile Virus amongst mosquitos to 68. Four birds have tested positive for West Nile so far, but no humans or horses have tested positive in Suffolk County.

Dr. James Tomarken, the county commissioner of health, reiterated the need for people to report dead birds or look for other symptoms of the virus.

“The confirmation of West Nile virus in mosquito samples or birds indicates the presence of West Nile virus in the area,” he said.

Last month, 10 other mosquito samples tested positive for the virus. Three samples had been found in Rocky Point, with others located in Commack and Huntington Station, among others.

West Nile virus may cause a range of symptoms, from mild to severe, including fever, headache, vomiting, muscle aches, joint pain and fatigue. There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus. Patients are treated with supportive therapy as needed.

The best way to handle local mosquito populations is for residents to eliminate standing or stagnant water pools in their local areas.

People are also encouraged to use long sleeves and socks and use mosquito repellent.

The virus came to New York nearly 20 years ago, and samples are usually found in summertime when the mosquito population is most active. Cases, in the intervening years, have become relatively rare.

Dead birds may indicate the presence of West Nile virus in the area. To report dead birds, call the Public Health Information Line in Suffolk County at 631-787-2200 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Residents are encouraged to take a photograph of any bird in question.

To report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water, call the Department of Public Works’ Vector Control Division at 631-852-4270.

Commack School District celebrated its commencement ceremonies June 26.

Deniz Sinar has earned the title of academic leader at Commack High School, which is given to the two students with the highest weighted GPA upon the completion of high school. Sinar graduated with a 104.57 weighted GPA. She will be attending Cornell University in the fall as a biological engineering major. She has won several awards, including a National Merit Scholarship. She was involved in the National Italian, Tri-M Music and Science Honor societies, and was the secretary of the Math Honor Society and varsity math team. Sinar raised money for Long Island Against Domestic Violence and volunteered to visit nursing home residents through Commack’s Glamour Gals Club. She was also a member of the chamber orchestra for three years and took part in the Future American String Teachers Association Club and the Pathways freshman art and literary magazine.

Left, Dr. W. Phelps meets Ted Taranowicz and his dog Rocco at the free clinic thanks to Paws of War.

Suffolk County Legislator Susan Berland (D-Dix Hills) coordinated free veterinarian care for veterans’ pets with Paws of War, a nonprofit organization in Nesconset that supports both ends of the leash through a variety of animal programs for veterans. The three-hour event was held April 27 in a mobile clinic parked behind the legislator’s Commack office where more than 25 animals received care — including a blind poodle named Ebony. 

“As the chairwoman of the Legislature’s Veterans Committee, I have seen first-hand the amazing work Paws of War does for our veterans, which is why I was proud to host their clinic at my district office,” Berland said. “It is well known that having an animal can be a vital tool in helping veterans combat the emotional effects of war.”

Legislator Susan Berland with Central Islip veteran Raymond Bradley and his wife holding Ebony, after Suffolk County declares May Military Appreciation Month. Photo from Berland’s office

Ted Taranowicz, a Navy veteran from the Vietnam era, along with his wife of 39 years Elizabeth, brought their black lab Rocco to the clinic. Taranowicz, a Port Jefferson resident, was diagnosed with throat cancer in January and is still recovering from the last of his 35 radiation and five chemotherapy treatments. He learned about the Vets2Vets program through the local VA hospital and was grateful for the service. He was one of 15 Suffolk County veterans helped by the program. 

Like the other animals seen, Rocco and Ebony received basic veterinary care that included a wellness check, grooming, vaccinations, microchipping, flea/tick protection and pet supplies. 

Dori Scofield, co-founder of the Paws of War, said the nonprofit runs entirely on donations.  

“We were able to do this purely because of people’s generosity,” Scofield said. She added that Petco recently donated $15,000 to help with the mobile clinic. The charity, though, is mostly funded by small donors and local groups that raise money for its cause. 

“The new Vets2Vets program is providing an amazing service for our veterans who may be unable to provide the necessary care for their animal,” Berland said. “I want to thank Paws of War for everything they do to support our veterans, they are truly an asset to our county.” 

For more information about Paws of War, visit its website at www.pawsofwar.org. 

Photo from Whole Foods

BREAD BREAKING CEREMONY

Representatives from the Northeast Regional division of Whole Foods held an official bread breaking ceremony (their version of a ribbon cutting) for its new store in Commack on April 3. Located at 120 Veterans Memorial Highway, the new 45,000-square-foot store employs 200 full- and part-time team members and is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

The Whole Foods in Lake Grove, above, will soon be joined by a second Suffolk County store. File photo

Suffolk County is getting a second Whole Foods Market. The new store, located at the site of the former King Kullen at 120 Veterans Memorial Highway in Commack will hold a grand opening on April 3 at 9 a.m. with complimentary coffee and breakfast pastries offered at 8 a.m. Reusable canvas shopping bags will be handed out to the first 200 customers.

The market will be the fourth Whole Foods location on Long Island. The others are in Jericho, Manhasset and Lake Grove.

“We’re eager to open our doors to the Commack community,” said store team leader Lorraine Barker in a statement. “We look forward to providing our customers with a variety of products to meet all of their needs, while also offering the highest quality service and providing a neighborhood gathering space.”

According to a press release, the new 45,000-square-foot store will offer fresh produce, full-service butcher and seafood departments; an in-house bakery; a hot and cold prepared foods section; coffee and juice bars; beer from local producers; and 142 bins of bulk scoop items. It will also feature a fast-casual eatery that will serve wine and locally brewed beer on tap.

Owned by online retail giant Amazon, the Commack store will employ a total of 200 full- and part-time team members. Following the grand opening, store hours will be 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. For more information, visit www.wholefoodsmarket.com.

Last year's grand prize winner in the pet category - “Old Blue Eyes” by Carolyn Ciarelli

Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Commack invites all amateur photographers, including students, to submit entries for its 26th Annual Photo Contest.

Winners of the unique contest have the distinct honor of not only receiving recognition and prizes for their work, but also the privilege of helping to enhance the lives of the 460 residents who call Gurwin “home,” as winning photographs are permanently displayed in the center’s renowned Tiffin Gallery and throughout the facility for the enjoyment of residents, staff and visitors.

Photographers may submit up to seven printed color or black-and-white 8×10 or 8×12 photographs for a fee of $5 per entry.  Entry forms are available for download online at www.gurwin.org/about/photo-contest or by calling 631-715-2568.  The deadline for submission is April 15.

Winners are selected and notified in May.  A reception at the Gurwin Center for winning photographers will be held in June where they will receive their cash prize, award certificate and/or crystal trophy.

By David Luces

Students, teachers and parents in Commack recently went bald for a cause.

For the 10th year running, members of the Commack School District and surrounding community gathered at the high school March 1 to shave their heads in support of childhood cancer research. Over 100 people participated to raise money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a not-for-profit whose goal is to raise funds to find cures for childhood cancer. 

In the past nine years the district has held the event, Commack has raised over $650,000. This year the district raised close to $45,000, with some teams donating well over $10,000. 

The annual event is organized by Commack High School teachers Lee Tunick, Bill Scaduto and Dan Revera. Since its inception, close to 1,000 people have shaved their heads in solidarity to those suffering childhood cancer. Hairdressing students from Eastern Suffolk BOCES donated their time to cut the participants hair.

The idea for the fundraiser came about through a cancer awareness club that Revera and Scaduto ran at the high school for quite some time. 

“Bill Scaduto and myself have been working in this building for 20 years,” said Revera. At that time St. Baldrick’s didn’t exist as we know it today. When we first found out about St. Baldrick’s, we would go to a school in Northport and a colleague of mine thought why don’t we host our own event here [at the high school].” 

Now with the event in its 10th year, Revera said it is great to see Commack School District students and community come out to support this.  

“One of the main influx of people [that come here] are the elementary students,” the high school teacher said. “Anything that we can do to generate [money] to help these kids who are going through this is great.” Revera added that the students that came to the event have shown bravery, have stood up for what’s right and are dedicated to a good cause. 

“That’s why we are here,” he said. “Just the thought of a family going through something like this and dealing with their child battling cancer — I can’t even imagine. If providing one day where we can support them and try to help however we can, it’s the least we can do.”

A woman takes part in the 9th annual Glen Ciano Blood Drive at the Commack Fire Department. Photo by David Luces

By David Luces

Hundreds lined up and waited to donate blood during the 9th annual Glen Ciano Blood Drive Feb. 9. The event, hosted by the Commack Fire Department and Suffolk County Police Department, is held in honor of a police officer and volunteer firefighter who died in the line of duty 10 years ago this month.

Suffolk County Police Officer Glen Ciano. File Photo.

Ciano, who served for more than 20 years as a police officer at the 2nd Precinct in Huntington, died while assisting another officer at a traffic stop Feb. 22, 2009. While at the intersection of Vanderbilt Motor Parkway and Commack Road in Commack, his vehicle was struck by a 2007 Dodge Magnum and burst into flames upon hitting a nearby telephone pole. Commack firefighters responded to the scene.

Ciano is survived by his wife, Sue, and two children, Samantha and Daniel.

“The Suffolk Police Department will never forget Glen and the dedicated service he provided to our communities,” Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said. “Though I didn’t have the honor of working alongside Glen — I’ve heard stories about the type of officer he was and his presence is missed to this day.”

Since 2011, a total of 1,084 donations have been accepted in Ciano’s honor, according to the New York Blood Center. These pints of blood have helped save the lives of more than 3,000 people, Yadira Navarro, business development manager for the blood center, said.

Due to unstable winter temperatures, the flu season and other challenges, blood donations Saturday were vital as the NY Blood Center said it’s in the midst of an emergency blood appeal, according to Navarro. Before the blood drive, the center’s blood had only enough pints in the storage to get through three to four days of standard operations — a healthy blood supply level is about 6 to 7 days.

“You are honoring such a wonderful officer who really served his community and this is one way where we can be a hero and save lives,” Navarro said.

Every year it means a little more.”

— Sue Ciano

Patrick Fazio, commissioner of the Commack Fire Department, said there’s no better way to honor Ciano’s life than donating blood. Smithtown resident Brian Moore who was among the hundreds who showed up Saturday, said giving blood can help so many lives.

A total of 234 pints of blood were donated at this year’s event, exceeding last year’s number of donations at 222.

“Every year it means a little more,” said Ciano’s wife, Sue. “I see friends, family — I meet new people every year.”

Sue Ciano said she stays at the blood drive for the whole day, talking to as many people as she can, and says events like these means her husband won’t be forgotten.

Smithtown Town Hall. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By David Luces

Smithtown residents, who have ever had ideas for what downtown Smithtown or Commack’s future should look like, have been asked to contribute their 2 cents or give two hours of their time.

The Town of Smithtown announced plans Feb. 5 to update its Comprehensive Master Plan and is looking for community input to define the vision of the town’s hamlets present and future. 

Residents will be able to participate through a series of public workshops, an interactive website, survey and public hearings. 

“I truly believe that every resident should have the chance to voice his or her vision for our community,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “Creating a process where they will have the opportunity to help shape their hometown hamlet by design, is the very definition of the people’s government.”

“Creating a process where they will have the opportunity to help shape their hometown hamlet by design, is the very definition of the people’s government.”

—Ed Wehrheim

The topics covered by the town’s comprehensive plan will include: community plans for each hamlet, land use, transportation, parking, community facilities, sustainability and future capital improvements.  

The town has launched a new website with specific details that outline the project at www.PublicInput.com/Smithtown, where it will address frequently asked questions and will be posting updates moving forward. Community residents can choose to complete an extensive online survey providing feedback on what aspects are most important and what areas the town needs the most improvement. 

Community workshops for individual hamlets will start March 7; see complete list below. Residents are encouraged to attend the community workshops in their respective hamlets to give input toward the immediate and long-term approach for growth, development, protection and community enhancement. 

“No stone will be left unturned when it comes to planning the future of our township,” Councilman Tom McCarthy (R), liaison to the Planning Department said. “This comprehensive plan will serve as a guide, not just for us but for our children and grandchildren.”

The town anticipates the new Comprehensive Master Plan will be completed by the end of 2019. 

Community Workshops Date

● Smithtown: March 7, 7-9 p.m. at Smithtown senior center located at 420 Middle Country Road 

● Nesconset: March 12, 7-9 p.m. at Great Hollow Middle School, located at 150 Southern Blvd.

● Hauppauge: March 19, 7-9 p.m. at Pines Elementary School, located at 22 Holly Drive

● St. James: March 27, 7-9 p.m. at St. James Elementary School, 580 Lake Ave. 

● Commack: April 4, 7-9 p.m. at Commack High School’s art gallery, located at 1 Scholar Lane

● Kings Park: April 11, 7-9 p.m. at Kings Park High School, located at 200 Route 25A