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Crime

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Picture of man who allegedly stole from a Speedway in December 2018. 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 a man who allegedly stole merchandise from a Miller Place gas station in December, 2018.

A man allegedly stole approximately $600 worth of cigarettes from Speedway, located at 370 Route 25A, on three occasions between Dec. 5 and Dec. 7, 2018.

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, texting “SCPD” and your message to “CRIMES” (274637) or by email at www.tipsubmit.com.

All calls, text messages and emails will be kept confidential.

U.S. Eastern District Court of New York. Photo from Facebook

A Huntington resident will be spending time in prison after admitting to racketeering while in charge of Long Island’s most infamous crime family.

John “Johnny Boy” Ambrosio, 75, the acting captain in the organized crime family La Cosa Nostra was sentenced Dec. 6 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York to 51 months in jail for taking part in a racketeering conspiracy. He previously pled guilty in May.

Ambrosio was among the last of seven associates of La Cosa Nostra to be sentenced in connection for the racketeering conspiracy, which included acts of drug trafficking, loan sharking, gambling and obstruction of justice.

There should be no doubt that putting a stop to the criminal activities of La Cosa Nostra continues to be a priority of this office and our law enforcement partners,.”

— Richard Donoghue

“There should be no doubt that putting a stop to the criminal activities of La Cosa Nostra continues to be a priority of this office and our law enforcement partners,” Richard Donoghue, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said.

Ambrosio and his co-conspirators —including Anthony Rodolico, 46, of Huntington — were arrested by federal law enforcement officials Dec. 12, 2017 after federal officers executed search warrants at various locations, including a storage facility in Nassau County, where they found gambling and loan sharking records, electronic gaming machines, narcotics and drug paraphernalia and numerous firearms, including two AR-15 rifles, a .38 caliber revolver and a sawed-off shotgun, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. Law enforcement officials also found letters addressed to Ambrosio from the Bonanno family boss Michael “The Nose” Mancuso and former Gambino family boss John Gotti.

“Organized crime continues to plague our communities with violence, coercion, and intimidation,” William Sweeney Jr, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York field office, said. “The mobsters grow richer while their victims live in fear as they struggle to make payments while dealing with daily threats.”

Prosecutors said they believe Ambrosio and his associates engaged in a racketeering conspiracy from January 2014 to December 2017. In entering his guilty plea, Ambrosio admitted to participating in the Gambino family’s activities by extorting a loan from one victim and supervising a gambling business that involved poker games, electronic gaming machines and sports betting, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Under the terms of his plea deal, he will forfeit $100,000, including $66,116 in cash that was seized from his Huntington home at the time of his arrest.

His associate Rodolico was also sentenced Nov. 5 to one year in prison.

A photo of Jose Borgos who allegedly left dogs out in freezing temperatures. Photo from SCPD

More than 20 dogs were left out in the cold in Rocky Point until a local police officer saw them and took action.

Jose Borgos, a 52-year-old Rocky Point resident, allegedly left 21 Rottweilers out in freezing temperatures Nov. 22 at his house on Broadway. Seventh Precinct Officer Karen Grenia was on patrol when she heard dogs barking at about 10 a.m., according to a Suffolk County Police Department press release. The officer discovered the dogs in Borgos’ backyard, nine of which were found in travel crates in a shed.

Borgos, who identified to police as a dog breeder, was charged with 21 counts of violating the New York State Agriculture and Markets Law pertaining to appropriate shelter for dogs left outdoors, which requires dog owners to provide appropriate shelter to dogs existing out in inclement or harmful weather. He was also charged with 21 counts of violating Suffolk County code on outdoor restraint of animals, which prohibits dogs from being tethered outside when the temperature is below freezing.

Information on Borgos’ attorney has not yet been made available, and he was scheduled for arraignment at a later date.

The Town of Brookhaven Animal Control will determine the placement of the dogs, the police statement said.

President of Strong Island Rescue Frankie Floridia, the Pit Bull Chocolate and SCSPCA Detective Jennifer Pape at the Animal Medical Hospital of Centereach. Photo by Kyle Barr

A dog who was maimed after a knife attack in Brentwood has found safety with a Centereach animal hospital and a North Shore-based animal rescuer.

At about 5:30 a.m. Nov. 20, Suffolk County police responded to a domestic dispute in Brentwood, according to a release put out by SCPD. Malik Fields, 25, was allegedly involved in a dispute with his girlfriend during which police said he stabbed two of the family’s six dogs. Detective Jennifer Pape of the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was also brought onto the scene by SCPD when it was discovered one pit bull named Storm had been stabbed and was bleeding profusely, according to Pape. Fields’ family brought Storm to a West Islip animal hospital where he was euthanized.

“Stabbing cases are rare, but in a year we investigate about 3,000 animal cruelty complaints,” Pape said. “It’s heart wrenching — it’s why I do what I do. They’re innocent, it’s why we need to protect them.”

Several hours after the initial disturbance, after authorities had already left, Fields’ family discovered another pit bull named Chocolate had also been stabbed, according to Pape. The family called Frankie Floridia, president of Sound Beach-based Strong Island Animal Rescue League, seeing if he could help take the dog to a veterinarian. Floridia called Pape, who rushed back to the scene. Soon after, the family brought the dog to the Animal Medical Hospital of Centereach at about 1:45 p.m. where Chocolate immediately went into surgery.

“I knew one dog had passed away and so we had to go fast to make sure everything was OK with the [other] dog, that was my main concern,” Floridia said.

Chocolate received a 12 inch laceration across his left shoulder. Photo by Kyle Barr

Veterinarian Dr. Charles Greco said the dog had a 12-inch laceration deep along his shoulder that had cut into his left-side deltoid muscle. After being sedated, Chocolate was out of surgery after approximately 30 minutes. The veterinarian said he performed the surgery pro bono, yet this wasn’t the worst case he’s seen in his career.

“I had one case years ago where a dog was stabbed 40 times,” Greco said. “This dog had nothing to do with this [dispute], he just happened to be there.”

Chocolate is now in stable condition and is in the care of Floridia, who said he had been told by the family the dogs did not instigate or intimidate Fields. Despite the harm inflicted upon the young pit bull, Chocolate is still friendly and calm among strangers, willing to sniff their pants legs and walk around freely.

Fields was charged with two counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, according to the SCPD. He was arraigned Nov. 27, though Field’s lawyer could not be reached for comment. An order of protection was issued for the dogs by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, which prevents Fields from interacting with the four other dogs, who were uninjured at the alleged incident and are still living with the family at the Brentwood house. In the meantime, Floridia did not want to give details on his plans for the dog, but he said he will work to make sure Chocolate goes to a caring home.

“We have good plans for him,” he said. “I’m going to do what’s best for the dog.”

Suffolk County police car. File photo

Suffolk County Police 2nd Squad detectives are investigating the sexual assault of a female teenager that occurred in Huntington earlier this week.

The 16-year-old girl was walking with a friend on Prospect Street, roughly 100 feet south of Main Street, at approximately 1:15 a.m. Nov. 11 when she was allegedly sexually assaulted by a man, police said.

Police said the man was described as Hispanic, approximately 20 to 25 years old, with short hair on the sides and long hair on top. The man, who has acne and a scar on his forehead, was wearing dark-colored shorts, a light-colored hooded sweatshirt and white sneakers. He fled on foot toward Main Street.

The  teen was transported to a local hospital for treatment, according to police.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on this incident to call the 2nd Squad at 631-854-8252 or anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.

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Blighted buildings and empty storefronts in upper Port Jefferson could soon be addressed through various grants. File photo by Kevin Redding

“Time for a bulldozer.” “What happened to this community?” “Something needs to be done up there.”

As eyebrow-raising stories in upper Port Jefferson — the area on and around Main Street between North Country Road and the train tracks — and Port Jefferson Station keep coming, so too does reaction, available in abundance at community meetings and on social media pages geared toward the Port Jeff area. If these reactions were a person’s only window into the state of an increasingly crime, addiction and poverty-stricken area, an element could surely be lost: the human element.

“You keep putting Band-Aids on bullet holes,” said Darryl Wood, 60, a Mastic Beach resident and employee at Echo Arms Adult Home, a residential facility on Route 112 south of the train tracks that houses adults with disabilities and provides shelter for low-income individuals, within the area designated for revitalization by Town of Brookhaven.

Wood was referring metaphorically and broadly to government’s approach to improving communities showing many of the symptoms characteristic of Echo Arms’ backyard, though his analogy had a tinge of reality. On July 22, a 27-year-old man from Selden was shot to death inside a billiards hall in upper Port. About a week prior, a man was stabbed at a bar just north of the tracks following an altercation. Wood hadn’t heard of the revitalization plans presented by the town July 24.

“They need help — they need someone who cares.”

— Darryl Wood

“They need help — they need someone who cares,” Wood said July 27 on a hot afternoon as he enjoyed his lunch break on a bench near the Port Jeff Station entrance to the Greenway Trail. He shared that he had been homeless previously, addicted to crack and panhandling to survive in Manhattan.

“I thought I would die a crackhead,” he said, adding he has been clean for 12 years, and working at Echo Arms for three. “I owe, because I’ve taken so much.”

Perception has become reality for those who don’t spend much time in upper Port, though personal interactions can serve as a reminder — people live in this community characterized at times only as a hot spot for drug use and violence.

“There’s always a lot going on in Port Jeff Station,” said a woman, who looked to be in her 60s, named Anna Maria, sitting on a bench adjacent to the train station July 27 while she waited for the S60 Suffolk County bus to arrive when asked if she’d heard about some of the recent events in her community.

She pushed a walker to help her reach the bench, coming north from around Maple Avenue and carrying a reusable shopping bag. A brief conversation revealed she spent time teaching American culture in Beijing, China, about 30 years ago, and carried a printed photo with her to prove it. She concluded the conversation saying, “God bless you,” as she boarded her bus.

“You’re doing better than me, I’m shot, the heat and humidity is killing me,” another man likely in his 50s waiting on the same bench for a bus downtown responded to the simple conversation starter “How ya doin’?”

He counted the change in his pocket as he spoke, wearing a gray baseball hat, dirty white T-shirt and gray sweatpants.

“Can you tell which bus is coming, I don’t have my glasses today,” he asked peering south down Route 112. “Be careful kid,” were his departing words.

Later a man who appeared to be homeless with a messy, full head of gray hair and out-of-season clothing sits down on the bench. He wandered over from the direction of Pax Christi Hospitality Center, a homeless shelter on Oakland Avenue. He stayed on the bench for about 20 minutes, halfway between seated and hunched, with his hand on his head and covering his face. Eventually, he stood up slowly, gathering a garbage bag in one hand and what appeared to be a bundled towel or blanket under the other arm. Without checking traffic, he hobbled across Main Street, stopping cars in both directions and turned the corner, disappearing from view.

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By Anthony Petriello

One of New York City’s finest is bringing a wealth of experience to Suffolk County.

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office recently announced the hiring of Kevin Catalina, a 26-year veteran of the New York City Police Department, as Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr.’s (D) new undersheriff, the department’s second in command.

Newly appointed Suffolk County Undersheriff Kevin Catalina. Photo from Suffolk County Sheriff’s office

As of Aug. 1, Catalina, 51, will get started in the position, joining current Undersheriff Steve Kuehhas, who was appointed to the post by Toulon’s predecessor Sheriff Vincent DeMarco (R) and will continue serving in that role. Catalina was born and raised in Sayville, graduated from Sayville High School, and has lived on Long Island his entire life.

Toulon spoke highly of Catalina, and said he is optimistic about the value he can add to the department.

“During my six months in office, I was searching for the very best talent to help me lead the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office into the future, and we are very fortunate that Kevin has accepted the position of undersheriff,” Toulon said in a statement.  He is a resident of Long Island and knows our communities well, but he also brings a high level of expertise from the NYPD that will help drive innovation and reduce crime in Suffolk County.”

Catalina has a vast and varied history with the NYPD, having served in many crucial positions, and including in the NYPD’s counter-terrorism and counter-gang initiatives. He is currently serving as the deputy chief and commanding officer of the NYPD Intelligence Bureau in the Operational and Analytical Section, which oversees all proactive counter-terrorism investigations in New York City.

He started with the NYPD in 1992. He was promoted to sergeant in 1998, and soon after was transferred to the Queens Gang Squad as a sergeant. He was then promoted two times within the Queens Gang Squad to lieutenant and then captain, where he served until 2005.

Catalina then transferred to Manhattan, where he was put in charge of an upper-Manhattan precinct covering public housing. He was later promoted once again to deputy inspector and was put in charge of Manhattan’s 32nd Precinct. After three years in charge of the 32nd, he was transferred and became the captain of the 44th Precinct in the Bronx, which covers Yankee Stadium and the surrounding area.

When NYPD Commissioner William Bratton was reinstated in 2014, Catalina was placed as the captain of the NYPD’s Citywide Gang Unit, where he oversaw more than 350 detectives, and developed and implemented all gang investigative and suppression strategies utilized throughout the city . According to the NYPD, he is recognized as a subject-matter expert in gang violence and crime reduction strategies, and pioneered an initiative in the South Bronx that resulted in a 40 percent reduction in shooting incidents.

“During my six months in office, I was searching for the very best talent to help me lead the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office into the future, and we are very fortunate that Kevin has accepted the position of undersheriff.”

— Errol Toulon Jr.

In 2016, Catalina was transferred to Manhattan North and became the executive officer, second in command, of all precincts above 59th Street. He then made his final transfer to commanding officer of the Operational and Analytical Section, where he will serve until July 31st.

Catalina said he was confident his experience in gang relations would be effective in dealing with the gang MS-13, one of the foremost concerns for law enforcement in Suffolk County currently.

“We really started to understand the gang issue around 2010 or 2011 and we saw a dramatic drop in violence,” he said. “We put together violence conspiracy cases using every possible bit of information we could get from social media, to jail calls and text messaging. We were able to prove conspiracies to commit violent acts, and once these kids realized they could actually get in trouble, the violence was seriously curtailed. MS-13 is no different than any other gang. People look at them like they’re this big bad organization, but ultimately they’re no different than the gangs we dealt with in New York City.”

Toulon said he was also optimistic about the success of the Gang Resistance Education and Training Program, which he implemented a few months back prior to learning of Catalina’s interest in the undersheriff position. Toulon said he visited Washington D.C. to garner more funding for the program. Gang activity in Suffolk has become a topic of national discussion, thanks in large part to the light shone on it by President Donald Trump (R), including in a visit he made to the Suffolk County Police Academy in Brentwood in 2017.

“Gang recruitment usually starts at the middle school level, and that’s what the GREAT program is geared towards,” Toulon said. “We have deputy sheriffs and corrections officers that work with these kids in communities that are adversely affected by gangs, and I’m advocating for additional funding [for this program].”

Catalina’s addition, joining Kuehhas, will help round out the leadership in the sheriff’s office, according to Toulon.

“I was looking for another component because Steve Kuehhas, who will be remaining with me, has a strong legal background, and my background is in corrections, so adding Undersheriff Catalina with a strong police background brings a great asset to the sheriff’s office,” he said.

Suffolk County Department of Social Services Commissioner John O’Neill and PJS/TCA Vice President Sal Pitti field resident questions at Comsewogue Public Library May 22. Photo by Alex Petroski

A viral video of a lewd act in public and rumors about a large-scale new development project are probably why most attended the meeting, but emotions set the tone.

Anger, passion, fear and compassion flowed like a river during a nearly three-hour meeting of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association at the Comsewogue Public Library May 22. It was the civic’s scheduled meeting for May, but the regular members acknowledged this was an out-of-the-ordinary community gathering.

Earlier this month, a cellphone video of two people, believed to be homeless, having sex at a Suffolk County bus stop in Port Jefferson Station spread not only across the community, but the country. As a result of that incident, and in an effort to ascertain the facts about an announcement made by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) office May 10 that he was allocating about $8 million in funding for a large-scale affordable housing apartment complex for the homeless in Port Jeff Station, the civic association invited leaders from across local government to attend and field resident questions and concerns.

“This is how it starts,” civic association President Edward Garboski said at one point during the meeting, as tensions rose among the approximately 200 people who crammed into The Richard Lusak Community Room at the library. “None of these people are going to give you a solution to this problem tonight. Most of the people in this room have never been to a civic meeting. This is how it starts. We invited all these people here. They’re going to hear us speak. We continue to fight — together.”

“None of these people are going to give you a solution to this problem tonight. Most of the people in this room have never been to a civic meeting. This is how it starts.

— Edward Garboski

The discussion began with Suffolk County Department of Social Services Commissioner John O’Neill answering questions for about an hour. O’Neill was pressed with questions about the concentration of shelters for the homeless in the Port Jefferson Station area, oversight of the locations and curfew rules, and how the locations are selected. He said it was against the law to publicize the location of homeless shelters, though he said if he were legally allowed he would compile a list by zip code. He said the shelters in most cases are privately owned, and if they are compliant with state and federal regulations, they are approved with no consideration taken regarding volume of like facilities in the area. O’Neill also said checks are done regularly at all county shelters to ensure they are in compliance with regulations.

“The argument with the homeless is they need help, we know this,” PJS/TCA Vice President Sal Pitti said. “Everybody here in one way, shape or form has collected food, done something for a homeless individual. I think our biggest issue is the lack of supervision at these locations.”

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Suffolk County Police Department 6th Precinct Inspector Patrick Reilly also attended the meeting and fielded questions from the attendees.

“I live in Port Jefferson Station as well, so I’m not coming from another community saying ‘Oh, it’s not that bad,’” Cartright said. “I love where I live, but there are issues and we need to deal with them. It’s a complex
issue and it doesn’t happen overnight. We are committed — I can say that for each of us that are sitting here today — to trying to make a difference and coming up with solutions.”

One suggestion that emerged from the meeting is the necessity for a 24-hour hotline to contact the county DSS when issues occur in the community. Currently the hotline only operates during business hours. Reilly said he believes a viable answer to reduce crime in the area, especially in the vicinity of Jefferson Shopping Plaza, would be the installation of more police surveillance cameras. Residents were also repeatedly urged to call the police when observing illegal activities, and to stay engaged with civic association efforts to foster a strength-in-numbers approach.

Many of the elected officials said they plan to be back at the association’s next meeting July 24 to unveil plans for revitalization in the area near the Port Jefferson Long Island Rail Road station.

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon speaks during a media event Feb. 9 at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Yaphank. Photo by Kevin Redding

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon (D-Lake Grove) has only been in office for six weeks but he’s wasting no time working on the issues he campaigned on and bringing change to his new environment.

“Every single day since I’ve started, I wake up very enthused and energetic to get to work,” Toulon said during a media roundtable discussion he hosted Feb. 9 at Yaphank Correctional Facility. “I want to break down the barrier between law enforcement and our community — I want residents to know who their sheriff is.”

Since Jan. 1, Toulon, a former Rikers Island corrections officer and captain, has visited five school districts across the county, from Huntington to Bay Shore, to speak with students about bullying, vaping, opioid use and gangs as part of a long-term initiative to, in his own words, “get to the kids before they get to me.” A more thorough “listening tour” will be held across local high schools during which Toulon will meet with specific students who face drug- and gang-related problems.

“I told him, ‘You’ve done more in six weeks than I’ve ever seen anyone take office do.’”

— Steve Kuehhas

“I am going to be very tough on crime,” he said. “I will, as I did in New York City, go after gang members and those distributing drugs illegally and I encourage the community’s support.”

He said he is in the process of creating an intelligence-gathering system within the correctional facility similar to one established in the gang unit at Rikers Island to help outside law enforcement partners, including District Attorney Tim Sini (D), track down criminals and better prevent and solve crimes. As part of the system, information will be  gathered from inmates through interviews, phone calls, visits and social media interactions that occurred before incarceration, with a focus on targeting particular crimes in certain towns and jurisdictions.

He said he will also be implementing a re-entry program for inmates leaving the jail focused on rehabilitation and counseling.

“We’re all in this together and that individual that’s in his cell today may be in Target tomorrow buying something,” he said. “So I want to make sure we treat everyone with fairness and respect, and assist them in keeping their dignity. I feel confident that, after four years, we are going to make a big difference in a lot of people’s lives by deterring individuals from joining gangs, reducing this epidemic involving prescription drugs and [reduce] the high rate of recidivism.”

Toulon said he is adamant about taking politics out of the sheriff’s office, insisting he will not be accepting any political contributions and that all employees will be evaluated solely on attendance and work performance.

He has already met with various members of his staff, and inmates in the housing area, to address any issues they may have faced in the past. In light of the nationwide #MeToo movement, he said he will be meeting with female deputy sheriff’s, correctional officers and non-uniform staff members to create a more open environment when it comes to addressing issues of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

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

While he admits to having a different management style than his predecessor, former sheriff Vincent DeMarco (C), Toulon said he is pleased so far by the way Suffolk’s two jails operate and will be holding onto many of DeMarco’s implementations.

This includes a controversial policy change in December 2016 to detain undocumented immigrants who have been arrested in Suffolk County, and are eligible to be released pending a trial, at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents so they can begin the deportation process. Before DeMarco implemented the change, the county needed a judge’s order, or warrant, to hold onto someone wanted by federal immigration officials.

At the time, DeMarco expressed concerns about the impact on public safety that could come from releasing immigrants who committed crimes back into their communities.

“ICE will stay in this jail,” Toulon said. “It’s a hot button topic, but my number one job is to keep the community safe. Looking at local charges of all undocumented inmates, these are really horrific crimes — if done by anybody. We’re talking about sexual assault, robberies, burglaries.”

Current Undersheriff Steve Kuehhas, a former bureau chief for the district attorney’s office who became second in command to DeMarco in 2016, is the only past employee of the office who will be interviewed for undersheriff in the new administration as Toulon seeks “an infusion of new and objective ideas.”

Kuehhas said he’s beyond impressed with the job Toulon has done so far.

“I told him, ‘You’ve done more in six weeks than I’ve ever seen anyone take office do,’” he said. “I know because I’m at his side all the time and the work is constant, which I love. It’s always busy. And this is just the beginning. He’s very honest when he says he wants to be transparent and always available to the public.”

File photo

Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad detectives are investigating an incident in which a woman was found dead in a parking lot in Hauppauge Dec. 23.

Paula Chavez-Quintanilla was found in the rear parking lot of 150 Motor Parkway at approximately 9:10 a.m. Chavez-Quintanilla, 65, of Brentwood, appeared to be a victim of violence and was pronounced dead at the scene by a physician assistant from the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner.

Homicide Squad detectives ask anyone with information regarding this incident to call detectives at 631-852-6392, or anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-8477 (TIPS). All calls will remain confidential.

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