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District Attorney Tim Sini

A photo from Rudy Sunderman's website

On July 16, Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) announced the indictment of Suffolk County Legislator Rudy Sunderman (R-Mastic Beach), who has served in the 3rd District since January 2018.

Sunderman, 49, is being indicted for alleged perjury, ethics violations and other offenses in connection with his work as the former district manager of the Centereach Fire District that continued after he become legislator. An independent investigation by the Suffolk County Board of Ethics was referred to the district attorney’s office.

“This was a violation of the very laws that Legislator Sunderman has sworn to uphold,” Sini said. “These laws are in place to prevent potential conflicts of interest for lawmakers, prevent corruption and protect the integrity of ethics investigations.”

Prior to his election to the Suffolk County legislature in November 2017, Sunderman was employed as the district manager for the Centereach Fire District, earning approximately $175,000 a year, and as the district secretary for the Center Moriches Fire District, earning approximately $20,000 a year. On Dec. 6, 2017, Sunderman received an opinion from the Suffolk County Board of Ethics that continuing to serve in these roles while serving as a legislator would constitute a violation of the Suffolk County code’s prohibition on dual office-holding. Sunderman resigned from his position with the Center Moriches Fire District, according to the DA’s office.

Sunderman is alleged to have attempted to circumvent that ruling by creating a shell company in his wife’s name, Now That’s Fire Management, Inc., and arranging for the Centereach Board of Fire Commissioners to hire him through that company for $10,000 per month. Between Jan. 2, 2018 and June 30, 2018, despite the Board of Ethics’ determination, Sunderman allegedly continued to perform the duties of a district manager for the Centereach Fire District, including personally signing more than 600 vouchers and other official documents as district manager for the Centereach Fire District. Vouchers and purchase orders that Sunderman signed as “DM” or “District Manager” included those that authorized $60,000 in payments to Now That’s Fire Management, which is a violation of state municipal law regarding conflicts of interest, according to the DA’s office.

Following receipt of a complaint, the Suffolk County Board of Ethics began an investigation into Sunderman’s employment with the Centereach Fire District. On Oct. 29, 2018, during a deposition in connection with the investigation, Sunderman allegedly perjured himself on numerous occasions, including denying that he received any income from his continued work for the Centereach Fire District. Bank records obtained by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office showed that Sunderman was a signatory on Now That’s Fire Management’s corporate bank account, that the account was used for Sunderman’s personal expenses and that the county legislator had personally engaged in more than 100 transactions and spent thousands of dollars using a debit card issued to him on that bank account.

Sunderman also allegedly denied under oath managing fire district staff members after January 2018. Evidence developed over the course of the investigation showed that Sunderman continued to manage employees and represent himself as “District Manager” until he resigned from the position in June 2018, after the Board of Ethics began to investigate his conduct.

On April 23, 2019, Sunderman allegedly intentionally failed to disclose his outside employment and income as well as his wife’s income from the Centereach Fire Department on a financial disclosure form filed with the Suffolk County Board of Ethics for the 2018 reporting year.

Thomas Doyle, chairman of the Centereach Fire District board of fire commissioners, said the board was informed of the indictment July 16.

“The Centereach Fire District is cooperating with the Suffolk County District Attorney, and we refer all questions regarding this case to his office,” Doyle said. “The board of fire commissioners will have no further comment on this matter at this time.”

Sunderman is charged with five counts of perjury in the first degree; offering a false instrument for filing in the second degree; violation of the prohibition on dual office-holding under Suffolk County code; violation of the prohibition against conflicts of interest under general municipal law; and intentional failure to file an accurate financial disclosure statement under Suffolk County code.

Sunderman was arraigned on the indictment July 16 in front of Suffolk County Court Judge Anthony Senft Jr. and was released on his own recognizance. He is due back in court Aug.13, and if convicted of the top count, Sunderman faces a maximum sentence of two and one-third to seven years in prison.

District Attorney Tim Sini (D) pointing to a photo of one of the defendants, Guillermo Linares Alvarez, showing an 18th Street gang sign. Photo from DA’s office

Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) and Homeland Security Investigations of New York announced May 14 the indictment of three 18th Street gang members for allegedly conspiring to murder two individuals they believed were MS-13 gang members.

 “This is one of many cases where my office and Homeland Security worked together to not only bring bad actors to justice, but to actually prevent violence,” Sini said. “We are no longer responding or waiting for tragedy to strike; we are taking a proactive approach, and due to excellent law enforcement work, we are preventing murders.”

 Wilber Campos Chicas, know as “Troya,” 25, of Port Jefferson Station; Guillermo Linares Alvarez, known as “Extrano,” 19, of Huntington Station; and Isidro Aguirre Canelas, known as “Chino,” 26, of Centereach, are each charged with one count of conspiracy in the second degree, a felony.

 Chicas and Canelas have been identified by law enforcement as members of the Tiny Locos clique of the 18th Street gang, which is based in Port Jefferson Station; and Linares Alvarez has been identified as a member of the Shatto Park Locos clique, located in Huntington Station.

 An investigation by the district attorney’s office and Homeland Security that began in March revealed intelligence that Chicas, Alvarez and Canelas allegedly conspired to murder two victims who they believed were members of MS-13, which is 18th Street’s rival gang.

Between March 15 and April 24, the defendants allegedly took several steps in furtherance of the murder conspiracy, including sharing photos and descriptions of the two targets and their whereabouts. The defendants were allegedly going to use two machetes, which were owned by Alvarez, to murder the two victims. They also allegedly discussed obtaining a car to use while carrying out their attacks.

“But for the dedication and professionalism of Homeland Security, these murders likely would have occurred.”

— Tim Sini

The three defendants, all of whom entered the United States illegally, were apprehended by Homeland Security agents in April.

“Working quickly, agents were able to take all three defendants into custody before they were able to execute their plan,” Sini said. “But for the dedication and professionalism of Homeland Security, these murders likely would have occurred.”

 “Homeland Security and Suffolk County will not stand for violence at the hand of any gang member,” said Gerald Handley, assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security New York. “Whether the intended victim is innocent or a known member of a gang, we pay the same attention to the details and remain as proactive as possible to stay in front of the violence. We will stand united with our law enforcement partners and continue to arrest and seek prosecution of gang members.”

 The three defendants were arraigned on the indictment on March 13 by Suffolk County Acting County Court Judge Karen M. Wilutis and were remanded without bail.

 If convicted of the top count, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of eight to 25 years in prison. Chicas, Alvarez and Canelas are due back in court respectively on May 29, 30 and 31. 

 “Today is the latest example of Suffolk County law enforcement using the conspiracy statutes under New York State law to prevent violence,” Sini said. “We are collecting intelligence, analyzing that intelligence and disseminating it in a way that is allowing us to prevent violence and hold dangerous gang members accountable. None of this would be possible without the partnership between my office and Homeland Security as well as other law enforcement agencies.”

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Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) during a press conference about an alleged sex trafficking operation in Sound Beach. Photo from DA's office.

A Sound Beach man was indicted for allegedly conducting a human trafficking ring out of his parents’ house since at least 2014.

Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) and the Suffolk County Police Department said Raymond Rodio III, 47, allegedly operated a sex trafficking ring of over 20 women by luring them with the promise of crack cocaine and heroin, and then using that addiction as leverage against them. The man also allegedly kept the women in horrible conditions in his parents’ basement for long stretches of time.

“This is a dangerous and depraved individual,” Sini said in a release. “He kept women locked up in the basement of his parents’ house, using the basement as a dungeon. He preyed on women using their vulnerabilities and their drug dependencies to maintain his control over them. With this indictment, we are putting an end to his criminal operation and his victimization of over 20 women.”

In August 2018, the Suffolk County Police Department identified a suspected victim of human trafficking during a routine traffic stop. An investigation by the Police Department’s Human Trafficking Investigations Unit revealed evidence that the victim had allegedly been forced into sex trafficking by Rodio in the spring of 2018.

Further investigation by county police and the DA’s human trafficking sections revealed Rodio was allegedly trafficking women out of the basement of his parents’ residence, located on Lower Rocky Point Road in Sound Beach, since 2014. The investigation identified more than 20 victims of Rodio’s alleged sex trafficking operation. Rodio was arrested March 18.

Rodio would allegedly post advertisements on websites, including Backpage and Craigslist, promoting prostitution by the victims and would keep either a large percentage or all of the profits of their prostitution, according to the district attorney’s office.

“This man preyed on vulnerable women, using threats and drugs to manipulate them for his own financial gain,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said.

The district attorney’s office said the investigation also revealed evidence Rodio would allegedly occasionally keep victims in the basement for extended periods of time and force them to use a bucket as a toilet because the basement does not have a bathroom. The door to the basement has an exterior lock to which Rodio had the only key. In addition to the house, Rodio also allegedly forced the victims to perform prostitution at various motels throughout Suffolk County.

Rodio is alleged to have used threats of violence to force victims to continue engaging in prostitution on his behalf. He also allegedly provided his victims with heroin and crack cocaine before prostituting them to impair their judgment.

“This creates a vicious cycle that is extremely difficult for victims to break,” Sini said. “That is precisely why my office and the Suffolk County Police Department have shifted the paradigm in how we deal with these cases. We treat the women as victims, because they are.”

Rodio has been charged with seven counts of sex trafficking, a B felony, one count of sex trafficking, a B violent felony, one count of promoting prostitution in the second degree, a C felony, one count of promoting prostitution in the thirddDegree, a D felony, and four counts of promoting prostitution in the fourth degree, an A misdemeanor. If convicted of the top count, Rodio faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

In addition to the sex trafficking charges, the Suffolk County Police Department’s Narcotics Section, in conjunction with the Human Trafficking Investigations Unit, began a subsequent investigation into alleged drug dealing by Rodio. The investigation resulted in Rodio being indicted by the District Attorney’s Office on March 22 and charged with five counts of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, a B felony.

Rodio was arraigned on the indictment in connection with the alleged human trafficking operation today by Suffolk County Acting Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho. Bail was set at $1 million cash or $2 million bond. He is due back in court May 21.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Daniel Cronin, of the Enhanced Prosecution Bureau’s Human Trafficking Team.

Juan Lopez of Huntington Station was convicted of using the threat of violence to recruit people into the gang MS-13. Photo from Suffolk County District Attorney’s office

A Huntington Station man has been found guilty of being an MS-13 gang member who used the threat of violence in attempt to recruit new members.

Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) announced April 9 that Juan Lopez, 32, was convicted by a jury of first-degree attempted coercion, a felony. Lopez faces a maximum of four years in jail.

“The victims did not join; they did the right thing,” Sini said. “That’s why it’s critical that the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office is here to protect the victims of not only gang violence, but also of gang intimidation.”

On April 16, 2017, Lopez was approached by two young men at the soccer fields of Manor Field Park in Huntington Station at approximately 1 p.m. in attempts to recruit them to MS-13, according to the district attorney. This occured less than five days after the murder of four young men near a park in Central Islip by alleged gang members.

Tattoos denoting Juan Lopez’s connection to the gang MS-13, according to District Attorney Tim Sini. Photo from Suffolk County District Attorney’s office

“When the boys resisted, this defendant stated to them in unequivocal terms, ‘this is how you end up dead in the park,’” Sini said. “My message to Mr. Lopez is: That’s how you end up in jail in Suffolk County.”

Lopez was arrested by Suffolk County Police Department the following day, April 17, 2017.

The case was prosecuted by the Enhanced Prosecution Bureau’s Gang Unit. The Gang Unit was launched in January 2018 by the newly-elected district attorney to focus exclusively on investigating and prosecuting crimes committed by gang members, such as members of MS-13.

Sini said prosecutors’s evidence against Lopez at trial included witness statements in addition to his own tattoos. Lopez has a “1” tattoed on his right arm near his shoulder with a matching “3” tattooed on his left arm near the shoulder joint. In addition, he had a skull with two horns tattooed lower on his left arm, forming the letter “M” when viewed upside down. The district attorney said these tattoes are symbolic of membership in the MS-13 gang.

“We will spare no resources, we will spare no effort to eradicate MS-13 from our communities,”he said.

Suffolk County sheriff-elect, Errol Toulon Jr. and his wife Tina. Photo from Toulon

By Kevin Redding

On the Saturday before Easter in 2003, Suffolk County sheriff-elect, Errol Toulon Jr. (D) sat in the den of his Lake Grove home and said to God, “If you give me a chance, I’m going to do something great.”

Toulon, who had dropped from 240 pounds to about 140 and could barely walk, was recovering from a Whipple procedure to remove a cancerous tumor on his pancreas. It had been his second battle with cancer in less than 10 years — in 1996, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma — an ordeal that was followed by MRSA, a type of staph infection, and pneumonia. Doctors and family members expected the worst.

A year later, in the spring of 2004, the Rikers Island corrections officer-turned-captain enrolled at Suffolk County Community College. He went on to receive his master’s degree in business administration from Dowling College and an advanced certificate in Homeland Security management from Long Island University.

Toulon, left, as a bat boy at Yankee Stadium, pictured with Yankees legend Reggie Jackson. Photo from Toulon

In the midst of his appointment as deputy commissioner of operations for the New York City Correction Department in 2014, Toulon pursued and completed his doctorate in educational administration and took leadership courses at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

On Dec. 4, after a last-minute campaign to be Suffolk County sheriff against opponent Larry Zacarese (R), Toulon, 55, became the first African-American elected official in a nonjudicial countywide position in Long Island’s history.

“I still don’t think I’m finished to be honest with you,” Toulon said, laughing. “I am very fortunate and I don’t take any day for granted.”

He said he didn’t even know the landmark aspect of his victory until the counting of absentee ballots was close to being completed. The race was too close to call after Election Day Nov. 7, leaving the tightly contested election hanging for nearly a month.

“I think that can help to show that any individual, no matter what ethnicity or gender, can achieve anything they want,” Toulon said. “But I don’t think, necessarily, the color of my skin will matter at all. I think my work experience and work ethic will show that those who voted for me made the right choice, and I think those that didn’t vote for me will feel I can do the job and have the best interests of the people.”

Those closest to him said despite the odds stacked against him, Toulon’s win makes perfect sense.

“He’s a rare breed of person — you couldn’t ask for a better man for the position,” said Ralph Grasso, a retired New York Police Department officer and friend of Toulon’s for 26 years. “Anything he puts his mind to, he achieves.”

Grasso was far from the only colleague to heap praise on the sheriff-elect.

“Errol’s always shown through his actions how great a leader he is,” said Keith Taylor, who worked with him in the department of corrections for two years. “When it came to officers who were victims of inmate violence, he always made sure to visit them in the hospital, and always without any fanfare. He’s dealt with a lot of adversities and always handles them with dignity, grace and strength.”

Meg Malangone, a registered Republican in Lake Grove who works in the business office at TBR News Media, said Toulon is the first Democrat she’s voted for in 40 years.

“Not only is he one of the most incredible individuals I know, I honestly felt he was the best man for the job,” said Malangone, whose son was friends with Toulon’s sons growing up. “Errol is a wonderful human being. He is a strong, kind, smart and gentle man. He is not afraid to make tough decisions and is thoughtful in his approach to problems and solutions. He is going to be a fantastic sheriff for Suffolk County.”

When he officially starts his new job in January, Toulon said he’s determined to manage the sheriff’s office effectively and utilize skills from his career in corrections to tackle what he considers “the big three”: gangs, the opioid crisis and working with the community to develop a strong re-entry program for those incarcerated to help with housing and jobs when they leave the jail. He said outgoing Sheriff Vincent DeMarco (C) has given him a tour of the facilities, he’s met with staff and he looks forward to working collaboratively with district attorney-elect, Tim Sini (D).

“There is nobody with the type of integrity he has,” said Keith Davies, Toulon’s campaign manager, who was admittedly nervous to start a full-fledged race two months before the election with a candidate he didn’t know. “But then I got to know Errol and I knew I was working for someone that is the right person to be in the position. He kept us motivated and working hard. He’s a good man.”

“There is nobody with the type of integrity [Toulon] has.”

— Keith Davies

Despite his lifelong career in law enforcement, Toulon said the reason he thinks he was elected, and had such large support from community members on both sides of the aisle, can be traced to his second life as a coach of various sports in the last 20 years.

An avid hockey fan who even created a program around the sport within the corrections facility, Toulon coaches ice hockey at the Long Island Gulls Amateur Hockey Association in Jericho and served as a roller hockey coach at The Sports Arena in St. James. He has also coached baseball for the Sachem Youth Advisory Group; soccer for Middle Country Children’s Soccer League; and basketball for Middle Country.

“I’ve tried to make sure it wasn’t about winning or losing with the kids,” Toulon said. “I thought that even the kid who probably wasn’t the best person on the team should’ve gotten an opportunity to play. We won or lost together. A lot of parents asked me to be their child’s coach each season and I felt very honored by that.”

But Toulon’s overall achievements can be traced further back to the 1960s and ’70s in the South Bronx, where he grew up with his younger brother, Anthony, and parents, Errol Sr. and Alma, and attended Cardinal Hayes High School.

“He was always a go-getter,” recalled Errol Toulon Sr., 78, a retired deputy warden of the New York City Department of Correction. “He always volunteered within the community, played baseball and just always gave it his all. We couldn’t be prouder of him.”

Toulon’s mother, 74, who worked in education, remembered her sons being extremely protective of her, not even letting her walk to the local tennis court by herself.

“They were like my guardian angels,” Alma Toulon said. “I’m so proud of Errol Jr. He always does anything anyone asks him to do. He is a wonderful kid … I still call him a kid, he’s 55.”

Toulon pointed to his parents, who both went back to school later in life to get their bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as his two biggest heroes, though he also credited another: Willie Randolph, the former New York Yankees second baseman and New York Mets manager. Toulon came to know Randolph well working as a bat boy for the Yankees in 1979 and 1980.

“I was a diehard Yankees fan, didn’t live too far from the stadium at the time and went for an interview in January 1979,” said Toulon, who fondly remembered being around players like Randolph, Catfish Hunter and Thurman Munson. “They all treated me like I was a valuable part of the team. And that really carried over to my own managerial style that every member of the organization — no matter where you are in the chain — is important to making the team as successful as possible.”

Toulon’s son, Justin, 28, who works in the film and television field in Georgia, called his father the hardest working and most driven person he knows and said Toulon instilled in him the importance of respect.

“I don’t think I’ve ever brought somebody to meet my father that hasn’t said afterward, ‘That’s a great guy,’” Justin Toulon said. “My dad always leaves that impression. You just respect him and he has this charming ability about him. People gravitate toward him.”

Speaking from experience on that front is Toulon’s second wife, Tina, who he met in 2014, and married a year and a half ago. His first wife, Susan, passed away 29 years into their marriage.

“I’m his No. 1 fan,” Tina Toulon said. “He just has this wonderful aura about him: that great smile and those great eyes, full of life. He has an incredible loyalty about him and I love how he connects with people. He wants to always leave things better than how he found them … so I know he can do this job well.”

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