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Police

Tint meter used to detect the level of colored tint on car windows. Photo from SCPD video on illegal tints

Driving around Long Island, it’s most likely you have seen vehicles with a dark sheen of having their windows tinted. 

Suffolk County police have said some may have been illegally darkened, but still managed to pass inspection. A 2017 New York State law requires window tint testing during annual motor vehicle inspections, though Suffolk County police had seen an increase in window tint violation summons issued in the two years since the new law took effect. 

In response, police conducted a three-month sting operation from November 2018 to January of this year on 11 state inspection stations that were suspected of passing vehicles with illegally tinted windows. One turned out to be an automotive place in Selden.

Police used a decoy vehicle that had tinted windows that blocked 95 percent of light at these inspection stations. Operation Black Glass, as police called the sting operation, found that two of the 11 stations passed the decoy car and issued inspection stickers. 

Staria Auto of Selden and Baldwin Automotive of East Patchogue were the two inspection stations that illegally passed the decoy vehicle. The other nine stations correctly did not issue an inspection sticker to the decoy, police said. 

Suffolk Police Chief Stuart Cameron provided an explanation of the origins of the operation.

“If a car has illegally tinted windows, it should be failed and taken off the road until the tint is removed and the car is made legal.”

— Stuart Cameron

“Late last year I was driving on the expressway and I was still noticing a significant number of vehicles on the roadways with tinted windows, far more than I would expect to see after this law was in effect for two years,” Cameron said. “I wanted to see what the issue was — why wasn’t this law working like it was anticipated to.”

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) stressed the issue of officer safety when it comes to illegally tinted windows and traffic stops. 

“It’s one of the most dangerous situations a police officer can be involved in because there is extreme unknown,” Bellone said. “The danger associated with traffic stops gets heightened by the fact that there are vehicles on the road that have [these] tinted windows.” 

The state requires tinted windows to block only up to 30 percent of light, barring medical exceptions for the driver, officials said. 

The offending stations were referred to the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles, which could impose penalties on their inspection licenses. 

Police issued close to 6,000 summonses last year, far more than before the new law took effect. 

Cameron enlisted the help of the criminal intelligence section and asked them to do a comparison against the window tints summons officers have written, to the inspection stations that had issued an inspection certificate to those cars, to see if there was a pattern. 

Eleven inspection stations stood out and were targeted in the sting. 

Cameron reiterated officer safety, saying anything could be happening when you can’t see what’s behind these windows.  

“[These inspection stations] have an obligation to uphold a New York State law when cars are being brought in to be inspected,” the county police chief said. “If a car has illegally tinted windows, it should be failed and taken off the road until the tint is removed and the car is made legal.” 

Bellone said Suffolk residents should not  put officers’ safety at risk, for essentially a cosmetic addition to a vehicle.

“It’s not something we are going to tolerate, we are going to do everything to protect officers who are out there protecting us each and every day,” he said.

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Police conducted a warrant search on the home located at 535 High Street March 28. Photo from a Port Jeff resident
Police conducted a warrant search on the home located at 535 High Street March 28. Photo from a Port Jeff resident

Port Jefferson Village officials were notified March 28 of Suffolk County Police executing a search warrant on a house on High Street over allegedly possessing narcotics.

Suffolk County Police Narcotics Section detectives conducted an investigation regarding 535 High Street in Port Jefferson, and executed a search warrant at the residence March 28, police said.

Police arrested Richard Shelton, 33, a resident of the home. Shelton was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance for allegedly possessing cocaine. Shelton was set to appear today, March 29 at Suffolk County First District court in Central Islip. There is no attorney information available for Shelton as of March 29.

Police said the investigation is ongoing.

A photo Brian Newton. Photo from New York State Sex Offender Registry

An East Northport man and registered sex offender has been sentenced on transporting, trading and possessing child pornography.

In federal court in Central Islip, Brian Newton, 38, was sentenced to 19 years in prison by United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco Feb. 27. This followed a guilty plea May 3, 2018, to the transportation of child pornography in interstate and foreign commerce. As part of his sentence, Newton must serve five years supervised release following his imprisonment, during which time he must remain registered as a sex offender and not have unsupervised contact with minors. 

Richard Donoghue, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., the assistant director in charge of the FBI New York Field Office announced the sentence.

“Newton, despite being a registered sex offender, again chose to victimize children by sharing images of their abuse with others online, conduct that is deserving of a substantial prison sentence and underscores a message of deterrence to others,” said Donoghue. “The protection of innocent children is a priority of utmost importance for this office and our law enforcement partners. We will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that those who victimize children will be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”  

Newton, who at the time of the charged offense was on probation from a conviction in Suffolk County in 2014 for possession of child pornography, was allegedly caught trading child pornography including sadistic depictions of the sexual abuse of infants and toddlers, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. During the execution of a search warrant at his residence, police seized Newton’s large collection of child pornography, including hundreds of videos and thousands of images.  After his arrest, Newton admitted engaging in conversations with minors over internet chat platforms, as well as sending nude images of himself to minors and soliciting nude images from minors.    

“Child pornography is not an abstract crime. It is a direct by-product of the sexual abuse of innocent children — in this instance, including infants and toddlers,” Sweeney said. “And though he was already on probation for a prior child pornography conviction, Newton continued and even escalated his depraved actions, sharing child pornography while sexually soliciting minor children online.”

This prosecution is part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative led by the Department of Justice to combat the epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. attorneys’ offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.

The government’s case is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Long Island Criminal Division. Assistant United States attorneys Lara T. Gatz and Michael R. Maffei were in charge of the prosecution. 

Photo from Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office

An East Setauket man faces a multicount indictment for allegedly receiving more than $400,000 through insurance fraud.

On Feb. 28, Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini’s (D) office announced the unsealing of a 70-count indictment against former health care worker Joseph Basile, 50. It is alleged he fraudulently received more than $400,000 through a health insurance fraud scheme where he would file claims for unperformed procedures and list a former employer, a colorectal surgeon, on the forms.

“This was an act of pure greed,” Sini said. “He used his knowledge of the health care insurance system to illegally pocket hundreds of thousands of dollars, money that would have otherwise been used to care for people who were sick and in need.”

Basile was charged with insurance fraud in the first degree, three counts of health care fraud in the second degree, two counts of grand larceny in the second degree, health care fraud in the third degree, grand larceny in the third degree, scheme to defraud in the first degree and 60 counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree.

Basile was employed as an office manager for a private health care practice by a colorectal surgeon in Port Jefferson before the practice closed in 2013, according to the DA’s office. From January 2014 through July 2016, Basile allegedly fraudulently filed insurance claims for medical procedures, including colorectal surgeries, to Empire BlueCross BlueShield in excess of $3.8 million on behalf of himself and others, listing his former employer as the provider. The medical procedures had not been performed.

Basile then allegedly forged the signature of his former employer and deposited the checks into his own account. The more than $400,000 received was paid by both the insurance company and John T. Mather Hospital.

The former health care worker also allegedly filed fraudulent insurance claims on behalf of another individual whose health care is provided through Teamsters Local 1205’s welfare fund, according to Sini’s office. Basile allegedly stole more than $3,000 from the fund by filing false health care insurance claims.

Basile was released on $5,000 bond and is due back in court March 12. If convicted of the top count, he faces a maximum sentence of eight and one-third to 25 years in prison.

He is being represented by Legal Aid of Suffolk County attorney Kathleen Evers who could not be reached for comment.

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A mugshot of Arieta Gouvakis. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police arrested a female dental assistant Feb. 8 for allegedly stealing jewelry from patients at a dental office in Rocky Point.

Arieta Gouvakis, a dental assistant to Dr. Elliot Koschitzki at Long Island Implant and Cosmetic Dentistry, located at 31 Fairway Drive in Rocky Point, allegedly removed jewelry from two patients who were being treated at the office under her care Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. Neither patient realized their jewelry was missing until after they left the office, police said.

The Suffolk County Police Property Recovery Squad recovered the stolen jewelry from local pawn shops. The dental office cooperated fully with the investigation once they were notified of the allegation against their employee.

Gouvakis, 38, was arrested at her home, located at 270 Weeks Avenue in Manorville, at approximately 12:30 a.m, police said. She was charged with two counts of grand larceny and two counts of criminal possession of stolen property. She was held overnight at the Fourth Precinct and was arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip the morning of Feb 8. She is set to appear in court Feb. 11 at Suffolk First District Court in Central Islip.

Anyone with information or other patients who think they have had items stolen in the Rocky Point office were asked to contact the 7th police squad at 631-852-8752.

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File photo

Suffolk County Police 6th squad detectives are investigating a single-vehicle crash that killed a Selden woman the morning of Feb. 8.

Nancy Neumann, 60, of 16 Strauss Road in Selden was driving a 2006 Saturn northbound on Nicolls Road at around 11:23 a.m. when she lost control of the vehicle, which veered off the roadway and rolled onto its side, according to police.

Neumann was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

The Saturn was impounded for a safety check and the investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information on this crash is asked to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

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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.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone delivers his State of the County address May 24 at Newfield High School in Selden. Photo by Alex Petroski

By David Luces

Suffolk County has been working toward reducing inmate populations through programs to give people who have been incarcerated a new lease on life.

On Jan. 2 county officials announced the completion of the Suffolk Fresh Start program which has helped assist more than 100 formerly incarcerated individuals find employment after their release.

Over the past two years, after receiving a $489,901 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, the county’s Department of Labor has administered Suffolk’s Fresh Start program with the county’s Sheriff’s Office and Eastern Suffolk BOCES. Its main goal was to try and provide employable skills and vocational training to incarcerated individuals.

‘Having gainful employment is one of the factors that can reduce recidivism.’

— Errol Toulon

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said in a press release the county has created a successful criminal justice model to reduce recidivism and protect taxpayers.

“This program is giving people a second chance to become productive members of society, strengthening families and saving Suffolk taxpayers millions,” he said.

More than 350 individuals were enrolled in the Fresh Start program where they were given resources and training to address any possible barriers to employment. They were also registered with the county’s One-Stop Employment Center in Hauppauge.

The employment center supplies job-seeking individuals with the tools necessary for a self-directed or staff-assisted job search. There they can receive help with creating or editing résumés, navigate the internet for potential jobs and be interviewed by prospective employers on-site.

“The program has changed people’s lives,” said county spokesperson Derek Poppe.

Since 1999, New York State’s prison population has declined by 35 percent, according to a report from the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision released Jan. 1. The report said since 2011, the state has eliminated 5,500 prison beds and closed a total of 13 correctional facilities. The number of male inmates in maximum security prisons has been reduced from 24,151 in 2009 to 20,173 in 2019.

Suffolk has two jail facilities. One is the Riverhead facility which was intended to hold 529 inmates in maximum security cells and 240 in medium security cells, according to a 2008 county report. The facilities in Yaphank included a minimum-security jail that had cell space for 504 inmates, and a DWI Alternative facility for 54 inmates.

Since 2010 the county’s jail population has decreased drastically. Newsday’s data on Long Island’s jail population shows a fall from 1,609 in 2010 to 1,157 in 2016. The decrease has been mostly in inmates at the Riverhead facility.

Poppe said Bellone was against the construction of a new jail facility, and programs like Fresh Start work to keep inmates from committing further crimes.

“Many of these individuals were able to find work in the construction, manufacture and telemarketing field,” Bellone’s spokesperson said.

Even though the grant from the Department of the Labor expired in December 2018, Poppe said there are plans in place to continue the programs through internal county funds and possibly funds from the federal government.

‘This program is giving people a second chance to become productive members of society, strengthening families and saving Suffolk taxpayers millions.’

— Steve Bellone

The number of people in Suffolk’s jails is strained by a lack of corrections officers in both Riverhead and Yaphank. County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D) told TBR News Media in July 2018 the county was dealing with a large amount of corrections officer vacancies, saying at the time there were 76 positions left unfilled with 30 new officers being added as early as August that same year.

The sheriff said in a press release that Fresh Start gives county inmates opportunity and hope following incarceration.

“Having gainful employment is one of the factors that can reduce recidivism, and we are fortunate to have Department of Labor staff working with us to improve outcomes for those transitioning from jail to our communities,” Toulon said.

By repurposing existing internal funds Poppe said the county plans on having Department of Labor staffers work in conjunction with the correctional facilities in future, adding, “We want to continue to run this
successful program.”

County Executive Steve Bellone, center, SCPD Commissioner Geraldine Hart, left, and Chief of Department Stuart Cameron, right, present common phone scams.

By David Luces

Suffolk County police and elected representatives are saying if you think the person on the other end of a phone call may be a scam, hang up as quickly as possible and call the authorities.

According to Suffolk County officials, 2018 has seen a steady increase of telephone and digital scams, especially those targeting the elderly and non-English speakers. In 2018, there were 68 incidents reported, and the largest amount of money taken was $800,000 between 2017 and 2018. Of the 68 victims, 40 were elderly. 

“Simply put, this is the 21st century definition of highway robbery.”

— Steve Bellone

In 2019, nearly half of all calls to mobile phones will be scammers looking to fraudulent gain access to financial information, according to a report from telecommunications firm First Orion.

At a press conference Jan. 4, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said the trend is alarming.

“Simply put, this is the 21st century definition of highway robbery,” Bellone said. “These scammers are targeting a vulnerable group of people.”

According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the median loss people experienced from a phone-based scam in 2017 was $720. 

Bellone said thieves will sometimes call victims using an automated message to demand money or threaten to call the local authorities. 

“Our message to the public is to not give personal financial information when someone is calling you over the phone,” Bellone said. 

Suffolk County Police Department chief  Stuart Cameron said these scammers call threatening to stop certain utilities, claiming bills were unpaid. With tax season close by, Cameron cautioned the public to be on the lookout for scams mentioning the IRS as well.  

“They also call claiming a relative is seriously injured or in danger,” the chief said.

It is difficult to hold these scammers accountable because most are either out of state or out of the country and are using technology to mask their identity. 

Cameron said payment is usually requested through gift cards. 

“No government agencies are going to ask for gift cards,” Cameron said. “If you get a call like this, call law enforcement.”

Bellone mentioned that many of these crimes go unreported because victims feel embarrassed or simply ignore the calls. 

“We are trying to do everything we can to protect residents from these scams,” the county executive said. 

“In every case we are going to tell people if they are utilizing an app like LetGo to please do it in a public place, meet in daylight hours and don’t go by yourself.”

— Geraldine Hart

At the press conference Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart also informed the public on five robberies — one as recent as New Year’s Eve — involving the LetGo app, a digital marketplace that allows users to buy and sells items locally on their phones. 

Four out of the five robberies involved meeting up to purchase an iPhone, according to Hart. 

“In every case we are going to tell people if they are utilizing an app like LetGo to please do it in a public place, meet in daylight hours and don’t go by yourself,” Hart said. “Make sure you can verify the seller.”

A majority of the robberies occurred in the Mastic Beach area beginning in August 2018. During that month, a victim arranged to sell a cellphone to someone outside a home in Mastic Beach at 10 p.m. The suspect took the phone and told the victim he would return. The suspect fled into the backyard and never returned with the money.

On Nov. 30, a suspect and a victim agreed to meet to sell an iPhone. The suspect showed an iPhone in a box and the victim gave him $400. The suspect told the victim he had to get a SIM card and fled through a backyard and onto an adjacent street. 

The most recent incident occurred at the Mastic-Shirley train station. The victim gave the suspect money and was pushed to the ground. When the victim attempted to follow the suspect, a second man threatened to shoot him.  

 “Thankfully no one was seriously injured,” Hart said. 

The suspects involved appear to be connected to all five robberies and got away with several thousand dollars. 

Officials said if residents have information on phone scams and the robberies to call 800-220-TIPS (8477). 

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

By Anthony Frasca

In a ceremony this past January at the Van Nostrand Theater on the Brentwood campus of Suffolk County Community College, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) swore in Errol Toulon Jr. (D-Lake Grove) as the 67th Suffolk County sheriff.

Toulon, whose father is a retired Rikers Island warden, spent many years as a Rikers Island corrections officer and went on to become an aide to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). In that position, Toulon supervised numerous public safety departments including fire, rescue and emergency services.

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr., second from right, joined by his wife Tina, right, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone during his inauguration Jan. 12. Photo by Kevin Redding

Ralph Grasso has spent 31 years in law enforcement and is a close personal friend of Toulon. Grasso said he met Toulon at their children’s soccer game 27 years ago, and they struck up a conversation that led to a long-term friendship.

“He was in corrections, and I was an NYPD police officer,” Grasso said. “We hit it off and became friends. He is the godfather of my daughter.”

He said he knew Toulon would excel when it came to being sheriff.

“Knowing him, and how he perseveres through just about anything, I knew he would take this role and take it above and beyond,” Grasso said. “We speak a lot on the issues that correlate from the city to where I am now in the waterfront commission and the surrounding areas. He’s cognizant of everything that goes on, especially the gang issue.”

First Undersheriff Steve Kuehhas said Toulon can often be found out in the communities and the schools throughout Suffolk County with an outreach program he established.

“He dedicates at least two days a week to go to schools to talk about vaping, bullying and gangs,” Kuehhas said. “He goes himself and speaks to the younger ones in the middle schools.”

The undersheriff said Toulon also increased the number of officers in the county’s gang resistance program, where officers spend time with middle school students for a whole semester.

“It serves a lot of purposes,” Kuehhas said. “One is students are no longer apprehensive when they see a uniformed officer because some of them grow up with a negative connotation of a uniformed officer. But when they are in the schools every day, they see that the officers are just like their dads, and they are teachers and many times kids confide in the officers when they get to know them about things we can actually investigate or to help them.”

‘His mind is always racing. He’s always wanting to better the sheriff’s office. It’s really pleasant to know that he’s trying to better your agency.’

—Steve Kuehhas

Grasso said Toulon has placed the best of the best in the office and has taken on the role of sheriff head on.

“He’s a rare breed where he actually looks at the outside people and what they have to deal with,” Grasso said.

With a goal of improving the mission of the sheriff’s office, Toulon has looked to uncover talents already existing within the department.

“What Sheriff Toulon has done is increased some of the specialized units within the sheriff’s office on both corrections and deputies,” Kuehhas said. “He is also very attuned to education. He’s actively looking for officers with backgrounds in certain areas or specialties like analytics or education.”

Toulon’s approach to the sheriff’s office has been to engage actively and do what it takes to improve morale too.

“He’s nonstop,” Kuehhas said. “His mind is always racing. He’s always wanting to better the sheriff’s office. It’s really pleasant to know that he’s trying to better your agency.”

Kuehhas added that Toulon is always among the officers in the jails and stops in on holidays with Kuehhas and Undersheriff Kevin Catalina.

On a personal note, Sheriff Toulon is a two-time cancer survivor, and his battles with cancer have inspired him to continue his mission to help others.

“He’s an avid hockey player and a Penguins fan,” Grasso said. “He actually wears the number 66 because he also had Hodgkin’s disease along with Mario Lemieux from the Penguins.”