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Rocky Point

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. 

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Rocky Point hosts a Veterans Day Event Nov. 11. Photo by Kyle Barr
Rocky Point hosts a Veterans Day Event Nov. 11. Photo by Kyle Barr

Following nearly a month of going to different schools in the area prior to Veterans Day, the Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 held its annual ceremony Nov. 11 honoring those who’ve served, both those that are here and those no longer with us. They were joined by Rocky Point Boy Scout Troop 244.

“Veterans Day means much more than a federal holiday,” said post Commander Joe Cognitore. “It’s to make sure the men and women receive what they need.”

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The Rocky Point firehouse on King Road in Rocky Point. File photo by Kevin Redding

By Julianne Mosher

A former Rocky Point Fire Department treasurer pleaded guilty to stealing over $23,000 from the local department over the course of two years. 

The Rocky Point Fire Department Company 2 is using a warehouse on Prince Road as its main base. Photo by Kyle Barr

David Crosby, 28, of Rocky Point made his plea on Thursday to a petit larceny, an A misdemeanor, and will be required to pay the department back a full restitution equaling $23,324. 

“This is a just disposition that ensures the brave firefighters who serve the Rocky Point community will receive the full amount of money that was stolen from their department,” District Attorney Tim Sini (D) said. “The theft of public funds will not be tolerated. Our Public Integrity Bureau will continue to investigate and prosecute criminals who steal funds from our first responders and other public entities.”

The plea agreement will spare Crobsy prison time, officials said. He is expecting his sentence by Acting Suffolk County Court Judge Richard Dunne Jan. 14 to three
years probation.

From 2017 until 2019, Crosby served as the treasurer of Rocky Point Fire Department’s North Shore Beach Company 2, located at 90 King Road. During the two years, he made approximately 80 unauthorized ATM withdrawals from the department’s account totaling $19,744.09, along with $3,580 from a fundraiser the department held. 

When the department became aware of the missing funds a few months ago, they referred the issue to the District Attorney’s Office “right away,” William Glass, attorney for the Rocky Point Fire District said. Crosby surrendered to the DA Oct. 17. 

The attorney added that the money was not from taxpayer money but was solely from the fire department’s personal funds. 

“It’s a shame,” Glass said, “because the money was raised by the fire department.”

Crosby’s defense attorney, Paul Barahal, had no comment on behalf of his client. Assistant District Attorney Carey Ng, of the Public Integrity Bureau, will be prosecuting his case.

File photo

A person on site during demolition of a derelict property in Rocky Point called police about an explosive discovery Oct. 31 when workers excavating the property uncovered a bag of grenades, some of them still live.

On Halloween, Police said a person on site of the demolition called 911 at 10:07 a.m. to report a bag of grenades found at a zombie house on King Road. The house was already abandoned and had been knocked down. A bag with five grenades were found by workers during excavation. Three were still live, police said.

The house is just one of many derelict properties the Town of Brookhaven is contracting to demolish. Brookhaven Spokesperson Jack Krieger said the site is being handled by Bayport-based Panzner Construction. He said the town was unaware who placed the call to police.

Police said Emergency Service Section officers removed the grenades, with the three live ones to be detonated offsite.

Passerbys accept free flowers as part of the Society for American Florists Petal It Forward campaign from Flowers on Broadway. Photo by Kyle Barr

On a busy Wednesday morning, as people moved in between the parking lot and Planet Fitness along Route 25A in Rocky Point, two young women held fistfuls of flowers, arms outstretched. 

Carmen Pettus from Sunshine Barre Studio accepts flowers from Li Guo. Photo by Kyle Barr

As part of the trade association Society of American Florists’ Petal It Forward campaign, Rocky Point flower shop Flowers on Broadway looked to make people’s early day commutes a little more colorful. 

Taylor Wagner and Li Guo, who both work for Flowers on Broadway, handed out bouquets to those passing by. Some looked confused at them as they presented the flowers, others questioned if the pair wanted anything for the flower arrangements. They were free, they said, and would get two so they could pass one onto the next person they see.

One man offered a bouquet said, “I don’t do flowers,” while others, like Carmen Pettus, the owner of SunShine Barre Studio in Rocky Point, said the flowers “made my day.”

Wagner, a junior designer at the flower shop, said she’s often surprised how many people seem estranged by the thought of free flowers.

“We went to the Blue Grass concert last weekend, and we were handing out flowers, and most of the guys said, ‘No, I don’t want flowers,’ while a lot of the women said, ‘Oh yes, flowers,’ she said, laughing to herself. “It’s amazing, it’s just a bunch of daisies guys.”

Passerbys accept free flowers as part of the Society for American Florists Petal It Forward campaign from Flowers on Broadway. Photo by Kyle Barr

Over the course of the day, the duo stopped at three places, the RP Planet Fitness, outside the Pompei Pizza in Rocky Point and by Branchineli’s Pizzaria in Miller Place. By the end of the day, they had given out 300 bouquets to around 150 people.

Stephanie Navas, the owner of Flowers on Broadway, learned about the yearly event being put on by the flower society the past several years.

“We wanted to give back to the community that’s supported us all these years with a small act to brighten their day,” Navas said. “Through the positive effect of flowers, we hope to make someone’s day special, and provide a much-needed moment of calm amidst the hectic pace of life.”

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This past weekend, Rocky Point erupted in a celebration of fall. 

On Saturday, Oct. 19, the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce hosted its first Blues and Brews event, featuring multiple local bands, while on Sunday, Oct. 20, the fall festival in Rocky Point attracted both young and old in what was basically an early Halloween preview.  

Starting with a costume parade, throughout the day there were games for kids, a big display of fire apparatus from the Rocky Point Fire Department, a variety of delicious foods, a bounce house for the kids, face paintings, arts and crafts and lots of fantastic costumes on display. Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce presided over the first year of the event, with last year’s being canceled due to weather.

Gary Pollakusky, the chamber president, spoke about the chamber’s plans to greatly improve the downtown Rocky Point area in the next year. 

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The Rocky Point High School History Honors Society stand with Joe Cognitore along with a plaque commemorating the flag that now flies over the 9/11 Memorial in NYC. Photo from Rich Acritelli

Just recently, Joe Cognitore, commander of VFW Post 6249 in Rocky Point spoke to the Rocky Point High School History Honors Society. He addressed the tragic attacks of 9/11, 18 years ago and an uncovered part of ground zero that was presented to this North Shore area.  

Cognitore recalled a past beautiful fall day, the afternoon of Oct. 4, when the Rocky Point school district held a major patriotic and remembrance ceremony only weeks after the terror attacks. It was the goal of this school district to remember and honor all of those national and local people that were impacted by these attacks. As Americans watched the rescue and recovery efforts in the city, they were reminded of a new war that was waged against the Taliban and al-Qaida some 19 days after Manhattan was hit by supporters of terrorism.  Those days saw a tremendous burden weighing on the minds of citizens, and this program presented a united front to support all of our Americans at home and abroad.

Local residents filled the bleachers of Rocky Point High School and in front of them was a Town of Brookhaven concert mobile. The VFW post marched in the colors and presented our flag to a crowd that was overcome with the memory of the four graduates that were killed from these attacks. The sounds of “God Bless America,” the armed forces music and “America the Beautiful” were played to the crowd. Veterans were invited to stand to represent different branches of the armed services that were all on alert during the earliest moments of the War on Terror. There were all of the local, state and federal government representatives, World War II veterans, and Boy Scouts that were all present on this day to present a dynamic unity.

This camaraderie resembled the same feelings that Americans felt when the Japanese  attacked Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.  Flags were flown all over the nation and people stuck bumper stickers on their cars in support of the residents of New York City. People wrapped yellow ribbons around trees for those soldiers who going to be deployed. Cognitore and the other organizers of that event decided on a unique angle to demonstrate patriotism. Calverton-based Sky Dive Long Island planned to make a jump over the skies of this school with a large flag that would be seen well above the heads of the people. Only a few weeks before this jump, it was discovered under the debris of Lower Manhattan. It was originally flown outside of the World Trade Center and it was located by a volunteer recovery worker.

The plane took off from Calverton with jumpers Curt Kellinger, a Port Authority police officer and Ray Maynard. The crew made a memorable landing with a tattered yet historic flag that landed on the Rocky Point football field. Once the flag made it to the ground, it was presented to a representative of the Port Authority and brought back to the city. That year, it was flown over Yankee Stadium during the World Series, at Super Bowl XXXVI and at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Even as this flag was scarred from the attacks of 9/11, it showed the resilience of our country to quickly rebound and rebuild.  The flag that once was displayed at Post 6249 has a permanent home at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. Today, millions of people have visited this well-known museum and they can see a flag that has strong roots of patriotism and remembrance to this North Shore community.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

The Rocky Point High School History Honors Society contributed to this story.

Simple Good in Port Jefferson offers zero waste and sustainable products. Photo by David Luces

Millions of people around the world demanded action from world leaders on climate change as part of the Global Climate Strike Sept. 20. The protests have put the ongoing crisis back in the forefront. 

Recently, New York lawmakers aimed to tackle the climate change issue head on, as they passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, a bill that will aggressively target greenhouse gas emissions in the state. On Long Island, there are plans for two offshore wind projects, located off the East End and South Shore. The wind farms will provide close to 1,700 megawatts of energy, and are expected to power more than 1 million homes. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has mandated 9,000 MW of offshore wind capacity by 2035. 

 

Simple Good in Port Jefferson sells items made to be reusable or nontoxic to the environment. Photo from Melanie Gonzalez

While those goals are in the distant future, there are still things the average person can do on their own to help in the fight against climate change and environmental degradation. 

“It all comes to educating people and making sure they are aware of these issues,” said Melanie Gonzalez, owner of Simple Good at 35 Chandler Square in Port Jefferson which offers a number of sustainable and zero waste items. 

Gonzalez said the inspiration for the store came after buying plastic toys for years for her son, Julian, when she noticed the toys would break easily and she was left with tons of plastic packaging. 

“I was like, ‘What happens to all this plastic and where does it go?’” she said. “I was totally ignorant … but once I learned the facts [on plastic waste], it was life changing.”

Since then, Gonzalez has been an advocate of reducing plastic waste and protecting the environment. She believes Long Island has moved in the right direction on climate change and plastic reduction, but it may also come down to changing people’s habits and behaviors. 

The Rocky Point resident said it could be as simple as switching your plastic toothbrush with alternative that is made out of bamboo, which is more cost effective and in turn better for the environment. 

Gonzalez said everybody should avoid single-use plastic items and recommended using your own utensils when ordering takeout food. She also spoke on the importance of composting and recycling. 

“People are frustrated about recycling,” she said. “Long Island isn’t the easiest place to recycle.”

Last year, the towns of Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington had a rude awakening about their recycling practices when China announced it would cut its intake of U.S. recyclables by a huge margin. Municipalities across the nation were affected. In just one example, Brookhaven Town has moved back to asking residents to separate their garbage.

Gonzalez said she remains optimistic that the climate change movement on the Island is on the right track. 

A non toxic dishwashing bar that is sold at Simple Good in Port Jeff. Image from Melanie Gonzalez

Elisabeth Van Roijen, vice president of the Sierra Club at Stony Brook University, said Long Island is a much better place environmentally than it has been in the past. 

With about 60 other SBU students, she attended the Global Climate Strike rally in New York City. The Sierra Club at SBU helps students gain experience in political activism as well as experience the outdoors first hand.   

“The experience as a whole was incredible,” she said. 

The senior at SBU said the plans for the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and offshore wind is something she is hopeful for. 

“The only problem is that it takes time, but having a goal is good because it pushes us to achieve results faster,” Van Roijen said. 

The chemical engineering major added that getting to those goals will need behavior and culture changes. 

“We have to start teaching these things at a younger age, as it is much harder to break out of habits when you get older,” she said. “It comes down to being more mindful.”

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Gabriela Schwender and Deborah Scalione have created a mobile craft workshop, like a foot truck for hand made items. Photos from Schwender

“Why not bring the arts and crafts to customers?” thought Gabriela Schwender and Deborah Scalcione, who together run Long Island Crafty Ones, a mobile and traveling workshop based in Rocky Point. 

Now such an idea is a reality.

Children attempt crafts in LI Crafty One’s mobile workshop. Photo from Schwender

The duo, who both describe themselves as passionate about creativity and craftwork said the idea to create the mobile workshop came to fruition a year ago. They decided to join forces after Schwender posted a message on Facebook looking for someone to collaborate with on crafts. 

Initially the pair looked at retail frontage in the Rocky Point area but realized it wasn’t a good fit. 

“We looked at a number of storefronts, but the rent was too expensive, we just couldn’t afford it,” Scalcione said. “After that we were, like, ‘Why don’t we go to the people and travel around?’”

From there, the duo purchased an RV and decided to convert the inside into their workplace area. 

Schwender said they work closely with their clients to see what they are looking for. 

“We bring everything to them, and they are surprised when we tell them we can come to them,” she said. 

Scalcione said that they really try to customize customers experiences. She mentioned a recent birthday party they had worked at. 

“It was an older girl’s birthday, and before we asked what she likes, her mother said she really likes to drink coffee and we thought why not marble some coffee mugs,” Scalcione said. “It turned out to be great — they had a lot of fun.” 

Schwender said they started out slow due to people not necessarily knowing what they offered, but the feedback they have gotten from customers has been positive. 

Gabriela Schwender and Deborah Scalione have created a mobile craft workshop, like a foot truck for hand made items. Photos from Schwender

“They are amazed with what we bring and what we offer,” she said. “They can’t believe we have an RV and think it’s a great idea.” 

Scalcione mentioned their services cater to children and adults. 

Recently, the partners joined the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce and said the connections with other businesses have very been helpful. 

For the fall season, the pair will have a table every weekend at the Bakewicz Farms Fall Festival in Wading River, doing face paintings and customizing “Toy Story” figurines that fit in with the local festival’s theme. 

In addition, the duo said they offer workshops aimed at a multitude of skill sets and they plan on offering seasonal craft sessions for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

“We really want [everybody] to be excited about crafting and get them to make something on their own,” Schwender said. “We want to help build up your skills.”

Scalcione said she is glad they are getting more exposure and more people are finding what they do. The duo hopes to continue expanding and possibly buy a second RV or a bigger vehicle.

“I think it is a lost art — we really want people to work with their hands and seeing what they can create,” she said.

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Rocky Point senior Dakota Strong leads his team onto the field in a homecoming football game against Amityville Sept. 21. Photo by Bill Landon

Despite three Rocky Point touchdowns being called back on offensive penalties, the Eagles hammered visiting Amityville in a 35-0 shutout victory at their annual homecoming game Sept. 12. Rocky Point running back Devin Cline led his team when he powered his way to the endzone on three superate occasions as the junior carried the ball 15 times covering 170 yards. Quarterback Gavin Davanzo threw for 34 yards on six attempts and found the endzone on a 1-yard run. Matt Sweeney, a junior, punched into the endzone from short yardage while junior Sean Bernhard was perfect on the day splitting the uprights five times.

The win lifts Rocky Point to 2-0 where they blanked Miller Place last week. The Eagle defensive lineup has yet to allow any points against them.

Rocky Point is back in action when they travel to Eastport/South Manor Sept. 28. Game time is at 2:00pm.