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Commack

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Suffolk County Police June 1 arrested a man for allegedly threatening to bomb a business in Commack.

A man working at PetSmart, located at 2160 Jericho Turnpike, received a phone call from an unknown man who threatened to bomb the business at approximately 1:30 p.m.

Following an investigation by Fourth Squad detectives, the phone number of the caller was determined to belong to Peri K. Henschel, a former employee of PetSmart. Henschel was arrested at the Fourth Precinct at 7:50 p.m.

Henschel, 33, of Setauket, was charged with making a terroristic threat (bomb threat) and aggravated harassment. He is being held overnight and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip  June 2.

The new front entrance of the emergency room. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

As the number of people who need hospitalization from COVID-19 decreases, Suffolk County health care facilities will be able to engage in hospital procedures that may have been put off for weeks or months.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) said today that Suffolk and Westchester Counties were eligible to resume elective surgeries and ambulatory care.

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said the county was waiting for an executive order from the governor to resume those procedures, which he expected soon.

“This is another indication of opening up and getting back to more normal” activities, which includes the announcement yesterday that South Hampton and Cupsogue beaches would be opening for Memorial Day weekend, Bellone said on his daily call with reporters.

Elective surgeries are “another step forward in this transition away from a pause and to a management of public health concerns,” Bellone said.

The county executive said the surgeries would be helpful for the hospitals, as they return to other procedures and practices beyond caring for COVID-19 patients, while they would provide necessary treatment for people who need these operations.

The number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 decreased by 15 over the last 24 hours, dropping to 539. The number of people in the Intensive Care Units, meanwhile, rose by one to 186.

ICU beds were at 68 percent capacity, while overall hospital beds were right at the targeted 70 percent for reopening.

In the last day, 40 people left the hospital, which is “a very good number,” Bellone said. “We wish all those who have come from the hospital a continued speedy recovery.”

The number of people who have died from complications related to the virus increased by 24 to 1,733.

A Thursday rally in Commack calling for the state to reopen the economy led to multiple protesters acting in an agressive fashion toward Kevin Vesey from News 12, walking toward him with megaphones as he tried to keep a distance from the people who took off their masks to shout at him. That video shortly went viral.

President Donald Trump (R) tweeted about the incident Friday and Saturday, reciting chants from the group of protesters writing “FAKE NEWS IS NOT ESSENTIAL!” in all caps, and calling the protesters “great people.”

Bellone did not mention the president but instead expressed his support for journalists.

“I will make sure and the Suffolk County Police Department will make sure that everyone who is attending a rally like this, which includes members of the media, are protected,” Bellone said.

Separately, Bellone heard back from Veterans Affairs that residents would not be able to place flags at the graves of veterans at Calverton National Cemetery and Long Island National Cemetery. Bellone plans to send another letter, urging that VA Secretary Robert Wilkie reconsider, allowing the county to honor these servicemen and women during Memorial Day.

Many drivers were honking their horns at the intersection of Veterans Highway and Route 25 in Commack May 14, but it wasn’t due to traffic.

More than 100 people rallied in front of the Macy’s parking lot in support of businesses deemed nonessential during the coronavirus pandemic opening up as soon as possible. While many were honking in support of the participants, a couple of drivers yelled disapproving comments out their windows.

The Reopen NY rally was the second one to take place at the location this month with the first one held May 1. The May 14 event was posted on the website Meetup by Olivia M. who asked attendees to decorate their cars, wave their flags and wear patriotic colors.

Many held signs with messages such as “My constitutional rights are essential,” “My sons are not lab rats for Bill Gates vaccine” and “Cuomo to businesses: drop dead.” One large dog wore a sign that read, “Dog grooming is essential.”

The dog’s owner, Debbie Wilson, who traveled from Freeport, said she was a retired dog groomer who came out of retirement to take care of some people’s pets.

“Dogs need maintenance,” she said. “Grooming dogs is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. For the life of me, I’ll never understand why they shut down dog groomers.”

She added it’s important to maintain many dogs’ ears and nails for health reasons and this is done while grooming. 

During the rally, News 12 Long Island reporter Kevin Vesey was filming participants with his smartphone live on Facebook. He had concluded interviews with his cameraman and was documenting the event for social media.

While describing the scene, one woman confronted him saying she noticed he was wearing a mask which she said he didn’t do at the May 1 rally. Vesey responded he did wear a mask last time. The woman was quickly followed by another female, and both had megaphones. The duo was questioning him about his reporting of the May 1 Commack rally saying he was trying to paint the narrative instead of reporting it and said his report prompted people to call the May 1 protesters “murderers.” One man yelled that Vesey was not a real journalist but a “political operative.”

As he kept backing up, continuing to film them, about a half a dozen kept following him aggressively, criticizing his reporting and asking why his job is considered essential and theirs are not.

During the verbal confrontation, a few police officers were standing nearby and evaluating the situation. The May 14 rally had a strong police presence, and before it started, an announcement by the Suffolk County Police Department was made to remind participants of the importance of wearing facial masks and social distancing.

Across the street, a nurse took in the rally and said she was surprised by how many people participating, especially children who were there, were not wearing masks.

“I guess they don’t know anyone who died from this,” she said.

After the event, the Setauket Patriots, who were among the organizers, took to Facebook and apologized to Vesey for their fellow protesters’ behavior.

“We can tell you that the few who decided to harass you and try to prevent you from doing your job are not members or affiliated with the Setauket Patriots group in any way, shape or form,” the post read. “We were looking forward to you giving us fair coverage with what you documented when we first arrived. But as with all mass rally events, you will always get a few idiots to disrupt an otherwise peaceful, pleasant demonstration and they should have been removed by police.”

At press time, Long Island still had not met the seven health metrics required by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to reopen the region. The state’s pause order was extended until May 28 for regions that didn’t meet the requirements to reopen May 15.

Protesters hung signs on their cars at a May 1 rally. Photo by Lorraine Yovino

Protesters in Commack May 1 made it clear that they wanted New York to get back to business.

A protester in Commack joins others in asking for all nonessential businesses in New York to be reopened. Photo by Lorraine Yovino

Dozens lined up in front of the Macy’s parking lot at the intersection of Veterans Memorial Highway and Jericho Turnpike rallying for New York to open up its economy. For weeks, after an executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), businesses deemed nonessential such as clothing stores, hair salons, barbershops, casinos and more were mandated to shut their doors to customers to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.

The rally was organized through the Reopen NY Facebook page, and similar events have been held across the country in the last few weeks.

These protests have taken a politically partisan edge, with many wearing “Make America Great Again” hats and waving “Trump 2020” signs in support of President Donald Trump (R).

Protesters held signs while others hung them on their cars. One read, “If it’s forced, are we free. Reopen NY Now.” Another sign said, “Small business is essential.” One car had an “Impeach dictator Cuomo” sign on its window, while a protester held a sign that read, “Stop the spread of tyranny.” One woman held two signs where one read, “All jobs are essential” and the other, “Hey Cuomo, domestic violence and poverty does equal death.”

Among those lining the street, some wore masks while others had no face covering. Children were among the protesters with their parents, many holding signs as well.

Setauket resident George Altemose attended the event with friends from the North Country Patriots, a conservative group that rallies on the northeast corner of Bennetts and North Country roads in Setauket every Saturday morning.

“I was there because of the ongoing COVID-19 problem, to show my support for President Trump and to express my disapproval of the misguided policies of Governor Cuomo, Mayor De Blasio and other politicians that are counterproductive in our battle to restore our normal lives,” Altemose said in an email after the rally.

He said he was pleased that he attended the May 1 rally.

“It was a most refreshing and uplifting experience to gather with hundreds of like-minded friends and neighbors in Commack, and to enjoy the enthusiastic responses from the passing motorists, the majority of whom took the time to wave, blow their horns and give us the “thumbs up” sign,” he said. “It looks like Nov. 3 will be a day to remember.”

For Altemose, the protests were about more than the closings. He said he has taken issue with a few of Cuomo’s mandates, including that nursing homes must admit those afflicted with the virus, “even though they are not hospitals and are not even close to being equipped to deal with a problem of this nature and magnitude.”

Altemose applauded the president’s performance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“President Trump has provided outstanding leadership from the earliest possible day of this crisis, including the placement of responsibility where it belongs,” he said.

Lorraine Yovino, from Hauppauge, said in a phone interview after the protest she was delighted to see so many people show up for the rally.

“The whole atmosphere was so positive and so hopeful,” she said. “It was just a very happy, hopeful group. I was so pleased to see so many young people too.”

Yovino said she has attended rallies in the past including the March for Life protests in Washington, D.C. and others in Albany. She heard about the May 1 rally through friends.

She said the Macy’s parking lot turned out to be an ideal place for everyone to park and protest as the lot was empty, unlike the Target parking lot in the next shopping center which was full.

“It’s unfair that the Target salespeople are considered essential, while the Macy’s people are nonessential,” she said. “One group gets a salary to support their families, and the other group is impoverished.”

While Yovino said she understands that there was not much information known about the virus at first, she said she feels experimental treatments, such as the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine may be helpful to many. Though it has shown in cases to help treat the virus, it is still largely untested and has shown to cause heart issues in some who use it.

“It’s no longer justified to put American citizens into poverty and not let them go to work, not let them open their businesses, not let them support their families,” she said.

Yovino said she believes Trump has been doing a good job when it comes to dealing with COVID-19, and people need to ask more questions regarding the local elected officials’  response to the pandemic.

“My heart is going out to so many people who are unnecessarily having their freedom taken away,”
she said. “Their constitutional rights are being trampled on.”

Earlier this week, Cuomo said that businesses in the state will begin opening after the May 15 pause deadline. However, the first nonessential businesses to open will be in areas with lower density in upstate New York, with those in the city and Long Island to follow at a later date. Currently, Suffolk and Nassau counties have not met much of the criteria set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control for any kind of reopening.

Miller’s Ale House in Commack hosted a St. Baldrick’s Day event March 8 to raise money for childhood cancer research.

According to Wayne Forte, lead organizer, the event raised nearly $50,000 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation with 72 shavees. In the past 10 years, the Commack event has raised $500,000 for the  nonprofit.

On hand for the event were eight members of the Fr. Judge Knights of Columbus. At press time, the team raised nearly $6,000 for the cause, according to member Bob Slingo. The team is still accepting donations at www.stbaldricks.org/teams/FrJudgeKofC2020.

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Selina Elswick, left, was scheduled to return her 3-year-old son, Damian Sollas, to Suffolk County Family Court in Central Islip Jan. 22 and failed to appear. Photo from SCPD

*Update*

Following a police investigation, Damian Sollas was located unharmed in Huntington Station. Police said he will be released to the custody of Child Protective Services.

Original Story

Suffolk County Police 4th Squad detectives are seeking the public’s help to locate a child who was reported missing after his mother failed to surrender custody to Child Protective Services earlier this month.

Selina Elswick was scheduled to return her three-year-old son, Damian Sollas, to Suffolk County Family Court in Central Islip Jan. 22 and failed to appear. When representatives from CPS attempted to take custody of the child at their residence in Commack Jan. 22 it was discovered that the two had moved out of the residence Jan. 16. CPS then contacted the Suffolk County Police Department to report the child missing.

Elswick, 32, is white, 5 feet 6 inches tall, approximately 150 pounds with red hair and brown eyes. Sollas is white, approximately 40 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. The two may be in the company of the child’s father, Thomas Sollas, 43, and may be traveling in a box truck with Light House Electric written on the side.

 

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 [email protected] 

Stock Photo

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

Other samples were collected in Holtsville, Mattituck and Greenlawn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commack School District celebrated its commencement ceremonies June 26.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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