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Suffolk County Supreme Court

District Attorney Tim Sini (D). File photo by Victoria Espinoza

A Mount Sinai man was arrested and indicted Friday, June 12 for allegedly perpetuating a Ponzi scheme that defrauded over $500,000 from investors, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office said.

District Attorney Tim Sini (D) said in a release that Craig L. Clavin, 61 of Mount Sinai, with his company Lighthouse Futures Ltd. allegedly solicited investments into an investment fund called the Lighthouse Futures Commodity Pool, managed by the company, which would participate in the commodities market. The D.A. said he would then allegedly promise investors the guaranteed return of their investment in full by the end of each year with an option to roll the funds over into the next year.

“As with any Ponzi scheme, this was a scam built on greed and deceit,” District Attorney Sini said. “The defendant bilked his own friends and associates out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, promising to turn their hard-earned savings into solid investments. Instead he used some of their money to further the scheme, and used the rest to line his own pockets.”

The D.A. also alleged that between 2012 and 2017, Clavin received in excess of $500,000 dollars from investors for the purpose of investing the funds into commodities. Clavin allegedly misappropriated the majority of those funds for his personal and unrelated business use, including making payments on his credit cards, student loans, insurance and everyday expenses. Clavin then allegedly concealed his theft by fabricating documents and otherwise representing to the investors that they were earning “dividends” and profits on their investments. At least between 2013 and 2016, Clavin allegedly used money from investors to pay back the funds to other investors, misrepresenting that the funds were “returns” on their investments.

Anthony La Pinta, of the Hauppauge-based Reynolds, Caronia, Gianelli & La Pinta P.C., is representing Clavin. 

“Mr. Clavin is a well respected and admired member of the community,” the attorney said. “We have undertaken our own investigation into these allegations.”

The indictment comes after a D.A.-led investigation that ran in conjunction with U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the National Futures Association investigations, according to the D.A. release.  

The parallel investigation by the CFTC resulted in an action to sue Clavin and Lighthouse that was filed yesterday in United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Clavin was issued a summons on that case Thursday, June 11.

Clavin was arraigned yesterday by Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Richard Ambro and was released. He is due back in court June 29.

Clavin has been previously named in a past TBR News Media article as an owner of Billie’s 1890 Saloon in Port Jefferson. The building is now owned by the Phillips family, the original owners of the bar and grill.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Yana G. Knutson, of the Financial Investigations & Money Laundering Bureau.

Sini urged anyone who believes he or she is a victim of this scheme to call the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office’s Financial Investigations & Money Laundering Bureau at 631-853-4232.

 

After losing by two votes, newcomer is challenging validity of ballots

Village of Poquott held its election June 18. File photo

t seems the dust hasn’t settled yet after Poquott’s June 20 election for two trustee seats.

While challenger John Richardson emerged as a clear winner for one seat, it was a tight race between newcomer Debbie Stevens and incumbent Jeff Koppelson for the second spot. Stevens recently filed a lawsuit in Suffolk County Supreme Court in Riverhead to review the results.

Debbie Stevens

At the end of election night, Stevens had a slim lead over Koppelson before absentee and 10 contested votes were counted. Official results were delayed and not announced by the village until the next day, after election inspectors retained by the village and certified by the Suffolk County Board of Elections completed the count at Poquott’s Village Hall. Koppelson was declared the winner with 180 votes, while Stevens received 178.

After Stevens challenged the results, the village brought the ballots to the headquarters of the board of elections in Yaphank June 29, where the votes were hand counted by board staff members and certified by  county election commissioners Nick LaLota (R) and  Anita Katz (D).

LaLota said the village clerk handed over the ballots to their bipartisan team, and they hand counted each ballot, and their results were the same as the village’s count. However, the board of elections was not involved in any decisions involving the disputed ballots.

Stevens’ attorney George Vlachos of George C. Vlachos & Associates in Central Islip, said the village was served with a show-cause order last week to appear in court. A hearing will be held in Riverhead July 19.

Vlachos, who was originally retained by Stevens and Richardson to monitor the election, said he and his client have taken issue with the discarding of the rule that voters must be registered 10 days before an election. He said all the votes, no matter when the voter registered, were counted.

Jeff Koppelson

The attorney said he also questions whether the ballots were secured after the polls closed. He said he was on hand at Village Hall until the end of the night June 20, and there were approximately five or six ballots that were mismarked and had to be interpreted as far as what the voters’ intents were. He said he only saw one of those ballots presented to the board of elections. The lawyer said he remembers one ballot the night of June 20 where a voter chose three candidates instead of two. Vlachos said that ballot was not brought to the board.

LaLota said he had heard about the mismarked ballots before the recount, but didn’t see any major issues.

“There were up to two ballots that required a minimal review by the bipartisan team, but they easily came to a conclusion,” he said.

Koppelson declined to comment until after the matter is resolved, and Vlachos requested his client not talk directly to the press.

Vlachos added that many people from the village have offered to pay for his services to get to the bottom of the matter.

“This may just be the tip of the iceberg,” the attorney said. “I’m doing whatever investigation I need to do. I’m not sure what’s going on in Poquott, but I’m going to find out.”