A Pennsylvania man faces larceny, money laundering and other charges stemming from the alleged theft of six art works including a Pablo Picasso etching from a suburban New York City estate.
Brooklyn and Long Island prosecutors announced the indictment Monday of Joselito Vega, of Easton, Pa.
They say Vega was working as a painter in March 2011 at an estate in Kings Point, N.Y., where three paintings were later reported missing.
Investigators tracked one of the stolen paintings to an art gallery in Oakland, Calif., where it sold for $8,500.
Detectives set up a sting at the estate and Vega was arrested last month after allegedly stealing three more works, including the Picasso.
He is being held on $1 million bond. A listing for his attorney could not be found.
Prosecutors have arraigned a Long Island woman arrested on charges she encouraged her teenagers to shoot the windows out of parked cars with a BB gun as she drove.
Newsday reports Saturday bail was set at $30,000 for Susan Becker. On Friday, police charged the forty-three-year-old with 10 counts of criminal mischief and 11 counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
Police say Becker’s 15-year-old daughter, her 13-year-old son and another teenage boy fired the BB gun as she drove.
Police are investigating more than 60 reports of damage to car windows in the Islandia, Hauppauge and Commack areas over the past two weeks.
Becker’s next court date is Tuesday. The newspaper reports her legal aid lawyer says she has no criminal record.
More than 500 BMWs, Cadillacs, Toyotas and other vehicles damaged and towed during Superstorm Sandy remain unclaimed and will be auctioned off next month, city officials said Saturday.
The city is working with auction house David R. Maltz in Central Islip, on Long Island, to make the sales. Company vice president Richard Maltz said the vehicles are advertised on the company’s website as flood-damaged but may be salvageable.
Buyers need 25 percent deposits in cash or bank checks, and proceeds will go to the city’s coffers, except for a 10 percent premium for the auction house.
More than 3,300 vehicles were towed from emergency routes used for debris removal and street cleaning in the days following the late October storm, which swamped lower Manhattan and devastated beachfront neighborhoods including the Rockaways in Queens. Some cars drifted blocks away from where they were parked, landing on sidewalks, under giant tree limbs and inside homes.
The city created a hotline for residents to track down their vehicles and started notifying owners. As of January, 696 vehicles were unclaimed, the city said. The city contracted with the auction house to store the remaining vehicles, continue to issue notifications to their owners and eventually auction them off. As of Saturday, 535 cars were unclaimed.
Under state law, unclaimed cars can be sold after 10 days.
But city officials said they will continue to work with owners if they realize their cars are at the auction house.
Two auctions will be held, on May 2 and 7. The auction was first reported in the New York Post.
Two young siblings reported missing on New York’s Long Island died Sunday after their fully clothed bodies were pulled from the black waters of a neighbor’s pool in 50-degree temperatures, police said.
Police received a 911 call at about 3:30 p.m. from a mother reporting that her 5-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter disappeared from their home in Central Islip, said Detective Sgt. Edward Fandrey of the Suffolk County police homicide squad. While searching the neighborhood, an officer spotted a shoe floating in a next-door neighbor’s aboveground pool, which was uncovered and contained blackish water, Fandrey said.
Officers jumped into the 4-foot-deep pool and discovered the unconscious bodies of Ralph Knowles and Sharon Knowles. The brother and sister were taken to Southside Hospital, where efforts to resuscitate them failed, Fandrey said.
The pool is surrounded by a deck. Both are sunken into the ground and surrounded by a low, wooden fence.
Fandrey said the pool’s owner had been cited by the town for improper fencing.
“The exposed side of the stockade fence was facing out, instead of the smooth side,” he said, adding that the slats made it easier to climb over the shared fence.
Telephone calls to numbers listed for the addresses of the victims and the pool’s owner went unanswered Sunday night.
The home where the children lived is owned by a nonprofit that provides housing to homeless families, Newsday reported.
The children’s uncle, Henry Valentine, 32, of Jamaica, Queens, told the newspaper that the childrens’ mother, whom he identified as Tia Knowles, was “devastated.”
“She’s not doing good at all,” he said.
Police on Long Island say they have questioned a 12-year-old boy about an alleged “hit list” of fellow students, school faculty, and family members.
Newsday says Glen Cove police interviewed the student and his mother Thursday. His home was checked for weapons, but none was found.
Glen Cove Det. Lt. John Nagle says at this point, the student isn’t being charged with a crime. The student hasn’t been identified.
He says there’s no history of the child ever being violent. Police say they don’t think he intended to follow through.
A statement on the school district’s website says the student has been suspended until the outcome of a superintendent’s hearing.
Police say all the adults on the list were notified, along with the parents of the children on it.
An orthopedist accused of taking cash payments and billing health insurance companies for fake diagnoses in a widespread disability scam involving suburban New York railroad workers has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges.
Dr. Peter Ajemian entered the plea Friday in federal court in Manhattan.
He was among dozens of people arrested in the past two years amid a probe targeting the Long Island Rail Road, which serves Long Island and has 81 million riders a year. Several defendants have pleaded guilty.
Prosecutors accused the doctor of making phony diagnoses so retired rail workers would qualify for more than $90 million in disability benefits. He admits between the late 1990s and 2008 he invented “narratives” about otherwise healthy people. The fraud included collecting health insurance payments for unnecessary treatments.
The doctor’s sentencing is set for May 24.
An NYPD officer’s act of kindness has gone viral on Facebook.
Jennifer Foster, a Florence, Ariz., tourist, posted a photograph of the officer giving a homeless man a pair of boots and socks on a frigid night in Times Square on Nov. 17.
The image became an instant hit on the NYPD’s Facebook page. More than 308,861 users “liked” his generosity as of Thursday morning.
Newsday identified him as Larry DePrimo of Holbrook, Long Island. He’s assigned to the 6th Precinct in Manhattan.
The homeless man said he’d never had a pair of shoes. DePrimo purchased a pair of insulated boots and thermal socks and put them on the man’s feet.
DePrimo said the man “smiled from ear to ear. It was like you gave him a million dollars.”
The owner of a sneaker store on Long Island is accused of lying about his store being burglarized after Superstorm Sandy so he could file a fake claim with his insurance company, police said, according to MyFoxNY.com.
Wilguens Mentor, 28, the owner of Fly Forever Sneakers in Wheatley Heights, called cops on October 31, 2012, and told them someone had broken into his store during the storm and stole about $60,000 worth of merchandise, police said.
After investigating, detectives determined that nothing was actually taken, police said.
Detectives arrested Mentor and charged him with attempted insurance fraud and falsely reporting an incident on Tuesday, Suffolk police said.
He is set for arraignment on Wednesday.
Drivers in the New York area may soon get relief from long lines and higher gas prices.
A week after Superstorm Sandy hit the area, the price of gas has increased 10 cents per gallon or more in the New York City area and in hard-hit parts of New Jersey. Images of long lines of cars and interviews with frustrated drivers have become staples in news coverage of the storm’s aftermath.
But across the U.S. the price of gasoline is falling — fast. It fell 7 cents this past week and has declined almost 9 percent in a month to $3.47 per gallon. The national average should be only slightly higher this Election Day than a year ago. That’s due to a dramatic drop in the price of wholesale gasoline and low demand from a combination of cautious consumers and improving automotive fuel efficiency.
Wholesale gasoline futures fell about 12 percent in the last month and are down about 17 percent from a peak just before Hurricane Isaac made landfall in late August. Meanwhile, demand for gasoline has fallen for much of the year and oil prices have dropped recently.
On Monday, the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute said the average gas mileage of new vehicles sold in the U.S. reached its highest point ever in October. Fuel economy has now improved by 20 percent over the last five years and fuel consumption has fallen 17 percent, the institute said.
Prices should fall further in the coming weeks, according to Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service. Even people in the Northeast now standing or sitting in long lines for gas — what he calls the “hysteria” in New York and New Jersey — should catch a break.
Kloza predicts that within a week, many commuters across the country will be paying less to fill up than at this point last year. The national average is currently about 6 cents higher than a year earlier. It had risen to $3.87 in mid-September as oil neared $100 per barrel and gasoline supplies ran short in California and the East Coast because of issues with refineries.
On Sunday, the Energy Department estimated that 27 percent of all gas stations across New York City, Long Island and New Jersey did not have gas to sell. That’s down from 38 percent on Saturday. The situation improved as more stations regained electricity and extra supplies were brought in. State and local officials working with the U.S. Coast Guard started this weekend to off-load 28 million gallons of fuel from tankers — about what the metro area burns on a typical day.
Phillips 66, however, said late Monday that its refinery in Linden, N.J., won’t resume normal operations for up to three weeks. But it said that it has adequate supplies of fuel on hand and has taken steps to ensure fuel deliveries to its Linden terminal.
The Defense Department also set up mobile fuel stations around the New York metro area to distribute 12 million gallons of gasoline and 10 million gallons of diesel to run generators. The gas is free, and each person can take up to 10 gallons.
Those moves should begin to gradually lead the area back to normal. Then, Kloza said, New York area drivers will able to take advantage of the price relief those in the rest of the U.S. already see. For now, residents of Nassau Country on Long Island will pay about 14 cents more per gallon than a week ago while drivers in Bergen County in northeast New Jersey shell out about 13 cents more.
Just what New York and New Jersey need after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy: more high winds.
The National Weather Service predicted Sunday that a Nor’easter that could include gusts of up to 55 mph is likely to reach the area by Wednesday and could compound the havoc brought by last week’s violent weather.
“Prepare for more outages,” advised weather service meteorologist Joe Pollina. “Stay indoors. Stock up again.”
He said the new storm wouldn’t be nearly as strong as Sandy, but could pack winds “stronger than usual, even strong for a Nor’easter.”
Meanwhile, cold temperatures streamed in and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that means “tens of thousands” of people whose homes were damaged by the superstorm will need other places to live.
“It’s going to become increasingly clear” that homes without heat are uninhabitable, the governor said. He said residents who have been reluctant to leave their homes will be forced to and will need housing.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said 20,000 people in the city could need housing help.
Pollina said the strongest winds from the new storm would likely be seen on eastern Long Island. The highest gusts in New York City would probably be 40 mph. Meteorologist Adrienne Liptich said Atlantic City, N.J., could see gusts up to 45 mph.
Farther inland in New Jersey, in western Passaic and Bergen counties, Pollina said, the winds would be weaker.
Pollina warned of potential for more beach erosion and coastal flooding, depending on tides. Only moderate rain is predicted. He said trees that were weakened by Sandy might be felled by the new storm. In addition, any repairs aimed at returning power to the masses of people who haven’t regained it might have to be suspended during the new storm, he said.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, discussing how some senior citizens had been found cold and hungry after Sandy, said, “As we have this Nor’easter coming next week, we have to remain extremely vigilant about our neighbors.”
Those swamped by Sandy were unhappy about the forecast.
John Lewis of New Rochelle, who has been staying at a shelter since his apartment was flooded by Sandy, said, “My landlord tells me there’s a big crack in the ceiling, so I guess there’s a chance this storm could do more damage. I was hoping to get back in there sooner rather than later, but it doesn’t look good.”
Horace Douglas, 37, of Mount Vernon, a security guard, had been looking forward to Wednesday so he could get some gasoline.
“Seems they’re saying Wednesday is the key, the gas shortage will be over by Wednesday,” he said. “Of course that’s when the storm’s supposed to hit, right? Big day, Wednesday.”
Brian Faroul of Valley Stream, on Long Island, said, “The one storm was more than enough, really. Long Island doesn’t need another one.”
Associated Press Writer Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.