A Platinum Roller Coaster and the Lies We Tell Ourselves about Misdeeds

Platinum CIO Says No Evidence Of Misdeeds In ‘Bogus’ Case

Law360, New York (June 27, 2019, 10:11 PM EDT) — Former Platinum Partners co-chief investment officer David Levy’s attorney told a New York federal jury on Thursday in the securities fraud trial of the hedge fund manager’s top executives that prosecutors’ case is “bogus and flawed to the core,” citing a lack of evidence that Levy engaged in any wrongdoing.

Michael Sommer of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC began his closing arguments in U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan’s Brooklyn courtroom, saying prosecutors have failed to show that Levy ever deceived or lied to investors in Platinum’s signature fund, Platinum Partners Value Arbitrage Fund.

“The evidence related to David in this trial was almost nonexistent,” Sommer told the jury. “Many of the witnesses said they didn’t even know David.”

Prosecutors say Levy, Platinum co-founder Mark Nordlicht and former chief financial officer Joseph SanFilippo defrauded PPVA investors by lying about a liquidity crisis at the failing fund that left it unable to meet a flood of redemption requests. The executives also allegedly deceived investors about Platinum’s practice of making preferential payments to certain investors and high interest interfund loans that were being used to keep PPVA afloat.

Nordlicht and Levy are further charged with defrauding bondholders in oil and gas Platinum portfolio company Black Elk Offshore Operations LLC.

 

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Measles, Currently the Most Contagious Virus and the Misinformation Spread to Insular Communities

FEAR, MISINFORMATION, AND MEASLES SPREAD IN BROOKLYN

IT WAS OCTOBER 31, a balmy day in Brooklyn, and Alexander Arroyo was walking around his neighborhood dressed as an octopus, pushing his 2-month-old daughter in a carriage, as his wife chased their toddler through the after-school Halloween trick-or-treat crowd. As the family filled their bags with candy, Arroyo’s phone rang and he stopped to answer it, trying to hear over the din of excited children. Arroyo is the director of the pediatric emergency department at one of the biggest hospitals in Brooklyn, Maimonides Medical Center, and two days earlier, a 15-month-old girl had come to the ER with a fever and a rash. He’d been waiting for a call to confirm the diagnosis, and this was it. The test had come back positive: The girl had measles.

 

WHEN THE GIRL had arrived at the ER, she was put in a busy area, where children with earaches or broken arms typically sit. No one suspected measles, because, thanks to routine childhood vaccination, the disease was declared eliminatedin the United States in 2000. Although there had been localized outbreaks since then—among the Amish in Ohio, visitors to Disneyland in California, and the Somali American community in Minnesota—neither Arroyo nor most of his staff had seen a case firsthand. Suspecting ­measles was like thinking “maybe that’s a unicorn,” Arroyo says. “It doesn’t really cross your mind, because measles shouldn’t exist anymore.”

Still, several measles cases had been reported in a different part of Brooklyn. And after a few hours, Arroyo’s team began to worry that the child in their care might be another. They put a mask over her face and wheeled her into an isolation room, with two sets of doors and air circulating under negative pressure to prevent airborne particles from escaping.

By then, however, “the bomb had gone off,” Arroyo says. Measles is considered one of the most contagious diseases in existence. If a person with measles walks through a room with a hundred people who are not immunized, up to 90 of them will get the disease. The virus is spread through coughs and sneezes and lingers in the air for up to two hours. Some 122,000 ­people come through the Maimonides emergency room every year. The hospital, located in Borough Park, serves one of the most diverse patient populations in the country, from ultra-Orthodox Jews to immigrants whose first language might be Mandarin, Russian, Hindi, Punjabi, Arabic, or Uzbek. Many are working-class cab drivers, manual laborers, and restaurant workers who bring their children to the ER at night, when their shifts are done.

Dr. Alexander Arroyo in the waiting room of Maimonides Medical Center.

NATALIE KEYSSAR

Standing in the street that Halloween, Arroyo thought about the dozens of patients who might have been exposed—in the waiting room, the hallway, the exam rooms—from the time the girl came into the hospital until she was placed in isolation. He looked down at his daughter in the carriage, dressed as a clown fish, and thought, “She’s not vaccinated.” She was still too young, as were other babies who might have been in the ER. He knew that his team would have to figure out right away who, exactly, had been breathing the same air as the infected girl. He waved down his wife, who had been making her way down the street with their toddler, and asked her to take the baby carriage. Then he headed home to make phone calls. “I saw my life falling into a pit of measles,” he says.

Arroyo is an amateur kickboxer, lanky and athletic. He hurried down the street, talking by phone with the hospital’s infection-control nurse and mapping out a plan. At home he changed out of the octopus costume and logged on to the hospital’s electronic medical records to check what time, exactly, the girl with measles had entered the ER. He called the other doctors who had been on duty to see if they remembered any pregnant mothers or immunocompromised children who would have been especially at risk.

He also called the hospital’s IT department to help backtrack through medical charts. His team generated names of 55 children who had potentially been exposed to the disease, then asked the New York City Department of Health to cross-reference it with vaccination records. For the MMR vaccine (against measles, mumps, and rubella) to be effective, the immune system has to be mature enough to produce antibodies to the virus. Young babies’ immune systems are not sufficiently developed, so children generally receive an MMR vaccine at 1 year old and another at age 4 or 5; those who had come through the hospital but had not completed both doses were considered at risk.

On the Maimonides list were a 12-month-old, a 10-month-old, and three babies younger than 6 months, including one who was just 17 days old. All were vulnerable, and Arroyo realized he was already running out of time. To prevent infection, the children needed to receive MMR shots within 72 hours, and young babies would have to be given immunoglobulin, a form of temporary protection, within six days. The infection-control nurse began making calls to those babies’ parents.

 

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Yeshiva Kehilat Pupa, NYC’s $2M Measles Bill and an Armed Anti-Vaxxer Movement

One Williamsburg school ‘ignited’ NYC’s measles crisis

The outbreak has cost the city roughly $2 million.

June 25, 2019 Scott Enman
Yeshiva Kehilath Yakov Pupa in Williamsburg failed to bar unvaccinated children from attending class, Health Department officials said. Image via Google MapsYeshiva Kehilath Yakov Pupa in Williamsburg failed to bar unvaccinated children from attending class, Health Department officials said. Image via Google Maps

A single school’s decision to allow an unvaccinated child to attend class led to more than 40 measles cases and the eventual proliferation of the disease across New York City, a top health official said on Monday.

Demetre Daskalakis, deputy commissioner of the city’s Department of Health, revealed at a conference hosted by NYU Langone that Yeshiva Kehilath Yakov Pupa in Williamsburg was the catalyst for what would become the worst outbreak in decades — with 609 confirmed cases as of Monday.

“One school failed to exclude people in Williamsburg,” Daskalakis said. “We had one measles case in that school, and subsequently every unvaccinated child who was not excluded came down with the measles, creating really the spark that ignited Williamsburg and created a true fire of measles in that neighborhood.”

The infected child had the disease but had not yet begun showing symptoms when he showed up for class at the yeshiva, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish private school, in late January.

The school did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The outbreak began spreading in the fall of 2018, when Health Department officials announced that six Brooklyn children had contracted the disease. The initial Brooklyn case was acquired by a child on a visit to Israel, where a large outbreak was taking place.

The epidemic has been contained mostly to the Orthodox Jewish communities of Williamsburg and Borough Park, with more than a dozen confirmed cases also in Sunset Park among the Latino population.

Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency on April 9 requiring mandatory measles-mumps-rubella vaccinations for residents who live in the northern Brooklyn ZIP codes of 11205, 11206, 11211 and 11249.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill on June 13 banning any non-medical exemption to vaccinations, including religious exemptions.

The outbreak has cost the city roughly $2 million, according to Daskalakis. He said that despite their greatest efforts to send out exclusion letters, monitor schools and audit them, the disease has still led to dire consequences, including 50 hospitalizations and 18 ICU visits.

“We’ve had a lot of close calls with kids who have been very very sick,” he said.

The panel on measles was held at NYU Langone. Eagle photo by Scott Enman
The panel on measles was held at NYU Langone. Eagle photo by Scott Enman

As of June 14, 11 institutions had been shuttered by the city for failing to adhere to the emergency order. (UTA of Williamsburg – Yeshiva Torah V’Yirah at 590 Bedford Ave. was closed twice.)

Daskalakis said that further exacerbating the outbreak, and likely influencing the operators of lone wolf yeshivas, was a highly sophisticated campaign of anti-vaxxersseeking to undermine the city’s order through misinformation.

Some residents were also deliberately attempting to have their children contract measles to build up a natural immunity to the infection. “Rather than the spark igniting the kindling, we had the kindling actually looking for the spark,” Daskalakis said.

Although the disease is primarily affecting the Orthodox Jewish community, Daskalakis wanted to break the myth that the general Orthodox Jewish community is resistant to vaccines. “It’s not true,” he said, citing the fact that after the outbreak was announced, vaccination rates in Williamsburg rose from around 70 percent to about 92 percent.

Pro-Vax Mom Ensnared in Measles Law When Youngest Not Medically Cleared to Vaccinate

NYC’s Measles Crackdown Snares Pro-Vax Mom With Sick Baby

On Tuesday, April 30th, at around 10 p.m., armed officers with the Kings County sheriff’s department showed up at the door of a Williamsburg apartment to serve an Orthodox Jewish woman with a summons for failing to vaccinate one of her nine children.

The woman, identified as Jane Doe at an administrative trial Wednesday morning, is the first person to appear before a judge since the city declared a public health emergency 11 weeks ago. The declaration required everyone over the age of six months who lived, worked, or attended school in four Brooklyn zip codes, including the one where Doe lives, to be vaccinated against measles or show that they are already immune.

But even though much of the blame for the city’s measles outbreak has fallen on people who refuse to vaccinate their children, Doe is pro-vaccine. She testified at the hearing that all of her other eight children are vaccinated for measles. The summons she received that night was for her youngest, her eight-month-old son, who’d been sick for several weeks with fevers and ear infections.

I’m a very responsible mother…I was very hurt about this whole thing,” she told Gothamist/WNYC. “I feel they’re coming very strong on me because of the public and because of the anti-vaxxers.”

Doe submitted medical records to Administrative Law Judge Didi Skaff showing she’d taken her son repeatedly to the doctor’s office in late March and April. Her pediatrician had recommended postponing the shot until he recovered, Doe testified. The baby was finally given his first dose of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine last week, she said.

“I do think I got the summons very unfairly,” she said at the hearing. “All my children are vaccinated.”

In order to attend day care or nursery school, babies are required to get their first dose of the measles vaccine when they turn one year old, according to New York State’s immunization requirements. But the city’s emergency order in April applied to everyone above the age of six months. The change in the minimum age has also confused some day care facilities that said they were not directly notified about it.

Doe said until the sheriffs showed up at her door, she was not aware that children in her Williamsburg neighborhood younger than 12 months old were supposed to be vaccinated.

“We watch no TV. Most of [us] have no internet connection,” she said, speaking of her religious Orthodox Jewish community in North Brooklyn.

“None of my friends knew, none of my sisters knew,” she said. Nor did her doctor mention it when she took her baby there on April 20, 11 days after the emergency order went into effect, she said.

For days after she was issued the summons, her children were still asking why people had shown up at her apartment with guns.

“It’s ridiculous that you have sheriffs knocking at your door in the middle of the night,” she told the hearing officer. “The children were all really terrified.”

She eventually quelled their fears by telling them the men had come to sell furniture, she said: “That’s how I got them not to be afraid.”

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The JV – Judge Elena Baron for Surrogate’s Court in Bklyn – No More Attorneys or Party Bosses Paying for Surrogate Judges

The Jewish Voice Endorses Judge Elena Baron for Bklyn’s Surrogate Court

 

Judge Elena Baron has earned a stellar reputation of showing genuine concern about matters directly affecting our community, such as closures of yeshivos and synagogues; as she handles cases brought before her on the bench with palpable sensitivity and profound compassion.

Urging all our readers to vote in the June 25th election

As the end of yet another decade is fast approaching, for Brooklynites this juncture in time has taken on added meaning. Just ask any resident of the County of Kings and they will tell you that the upcoming June 25th election is the most crucial in terms of defining our future as a borough that is predicated on an unwavering commitment to championing the highest degree of legal ethics.

On June 25th, Brooklynites from every area of the borough will flock to the polls to push the lever in the Democratic primary for a judgeship position in Surrogate Court. The reason this particular election is of paramount importance is because Brooklyn has a very long and exceptionally proud legacy of tenaciously upholding its cherished values, traditions and customs which have been the bedrock of life of this truly beloved place on earth that we all call home. And now, a tireless advocate for our rights and an extremely qualified and experienced jurist who has thrown her proverbial hat in the ring to serve all Brooklynites as she runs for Surrogate Court seat.  Her name is Judge Elena Baron and it is a name that all of us must become familiar with.

What happens in the Surrogate Court is of vital importance to the Jewish community. The Surrogate’s Court oversees all matters relating to a decedent’s estate.  A great deal of money from Jewish decedents comes through Surrogate Court.  The judge in the Surrogate’s Court is called the Surrogate, and this person renders crucial decisions pertaining to deeply personal issues regarding families during the most vulnerable times of their lives. This includes, but is not limited to, such matters as burial arrangements, property disputes, adoptions and guardianships for minors in order to ensure that the assets are used for the minor’s benefit, as well as for legally incapacitated persons.  A Surrogate Court Judge is consistently called upon to decide very complex and thorny issues, with disputes and litigation involving contested probate proceedings including validation of documents such as Wills or Trusts, document interpretation, kinship issues, business matters and family disputes.  Also under the aegis of the Surrogate’s Court are accountings, where the appointed executor or administrator provides a record of all financial transactions and expenses relating to a decedent’s estate.

Judge Elena Baron has earned a stellar reputation of showing genuine concern about matters directly affecting our community, such as closures of yeshivos and synagogues; as she handles cases brought before her on the bench with palpable sensitivity and profound compassion.

Judge Baron’s judicial employment history is beyond impressive. She has worked in five New York City courthouses for over a decade, handling guardianship proceedings, fiduciary appointments, receiverships, refereeships, credit card debt, small business corporate matters, personal injury matters, labor law disputes, landlord-tenant issues, and residential and commercial property cases, including foreclosures, as well as small claims.  Those who have stood before her in her court have taken note of her remarkable diligence and her laborious efforts to maintain judicial equity under every and all circumstances.

Judge Baron is grateful for endorsements by Rabbi Aaron D. Twerski, Rabbi Shimon Hecht, Rabbi Rabbi Shea Hecht, Rabbi Avracham Reich, Rabbi Tzvi Twerski, Rabbi Aaron Raskin, Rabbi Bernard Freilich, Rabbi Avraham Reich, Rabbi Chaim Yosef Pinkesz, Rabbi Mendy Hecht, Rabbi Meir Fund, Rabbi Eli Cohen, Rabbi Yehuda Levin, Rabbi Shea Rubenstein, Rabbi Moshe Levin,  Rabbi Tamir Zalsman, and many other rabbis and community leaders and she is the only Jewish candidate running in for Surrogate’s court.

“Growing up in the former Soviet Union, under the corrupt and frightening rule of the Communist Party, there was no opportunity for me to explore my Jewish identity or to receive a formal Jewish education. That is why I sent my son to Yeshiva, to learn our traditions, family values, and a commitment to public service.  My grandmother, a doctor, saw more than 100 patients a day, and still found the strength to volunteer, visiting the sick in their homes,” declared Judge Baron.

Judge Baron immigrated to Brooklyn 25 years ago from Rostov-on-Don, the city where great Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber Schneerson, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, lived during his final years and is buried.  Rostov is also a site where 27,000 Jews were killed by the Nazis in 1942.  Judge Baron’s grandparents were decorated World War II veterans, who lost their family members in the Holocaust.  Judge Baron is an active participant in Jewish life, who serves with alacrity on the board of directors for Congregation B’nai Jacob in Park Slope, gives tzedakah generously and volunteers to fund and feed the Jewish poor, the elderly and the infirm.

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Surrogates’ Court in NYC – “Center of Corruption” Estate Lawyers’ Donations – Elena Baron Not Beholden to Lawyers’ Money

Estate lawyers flood Surrogate’s Court race with campaign contributions

June 20, 2019 Noah Goldberg

In the Brooklyn race for Surrogate’s Court judge, two of the three candidates have raked in contributions from estate lawyers whose business is handled in the court.

While the primary to replace or re-elect current judge Margarita López Torres is by no means a big-money race compared to others, such as the the Queens DA race, a Brooklyn Eagle review of pre-primary reports filed with the state’s Board of Elections shows that both incumbent López Torres and candidate Meredith Jones have taken in at least 35 percent of their donations from estate lawyers.

From left: Margarita López Torres, Meredith Jones, Elena Barron. Photos by Rob Abruzzese (left, right); courtesy of Meredith Jones (center)From left: Margarita López Torres, Meredith Jones, Elena Barron. Photos by Rob Abruzzese (left, right); courtesy of Meredith Jones (center)

Surrogate’s Court is where the estates of the dead are handled, including any debates over wills. Estate lawyers represent family members in the Surrogate’s Court and argue their cases before the surrogate judge.

Related: Why surrogate judges matter: A voter’s primer

Donations from lawyers who have business before the court are not unique to Surrogate’s Court — in races for Civil Court too, local lawyers are big donors, and District Attorneys across New York have come under fire for taking donations from defense attorneys with cases before them.

“Lawyers and law firms — which have business before the courts — are normally donors to political campaigns. But what this does show is that we need to be looking at how we fund campaigns and who funds our civil courts,” said Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause New York, a good government group.

Lerner noted that Surrogate’s Courts in New York City have been the center of corruption for decades. In 2005, Brooklyn’s Surrogate Michael Feinberg was kicked off the court after it was revealed that he appointed his law school friend to run the Public Administrator’s Office, and then “improperly awarded” that man millions of dollars, according to a New York Times article at the time.

López Torres, who has been one of the two surrogates in Brooklyn since her insurgent election in 2005, has taken in at least $18,300 from estate lawyers and law firms. That makes up 43 percent of her $42,471 total contributions. Jones raised a more modest sum of at least $3,400 from estate lawyers — but out of her contribution total of $9,400, that’s 35 percent.

The third candidate in the race, Civil Court Judge Elena Baron, did not take in any money from estate lawyers, a review of her campaign filings showed. Baron was the only one of the three candidates rated as “not approved” to run Brooklyn’s Surrogate’s Court by the New York City Bar Association and the Brooklyn Bar Association because she declined to participate in their rating.

“Baron’s extensive experience in civil matters that come before the court is independent of the Surrogate’s Court, political machines and the lawyers that practice before the surrogate court,” said Gary Tilzer, who is running Baron’s campaign.

Some estate lawyers donated to both López Torres and Jones. Brooklyn estate lawyer Michael Kaplan gave $250 to López Torres and $200 to Jones, while another estate lawyer, Ira Kopito, who used to be associate counsel to the public administrator, gave $250 to both.

Both López Torres and Jones say they do not know who their campaign donors are, citing a rule that bars judicial candidates from ascertaining the identities of contributors.

“A judicial candidate may attend his/her own fund-raising event and may actually see and acknowledge individuals in attendance, but the identities of those who contribute to a judicial candidate’s campaign should otherwise be kept from the candidate,” the rule states.

That information, however, is publicly available and easily accessible online.

Jones said she is glad that people are donating to her campaign, saying it means the estate lawyers think she will do a good job.

“I’m happy people have confidence in me to be willing to donate, but I don’t know they are,” Jones told the Eagle.

She has no problem with people donating who have business before the court, she said.

James Brennan, a former Brooklyn assemblymember working on López Torres’ campaign, said that about two-thirds of the incumbent’s campaign money is being self-funded by her and her husband. He also noted that López Torres does not know the identities of her contributors.

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The Surrogate’s Court Race in Brooklyn – Why it Matters and Why You Should Vote For Someone Not Beholden

The Democratic primary is on June 25. Eagle file photo by Ned Berke

Why surrogate judges matter: A voter’s primer

 

Brooklynites will head to the polls on June 25 to vote in a primary for a number of lesser known judgeships, including for a seat on the the Surrogate’s Court in Brooklyn. Before filling out those bubbles, it might help to know: what is Surrogate’s Court?

Surrogate’s Court is for the dead — mostly. When someone dies, they usually leave things behind, namely: money and property. Whether or not they have made out a will before they die, in New York, their estates are handled in Surrogate’s Court.

There is a Surrogate’s Court in each borough of New York City. They are overseen by elected judges known as — you guessed it — surrogates. In Manhattan and Brooklyn, there are two surrogates. In the other boroughs, there is just one. Surrogate’s Court judges serve 14-year terms in New York City.

[The Democratic primary for Brooklyn’s Surrogate’s Court election is on June 25. Find your polling site here.]

The Surrogate’s Court handles the probate of wills — meaning, when someone dies and leaves a will, it must be proven valid in Surrogate’s Court before the estate can be dispersed among heirs. This can be a simple process, say, if a single parent dies and bequeaths their estate to an only child. Or it can be complicated, say, if a father who bore an illegitimate son gives his estate to his two children born during his marriage. If the illegitimate son wants to challenge to get part of the estate, that dispute over the will would be handled in Surrogate’s Court.

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