Outrageous: Shelly Silver, one of the worst abusers of the public trust in recent New York history, just got his 2015 conviction tossed on technical grounds.
Prosecutors promise a new trial, but justice has already been delayed far too long here.
A federal appeals court Thursday tossed the former Assembly speaker’s 2015 corruption conviction because a later Supreme Court ruling tweaked the rules for what counts as political corruption.
Yet the same 2nd Circuit of Appeals had just affirmed the bribery conviction of ex-Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. despite similar issues.
And the evidence against Silver proves corruption under the new rules as well as the old.
- The then-speaker funneled some $500,000 in state grants to a doctor who, in turn, sent patients to Silver’s law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg — which then paid Silver for the referrals.
- In another scheme, Silver voted to OK tax-exempt financing for a real-estate developer, Glenwood Management, and for favorable rent- and tax-abatement laws. In exchange, Glenwood took some work to the firm of another Silver pal, which in turn paid “fees” to the speaker.
Silver pocketed at least $4 million from these kickbacks.
At trial, his defense boiled down to “everybody does it.” But while the Legislature is indeed profoundly corrupt, that doesn’t make any of it legal.
And certainly not these abuses of power by a man who ruled as speaker for more than two decades.
Yes, the Supreme Court last year tossed the corruption conviction of ex-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell over too-broad instructions to the jury about what defines “official acts.” But Silver’s case involved far more clear-cut bribes — and more clear-cut abuse of power — than McDonnell’s.
Yet somehow the 2nd Circuit thinks a “rational jury” might not have found Silver guilty if it had been “properly instructed.”
Let’s hope prosecutors move quickly to a new trial. The best medicine for New York’s rampant corruption is swift, harsh punishment for the abusers. And Silver, 73, has already been free for far too long.
Lakewood welfare: Half of children get assistance; families panic after arrests
But one statistic stands out among all other municipalities in the state. There are 10,000 more children in households with married couples in Lakewood receiving food, income or state aid than the next closest town.
Of the 43,600 children under 18 years of age, 18,200 with married parents receive government assistance. Newark, the largest city in the state, is second with 7,800 families receiving aid, according to the Census Bureau’s 2015 5-year average American Community Survey.
That poverty indicator is telling in two ways: Lakewood has a strong family tradition with many of it residents living in a two-parent household with young children, yet most of those families can’t make ends meet without government help.
Following the FBI’s public assistance fraud raids this week that saw the arrest of seven married couples with children, it may be an understatement that many township residents are in a “panic,” as termed by one of the leaders of the majority Orthodox Jewish community.
“It’s absolute panic,” said Rabbi Moshe Weisberg, a member of Lakewood’s Vaad, or Jewish council, about the mood in the town after this week’s arrests. “People are begging us for guidance.”
Rapidly growing Lakewood has more than 100,000 residents, up 15,000 from 2010, according to census records. The average Lakewood resident is 22.4 years old – making it one of the youngest towns in the state – and roughly 31 percent of people in town live under the poverty line, including retirees and single residents, according to the Census Bureau. The median household income in the town is just under $42,000, which is in the bottom 5 percent of N.J. towns, data shows.
Lakewood has a flourishing Jewish population, thanks in no small part to Beth Medrash Govoha, one of the largest yeshivas in the world, which now has about 6,500 students, according to Aaron Kotler, CEO of the yeshiva.
Seven married couples were arrested in Lakewood this week on charges of welfare fraud, including a well-known rabbi of a congregation. He and his wife are accused of taking more than $338,000 in public assistance they weren’t entitled to receive. Five couples face state charges and the other two couples face federal charges. Combined, they are accused of stealing about $2 million in government assistance.
After the arrests, and considering so many Lakewood families receive some form of public assistance, the Vaad on Wednesday announced that it will hold seminars to educate residents about the rules for full financial disclosure when it comes to applying for and collecting public assistance.
“Federal and state social safety-net programs are meant for those in need, even those in need have rules and criteria that must be strictly followed,” the Vaad said in its statement. “To deliberately bend a safety-net eligibility rule is stealing, no different than stealing from your friend or neighbor.”
Weisberg said that many young Jewish families collect public assistance as their families grow.
The men are often studying in yeshivas and have moderate incomes, if any income at all, he said. Census data shows that 3,302 people in Lakewood between the ages of 25 and 34 — 21.8 percent of everyone in that age range — are enrolled in school, most of those likely being yeshiva students.
Meanwhile, there is strong community pressure for men and women to have large families and send the children to private Jewish schools.
“The average family feels it an absolute necessity to send their children to private schools,” Weisberg said, adding that large families are also a part of Jewish culture. “They really want to build a large family with lots of happy children.
“Financial considerations come second,” he said.
To make ends meet, many of these families rely on public assistance, Weisberg said.
Duvi Honig, CEO of the Lakewood-based Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce, said for many Jewish families, collecting public assistance is almost an inevitability.
“People have such overhead that they don’t have a choice,” Honig said.
Honig and Weisberg condemned the alleged assistance fraud but acknowledged that some residents are tempted to take more welfare than they’re entitled to get.
“There are bad actors and bad apples,” Weisberg said. “A lot of this is not, most of this is not.”
Weisberg added that the vast majority of people reaching out to the Vaad after the arrests are concerned about what they termed as minor discretions in their public assistance applications, not people involved in a large-scale welfare fraud scheme.
Some of the minor discretions Weisberg mentioned are not reporting cash gifts or school tuition received from family members.
“These are families under stress,” he said. “Regrettably, people are a little loose with it.
“Until the hammer falls, people are lax about it.”
The hammer is expected to keep falling in Lakewood.
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THE SYSTEMATIC DESTRUCTION OF MOISES GERTNER AND HIS BROTHER BY DAN GERTLER, HIS LAW FIRMS, HIS PR FIRMS HIS RELATIONSHIPS AND A SERIES OF COMPANIES, TRUSTS AND PARTNERS
LostMessiah – 23 June 2017
Earlier this week we published an article regarding Dan Gertler which made reference to a series of other articles, including to a blog post of paramount importance entitled: “Exposing African Mafia and Corruption” in a Blogspot – Purifying Africa. Interestingly the information published by Purifying Africa, though a series of what appears to be leaked emails from a law firm, seems to have been largely ignored by mainstream media. We believe it speaks volumes to the extent to which the Gertler empire will go to destroy its perceived adversaries.
The emails include correspondence written by an attorney by the name of Dory (Avigdor) Klagsbald of a law firm in Israel. The parties who are cc’d or otherwise mentioned in those emails include attorneys with Mishcon de Reya LLP, a series of consulting firms (namely public relations firms), and attorneys from Millbank, Tweed, another law firm.
The sole purpose of those emails appear to be outlining a strategy to unwind an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) which was a negotiated agreement between Islandic Bank Haupthing and the Gertner brothers for repayment of a loan at what was to have been an undisclosed amount. That effort continues and has all but destroyed Moises Gertner.
It should be noted that much of the alleged payments of that loan and corresponding guarantees are in the form of interest and fees. We believe the current claims by CFL are tantamount to extortionery at this juncture, particularly since these events have dragged on for years and there were agreements in place to settle many of those loans. CFL Limited has sought and continues to seek systematically to undo formerly agreed upon settlements (Case No. 3482 of 2015 / BR-2015-02338).
The emails between Dori Klagsbald in our analysis refer in no uncertain terms to a methodology for undoing the IVA and dragging the Gertner brothers’ names through the silt, with what can only be deemed to be a carefully constructed PR campaign (steps to be taken “if necessary”). The party in whose interest this carefully crafted scheme has been devised, is an Israeli owned company CFL Finance (a Dan Gertler company). CFL was in 2015 allegedly owed only 12Million Pounds, a paltry amount in comparison to the 557M pounds that was the subject of the IVA and the agreed repayment to Haupthing. Again, to reiterate much of the currently disputed money is comprised of interest and penalties. The fact that it is still ungoing and leaves the Gertner brothers in a constant stated of disquiet is likely of greater value to Gertler.
We reiterate the articles and the historical context should not be taken in a vacuum. In fact, we contend that the death of Katumba , the information regarding the Fleurette Group, Glencore Plc, Ellesmere Global (BVI) can similarly not be read exclusive of the other articles and the timeframe involved. When read in context with an earlier published Ha’Aretz article and dozens of other articles and publications, it is abundantly clear that Dan Gertler, along with his attorneys and public relations firms, has since at least 2013 made concerted and systematic efforts in no uncertain terms to destroy anyone or anything that stands in the way of his constantly increasing wealth.
In the case of the death of Katumba, we can only speculate. In the ongoing legal battles against Moises Gertner and his brother who were at one time business partners of Dan Gertler, we maintain that Gertler was and continues to be intent upon decimation and they continue to be his victims.
We begin describing this saga by re-posting the 42 screenshots taken from the Purifying Africa Blogspot.
We will continue by slowly introducing the cast of questionable figures including another character in this case of Gertler v. Gertner, an Israeli lawyer named Yaakov Weinrot. We note Mr. Weinrot claims to have been owed many millions of dollars by the Gertner brothers, was apparently hired by them in the context of their dealings in the Congo; but also apparently participated in the smear campaign against them on behalf of Dan Gertler. We leave that piece for another day.
Our sources are publicly available. As many of the articles state, the Congo is one of the worlds most mineral-rich countries. And yet, it is the poorest and least developed. The Congolese people are the victims of extraordinary greed, the greed of their government, the greed of so-called “investors” like Dan Gertler and the corresponding corruption and fraud.
Finally, we note in the interest of full disclosure that we have not independently investigated the Gertner brothers on their other dealings, most of which appear to have been real estate investments. We have found significant evidence of charitable giving but make no judgment one way or the other. We firmly believe them to be victims of Dan Gertler and his ‘mafia’ of attorneys, PR firms, and co-conspirators. We write the series of exposés in the hopes that perhaps the Gertner brothers and numerous other victims of Dan Gertler and his associates’ greed will find justice.
Creative Kushner mapping underscores holes in visa program
NEW YORK (AP) – The Kushner Cos. engaged in a bit of creative mapmaking to qualify one of its buildings in a booming New Jersey waterfront neighborhood across from Manhattan for a federal visa-for-investment program targeting struggling areas.
Emails obtained by The Associated Press show that the family of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner placed its 65 Bay Street building in Jersey City in a map stringing together two dozen other areas, some with high unemployment.
The map was included in a 2015 application to the EB-5 visa program that allows overseas investors to obtain U.S. residency in exchange for investments of $500,000 or more in rural areas or those with high unemployment.
The maps are legal, and many other developers engage in the practice. But the practice is one of the reasons the EB-5 visa program has come under criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.
James Yolles, a spokesman for the Kushner Cos., declined to comment. The Kushner property is co-owned with developer KABR Group. KABR has not responded to voicemail and email requests for comment.
The special maps were reported earlier by The Washington Post.
The building at 65 Bay Street has licensed the Trump name from the president’s company, and is better known as “Trump Bay Street.” It received millions from wealthy overseas investors through the EB-5 program.
The Kushner Cos. was recently pitching to potential EB-5 investors in China for another Jersey City property. Called One Journal Square, it is a planned 79-story two tower complex in a struggling area of the city. The company is seeking 300 wealthy Chinese to invest a total of $150 million.
Jared Kushner’s sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, created a stir in March after reports she had mentioned her brother, a senior adviser to Trump, in a presentation in China. Marketing materials for the event also cited the Kushner family’s “celebrity” status.
The Kushner Cos. said Meyer’s intention was not to use the connection to the White House to lure investors. Jared Kushner stepped down as CEO of the Kushner Cos. when he joined the White House. His lawyer has said that he has sold his stake in One Journal Square.
To handle the mapmaking for Trump Bay Street, the Kushner Cos. turned to Evans, Carroll & Associates, an economic consultancy in Boca Raton, Florida.
On May 6, 2015, Evans emailed the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development requesting that it review a proposed map stretching over two dozen census tracts. The map formed an odd shape, with some relatively low unemployment areas separated by a few miles to high unemployment ones.
By the end of the month, came New Jersey’s reply: The areas included in the map, called a Targeted Employment Area, had an overall unemployment rate of 9.8 percent – high enough to qualify for the EB-5 program.
The unemployment rate for the single census tract that includes 65 Bay Street was not mentioned in the emails, but has typically been much lower, according to Dave Evans of Evans, Carroll & Associates. Evans said the unemployment rate last year for the census tract that includes 65 Bay Street averaged 1.3 percent.
In order to qualify for EB-5 financing, a building needs to be in a Targeted Employment Area with unemployment 150 percent above the average U.S. rate.
Critics have faulted the EB-5 program for failing to bring investment into poor communities as intended. By gerrymandering together rich geographic areas with poor ones, developers have managed to win approval from economic development authorities for luxury projects in Manhattan, California’s Beverly Hills and Miami’s South Beach.
Earlier this year, Evans, Carroll & Associates emailed New Jersey state officials for Kushner’s One Journal Square project, too.
To read the article in its entirety click here.
The government’s key witness in multiple corruption probes was a part-time “loan shark” who made money doling out predatory loans, court documents alleged on Tuesday.
Jona Rechnitz — the government’s witness against two NYPD cops accused of taking bribes — “was nothing more than a loan shark” when it came to his business dealings with Hamlet Peralta, the former owner of a Harlem eatery that was popular with cops, Peralta’s lawyer said.
Peralta, the former owner of the Hudson River Cafe, stands accused of running a $12 million Ponzi scheme tied to an allegedly fictitious wholesale liquor business.
Peralta’s lawyer, Cesar de Castro, made the allegations against Rechnitz as part of a legal tug-of-war with feds about what evidence can be introduced at Peralta’s upcoming May trial.
The government wants to call as witnesses victims of Peralta’s alleged scheme who were recruited by Rechnitz — and who learned of the scheme through Rechnitz.
De Castro has objected, arguing that statements made by Rechnitz cannot be offered as the truth because he was engaged in his own loan-sharking scheme.
“Evidence at trial will show that (Rechnitz) was not Mr. Peralta’s agent but the architect of his own scheme in order to bleed Mr. Peralta dry,” de Castro said.
Rechnitz’s lawyer, Alan Levine, declined to comment.
Rechnitz, a real estate investor, is also the government’s key witness in the upcoming bribery trial of Norman Seabrook, former head of NYC’s correction officers’ union.
A Brooklyn dad claims the borough’s former district attorney Charles Hynes targeted him while cutting a sweetheart deal with a prominent rabbi accused of sexually abusing boys.
Samuel Kellner says in a federal civil rights lawsuit that Hynes falsely charged him with extortion after he led an effort to lock up Baruch Lebovits.
“The ‘investigation’ by Hynes into [Kellner] deviated so egregiously from acceptable law enforcement activity as to demonstrate an intentional or reckless disregard for proper procedures,” reads the lawsuit targeting Hynes and the city.
The sordid saga began in 2008 when Lebovits allegedly molested Kellner’s son.
A prosecutor told Kellner that the district attorney’s office wasn’t going to open an investigation because the alleged offense was a misdemeanor and there were no other known victims, the suit says.
But Kellner, working with a detective, found other boys who were preyed upon by Lebovits.
Hynes’ office launched a probe but Kellner claims the former DA did nothing when Lebovits’ supporters succeeded in convincing one of his victims to drop the case.
“Hynes’ deliberate indifference towards [the boy’s] plight and failure to protect him was part of a policy, custom and practice of deliberate indifference towards witness tampering and intimidation of victims of pedophiles and their families within the ultra-Orthodox community,” says the suit filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.
Lebovits was ultimately convicted in March 2010 of multiple counts of sexual assault and sentenced to serve up to 32 years.
Kellner’s joy was short-lived.
He claims in the suit that Hynes quietly dismissed his son’s case against Lebovits in October 2010.
“The suffering and courage of a victim in coming forward to report his abuse meant nothing to Hynes,” Kellner’s attorney Niall Macgiollabhui wrote in the suit.
Things got worse for Kellner in April 2011 when he was charged with trying to blackmail Lebovits’ wealthy family and paying a man to falsely accuse the rabbi.
Hynes held a news conference trumpeting Kellner’s arrest.
Lebovits was sprung from jail the next day. His conviction was overturned in 2012.
“What is truly shocking is that instead of locking up pedophiles and protecting children, Hynes was instrumental in securing the release of a notorious predator from prison and dismissing the cases of two victims he and his office knew to have been abused,” Macgiollabhui told the Daily News.
“At some point Hynes will have to explain why he conspired in the shadows with the family of a convicted child rapist to undermine the conviction his own office had just secured.”
The criminal charges against Kellner were dropped in March 2014 after a prosecutor re-examining the case found inconsistencies in the accounts of two key witnesses.
Lebovits pleaded guilty to reduced charges in May 2014 and was sentenced to serve another year.
He was released after just 86 days.
Hynes’ lawyer did not return a request for comment.
A spokesman for the city’s Law Department said it will review the complaint.
Kellner filed a defamation suit against the Jewish Daily Forward newspaper in November 2014. That case was settled in January under a confidentiality agreement.
Trump Team’s Links to Russia Crisscross in Washington
WASHINGTON — During the 2016 campaign, Donald J. Trump’s second campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, had regular communications with his longtime associate — a former Russian military translator in Kiev who has been investigated in Ukraine on suspicion of being a Russian intelligence agent.
At the Republican National Convention in July, J. D. Gordon, a former Pentagon official on Mr. Trump’s national security team, met with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, at a time when Mr. Gordon was helping keep hawkish language on Russia’s conflict with Ukraine out of the party’s platform.
And Jason Greenblatt, a former Trump Organization lawyer and now a special representative for international negotiations at the White House, met last summer with Rabbi Berel Lazar, the chief rabbi of Russia and an ally of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin.
In a Washington atmosphere supercharged by the finding of the intelligence agencies that Mr. Putin tried to steer the election to Mr. Trump, as well as continuing F.B.I. and congressional investigations, a growing list of Russian contacts with Mr. Trump’s associates is getting intense and skeptical scrutiny.
Democrats see suspicious connections and inaccurate denials as part of a pattern that belies Mr. Trump’s adamant insistence that he and his associates “have nothing to do with Russia.” The president’s supporters say innocuous encounters, routine for any incoming presidential team, are being treated for political reasons as somehow subversive.
Mr. Trump denounced the furor over Russian connections on Thursday as a “total witch hunt” — but it may not have helped his case that the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, echoed his words on Friday, saying, “This all looks like a witch hunt.”
On Friday, Mr. Trump posted a picture on Twitter of a meeting between Mr. Putin and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, and wrote that “we should start an immediate investigation into @SenSchumer and his ties to Russia and Putin.”
The issue has already had momentous consequences for the new administration. Michael T. Flynn lasted less than a month as national security adviser before being forced out for mischaracterizing his conversations with Mr. Kislyak. This week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions admitted to having meetings with Mr. Kislyak that he had not disclosed during his confirmation hearing.
Mr. Sessions fended off demands that he resign but agreed to recuse himself from what may be the most important investigation his Justice Department is conducting: of Russian meddling in the election and whether any of Mr. Trump’s associates colluded in those efforts. And that did not end the issue; all nine Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee called on Friday for Mr. Sessions to testify about his inaccurate denials that he had met with Russian officials during the campaign.
Part of the problem underlying disputes over such contacts may be Mr. Trump’s pugnacious style, which usually leaves little room for nuance. At a news conference last month, he said that he had “nothing to do with Russia,” and that “to the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.”
In fact, vigorous reporting by multiple news media organizations is turning up multiple contacts between Trump associates and Russians who serve in or are close to Mr. Putin’s government. There have been courtesy calls, policy discussions and business contacts, though nothing has emerged publicly indicating anything more sinister. A dossier of allegations on Trump-Russia contacts, compiled by a former British intelligence agent for Mr. Trump’s political opponents, includes unproven claims that his aides collaborated in Russia’s hacking of Democratic targets.
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