As Deutsche Bank officials this year scrambled to extricate themselves from a yearslong relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the wealthy financier charged this month with sex trafficking, they uncovered suspicious transactions in which Mr. Epstein had moved money out of the United States.
Deutsche Bank reported the transactions to a federal agency in charge of policing financial crimes, according to three people familiar with the bank’s internal processes. The report came as the bank started looking for signs that Mr. Epstein was using his financial resources for the purposes of sex trafficking.
Mr. Epstein, who has been accused of operating a sex-trafficking ring involving dozens of victims, some as young as 14, is being held in a Manhattan jail cell after federal prosecutors argued he was a flight risk, citing his vast financial resources. He has a byzantine network of businesses and personal holdings, which include real estate, an island and private planes valued at more than $500 million. Mr. Epstein’s lawyer, Reid Weingarten, did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Deutsche Bank has been contacted by prosecutors and other government authorities investigating Mr. Epstein. Joerg Eigendorf, a Deutsche Bank spokesman, said the bank was “absolutely committed to cooperating with all relevant authorities.”
Deutsche Bank executives are still trying to understand the depth and scope of the bank’s relationship with Mr. Epstein, who has been a client of its private-banking division since at least 2013 — years after his conduct became public in a prostitution case involving a teenage girl. Mr. Epstein struck a lenient plea deal that included a non-prosecution agreement from federal authorities, and the case has been held up as a glaring example of how the wealthy and well-connected can evade consequences.
At least one bank dropped Mr. Epstein as a client in the years after his guilty plea. But it wasn’t until late last year, after The Miami Herald published an investigation into the earlier sexual abuse allegations, that Deutsche Bank decided to sever ties with him. The process proved more complicated and time-consuming than executives had initially anticipated because Deutsche Bank’s private-banking division had opened several dozen accounts for Mr. Epstein and his businesses.
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Community and political leaders were astounded when in 2017 Elena Baron beat Brooklyn’s political bosses and won her election to become a Civil Court Judge. Elena ran a grassroots judicial campaign winning by an overwhelming majority against three opponents in the 6th municipal court district, all backed by politicians. Voters understood the importance of Baron’s independence from entrenched political insiders, who according to the NY Times pick almost all the judges in Brooklyn. This year, Baron, who is running for Surrogate Court, is clearly the front runner in the race. Voters do not want to see lawyers connected to the Democratic Party looting the estates of widows, seniors and orphans in the Brooklyn Surrogate Court.
In Brooklyn Heights Anne got out of her car to tell Baron, who was campaigning, how courageous she was to take on the Brooklyn Democratic Party Bosses and to run independent for judge. In an era where the so-called progressives and reformers look the other way as the political bosses pick judges and use our courts for patronage, Baron is the leader that Brooklyn needs.
Ann was familiar with how the Surrogate court operates because her close friend fell into a serious life-long depression after the estate of her mother was drained by administrators appointed by a Surrogate Court Judge. One of Elena’s best friends compared her campaign against the political bosses to the movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, where an outsider takes on the entrenched establishment to serve the people.
Judge Elena Baron has spent over a decade working in five NYC Courthouses with a wide variety of issues and matters that come before the civil and supreme courts. Elena has worked with families going through guardianships, dealt with myriads of issues pertaining to residential and commercial real estate, small claims, receiverships and refereeships, as well as matters concerning credit card debt and personal injury cases. “Judge Baron’s independence and her well-diversified experience working in NYC Courts for over a decade will make her a very effective Surrogate, able to create personalized solutions to many individual family situations that come before the Surrogate Court,”said Yana Saffian, an attorney who practices before the Surrogate Court. Elena has a track record of being independent from the Democratic party bosses, having been elected grass roots as a Civil Court Judge.
To enter the Surrogate Court is to stumble upon Ponce de Leon’s own spring, an eternal source of easy money for the politically wired. The Surrogate Court Judges appoint guardians to estates who make handsome fees of those residents who die without wills. Robert Kennedy called the “The Surrogate Court A Political Toll Booth Exacting Tribute from Widows and Orphans.” The Democratic Party bosses tell the Surrogate Court Judges they elect to hire party supporters, a patronage operation that strengthens organization by make money for their troops.
Surrogate Court races are more about who and whose money is behind the candidates then the person running for office. That is because the people behind the candidates get the benefits of the office, being appointed as administrators and guardians. Elena Baron is the only candidate in this race who is not backed by the political bosses and the money and political support they bring to their candidates’ campaigns. In her first race Elena Baron was a grassroots candidate who was challenged by the political bosses and she won overwhelmingly, because the voters want independent judges.
Growing up in the Soviet Union Elena witnessed many injustices that effected people around her and her immediate family. One family member was sexually harassed and had to quit her job, another family member was being pressured into diverting funds going into the organization to a real estate development project, which she refused, and her private business venture was destroyed by thugs threatening to murder family members. These and other experiences made Elena Baron love and respect justice and the law and to become a lawyer. Elena would be the first immigrant to be elected to the Surrogate Court.
The current surrogate, Margarita Lopez Torres, who is backed by bosses Seddio, Carone and the party machine this year, several times appointed Adam Kalish, who works out of Brooklyn County Boss Frank Seddio’s Canarsie home and office as a guardian. Lopez Torres is running for a second 14 years term, although she is unable to serve it, since she must retire in 2 years at 70, the mandatory retirement age for a Surrogate Court Judge. There is also talk, despite her denials, that Torres will take a Supreme Court position after the primary which will allow her to serve until she is 76 and allow party boss Seddio to back-fill one of his hacks as a replacement for a full 14-year term.
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ALBANY — After a measles outbreak in Brooklyn and Rockland County and amid growing concerns about the anti-vaccine movement, a pair of state legislators are proposing allowing minors to receive vaccinations without permission from their parents.
The bill would allow any child 14 years or older to be vaccinated and given booster shots for a range of diseases including mumps, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, influenza, hepatitis B and measles, which seemed to be the primary reason for alarm after the recent outbreaks.
“We are on the verge of a public health crisis,” said one of the bill’s sponsors, Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, a Democrat from Albany, citing lower-than-recommended inoculation rates in some communities, spurred by unconfirmed suspicions about vaccines causing autism. “We’ve become complacent over the last couple of decades.”
[Your questions on measles and its vaccine, answered.]
That sentiment was amplified recently by the World Health Organization, which listed “vaccine hesitancy” as one of the Top 10 global threats. In Rockland County, officials are reporting 145 confirmed cases of measles, with the vast majority of those afflicted aged 18 and under. Of those, four out of five have received no vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella.
City health officials have also reported more than 100 cases of measles in Brooklyn, and a single case in Queens as well. As in Rockland County, most of those cases involved members of the Orthodox Jewish communities where vaccination rates typically lag well behind the norm.
If passed and signed into law, the bill would make New York part of a group of states — ranging from liberal Oregon to conservative South Carolina — that allow minors to ask for vaccinations without parental approval, though some states also require minors to be evaluated to determine if they are mature enough to make such a decision. The New York bill would not require such an evaluation.
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Borough Park, Brooklyn, has seen 35 cases of measles in an outbreak affecting more than 200 people in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in New York and New Jersey.CreditCreditBryan Thomas for The New York Times
Through the fall, traveler after traveler arrived in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities of New York from areas of Israel and Europe where measles was spreading. They then spent time in homes, schools and shops in communities where too many people were unvaccinated.
Within months, New York State was facing its most severe outbreak of the disease in decades, with 182 cases confirmed by Thursday, almost exclusively among ultra-Orthodox Jews. Health officials in New Jersey have reported 33 measles cases, mostly in Ocean County, driven by similar conditions.
In 2018, New York and New Jersey accounted for more than half the measles cases in the country.
Alarmed, health officials began a systematic effort to bring up vaccination rates and halt the disease’s spread.
But while there has been progress, the outbreak is not yet over. Health officials said part of the problem has been resistance among some people in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods to fully cooperate with health workers, get vaccinations and promptly report infections
“Sometimes they hang up and they don’t want to open the door,” said Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert, the health commissioner of Rockland County, northwest of New York City, where the worst of the outbreak has been, with 116 confirmed cases. “It’s hard to break an outbreak if you are not getting cooperation.”
Dr. Ruppert said that health officials discovered that some religious schools, or yeshivas, in ultra-Orthodox communities in Rockland County had vaccination rates as low as 60 percent, far below the state average of 92.5 percent. Audits found that some schools were overreporting vaccination rates, she added.
Delayed vaccination also helped fuel the outbreak in the Orthodox communities of Williamsburg and Borough Park in Brooklyn, which had reported 58 cases as of Thursday, said Dr. Jane R. Zucker, head of the city health department’s Bureau of Immunization.
There have been no deaths in the outbreak, but there have been a few serious cases in young children that required hospitalization.
Measles is one of the most contagious infections and can live for up to two hours in the airspace where an infected person breathed, coughed or sneezed. It usually affects children, and symptoms include high fever and a rash of red spots all over the body, as well as a cough and runny nose. Some 90 percent of unvaccinated people exposed in proximity to an infected person will get it.
But the vaccine, when given in two doses — typically around age 1 and age 5 — is about 97 percent effective.
Health officials and sociologists say the reasons for low vaccination rates among the ultra-Orthodox are complex.
In part they are tied to the wider anti-vaccination movement globally, including concerns that the measles vaccine, which also protects against mumps and rubella, causes autism or other diseases. The idea has been widely debunked but persists in some circles.
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, founder of Darchei Noam yeshiva in Monsey in Rockland County, said that some parents considering admission to his school agonized over giving their children vaccines because they had heard they were dangerous. His yeshiva insisted on them, he said, though he knew of others that did not.
“Good people, great parents were terrified,” he said. “They felt that I was asking to give their children something that would harm them.”
Alexandra Khorover, general counsel for Refuah Health Center, one of the largest health providers in the Rockland community of Spring Valley, said her health workers had encountered “a small pocket of people who are anti-vaccine who have been peddling this information, fostering confusion and fear.”
Part of the reluctance to vaccinate or allow a government health worker to enter the home, though, is cultural.
Samuel Heilman, a Queens College sociology professor who studies the ultra-Orthodox, said that there is a “fear of interference from the outside” rooted in the community’s origins in pre-World War II Europe. More recently, the ultra-Orthodox have fought back against other health department efforts, such as New York City’s efforts to limit a controversial circumcision practice, metzitzah b’peh, because of warnings from health officials that it causes herpes in infants.
“They have accepted the idea that they live by different rules than others in the outside community,” Mr. Heilman said.
While this insularity allowed the measles to spread, it has also had a protective effect on wider public health, at least so far. In part because ultra-Orthodox Jews tend to attend their own religious schools and patronize their own shops and restaurants, the disease has remained in Orthodox circles, save for several infections among non-Jewish workers linked to their communities, health officials said.
The outbreak in New York and New Jersey can be traced to the rise of measles in Israel, where some 2,700 cases and two deaths were reported in 2018, centered in Jerusalem.
In Europe, which was the source of at least some of the Brooklyn infections, some 65,000 cases were reported in the year ending October 2018, with high concentrations in Balkan countries and Ukraine.
A flier distributed in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities by the New York City Health Department.CreditNew York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene
Nuftali Moster founded Young Advocates for Fair Education, the group that sued the city’s Department of Education in a push for more secular instruction in yeshivas. Credit: Bryan Thomas for The New York Times
In parts of New York City, there are students who can barely read and write in English and have not been taught that dinosaurs once roamed Earth or that the Civil War occurred.
Some of them are in their last year of high school.
That is the claim made by a group of graduates from ultra-Orthodox Jewish private schools called yeshivas, and they say that startling situation has been commonplace for decades.
Over three years ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration opened an investigation into a lack of secular education at yeshivas that serve about 57,000 students in the city, but the probe essentially stalled almost as soon as it began. The reason, advocates say, is the city’s politicians, including the mayor, are fearful of angering the Orthodox Jewish community that represents a crucial voting bloc in major elections.
Then the state stepped in with the most significant action yet in the probe. MaryEllen Elia, the state education commissioner, released updated ruleson Nov. 20 dictating how nonpublic schools like yeshivas are regulated and what students in those schools should learn, with consequences for schools that do not comply.
The guidance could force yeshivas to change how they operate and what they teach. It will also hold Mr. de Blasio’s feet to the fire, as his administration is forced to ramp up its investigation into the schools.
“There’s no time to waste,” said Naftuli Moster, the founder of Young Advocates for Fair Education, which pushes for more secular instruction in yeshivas. “New York City has already been dragging its feet for three years.”
The city’s yeshiva probe began in 2015, after Mr. Moster’s group filed a complaint claiming that scores of students — boys, in particular — graduate from ultra-Orthodox yeshivas unprepared for work or higher education, with little exposure to nonreligious classes like science and history. Instead, some yeshiva graduates say, students spend most school days studying Jewish texts. Younger boys sometimes attend about 90 minutes of nonreligious classes at the end of the day, a city report found.
A coalition of prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbis and community members have accused critics of yeshivas of attacking religious freedoms.
“This is a smear campaign against our community and what it stands for,” said David Niederman, a rabbi and the president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg. “If some people are not happy with what they are taught, it is up to them to take action.”
Avi Schick, a lawyer for Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools, a group formed after the 2015 investigation was opened, said, “The intrusive set of requirements imposed by the state demolishes the wall between church and state that politicians have hid behind for decades.”
This past summer, the organization, known as Pearls, handed out 10,000 posters and bumper stickers emblazoned with the hashtag #ProtectYeshivas to parents of children in Orthodox Jewish schools.
The state’s guidance places the burden of investigating the schools on Mr. de Blasio’s administration.
City officials are now required to visit all nonpublic schools by the end of 2021 — which will coincide with the end of Mr. de Blasio’s second term — and visit each school every five years after that. If officials find that the schools are not providing an education that is “substantially equivalent” to what public schools offer, the city can give schools more time and resources to add secular teaching. If that does not work, the city can withhold some funding it provides private schools.
In an interview, the city schools chancellor, Richard A. Carranza, said that he had requested training for Department of Education employees who will visit the schools, and that he would prioritize visits to a half-dozen yeshivas he claimed have barred city officials from entry. After that, he plans to send staffers to several dozen other yeshivas that were listed on the 2015 complaint as having insufficient secular education.
This is going to be a robust kind of a visit, and a robust looking into all the nonpublic schools,” Mr. Carranza said. “The mayor has made it really clear from Day 1 for me that he wants us to move aggressively and get this taken care of.”
Though complaints about academics have focused on New York City’s yeshivas, the guidance applies to all nonpublic schools in the state, which has raised alarm bells for other groups.
“We remain gravely concerned over the process, which will likely lend itself to an inconsistent and subjective review of many schools,” Jim Cultrara, the director for education at the New York State Catholic Conference, said in an interview.
The mayor’s handling of the yeshiva investigation will now be monitored not only by the state, but also by those concerned about Mr. de Blasio’s recent dismissal of Mark G. Peters, the former Department of Investigations chief.
After he was fired, Mr. Peters confirmed that his department was looking into whether City Hall interfered with the city Education Department’s inquiry into yeshivas in an effort to maintain ties with the Orthodox community. The issue has since been elevated, and there is a question of whether the mayor sought to tamp down probes into his own administration.
Mr. de Blasio’s pick to replace Mr. Peters, Margaret M. Garnett, was already quizzed at a recent City Council hearing about whether she will continue the probe into City Hall’s handling of the yeshiva investigation. She said in an interview with The Times that she would not “tolerate or accept interference” in any queries involving the mayor.
Advocates for more secular education in yeshivas found reason to celebrate last month, when Democrats seized a commanding majority in the New York State Senate.
The Senate flip robbed Senator Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat, of an enviable swing vote that he used last year to add protections for yeshivas in the 11th hour of state budget negotiations. Young Advocates for Fair Education, Mr. Moster’s group, has sued the state over the so-called Felder amendment, calling it unconstitutional.
Mr. Felder, who represents Orthodox enclaves of Brooklyn, declined to comment.
Still, enormous obstacles remain for those who want the city to shine a spotlight on yeshivas.
Few if any politicians in Albany or downstate are willing to anger the Orthodox political establishment. Urgent problems in the city’s 1,800 public schools — including ballooning student homelessness and entrenched racial segregation — will take precedence over issues in religious schools that the city does not run.
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