Rechnitz — appearing in the bribery trial of former city corrections-union chief Norman Seabrook — first dealt with questions about pay-to-play allegationsinvolving him and Mayor de Blasio, the NYPD and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.
He said he and businessman pal Jeremy Reichberg targeted the cops in the beginning, doling out gifts and cash in lieu of favors.
Soon, “We had the police going for us — and now it was time to get into politics,” Rechnitz said.
In his first meeting with de Blasio fundraiser Ross Offinger after de Blasio won the Democratic primary in 2013, Rechnitz and his pals — including Brooklyn businessman Jeremy Reichberg and Fernando Mateo, president of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers — made the rules clear, Rechnitz said.
“We’re going to be significant contributors, but we want access,” Rechnitz, 34, said the group told Offinger. “When we call, we want answers.
“We’re one group, and we expect a lot of access and influence.”
And they got it, Rechnitz said.
De Blasio soon visited Rechnitz at his office and handed the real-estate investor his personal cell-phone number and e-mail address.
“He said, ‘Keep in touch’ and [that] he really appreciated my friendship,” Rechnitz said.
Next thing you know, Rechnitz was talking with the mayor once a week, and Rechnitz was calling Offinger every time he had a problem that needed to be fixed, including a massive water bill for a friend, violations over a renter’s subletting one of his residences on Airbnb and a request to delay his wife’s school’s closing by a month.
Prosecutor Martin Bell asked Rechnitz whether Offinger did “in fact have the sort of pull” that Rechnitz and his friends were expecting in exchange for their contributions.
“Yes,” Rechnitz replied.
Bell asked, “How did you come to realize that?”
Rechnitz said, “Whenever we would call him for access or for a favor, we were getting the response that we expected and the results we were expecting.”
Rechnitz said he secured a spot on de Blasio’s inauguration committee thanks to his efforts to raise $100,000 for his mayoral campaign.
Rechnitz was also offered a spot on the mayor’s transition committee, but he turned it down after de Blasio rejected Reichberg for a vacancy due to diversity issues, he said.
In just one hour of testimony, Rechnitz painted a picture of a city — and beyond — completely ruled by money.
Rechnitz said Astorino gave him and Reichberg positions as police chaplains in exchange for their financial contributions — even though neither of them are rabbis or priests.
This landed them parking placards, among other perks.
Rechnitz also told a story about the time Astorino approached him with a picture of a Rolex watch and asked for helping procuring it.
“I told him I’d be happy to give it to him,” Rechnitz said, prompting Astorino to agree to pay for between $1,000 and $2,000 of the watch, with Rechnitz paying for the rest.
The government witness estimated the watch was worth as much as $10,000.
When it came to the cops, Rechnitz said, he and Reichberg were running the show — doling out gifts and cash to cops in exchange for favors, including ticket-fixing and police escorts to funerals.
He named a slew of cops — everyone from Phil Banks to James Grant to Eric Rodriguez — and talked about the time the cops, together with the Port Authority, shut down large portions of the Lincoln Tunnel so Rechnitz’s boss — an Israeli billionaire known as the “King of Diamonds” — could get to his Manhattan hotel faster.
Mayoral spokesman Eric Phillips denied the felon’s claims.
“These are nothing but re-heated, re-packaged accusations that have been extensively reviewed and passed on by authorities at multiple levels,” Phillips said. “The administration has never and will never make government decisions based on campaign contributions.”
A rep for Astorino called Rechnitz’s testimony “total contrived nonsense.
“Rob Astorino went shopping in the city for a second-hand watch several years ago. Mr. Rechnitz, who was in no trouble at the time, offered to help and took him to a store near his office,” said Astorino’s re-election campaign spokesman, William O’Reilly.
“Mr. Astorino was then offered the used watch for free. Mr. Astorino promptly declined and insisted on paying for it, which he did. He has the credit-card receipt to prove it, which he provided to the authorities prosecuting Mr. Rechnitz.
“Although this transaction occurred almost 18 months ago, Rob Astorino has never been accused of any wrongdoing by any federal or state prosecutor for any reason – he did nothing wrong,” O’Reilly said.
“Furthermore, Mr. Rechnitz never spoke with Rob Astorino about a volunteer chaplaincy for himself or anyone else.
The NYPD declined comment.
Ben Brafman, lawyer for former NYPD Chief of Department Banks, said, “I don’t have any interest in commenting about Mr. Rechnitz, but I do point out that Chief Banks has never been prosecuted for any wrongdoing.”
John Meringolo, lawyer for James Grant, whose own corruption trial is set for April 30, said, “It’s just all made up against Grant, it really is. Grant’s done nothing wrong. After Jona’s testimony today, we’re certainly going to call Mayor de Blasio to testify and prove that Jona’s lying about having the mayor’s office on speed dial. He’s lying about the mayor the same way he’s lying about Grant.”
Andrew Weinstein, lawyer for another officer tainted by Rechnitz, Michael Harrington, added, “Jona Rechnitz’s entire existence is built upon lies and deception. Any suggestion by Mr. Rechnitz that Mike Harrington was in any way complicit in his [Rechnitz’s] life of crime is but one more lie from a pathetic wannabe who is desperate to implicate others in an effort to save his own skin.”
Least-favorite son: Sheepshead Bay native Martin Shkreli back in Brooklyn for fraud trial
This hometown boy did not get a warm welcome home.
Dozens of New Yorkers just can’t stand the Sheepshead Bay-born-and-bred Martin Shkreli — also known as “pharma bro” and “the most hated man in America” — who jacked up the prices of life-saving drugs.
Shkreli is back in his native Brooklyn for trial on fraud charges. The federal court case kicked off this week, but lawyers and the judge had a hard time finding jurors who can keep an open mind about the alleged Ponzi-schemer, who famously smirked as he repeatedly took the Fifth when testifying before Congress about pharmaceutical price-gouging.
One potential juror who got the boot suggested he wanted to sock Shkreli in his notoriously punchable face.
“I don’t really like this person. I can’t understand why someone would take a medication that people need and jack up the price,” said the man in a shaky voice as he raised his fists as if ready for the ring. “I would just go over there — I’m sorry judge, is he just stupid or crazy? I can’t understand.”
Shkreli — who declined to comment on whether growing up in a once-quaint fishing village made him the man he is today — faces up to 20 years in prison for allegedly running a multi-million-dollar Ponzi scheme while the head of his drug company Retrophin.
The former hedge-fund manager has gained infamy for gouging the price of a drug for AIDS patients from $13.50 to $750 per pill overnight in 2015, trolling a journalist and the popular hip-hop group Wu Tang Clan on social media, and making plenty of other crude and callous comments on a variety of media venues — none of which he’s on trial for now — though several would-be jurors couldn’t help but admit they just want to see Shkreli behind bars, no matter what.
“In this particular case, the only thing I’d be impartial about is which prison he goes to,” said one man before walking out the door.
Another potential juror said he couldn’t forgive the 34-year-old Shkreli for attacking members of the Staten Island-based Wu Tang Clan on Twitter, after he purchased the only copy of one of their exclusive albums for $2 million and then released it in celebration right after President Trump’s electoral-college victory in November.
“I can’t say if he’s, like, totally guilty — he’s probably guilty. In no way can I let him slide out of anything. This is my attitude towards his whole demeanor, and he disrespected the Wu Tang Clan, so …” the man said, before getting cut off by the judge and shown the door.
Shkreli’s attorneys, federal prosecutors, and the judge had questioned more than 300 jurors since June 26, with nearly all of them getting excused — many because they admitted feeling similarly to the potential juror who said, “Just looking at him kind of twists my stomach, to be honest.”
But all jurors had been seated by late afternoon on June 28, and opening arguments began shortly after that, according to the New York Post.
Judge Kiyo Matsumoto expects the trial to last about six weeks, but jurors are skeptical.
“Looking at all of these lawyers, I think it’s going to be more than a six-week trial,” one guy said before getting excused for being self-employed.
To read the article in its original format click here.
A PLATINUM EDUCATION FOR JEWISH CHILDREN, A MODEL TO BE EMULATED, OR – PERHAPS NOT…
This article should be viewed as a follow up to an article we published earlier in April regarding Westchester Torah Academy and alleged “Loans” from Mark Nordlicht to the Westchester Torah Academy.
We contend that the “Loans” were donations. Whether they began as a means of hiding money, a lot of it, and shielding Nordlicht from potential financial liability or evolved and have been converted is a question for debate. We have our theories.
We further posit that subject only to the previous paragraph, the “donations” are now being called back as “Loans” to give Nordlicht visible and “clean” (i.e. laundered) working capital to manage his current legal woes. Each and every dollar Nordlicht is referring to as “Loans” represents an injustice to the Westchester Torah Academy and all of its students and their families..
We finally maintain that if investigators want justice for those many, many people aggrieved by Platinums’ litany of carefully planned and executed swindles, they need to open Nordlicht’s personal financial statements and trusts, scrutinize the money, its providence and underlying transaction. Nordlicht’s (and Bodner’s) personal family trusts, which we believe are comprised of Platinums’ assets should unshieded from creditors of Platinum and all of its many victims.
How several small-time investors got hosed when Uber crashed the taxi market
Unhappy about their losses the green cab owners have sued their broker and his partners for allegedly cheating them out of $8 million
When Dr. Amarpreet Singh received a tip from a patient back in 2013, he was all ears. The city was expanding its taxi fleet, the patient explained. Would he be interested in investing in cabs? “I said I’d certainly like to talk to someone about that,” recalled Singh, chief of oculo-facial plastic surgery at Harlem Hospital Center.
Singh’s patient introduced him to a taxi broker, who said the city was issuing thousands of permits for a new line of cabs, called green taxis, that would pick up passengers in the outer boroughs and upper Manhattan. Some green-taxi owners were already reaping profits of as much as $550 every week, the broker said, and it wasn’t expensive to get in on the action, because the city was offering incentives for cabs retrofitted to accommodate passengers in wheelchairs.
Singh liked the idea of helping disabled New Yorkers get around town, so he paid the broker $75,000 for five green-cab permits, plus another $325,000 for vehicles. Then he waited for drivers to rent his taxis. And waited some more. After nearly two years he got in touch with his patient to see what was up with the investment. Singh learned his cabs were lying fallow in Mill Basin, Brooklyn. He dashed over and found a parking lot filled with 600 cars, none with license plates and some not even outfitted as taxis.
“It was just a sea of green,” said Singh. “I walked out telling myself, Oh my God, what have I done?”
The collapse of the taxi business has dramatically altered New York’s streetscape. Spurred by the advent of Uber and other apps, the number of drivers looking for passengers has grown by 40%, but the surge has meant less business for cabbies, who are making 30% fewer trips than only three years ago. Those who invested in yellow or green cabs are seeing their investments wiped out as drivers flock to rivals or pursue other work and cars sit idle. Since 2013 5,000 taxi drivers have thrown in the towel, and last month Queens-based Melrose Credit Union was seized by state regulators after delinquent cab loans soared tenfold in just 18 months. The stock price of the city’s preeminent taxi lender, Medallion Financial Corp., has fallen so far that one share now costs less than a subway ride.
Among those sucked into the vortex are scores of novice investors who saw the same potential in green cabs as what yellow-taxi medallions offered decades ago: cheap investments (the first medallions sold for $10 in 1937 before peaking at more than $1 million) with yearly returns that far outpaced the stock market. But these small-time players bought green cabs just before the taxi business began its free fall. Singh is in this group along with a dozen other investors, including a home health care company president, a purchasing manager at a software firm, a vice president of sales at a printing company and a commercial real estate broker in Baltimore.
Jake Zamansky, a prominent plaintiff lawyer on Wall Street, said people need to be wary about buying into taxis and other investments that don’t have the same disclosure requirements as publicly traded stocks and bonds. “It’s imperative investors do their own due diligence or stay away,” he said.
The taxi investors are not happy about their losses and have sued in Brooklyn state court, alleging their green-cab broker and his partners cheated them out of $8 million by selling taxi permits “in the manner of a Ponzi scheme.” They also allege the defendants funneled millions of dollars’ worth of taxi money into Platinum Partners, a large hedge fund that federal prosecutors likened to a Ponzi scheme after it collapsed last year.
Billed as a slam dunk
The Fallout From Madoff’s Fraud Includes an Ironic Twist for Investorsby
Courts say investing from offshore keeps the trustee away
Rulings make it easier for ‘people to benefit from cheating’
The Fallout From Madoff’s Fraud Includes an Ironic Twist for Investors – Bloomberg
The legal fallout from Bernard Madoff’s epic fraud includes an ironic twist: a road map for investors wanting to hold on to profits that seem too good to be true.
In the eight years since Madoff’s arrest, a series of court decisions have favored investors who profited from the scam, damping the hopes of trustee Irving Picard to return more to Madoff’s victims who lost $17.5 billion in principal, legal experts say. At the core of the disputes is how far Picard can go to make the Ponzi scheme’s investors whole.
“The rulings all lower the risk associated with investing in something that might be a Ponzi scheme,” said Anthony Casey, a University of Chicago law school professor. “Some of these were inevitable conclusions of law. The courts weren’t necessarily being lenient to the big institutions. It just happens to help the wealthier investors.”
Picard and his team of New York-based lawyers have recovered about 65 cents on the dollar — more than anticipated after the collapse of the biggest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history. And while the trustee’s recovery efforts continue on multiple fronts, including suits against some of Madoff’s biggest investors, the rulings took billions of dollars off the table and make a 100 percent return seem impossible.