Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ex-Councilwoman and Admirer Are Found Guilty in Yonkers Case

A former Yonkers councilwoman, Sandy Annabi, leaving the federal courthouse in Manhattan on Thursday, after she was convicted on corruption charges.
John Marshall Mantel for The New York Times
A former Yonkers councilwoman, Sandy Annabi, leaving the federal courthouse in Manhattan on Thursday, after she was convicted on corruption charges.

Sandy Annabi, a former councilwoman, was found guilty of accepting about $195,000 in secret payments from Zehy Jereis, a political operative.

Espada’s ‘tax-$$’ party time

Used tax $$: aide

Last Updated: 9:18 AM, March 29, 2012

Posted: 12:35 AM, March 29, 2012

“Happy birthday, my sweetheart” — and screw you, Mr. Taxpayer!

Former state Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. got all teary-eyed yesterday as his former girl Friday told jurors how he looted a nonprofit charity’s coffers to pay for a big birthday bash and presents for his wife in 2008.

Asked how she felt about Espada, ex-secretary Norma Ortiz said, “Like he was my brother.”

At that, Espada’s eyes welled and he put his face in his hands in Brooklyn federal court.

Despite her still-warm feelings, Ortiz, 67, provided damning testimony against her former boss, including revelations that on April 17, 2008, Espada’s wife, Connie, received a $522.95 spa-treatment gift card paid with the American Express card of Soundview Health Care Network, the Espada-controlled and taxpayer-funded nonprofit.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Pedro Espada Jr. (above) funded his wife’s party using taxpayer funds, his former aide testified.
Gregory P. Mango

Pedro Espada Jr. (above) funded his wife’s party using taxpayer funds, his former aide testified.

On the card, the former Senate majority leader lovingly wrote, “Happy birthday, my sweetheart. Love you always and forever.”

“I made the [spa] reservation,” Ortiz said.

“The senator asked me. I wouldn’t make it up on my own to send her to the spa.”

Espada and his son, Pedro Gautier Espada, are on trial for allegedly embezzling more than $500,000 from the clinic and a cleaning company they controlled.

Espada also ran up a $959.32 charge at Zales jewelers to pay for a silver watch as a present for Connie, charged another $1,979 for the birthday party that night at the Harbor Restaurant on City Island, and ordered a dozen peach-colored roses in a vase delivered to the Espada residence that morning at a cost of $76.

All those charges and more were made on Soundview’s AmEx card or with a check from Soundview, Ortiz testified.

Ortiz’s testimony bolstered prosecutors’ claims that Espada routinely embezzled money from the government-supported Soundview health charity to fund his and his family’s lifestyle.

Ortiz, testifying with a promise of immunity, admitted closing down the HIV clinic operated by Soundview on Election Day so that workers could act as poll-watchers for Espada’s campaign, and said that she did other campaign work for him on Soundview’s time.

Asked if she has pictures of Espada in her home, Ortiz wept as she said yes. Espada then slammed his hand down on the defense table.

As he stalked out of court, Espada fumed: “These people are morally decrepit!

“To brutalize a woman like that is beyond the pale.”

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Trayvon Martin Case: Police Video Shows No Blood, Bruises On George Zimmerman After Killing

Posted: 03/28/2012 9:23 pm Updated: 03/28/2012 10:02 pm

Newly released video of George Zimmerman at the Sanford Police Department the night he shot Trayvon Martin to death show the neighborhood watch volunteer without blood on his clothing or bruises on his face or head. His clean-shaven picture seems to contrast with the violent beating he told police he endured at the hands of Martin, 17, who Zimmerman said attacked him from behind.

The video, obtained by ABC News, appears inconsistent with Zimmerman’s recently leaked statement to police that he was in a death struggle with Martin before Zimmerman shot him in the chest in self-defense. Zimmerman told investigators that Martin jumped him from behind, punched him in the nose and pounded his head into a sidewalk, according to a police report first described by the Orlando Sentinal.

In the video, apparently taken by surveillance cameras outside and inside the police station, Zimmerman’s face and head are clearly visible and show no injuries consistent with the kind of fight Zimmerman's statement described.

Zimmerman, 28, the neighborhood watch captain at the Retreat at Twin Lakes gated community, is seen arriving in a police cruiser. He gets out of the car with his hands cuffed behind his back. Zimmerman is clean-shaven and appears several pounds lighter than in ubiquitous mug shot of him taken in 2005 when he was arrested on a charge of assaulting a police officer.

The video’s release comes amid shifting public perception of Martin, whose baby-faced image has become the face of the so-called “Trayvon Martin movement for Justice” that has captivated much of the U.S. Earlier this week, school officials in Miami released Martin’s disciplinary record, showing that he had been on a 10-day suspension when he was killed. According to reports, school officials found an empty baggy that contained marijuana residue. Meanwhile, some websites have replaced widely circulated family photos of Martin with pictures of him sporting removable gold tooth caps. Other websites have picked seemingly random photos of other youth in questionable or offensive poses and claimed that they are of Martin.

Martin’s family has called the counter-offensive an assault on Martin’s character and a “smear campaign.” Tracy Martin, the teen's father, told HuffPost earlier this week, “I refuse to let them assassinate my son’s character." He added: "The question should not be why was he suspended from school, it should be why did this man kill him in cold blood."

Zimmerman shot Martin to death the night of Feb. 26. Martin had been walking toward his father's girlfriend's house shortly after 7 p.m. and Zimmerman spotted him and called 911 to report a "suspicious" person. Zimmerman followed Martin, disregarding a police dispatcher who told him "we don't need you to do that." Police said early in the investigation that Martin noticed he was being followed, asked Zimmerman what he wanted, and a physical encounter ensued.

In the recently released police reports, Zimmerman told police he got out of his vehicle to follow Martin, but lost sight of him. As he walked back to his vehicle, Martin attacked him from behind, punched him in the nose, knocked him down and began smashing the back of his head into the sidewalk, police reports say Zimmerman told officers. During the tussle, Zimmerman pulled the 9 mm handgun he carried and shot Martin in the chest, he told police.

Lawyers for the Martin family said Zimmerman was the aggressor. The lawyers said Martin's girlfriend in Miami was on the phone with him just moments before he was killed. The girlfriend has told ABC News and family lawyers that Martin told her someone was following him. She said she heard someone ask Martin something, then what sounded like someone pushing him. The phone sounded like it was then knocked to the ground and went dead, the girl said.

The funeral director who handled Martin's funeral said there were no cuts or bruises on the teen's hands that would suggest a violent struggle or fight.

“I didn’t see any evidence he had been fighting anybody,” Richard Kurtz of Roy Mizell and Kurtz Funeral Home in Fort Lauderdale, told television talk show host Nancy Grace.

Police took Zimmerman into custody after they arrived. He was questioned and released later that night. He remains free as the Seminole County State Attorney's Office reviews the police investigation and decides whether to file charges. The U.S. Justice Department also is investigatin

Feds on the at-tax vs. Pedro

Cite suspicious checks

Last Updated: 1:40 AM, March 28, 2012

Posted: 1:09 AM, March 28, 2012

April 15 is Tax Day for most people — but for former state Sen. Pedro Espada Jr., and his son, it was cook-the-books day, federal prosecutors tried to show yesterday.

Two accountants testified at the Espadas’ embezzlement trial, one detailing a slew of checks cut by their cleaning company, CEDC. They were ostensibly for tax-deductible business expenses — but prosecutors say they were for personal enrichment.

Among them were a $2,229 check for a purported “scholarship” that was actually college tuition for an Espada relative; a $2,467 check for a “staff dinner” attended by Espada relatives; a $4,490 check for purported “legal expenses” that actually paid for the Espada family’s Puerto Rico vacation; and a $400 check, marked for part-time clerical work, that actually paid a videographer for an Espada grandchild’s birthday, prosecutors charge.

Two other checks really took the cake.

One was for $400 in 2007, written to a company called Profusion Management.

“Were you aware that Profusion Management was a credit-counseling company, and the senator went there to get credit counseling?” asked prosecutor Todd Kaminsky in Brooklyn federal court.

“No,” answered Winnie Wong, the accountant who helped prepare CEDC’s federal tax returns with information provided by the son, Pedro Gautier Espada.

Another accountant, Marc Koppleman, testified that on tax-filing day, 2010, Pedro Gautier Espada e-mailed him, saying that he “just wanted to make sure you filed my extension and I’m not going to jail.”

“Confirmed! No jail time,” Koppelman told Espada, relating the story to jurors who will decide whether his prediction holds.

Both Espadas are charged with looting the Soundview Health Care Network in The Bronx and the cleaning company of more than $500,000 by having them pay for personal expenses disguised as business expenses.

Read more:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

CPA throws the books at Espadas


Last Updated: 1:44 AM, March 27, 2012

Posted: 12:54 AM, March 27, 2012

There’s no accounting for these alleged crooks.

Pedro Gautier Espada called the shots on how to categorize suspicious expenses at the Bronx janitorial company that he and his father, former state Sen. Pedro Espada Jr., are accused of looting, an accountant yesterday testified at their embezzlement trial.

Espada the elder was particularly eager in 2007 to maximize the amount of tax exemptions that the for-profit Community Expansion Development Corp. could take, CPA Marc Koppelman said in Brooklyn federal court.

An audit in 2002 had resulted in denial of all of the firm’s business exemptions, Koppelman explained, adding that Espada “asked if there was anything we could do to lower his tax liability.”

Spencer Burnett / Gregory P. Mango
Pedro Gautier Espada (left) and his father, Pedro Espada Jr.

CEDC paid no taxes in 2006 after claiming $327,328 in income and $328,653 in business expenses, said Koppelman, whose testimony was expected to bolster prosecutors’ claims the Espadas used the CEDC like a piggy bank to fund a cushy lifestyle, listing personal purchases as tax-deductible business expenses.

Koppelman said the information that he used to prepare the CEDC’s allegedly dodgy tax returns was provided by the company’s boss — Pedro Gautier Espada.

“I told him I needed him to go through the ledger and identify the nature of every business expense,” Koppelman recalled.

He said he told the younger Espada in July 2007 to mark which CEDC disbursements were business expenses and which were personal and “explained to [him] that personal items would not be deducted.”

One expense flagged by prosecutors is a $500 check from July 2006 to Evesha Films and Audio. Koppelman said Pedro Gautier Espada marked that as a business expense, listing it under “professional fees.”

It was actually for a video of Pedro Espada Jr.’s grandchild’s birthday party, Evesha boss Evelyn Lopez testified last week.

Lopez also recalled being “outraged” when Pedro Espada Jr. asked her to bill a 2005 birthday party for one of his grandkids as “children’s community outreach” so he could avoid paying for the DVDs personally. She said she did get paid later — by the CEDC.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The banned Doonesbury Abortion Cartoon

The banned Doonesbury Abortion Cartoon: Part 6. (image: Universal Uclick)
The banned Doonesbury Abortion Cartoon: Part 6. (image: Universal Uclick)

The Banned Doonesbury Abortion Cartoon:
Part 6 (The Finale)

Garry Trudeau, Reader Supported News

24 March 12

As we reported back on March 12, Garry Trudeau has done it again. The intrepid comic strip author has ventured into forbidden political territory once more, and is banned by many publications again. Here is Part 6 of the banned Doonesbury Abortion Cartoon. -- ma/RSN

Doonesbury's banned abortion series: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6

Geraldo Rivera’s son: I’m ‘ashamed’ of my father’s remarks about Trayvon Martin and his hoodie

Rivera created a firestorm earlier this week when he argued the hoodie the unarmed teen chose to wear when he was killed in Florida was as much to blame for his death as the man that shot him

 Fox News Channel commentator Geraldo Rivera has created a firestorm over his comments about Trayvon Martin.

Richard Drew/AP

Fox News Channel commentator Geraldo Rivera has created a firestorm over his comments about Trayvon Martin.

What do you think about Rivera's comments about Trayvon and his hoodie?

I agree with him. The man has a point.
I disagree. His comments are outrageous.
I'm not sure.


Facebook photo of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin

Even Geraldo Rivera's son is disappointed in his father's controversial remarks about Trayvon Martin.

"My own son just wrote to say he's ashamed of my position," the Fox News contributor tweeted on Friday.

Rivera created a firestorm earlier this week when he argued the hoodie the unarmed teen chose to wear when he was killed in Florida was as much to blame for his death as the man that shot him.

Despite his own family's harsh criticism, Rivera refused to budge on his position, adding on Twitter "Still I feel parents must do whatever they can to keep their kids safe."

Rivera elaborated on his 32-year-old son's shame to Politico.

"Gabriel broke my heart…He just told me for the first time in his life he's ashamed," he told the political website, adding his son believed he had "gone viral for all the wrong reasons."

Rivera said he wrote Gabriel back and tried to explain his position that "every hoodie should come with a warning like cigarettes, 'caution wearing this could get you killed.'"

Martin, 17, was shot and killed Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla. He was returning home from a trip to a convenience store when neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman started following the teen, telling police dispatchers that he looked suspicious.



Zimmerman claimed he fired in self-defense after Martin jumped him. He has not been charged and has kept out of the public eye since the incident.

Rivera declared on Fox & Friends that he'd bet money that "if didn't have that hoodie on, that nutty neighborhood watch guy wouldn't have responded in that violent and aggressive way."

He added he has previously warned his own children against wandering around the streets wearing hoodies, "particularly a dark-skinned kid like my son Cruz."

He later argued in a post on Fox News Latino, "If you dress like a hoodlum eventually some schmuck is going to take you at your word."

The television personality even took a shot a President Obama, who said Friday the nation needs to do some "soul searching" over the tragic shooting, which has sparked nationwide furor over race and justice. The commander-in-chief said "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."

Rivera tweeted that Obama should also add that he "would never let his son walk around DC in a hoodie."

Read more:

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Fox's Rivera: Fla. teen's hoodie had role in death

By David Bauder

NEW YORK (AP) - Fox News Channel commentator Geraldo Rivera said Friday that the hoodie an unarmed black teenager wore when he was killed in Florida is as much responsible for his death as the man who shot him.

The veteran TV personality, speaking on "Fox & Friends," waded in with an opinion on the shooting of Trayvon Martin, a story that has attracted national attention over the past month. He later acknowledged that his comments were "politically incorrect."

People wearing hooded sweatshirts are often going to be perceived as a menace, Rivera said.

"I'll bet you money that if he didn't have that hoodie on, that nutty neighborhood watch guy wouldn't have responded in that violent and aggressive way," Rivera said.

The unarmed 17-year-old Martin was killed Feb. 26 in Sanford. He was wearing a hoodie and returning from a trip to a convenience store when neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman started following him, telling police dispatchers he looked suspicious. Zimmerman hasn't been charged and says he shot Martin in self-defense.

The case brought hundreds of people together in New York with Martin's parents for a protest march this week. The BET television network said it would air a special, "Shoot First: The Tragedy of Trayvon Martin," on Monday.

Of Martin, Rivera said, "God bless him, he was an innocent kid, a wonderful kid." But he said the case should be a warning to parents to watch what their children should wear.

"If you dress like a hoodlum eventually some schmuck is going to take you at your word," he wrote in a commentary posted Friday on the website Fox News Latino.

Hundreds of people had posted messages on Rivera's Facebook page by Friday afternoon, the overwhelming majority of them negative about Rivera's comments.

Rivera compared his own comments to those of fellow Fox analyst Juan Williams, who was fired by National Public Radio in 2010 for saying on Fox that he gets nervous when he sees people on a plane with clothing that identifies them as Muslim.

"No one black, brown or white can honestly tell me that seeing a kid of color with a hood pulled over his head doesn't generate a certain reaction - sometimes scorn, often menace," Rivera wrote in his commentary.

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Documents Show NYPD Infiltrated Liberal Groups

A New York Police Department car, 08/11/11. (photo:
A New York Police Department car, 08/11/11. (photo:

23 March 12

ndercover NYPD officers attended meetings of liberal political organizations and kept intelligence files on activists who planned protests around the country, according to interviews and documents that show how police have used counterterrorism tactics to monitor even lawful activities.

The infiltration echoes the tactics the NYPD used in the run-up to New York's 2004 Republican National Convention, when police monitored church groups, anti-war organizations and environmental advocates nationwide. That effort was revealed by The New York Times in 2007 and in an ongoing federal civil rights lawsuit over how the NYPD treated convention protesters.

Police said the pre-convention spying was necessary to prepare for the huge, raucous crowds that were headed to the city. But documents obtained by The Associated Press show that the police department's intelligence unit continued to keep close watch on political groups in 2008, long after the convention had passed.

In April 2008, an undercover NYPD officer traveled to New Orleans to attend the People's Summit, a gathering of liberal groups organized around their shared opposition to U.S. economic policy and the effect of trade agreements between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

When the undercover effort was summarized for supervisors, it identified groups opposed to U.S. immigration policy, labor laws and racial profiling. Two activists - Jordan Flaherty, a journalist, and Marisa Franco, a labor organizer for housekeepers and nannies - were mentioned by name in one of the police intelligence reports obtained by the AP.

"One workshop was led by Jordan Flaherty, former member of the International Solidarity Movement Chapter in New York City," officers wrote in an April 25, 2008, memo to David Cohen, the NYPD's top intelligence officer. "Mr. Flaherty is an editor and journalist of the Left Turn Magazine and was one of the main organizers of the conference. Mr. Flaherty held a discussion calling for the increase of the divestment campaign of Israel and mentioned two events related to Palestine."

The document is available here:

The document provides the latest example of how, in the name of fighting terrorism, law enforcement agencies around the country have scrutinized groups that legally oppose government policies. The FBI, for instance, has collected information on anti-war demonstrators. The Maryland state police infiltrated meetings of anti-death penalty groups. Missouri counterterrorism analysts suggested that support for Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, might indicate support for violent militias - an assertion for which state officials later apologized. And Texas officials urged authorities to monitor lobbying efforts by pro Muslim-groups.

Police have good reason to want to know what to expect when protesters take to the streets. Many big cities, such as Seattle in 1999, Cincinnati in 2001 and Toledo in 2005, have seen protests turned into violent, destructive riots. Intelligence from undercover officers gives police an idea of what to expect and lets them plan accordingly.

"There was no political surveillance," Cohen testified in the ongoing lawsuit over NYPD's handling of protesters at the Republican convention. "This was a program designed to determine in advance the likelihood of unlawful activity or acts of violence."

The result of those efforts, however, was that people and organizations can be cataloged in police files for discussing political topics or advocating even legal protests, not violence or criminal activity.

By contrast, at the height of the Occupy Wall Street protests and in related protests in other cities, officials at the U.S. Homeland Security Department repeatedly urged authorities not to produce intelligence reports based simply on protest activities.

"Occupy Wall Street-type protesters mostly are engaged in constitutionally protected activity," department officials wrote in documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the websites Truthout and Gawker. "We maintain our longstanding position that DHS should not report on activities when the basis for reporting is political speech."

At the NYPD, the monitoring was carried out by the Intelligence Division, a squad that operates with nearly no outside oversight and is so secretive that police said even its organizational chart is too sensitive to publish. The division has been the subject of a series of Associated Press articles that illustrated how the NYPD monitored Muslim neighborhoods, catalogued people who prayed at mosques and eavesdropped on sermons.

The AP left messages with Cohen and two NYPD press officers last week seeking comment about the undercover operation in New Orleans. They did not respond.

In an interview Thursday evening with the television station NY1, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said that everything his department has done is legal. He said the NYPD was "sort of under attack" by the AP.

The NYPD has defended its efforts, saying the threat of terrorism means officers cannot wait to open an investigation until a crime is committed. Under rules governing NYPD investigations, officers are allowed to go anywhere the public can go and can prepare reports for "operational planning."

Though the NYPD's infiltration of political groups before the 2004 convention generated some controversy and has become an element in a lawsuit over the arrest, fingerprinting and detention of protesters, the surveillance itself has not been challenged in court.

Flaherty, who also writes for The Huffington Post, said he was not an organizer of the summit, as police wrote in the NYPD report. He said the event described by police actually was a film festival in New Orleans that same week, suggesting that the undercover officer's duties were more widespread than described in the report.

Flaherty said he recalls introducing a film about Palestinians but spoke only briefly and does not understand why that landed him a reference in police files.

"The only threat was the threat of ideas," he said. "I think this idea of secret police following you around is terrifying. It really has an effect of spreading fear and squashing dissent."

Before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, infiltrating political groups was one of the most tightly controlled powers the NYPD could use. Such investigations were restricted by a longstanding court order in a lawsuit over the NYPD's spying on protest groups in the 1960s.

After the attacks, Cohen told a federal judge that, to keep the city safe, police must be allowed to open investigations before there's evidence of a crime. A federal judge agreed and relaxed the rules.

Since then, police have monitored not only suspected terrorists but also entire Muslim neighborhoods, mosques, restaurants and law-abiding protesters.

Keeping tabs on planned demonstrations is a key function of Cohen's division. Investigators with his Cyber Intelligence Unit monitor websites of activist groups, and undercover officers put themselves on email distribution lists for upcoming events. Plainclothes officers collect fliers on public demonstrations. Officers and informants infiltrate the groups and attend rallies, parades and marches.

Intelligence analysts take all this information and distill it into summaries for the police commissioner's daily briefing, documents show.

The April 2008 memo offers an unusually candid view of how political monitoring fit into the NYPD's larger, post-9/11 intelligence mission. As the AP has reported previously, Cohen's unit has transformed the NYPD into one of the most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies in the United States, one that infiltrated Muslim student groups, monitored their websites and used informants as listening posts inside mosques.

Along with the political monitoring, the document describes plans to use informants to monitor mosques for conversations about the imminent verdict in the trial of three NYPD officers charged in the 2006 shooting death of Sean Bell, an unarmed man who died in a hail of gunfire. Police were worried about how the black community, particularly the New Black Panther Party, would respond to the verdict, according to this and other documents obtained by the AP.

The document also contained details of a whitewater rafting trip that an undercover officer attended with Muslim students from City College New York.

"The group prayed at least four times a day, and much of the conversation was spent discussing Islam and was religious in nature," the report reads.

Eugene Puryear, 26, an activist who attended the New Orleans summit, said he was not surprised to learn that police were monitoring it. He said it was entirely peaceful, a way to connect community organizers around the issues of racism and the rights of the poor. But he described it as a challenge to corporate power and said the NYPD probably felt threatened by it.

"From their perspective, they need to spy on peaceful groups so they're not effective at putting out their peaceful message," he said. "They are threatened by anything challenging the status quo."

The banned Doonesbury Abortion Cartoon

The banned Doonesbury Abortion Cartoon: Part 5. (image: Universal Uclick)
The banned Doonesbury Abortion Cartoon: Part 5. (image: Universal Uclick)

The Banned Doonesbury Abortion Cartoon: Part 5

By Garry Trudeau, Reader Supported News

23 March 12

As we reported back on March 12, Garry Trudeau has done it again. The intrepid comic strip author has ventured into forbidden political territory once more, and is banned by many publications again. Here is Part 5 of the banned Doonesbury Abortion Cartoon. -- ma/RSN

Doonesbury's banned abortion series: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5

Friday, March 23, 2012

The New York Times

Thomas Kaplan writes: “It is a tradition of the annual spring conference for Hispanic legislators in the capital: a union-sponsored breakfast where lawmakers rub shoulders with labor leaders, whose endorsements are coveted come election season. But this Saturday, there will be no breakfast. Irate at lawmakers for voting last week to reduce pension benefits for new public workers, several of New York State’s most prominent unions are planning to boycott the event, Somos el Futuro, and, in at least one case, to pull donations that help finance it. The situation over the conference, a must-attend event for many in New York politics, is highlighting the tensions between organized labor and Albany lawmakers that have arisen since the vote. And it has brought backers of the pension measure to rally for the lawmakers who supported it: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pledged on Thursday to bail out the conference.”

Sam Roberts profiles longtime mayoral photographer Ed Reed.

Espada’s kid-party vid ‘$cam’

Last Updated: 12:56 AM, March 23, 2012

Pedro Espada Jr. pressured a videographer to call his grandson’s birthday party a “children’s community outreach” event to duck paying for the DVDs from his own pocket, a witness testified yesterday.

“I was outraged,” Evelyn Lopez said in Brooklyn federal court during the corruption trial for the disgraced ex-state Senate leader and his son.

Lopez shot video of the boy’s first birthday party at Espada’s Mamaroneck home in April 2007 but had a hard time getting paid, she said.

So she sent an invoice to Norma Ortiz, Espada’s top assistant, who replied in an e-mail on the Bronx pol’s behalf that the invoice needed to be changed so that the lavish bash was called a “children’s community outreach” event.

But Lopez refused.

“The invoice is correct. The event was in a private home, and it was for Mr. Espada’s grandson’s 1st birthday,” Lopez replied in an e-mail. “So, as you can see I cannot change the invoice. (It would be dishonest.)”

Lopez went on to say in the e-mail that she gave Espada a 50 percent discount — charging him only $400.

She got a check a day later from Community Expansion Development Corp., the cleaning company controlled by the Espadas that had a lucrative contract with Espada’s Soundview Healthcare Network

Lopez also took video of a 2006 birthday party for one of Espada’s grandchildren and was paid $500 with a check from CEDC, she said.

The testimony came as federal prosecutors continued to build their case that Espada and his son, Pedro Gautier Espada, used their health-care network as a personal piggy bank.

They allegedly funneled money from Soundview — which ran a clinic for the poor in The Bronx — through CEDC to fund a lavish lifestyle of luxury cars, pricey restaurant dinners and spa treatments.

Sixteen witnesses testified yesterday, many saying they got checks from CEDC for such personal expenses as private-school tuition payments, office space for Espada’s campaign — and even for work on a ghostwritten autobiography.

Federal prosecutors claim Espada and his son looted more than $500,000 from Soundview, a nonprofit that is supposed to use its government-supported budget to care for poor Bronx residents.

Councilman Jumaane Williams spoke last month at a rally to change the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy.
Victor Blue for The New York Times

Councilman Jumaane Williams spoke last month at a rally to change the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy.

A group of Black and Latino lawmakers, fed up over the frequency with which New York City police officers are stopping and frisking minority men, are seeking laws to curb the practice.

Espada paid ghostwriter 8G of embezzled funds to write his memoir

Donald McLaren tells court he interviewed Espada in Soundview clinic in 2008

  Donald McLaren, of Queens, a ghost writer for Pedro Espada, outside Brooklyn Federal Court on March 22nd, 2012, where he testified at the former State Senator's corruption trial.

Jesse A. Ward for New York Daily News

Donald McLaren outside court.

Bryan Pace for New York Daily News

Former State Sen. Pedro Espada Jr.

Former state Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. paid a ghostwriter $8,000 to pen his memoirs with funds embezzled through a cleaning company owned by his nonprofit charity.

The writer, Donald McLaren, testified in Brooklyn Federal Court Thursday that Espada had answered an ad for his services and sat for about 20 hours of interviews in the conference room of Espada's Soundview health clinic in 2008.

Espada sent the writer two checks written from a cleaning company that was wholly owned by the clinic.

But the project fizzled before McLaren wrote a word.

“He said he was going to law school, but I think that was just a nice story,” McLaren said outside court.

Espada and his son, Pedro Gautier Espada, are charged with embezzling more than $500,000 from Soundview and the cleaning company, CEDC, to pay for personal expenses.

Read more:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Espada scammed higher salary: clinic lawyer

Pedro Espada Jr., who is facing corruption charges alongside  his son Pedro Gautier

Jesse Ward for New York Daily News

Jesse Ward for New York Daily News

At the corruption trial against former State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. and his son Pedro Gautier, government evidence photos show petting zoo animals allegedly paid for using a $500 check from CEDC, a janitorial company controlled by the Espadas.

PEDRO ESPADA, JR. hoodwinked the general counsel of his Soundview health clinic into believing he had reduced his salary by nearly $60,000 in response to concerns by federal regulators.

After Espada was elected to the state Senate in 2008, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration suggested that his salary should be cut since he would no longer be working full-time at the non-profit clinic.

In the ongoing embezzling and tax fraud trial of Espada and his son Pedro Gautier, the clinic’s lawyer Alex Fear testified in Brooklyn Federal Court on Thursday that Espada directed him to draft a letter stating that the senator’s salary had been lowered from $246,000 to $168,000.

But prosecutors say Espada had raised his salary three weeks earlier so the pay cut actually wasn’t a cut at all.

Fear said he would never have sent the letter to HRSA had he known the information was false. He was fired last year.

Espada and his son Pedro Gautier are charged with embezzling more than $500,000 from the non-profits coffers to fund their lavish lifestyle.

Caroline Buckler, a Bronx caterer, testified that she cooked up a Puerto Rican dishes, salads and a strawberry shortcake for a birthday party for Espada’s mother, and a giant Barney the dinosaur cake for his grandaughter’s birthday — paid for by a janitorial company CEDC, which was controlled by the Espadas.

“I remember I had to buy different food colorings, purple and green (for Barney),” Buckler said.

The owner of a Bronx equestrian company also testified that Espada paid her with a $500 check from CEDC for petting zoo animals she provided for his granddaughter’s party.

Read more:

How Espada gave up nada

Last Updated: 4:43 AM, March 22, 2012

Posted: 1:28 AM, March 22, 2012

Pedro Espada Jr. found a clever way to avoid suffering a pay cut required by federal regulators of his Bronx nonprofit firm, a witness testified yesterday at the former state senator’s corruption trial.

The regulators told Espada when he was about to be promoted to state Senate majority leader that his added responsibilities in Albany would take him away from his work at the Soundview Healthcare Network. So his Soundview salary would have to be cut by 25 percent, they said.

But Espada didn’t lose money, because Soundview, which he controlled, gave him a steep pay hike just before the pay cut mandated by the regulators, Alexander Fear, ex-general counsel for Soundview Healthcare Network, told jurors.

At court yesterday.

Fear testified in Brooklyn federal court that the salary shuffle began Dec. 17, 2008, when Soundview’s board voted Espada a $61,680 pay increase — boosting his salary to $246,750.

A month later, Fear said, Soundview’s board lopped off that pay hike by an almost equal amount. The maneuver left Espada’s wallet no lighter than it had been.

In court, a prosecutor showed Fear the two Soundview documents that authorized the pay hike and cut. The documents were signed by Soundview board member John Feliciano.

“Were you aware that John Feliciano, the man who signed these two documents, was Espada’s uncle?” the prosecutor asked.

Fear answered, “No I was not.”

Prosecutors claim that even as he took a pay cut on paper — and filed legal documents stating he did so — Espada actually kept collecting the higher salary of $246,750.

He and son Pedro Gautier Espada are accused of looting government-funded Soundview and a cleaning company they controlled of more than $500,000 to fund a lavish lifestyle.

Also yesterday, a caterer testified she provided food at a June 2006 birthday party for Espada’s grandson in exchange for a $575 check from CEDC, the cleaning company.

“The people that came to pick [the food] up, they told me they were from the Soundview Health Center,” said caterer Carolyn Buckler.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Food Police? Mayor Bloomberg Bans Food Donations to Homeless Shelters

Michael Bloomberg
Bloomberg's Net Worth $22 Billions

Apparently going without is more nutritious than having food that is not nutritionally perfect. At least in Michael Bloomberg's eyes it is. I will admit I will savor chips, cocktail weenies and sugary punches when I wandered the streets as I lacked cooking facilities to make proper food. I also dumpster dived to supplement my intake as I found those food choices lacking for the carbo and protein burning rigors of sleeping outdoors and carrying everything I owned on my back. Homeless and hungry tip-Trader Joe's has awesome noms from the dumpster.

The Bloomberg administration is now taking the term “food police” to new depths, blocking food donations to all government-run facilities that serve the city’s homeless.

In conjunction with a mayoral task force and the Health Department, the Department of Homeless Services recently started enforcing new nutritional rules for food served at city shelters. Since DHS can’t assess the nutritional content of donated food, shelters have to turn away good Samaritans...

...They’ve brought freshly cooked, nutrient-rich surplus foods from synagogue events to homeless facilities in the neighborhood. (Disclosure: I know the food is so tasty because I’ve eaten it — I’m an OZ member.) The practice of donating such surplus food to homeless shelters is common among houses of worship in the city.

I wonder how many Jewish Grandmothers will wake up today to find out what they have fed their families for generations is too unhealthy to feed starving people?

As I pointed out in an unrelated comment earlier, follow the money. There has to be a more plausible reason for this cutting off food resources from the poor. Are they going to then claim the shelters must be closed because they can no longer feed them? Will they substitute variety with oatmeal three times a day? It is healthy, but exceedingly bland thus reducing the homeless from wanting to dine there. Are they hoping that the homeless will now go to restaurants in the city to purchase food?

I know of very few homeless that care if their food has too much fat, salt, calories or if they are eating the pyramids proportional values every day. They just want enough food to keep away the shakes from the lack of calories in their system.

This is where the homeless turn for a meal if they have a couple of bucks in their pocket and they need food:

Junk Food

They can't cook anything so almost everything else is out. And if denying food donations negatively impact shelters they will turn away people that do need help.

What this boils down to is criminalizing poverty.

Pedro’s board stiffs

Were his puppets: witness

Last Updated: 3:48 AM, March 21, 2012

Posted: 1:00 AM, March 21, 2012

Add “puppet master” to Pedro Espada Jr.’s many titles.

The former state Senate majority leader manipulated the board of directors of a Bronx nonprofit like a pro — changing official records, getting a huge boost in severance and permission to use a shady system for paying expenses, a former employee testified yesterday.

“He was like the puppet master?” asked Espada’s own defense lawyer, Susan Necheles, at the former Bronx pol’s embezzlement trial in Brooklyn federal court.

Prosecution witness Maria Cruz replied, “That’s correct — that’s what I’m saying.”

ON HOT SEAT: Pedro Espada enters Brooklyn federal court yesterday for his embezzlement trial.
NY Post: Spencer A. Burnett

Pedro Espada enters Brooklyn federal court yesterday for his embezzlement trial.

Cruz testified last week that Espada loaded the staff and board of his nonprofit Soundview Healthcare Network with family and friends — enabling him to allegedly loot the clinic of more than $500,000 to pay for lavish personal expenses such as sushi dinners and spa treatments.

Yesterday, the ex-Soundview personnel boss testified that Espada — who did not attend board meetings — would personally edit those meetings’ minutes afterward, before they were submitted to the federal government, Soundview’s main source of funds.

“What was said was taken down, and the meeting’s minutes were given to Pedro Espada for review, and he made whatever changes he thought, and then they were distributed,” Cruz testified.

She also testified that in 1989, Espada’s originally agreed-upon severance package called for him to be paid one month’s salary for each year worked at Soundview.

But by 2005, the board had voted to jack up that package, to one year’s salary for each year worked — up to a mind-boggling $7 million, just $2 million less than Soundview’s annual income.

Later, Cruz recounted an incident in which Soundview financial executive Ken Brennan was “upset” as he demanded that Espada’s secretary explain whether a $300 charge on the pol’s Soundview credit card was for a personal or business expense.

Afterward, Espada said, “I don’t know why he’s making such a fuss. I paid for my personal expenses on the card with accrued time,” Cruz recalled.

In other words, Cruz said, Soundview’s board allowed Espada to reimburse the charity for personal expenses on the card by forgoing accrued vacation time — not by paying back the cash.

Espada and his son Pedro Gautier Espada are on trial for allegedly embezzling from Soundview and another company between 2005 and 2009.

Meanwhile, Necheles suffered a second day of tongue-lashing from Judge Fredric Block, who repeatedly indicated he was frustrated by delays in her handling documents and exhibits.

“Let’s move on, c’mon!” Block barked.

[Pedro Espada] was like the puppet master?

— Defense lawyer Susan Necheles

That’s correct — that’s what I’m saying.

— Witness Maria Cruz (left), the former personnel director at Soundview Healthcare

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Pedro smokescreen

‘Don’t cloud my mind!’ judge snaps

Last Updated: 2:29 AM, March 20, 2012

Posted: 1:06 AM, March 20, 2012

They asked too many questions.

Pedro Espada Jr.’s defense lawyer desperately tried to damage a key witness against the Bronx politician yesterday — but the former exec for the Bronx health clinic that Espada is accused of ripping off held her ground and the strategy backfired.

Espada’s attorney made matters worse by infuriating the judge presiding over the ex-state senator’s embezzlement trial in Brooklyn federal court by repeatedly talking about documents that neither the jurist nor prosecutors had been provided copies of.

“Do you have any idea why I’m having such a difficult time with this trial?” Judge Frederic Block fumed to the lawyer, Susan Necheles.

STILL SMILING: Former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. leaves federal court in Brooklyn yesterday with his wife, Connie.
Gregory P. Mango
STILL SMILING: Former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. leaves federal court in Brooklyn yesterday with his wife, Connie.

“Are you intentionally trying to cloud my mind?” Block blasted, accusing Necheles of introducing a “distracting” amount of paperwork. “Don’t do that!”

Necheles had no better luck cross-examining the witness, Maria Cruz, who for years was head of personnel at Soundview Healthcare Network — the Bronx nonprofit group that Espada is accused of looting to the tune of $500,000 to fund his lavish lifestyle.

“You’re making this all up, aren’t you?” Necheles asked Cruz regarding her testimony from last week.

An unflappable Cruz calmly replied, “No, I’m not,” leaving Necheles to move on to another point.

Cruz, a key witness against her former boss, had testified last week about a scheme in which Soundview rented out conference rooms and other spaces to medical professionals, religious groups and others in buildings that Soundview controlled.

Instead of Soundview getting paid rent, those payments — for a decade — were made to Espada and his son Pedro Gautier Espada, and to a for-profit cleaning company called CEDC that the younger Espada controlled, prosecutors claim.

An indictment said the former Senate majority leader and his son stole more than $200,000 in rent payments from Soundview, which is a taxpayer-supported charity, from 2005 through 2009.

That money was allegedly used, along with other funds looted from Soundview, to pay for lobster and sushi dinners, birthday parties, spa treatments, cars and other perks that benefited the Espadas and their clan — not the poor people of The Bronx whom the charity was supposed to serve, prosecutors charge.

Under cross-examination by Necheles about this alleged scheme, Cruz freely admitted her own guilt in handling the cash from it and depositing it in banks for Espada’s use.

“I knew what I was doing was criminal,” said Cruz. “I collected rent [for the scheme] from before 2000.”

“I knew what I was doing was a crime, but I didn’t want to lose my job,” she said.

“Mr. Espada always said that it [the inquiry into his practices] was a witch hunt and that it was his company and that I wouldn’t get into trouble,” Cruz said.

Cruz testified that after she became aware of the federal criminal probe into Espada, she voluntarily presented herself to investigators.

“I thought to myself, ‘Let me go in and meet with them and see how I can help,’ ” Cruz answered Necheles.

Additional reporting by Mitchel Maddux