WHITE PLAINS WEEK ON THE BIG NEWS NOW ON THE INTERNET–WWW.WHITEPLAINSWEEK.COM

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PETER KATZ, JOHN BAILEY

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JIM BENEROFE

THE JANUARY 31 EDITION OF

WhitePlainsWeekkeysign

ON

THE PLANNING COMMISSIONER  REMOVAL

THE SHELDON SILVER REMOVAL

 WEATHER WORRY

SCHOOL BUDGET TO GO UP 12% IN 5 YEARS–15% MINIMUM TAX INCREASE

CITY SALES TAX $$$ ON TARGET TO MEET LAST YEAR’S RECEIPTS AT MIDYEAR COUNTY UP 3.2%

WESTMORELAND MULTI-USE ZONING THROWN OUT 

COMMON COUNCIL ADDRESSES MOLD PROBLEM

PLAYLAND OPERATOR PICK POSTPONED INDEFINITELY

NOW

AT

www.whiteplainsweek.com

 

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NATIONAL WEATHER FORECAST-CONTINUED COLD TODAY. THREATENING SUNDAY

Detailed Forecast

  • Today–Sunny and cold, with a high near 20. Wind chill values between -5 and 5. Blustery, with a northwest wind 17 to 23 mph, with gusts as high as 38 mph.
  • Tonight–Partly cloudy, with a low around 16. Wind chill values between 5 and 10. Northwest wind 7 to 14 mph.
  • Sunday–A slight chance of snow after 2pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 31. Wind chill values between 10 and 20. West wind 6 to 9 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
  • Sunday Night–Snow, mainly after 11pm. Low around 24. Wind chill values between 15 and 20. Light and variable wind becoming east 8 to 13 mph after midnight. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 3 to 5 inches possible.
  • Monday–Snow, freezing rain, and sleet before 1pm, then snow and sleet between 1pm and 4pm, then snow likely after 4pm. Temperature falling to around 16 by 5pm. Blustery, with a northeast wind 16 to 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. Little or no ice accumulation expected. New snow and sleet accumulation of 3 to 5 inches possible.
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EXCLUSIVE! WAS JET BLUE FLIGHT 94 REALLY IN DANGER?

WPCNR AVIATION AGE. Special to WPCNR By Peter Katz, Publisher of the monthly aviation safety magazine NTSB REPORTER and columnist for Plane & Pilot Magazine, January 30, 2015:

Recent media reports would have you believe that a JetBlue Airbus A320L airliner came perilously close to being knocked out of the sky in a mid-air collision while on approach to Westchester County Airport.

That’s not quite what happened, although there was an incident which is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration. This article is based, in part, on what I learned from listening to a recording of communications between the two pilot flightcrew of Flight 94 and FAA Air Traffic Control.

JetBlue Flight 94 was en route from Orlando International Airport in Florida to Westchester County Airport on Sunday, January 25, 2014. The twin-engine Airbus A320L had made a number of step-down descents as it got closer to its destination.

It had been routed over Long Island, then Long Island Sound, and was getting ready for a left turn to follow the Connecticut shoreline towards Westchester.

According to a recording of radio communications between the flight and a New York Approach air traffic controller, at 1:44:18 (hour, minutes, seconds in Eastern Standard Time), the controller radioed, “JetBlue 94, you with me?” At 1:44:29, the flight radioed, “JetBlue 94, [descending out of] 5-point-6 [5,600 feet] for four [thousand feet] [with airport information] Zulu.”

At 1:44:56, the controller instructed the flight to “turn left heading 220 [degrees] join the shoreline  Westbound.” The flight acknowledged the instruction, and at 1:345:31 the controller told the flight to “keep your speed up.”

At 1:46:00, the controller radioed, “JetBlue 94 descend and maintain 3,000 [feet],” followed at 1:47:16 by, “…you can reduce speed now to 180 [knots] and fly heading 220 short vector for sequence.”  The instruction was acknowledged.

Although it was a windy day, the visibility was good and there were numerous aircraft operating in the Westchester area, some in contact with air traffic control and others being operated under visual flight rules (VFR).

Radar and radio contact with air traffic control is required to operate within 5 miles of the Westchester Airport and throughout most of the New York City area, including when above 3,000 feet West, South and immediately East of the 5 mile restriction around Westchester.

Pilots flying VFR outside of that airspace do not have to be in contact with air traffic control, but their aircraft must have an operating transponder when within 30 miles of the New York City airspace so that they can be easily detected on radar.

At 1:48:01, the controller radioed Flight 94, “VFR traffic 11 o’clock 2 miles moving northbound. Indicating 2,900 [feet]. Type is unknown.” The flight responded, “Yeah, we’re looking – JetBlue 94.”

The controller then added, “JetBlue 94, if you like you can climb or descend.”  At 1:48:12, JetBlue 94 radioed, “we got ‘em in sight, JetBlue 94.” The controller responded for the flight to maintain visual contact and separation.

Less than a minute later, at 1:49:11, the flight radioed, “Ah tower, JetBlue 94 we had to respond to a RA [resolution advisory] and we do have the airport in sight.”

An “RA” [resolution advisory] is a computer-generated instruction from the traffic alerting and collision avoidance system (TCAS) required to be installed on every commercial airliner.

Using signals transmitted from the transponders on board other aircraft in the vicinity of where an airliner is flying, the TCAS equipment calculates whether another aircraft is on a course which would bring it too close for comfort.

When the TCAS predicts closure with another airplane, it selects the best maneuver to get away from the other aircraft and produces both visual and aural signals to tell the flightcrew what to do.

Pilots are required by Federal regulation to do what the TCAS says without question or hesitation.

According to some passengers on Flight 94, the aircraft made a sudden climb which they found to be very scary. The maneuver would have been the flightcrew’s response to a TCAS resolution advisory.

The fact that there was a resolution advisory means that the TCAS system worked as designed, and a mid-air collision was not possible as long as the flightcrew adhered to the resolution advisory.  

As part of its investigation, the FAA will review data including air traffic control radar images in an effort to determine just how close another aircraft came to Flight 94, whether the controller could have or should have seen a loss of separation developing, and whether there was ever a real threat to the safety of Flight 94.

At 1:48:16, the controller cleared Flight 94 to reduce speed to 160 knots and to descend to 2,000 feet.  She advised the flightcrew that their speed was compatible with the speed of traffic they were following to the airport, and were cleared for the visual approach to runway 34 at Westchester.

The captain of Flight 94 acknowledged, “Cleared for the visual [to runway] 34, JetBlue 94. More excitement than I needed today.”

 

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Dusting of Snow in Forecast

  • Tonight–Snow, mainly after midnight. Low around 28. South wind around 6 mph becoming west after midnight. Chance of precipitation is 80%. Total nighttime snow accumulation of less than one inch possible.
  • Friday–Snow, mainly before 9am. Temperature falling to around 27 by 5pm. Wind chill values between 15 and 25. Breezy, with a light west wind becoming northwest 15 to 20 mph in the morning. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.
  • Friday Night–Mostly clear, with a low around 9. Wind chill values between -10 and zero. Blustery, with a northwest wind 22 to 24 mph, with gusts as high as 38 mph.
  • Saturday–Sunny and cold, with a high near 18. Wind chill values between -10 and zero. Blustery, with a northwest wind 15 to 22 mph.
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THIS WEEK’S PEOPLE TO BE HEARD…. A RETELECAST OF THE DR. JILL HARKAVY-FRIEDMAN OF THE AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION

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John Bailey, The CitizeNetReporter, Peter Katz and Jim Benerofe explore the truths, myths, and signs that could mean a person is contemplating taking their own life on this important retelecast of their interview with Dr. Jill Harkavy-Friedman, Vice President of Research of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

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DR. JILL HARKAVY-FRIEDMAN

Director, Research, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

on

Signs of Suicidal Tendencies

How you can help a loved one.

Who is most at risk.

Where you can get clinical help.

on

PEOPLE TO BE HEARD

The Program Where People Who Have Something to Say Have Their Say.

ON

www.whiteplainscommunitymedia.org

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Assemblyman Buchwald: Sheldon Silver Must Go. Assemblywoman Paulin, too calls for Silver to resign Speaker Post. Seems He Will Be Replaced as Speaker

WPCNR ALBANY ROUNDS. From the Office of Assemblyman David Buchwald, 33rd Assembly District. January 27, 2015 UPDATED 3 P.M. E.S.T. UPDATED JANUARY 28, 2015:

After sentiment and support for Assemblyman Sheldon Silver waned in meetings of New York Assembly Democrats Monday and Tuesday, The New York Times and The Gannett Albany News Bureau report it is likely Mr. Silver will either step down from the speaker position or be voted out of it next Monday. Silver will keep his seat in the Assembly however.

White Plains Assemblypersons David Buchwald and Amy Paulin both issued statements calling for Silver to resign as speaker.

Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-Westchester) rejects any proposal that leaves Sheldon Silver as Speaker of the New York State Assembly. Below is Assemblyman Buchwald’s statement:
“In light of the serious charges made against the Speaker and his refusal to provide any substantive response to those charges, I believe it would be in the best interest of the people of New York for Speaker Silver to step down from his leadership position in the State Assembly. It is imperative that we immediately restore public confidence in this institution. Maintaining public ethics in government is a principle that we should never compromise, and I am confident that the citizens of Westchester County and New York State agree.”

In a related development Monday, syracuse.com reports that Assemblywoman Amy Paulin is one of 17 Assembly Democrats calling for Silver to step down from the House Speakership.

Syracuse.com quotes Ms. Paulin:

“It’s the only thing we have to keep this institution on an even keel. And that’s our priority,” said Paulin. “We will be calling on the speaker to step aside so there can be a transition.”

 

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WHITE PLAINS WEEK ON SNOW TONIGHT–CITY “NON-COMMUNICATION”–LCOR RETURNS AND WHO KNEW? THEY BUILD TRANSIT HUB DEVELOPMENTS?

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RELAX, LIE BACK BY THE FIRE IGNORE THE SNOW AND

ENJOY A WHITE PLAINS WEEK MARATHON!

Peter Katz, John Bailey and Jim Benerofe ON

The Useless, Unused, Misused City Emergency Notification System — For Political Use Only

Slipping and Sliding and No One Knew

The State of the Union, The State of  State, the State of the County and the State of the City- Sober Commentary

Interview with Cesar Andrade on the Opening of the new city Tennis Innovators Academy

Developments Around the Town

LCOR DOES TRAIN STATIONS, DIDN’T CHA KNOW?

And More

 

SEE IT ANYTIME  AND THE LAST 4 WEEKS OF THE COUNTY’S HOTTEST SHOW

on

www.whiteplainsweek.com

 

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U.S. Charges Members of Russian Federation of Setting Up Intelligence Op in NYC- Cold War Begins Again?

WPCNR FBI WIRE. From the Federal Bureau of Investigation. January 26, 2015:

Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States, Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, John S. Carlin, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, and Randall C. Coleman, the Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) for the Counterintelligence Division, announced charges today against EVGENY BURYAKOV, a/k/a “Zhenya,” IGOR SPORYSHEV, and VICTOR PODOBNYY in connection with BURYAKOV’s service as a covert intelligence agent on behalf of the Russian Federation (“Russia”) in New York City, without notifying the United States Attorney General of BURYAKOV’s status as an agent of Russia, as required by federal law.

BURYAKOV was placed under arrest earlier today in Bronx, New York, and is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn in Manhattan federal court later today. SPORYSHEV and PODOBNYY no longer reside in the United States and have not been arrested. By virtue of their prior positions in the United States on behalf of Russia, both of them were protected by diplomatic immunity from arrest and prosecution while in the United States.

Attorney General Eric Holder said: “These charges demonstrate our firm commitment to combating attempts by covert agents to illegally gather intelligence and recruit spies within the United States. We will use every tool at our disposal to identify and hold accountable foreign agents operating inside this country—no matter how deep their cover. I want to thank the dedicated men and women of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division and New York Field Office, the National Security Division’s Counterespionage Section, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for their skilled handling of this complex and highly sensitive matter.”

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Following our previous prosecution with the FBI of Russian spies, who were expelled from the United States in 2010 when their plan to infiltrate upper levels of U.S. business and government was revealed, the arrest of Evgeny Buryakov and the charges against him and his co-defendants make clear that—more than two decades after the presumptive end of the Cold War—Russian spies continue to seek to operate in our midst under cover of secrecy. Indeed, the presence of a Russian banker in New York would in itself hardly draw attention today, which is why these alleged spies may have thought Buryakov would blend in. What they could not do without drawing the attention of the FBI was engage in espionage. New York City may be more hospitable to Russian businessmen than during the Cold War, but my Office and the FBI remain vigilant to the illegal intelligence-gathering activities of other nations.”

Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin said: “The attempt by foreign nations to illegally gather economic and other intelligence information in the United States through covert agents is a direct threat to the national security of the United States, and it exemplifies why counterespionage is a top priority of the National Security Division. I want to thank the FBI’s New York Field Office and Counterintelligence Division as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for their continued effort to conduct these highly complex and sensitive counterespionage investigations and prosecutions, and for their continued close partnership with the National Security Division and the Counterespionage Section.”

FBI Assistant Director Randall Coleman said: “This investigation is one of many that highlight the determined and prolific efforts by foreign governments to target Americans for the purposes of collecting intelligence and stealing secrets. This case is especially egregious as it demonstrates the actions of a foreign intelligence service to integrate a covert intelligence agent into American society under the cover of an employee in the financial sector. Espionage is as pervasivetoday as it has even been, and FBI counterintelligence teams will continue to aggressively investigate and expose hostile foreign intelligence activities conducted on U.S. soil.”

According to the Complaint unsealed in Manhattan federal court today:

BURYAKOV worked in the United States as an agent of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, known as the “SVR.” BURYAKOV operated under “non-official cover,” meaning he entered and remained in the United States as a private citizen, posing as an employee in the Manhattan office of a Russian bank. SVR agents operating under such non-official cover—sometimes referred to as “NOCs”—typically are subject to less scrutiny by the host government, and, in many cases, are never identified as intelligence agents by the host government. As a result, a NOC is an extremely valuable intelligence asset for the SVR.

Federal law prohibits individuals from acting as agents of foreign governments within the United States without prior notification to the United States Attorney General. Department of Justice records indicate that BURYAKOV has never notified the United States Attorney General that he is, in fact, an agent of Russia.

SPORYSHEV and PODOBNYY are also SVR agents who worked in the United States to gather intelligence on behalf of Russia by posing as official representatives of Russia. From November 22, 2010, to November 21, 2014, SPORYSHEV served as a Trade Representative of the Russian Federation in New York. From December 13, 2012, to September 12, 2013, PODOBNYY served as an Attaché to the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations. Based on their official government postings on behalf of Russia, SPORYSHEV and PODOBNYY are exempt from notifying the United States Attorney General of the true nature of their work. However, that exemption does not permit them to conspire with, or aid and abet, BURYAKOV in his work as an unregistered agent of Russia operating within the United States.

The intelligence-gathering efforts of SPORYSHEV and PODOBNYY included, among other things, (i) attempting to recruit New York City residents as intelligence sources for Russia; (ii) tasking BURYAKOV to gather intelligence; and (iii) transmitting intelligence reports prepared by BURYAKOV back to SVR headquarters in Moscow. Specifically, during the course of the charged offenses, SPORYSHEV was responsible for relaying assignments from the SVR to BURYAKOV, and SPORYSHEV and PODOBNYY were responsible for analyzing and reporting back to the SVR about the fruits of BURYAKOV’s intelligence-gathering efforts.

The directives from the SVR to BURYAKOV, SPORYSHEV, and PODOBNYY, as well as to other covert SVR agents acting within the United States, included requests to gather intelligence on, among other subjects, potential United States sanctions against Russian banks and the United States’ efforts to develop alternative energy resources.

Clandestine Meetings and Communications

During the course of their work as covert SVR agents in the United States, BURYAKOV, SPORYSHEV, and PODOBNYY regularly met and communicated using clandestine methods and coded messages, in order to exchange intelligence-related information while shielding their associations with one another as SVR agents. These efforts were designed, among other things, to preserve their respective covers as an employee of a bank in Manhattan (BURYAKOV), a Trade Representative of the Russian Federation in New York (SPORYSHEV), and an Attaché to the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations (PODOBNYY). In particular, the defendants worked to safeguard BURYAKOV’s work as a “NOC.”

SPORYSHEV and PODOBNYY acted as covert intermediaries for BURYAKOV to communicate with the SVR on intelligence-related matters. As an agent posing as someone without any official ties to the Russian government or the SVR, BURYAKOV was unable to access the SVR New York Office—which is located within an office maintained by Russia in New York, New York—without potentially alerting others to his association with the SVR. As such, BURYAKOV required the assistance of other SVR agents, like SPORYSHEV and PODOBNYY, to exchange communications and information with the SVR through the communications systems located in the SVR New York Office.

From as early as March 2012 through as recently as mid-September 2014, the FBI has conducted physical or electronic surveillance of BURYAKOV and SPORYSHEV engaging in over four dozen brief meetings, several of which involved BURYAKOV passing a bag, magazine, or slip of paper to SPORYSHEV. These meetings typically took place outdoors, where the risk of effective surveillance was reduced relative to an indoor location.

These meetings were nearly always preceded by a short telephone call between BURYAKOV and SPORYSHEV during which one of the men typically told the other that he had an item to give to him. Typically, during these telephone calls, which were intercepted by the FBI, the item in question was referred to as some non-specific “ticket,” “book,” “list,” or other ordinary item (e.g., “umbrella” or “hat”).

Subsequently, at each meeting surveilled by the FBI, BURYAKOV and SPORYSHEV met and sometimes exchanged documents or other small items. Notably, despite discussing on approximately one dozen occasions the need to meet to transfer “tickets,” BURYAKOV and SPORYSHEV, were—other than one occasion where they discussed going to a movie—never observed attending, or discussing in any detail, events that would typically require tickets, such as a sporting event or concert. In fact, BURYAKOV and SPORYSHEV used this coded language to signal that they needed to meet, and then met to exchange intelligence information.

Attempts by Sporyshev and Podobnyy to Recruit Intelligence Sources in New York City

In numerous recorded communications, SPORYSHEV and PODOBNYY discussed their attempts to recruit United States residents, including several individuals employed by major companies, and several young women with ties to a major university located in New York, New York (“University-1”), as intelligence sources for the SVR. On these recordings, the defendants discussed the potential value of these sources, and identified particular sources by use of a “source name,” which appears to be a coded name. In addition, during these recordings, SPORYSHEV and PODOBNYY discussed the efforts of other SVR agents to recruit a number of other Russian-origin individuals associated with University-1 as intelligence sources.

For example, SPORYSHEV and PODOBNYY discussed PODOBNYY’s efforts to recruit a male working as a consultant in New York City as an intelligence source. During this conversation, PODOBNYY explained his source recruitment method, which included cheating, promising favors, and then discarding the intelligence source once the relevant information was obtained by the SVR: “This is intelligence method to cheat. . . . You promise a favor for a favor. You get the documents from him and tell him to go [expletive] himself.”

In other recorded conversations, SPORYSHEV and PODOBNYY made clear that they worked for the SVR. For example, on January 31, 2013, SPORYSHEV and another SVR agent not charged in the Complaint (“CC-1”) had a discussion inside the SVR New York Office about their contracts with the SVR. SPORYSHEV stated that, “Everyone has a five-year contract,” and explained, in response to CC-1’s question about reimbursement for the travel of SVR agents’ family members, that “travel for military personnel and their families on authorized home leave is paid, and in our, in our SVR, this, the payment for getting to and from the duty station.” In addition, on April 25, 2013, SPORYSHEV and PODOBNYY discussed the use of nontraditional cover for Russian intelligence officers and, in particular, the Illegals program that ended with the arrest of 10 “deep cover” SVR agents in July 2010.

Buryakov’s Intelligence Taskings

SPORYSHEV was responsible for relaying intelligence assignments from the SVR to BURYAKOV. The FBI obtained electronic recordings of several conversations relating to such intelligence directives being communicated to and carried out by BURYAKOV in his position as an SVR agent acting under non-official cover. For example, on May 21, 2013, SPORYSHEV called BURYAKOV to ask for BURYAKOV’s help in formulating questions to be used for intelligence gathering purposes by others associated with a leading Russian state-owned news organization (the “News Organization”). BURYAKOV responded by supplying SPORYSHEV with a particular line of questioning about the New York Stock Exchange for use by the News Organization.

Buryakov’s Receipt of Purported Official United States Government Documents

In the summer of 2014, BURYAKOV met numerous times with a confidential source working for the FBI (“CS-1”). CS-1 posed as the representative of a wealthy investor looking to develop casinos in Russia. During the course of these meetings, and consistent with his interests as a Russian intelligence agent, BURYAKOV demonstrated his strong desire to obtain information about subjects far outside the scope of his work as a bank employee. During these meetings, BURYAKOV also accepted documents that CS-1 claimed he had obtained from a U.S. government agency and which purportedly contained information potentially useful to Russia, including information about United States sanctions against Russia.

* * *

BURYAKOV, 39, SPORYSHEV, 40, and PODOBNYY, 27, are charged in two counts. The first count charges the defendants with participating in a conspiracy for BURYAKOV to act in the United States as an agent of a foreign government without first notifying the Attorney General, and carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The second count charges BURYAKOV with acting in the United States as an agent of a foreign government without first notifying the Attorney General, and charges SPORYSHEV and PODOBYNYY with aiding and abetting that offense. The second count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by a judge.

Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.

The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Adam Fee, Ian McGinley, and Anna M. Skotko of the Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and Senior Trial Attorney Heather Schmidt of the Counterespionage Section of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division.

The charges in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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The FBI Charges Against Sheldon Silver.

WPCNR THE FBI WIRE. From the Federal Bureau of Investgation. January 22, 2015. 

(This news release was received last Thursday when WPCNR was out of the area, because of the detail of the release not fully reported by other media, WPCNR reprints it for persons interested in specific actions that Assemblyman Speak Sheldon Silver is accused of committing, and efforts (the FBI charges) Silver made to thwart the Moreland Commission investiation of outside income by assembly members  in the Assembly:)

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Richard Frankel, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Criminal Division of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today that New York State Assembly Speaker SHELDON SILVER was arrested this morning on charges that he used his official position to receive nearly $4 million in bribes and kickbacks from people and businesses in exchange for his official acts, and that SILVER masked these payments from public view by disguising the payments as income from what he claimed was a law practice primarily focused on personal injury matters.

SILVER was placed under arrest at the FBI in lower Manhattan, this morning (January 22), and is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Frank Maas in Manhattan federal court later today.

Judge Maas also issued seizure warrants to prevent SILVER from accessing approximately $3.8 million in proceeds alleged to be traceable to the charged corruption offenses until the case is resolved.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:

“Over his decades in office, Speaker Silver has amassed titanic political power. But, as alleged, during that same time, Silver also amassed a tremendous personal fortune—through the abuse of that political power. All told, we allege that Silver corruptly collected some $4 million in bribes and kickbacks disguised as ‘referral fees.’ Those disguised bribes and kickbacks account for approximately two-thirds of all of Silver’s outside income since 2002.

“As today’s charges make clear, the show-me-the-money culture of Albany has been perpetuated and promoted at the very top of the political food chain. And as the charges also show, the greedy art of secret self-reward was practiced with particular cleverness and cynicism by the Speaker himself. Among other things, we allege that Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the New York State Assembly, was on retainer to a mammoth real estate developer at the very same time that the chamber he dominates was considering and passing legislation vitally affecting the bottom line of that developer; at the very same time that he was hearing out lobbyists paid by that developer and at the very same time that he was deliberately keeping secret from the public any information about this lucrative side-deal, in violation of the law.

“Politicians are supposed to be on the people’s payroll, not on secret retainer to wealthy special interests they do favors for. These charges go to the very core of what ails Albany—a lack of transparency, lack of accountability, and lack of principle joined with an overabundance of greed, cronyism, and self-dealing.”

FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Richard Frankel said: “As alleged, Silver took advantage of the political pulpit to benefit from unlawful profits. When all was said and done, he amassed nearly $4 million in illegitimate proceeds and arranged for approximately $500,000 in state funds to be used for projects that benefited his personal plans. We hold our elected representatives to the highest standards and expect them to act in the best interest of their constituents. In good faith, we trust they will do so while defending the fundamental tenets of the legal system. But as we are reminded today, those who make the laws don’t have the right to break the laws.”

According to the allegations contained in the Complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:

For more than two decades, SHELDON SILVER has served as Speaker of the Assembly, a position that gives him significant power over the operation of New York State government. SILVER used this substantial power—including, in particular, his power over the real estate industry and his control over certain health care funding—to unlawfully enrich himself by soliciting and obtaining client referrals worth millions of dollars from people and entities in exchange for SILVER’s official acts, and attempting to disguise this money as legitimate outside income earned from his work as a private lawyer. In particular, SILVER claimed on financial disclosure forms required to be filed with New York State and in public statements that the millions of dollars he received in outside income while also serving as Speaker of the Assembly came from a Manhattan-based law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg P.C., where SILVER claimed to work “representing individual clients” in “personal injury actions.” These claims were materially false and misleading—and made to cover up unlawful payments SILVER received solely due to his power and influence as an elected legislator and the Speaker of the Assembly.

The scheme provided SILVER with two different streams of unlawful income: (i) approximately $700,000 in kickbacks SILVER received by steering two real estate developers with business before the state legislature to a law firm run by a co-conspirator, and (ii) more than $3 million in asbestos client referral fees SILVER received by, among other official acts, awarding $500,000 in state grants to a university research center of a physician who referred patients made ill by asbestos to SILVER at Weitz & Luxenberg.

Unlawful Income From the Real Estate Law Firm

SILVER entered into a corrupt relationship with a co-conspirator (“CC-1”) who had been SILVER’s counsel in the Assembly and operated a real estate law firm (the “Real Estate Law Firm”) that specialized in making applications to the City of New York to reduce taxes assessed on properties.

Beginning in at least 2000, SILVER approached two prominent developers of properties in Manhattan, one personally and one in part through a lobbyist, and asked the developers to hire the Real Estate Law Firm. The developers—both of whom lobbied SILVER on real estate issues because their profits depended significantly on state legislation favorable to their business– agreed to use the Real Estate Law Firm as SILVER had requested. Over the years, these developers paid millions of dollars in legal fees to the Real Estate Law Firm. SILVER received a cut from the legal fees amounting to nearly $700,000. SILVER had no public affiliation with the Real Estate Law Firm and performed no legal work at all to earn those fees, which were simply payments for SILVER having arranged the business through his official power and influence.

While continuing to receive the fees and in furtherance of the scheme, SILVER took official action beneficial to the developers. For example, while SILVER was publicly associated with advocating for tenants, a proposal made by the one of the developers who sent work to the Real Estate Law Firm was in substantial part enacted in real estate legislation in 2011 with SILVER’s support.

Unlawful Income From Asbestos Client Referrals

SILVER also entered into a corrupt arrangement with a leading physician who specialized in the treatment of asbestos-related diseases (“Doctor-1”) through which SILVER issued state grants and otherwise used his official position to provide favors to Doctor-1 so that Doctor-1 would refer and continue to refer his patients to SILVER at Weitz & Luxenberg, a firm with which SILVER was affiliated as counsel. Specifically, SILVER arranged for the State of New York to fund two state grants—each for $250,000, and paid out of a secret and unitemized pool of funds controlled entirely by SILVER—for a research center Doctor-1 had established. SILVER used his official position to provide Doctor-1 with other benefits as well, including helping to direct $25,000 in state funds to a not-for-profit organization for which one of Doctor-1’s family members served on the board, and asking the CEO of a second not-for-profit to hire a second family member of Doctor-1.

From 2002 to the present, SILVER received more than $3 million from legal fees Weitz & Luxenberg received from patients Doctor-1 had referred to SILVER at the firm while SILVER was taking official actions to benefit Doctor-1. SILVER did no legal work whatsoever on these asbestos cases, his sole role having been to use his official position and access to state funds to induce Doctor-1 to provide him with these lucrative referrals.

Silver’s Efforts to Cover Up the Scheme

SILVER took various efforts to disguise his unlawful outside income and prevent the detection of the scheme. SILVER listed on his official public disclosure forms that his outside income consisted of “limited practice of law in the principal subject area of personal injury claims on behalf of individual clients,” which was false and misleading. Beginning in 2010, SILVER’s disclosures changed to state that the source of his legal income was a “Law Practice” that “includ[ed]” being of counsel to Weitz & Luxenberg. SILVER never disclosed his relationship with the Real Estate Law Firm or any work beyond what he claimed was a “personal injury” practice.

SILVER also repeatedly made false statements about his outside income in his public statements, including the following:

  • SILVER claimed he performed legal work consisting of spending several hours each week evaluating legal matters brought to him by potential clients and then referring cases that appeared to have merit to lawyers at Weitz & Luxenberg. In fact, SILVER did no such work on the asbestos cases and obtained those referrals to Weitz & Luxenberg based on his corrupt arrangement with Doctor-1.
  • SILVER claimed his law practice involved the representation of “plain, ordinary simple people.” In fact, SILVER represented some of the largest real estate developers in the State of New York, whose interests are in many ways dependent on state legislation.
  • SILVER claimed through his spokesperson that SILVER found clients by virtue of his having been a “lawyer for more than 40 years,” in a manner that was “not unlike any other attorney in this state, anywhere.” In fact, SILVER found his lucrative asbestos and real estate developer clients solely by virtue of his official position.
  • SILVER recently stated through his spokesperson that “[n]one of his clients have any business before the state.” In fact, SILVER’s outside income included millions of dollars of fees obtained through real estate developers with significant business before the state and a prominent physician to whose benefit SILVER provided state funding and other benefits related to SILVER’s official position.

Finally, SILVER thwarted the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption so that it would not learn of his illegal outside income, first by filing legal motions on behalf of the Assembly and taking other action to block the Moreland Commission’s investigation into legislative outside income and then by negotiating with the Governor of New York to prematurely terminate the Moreland Commission.

* * *

SILVER, 70, of New York, New York, is charged with two counts of honest services fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, one count of extortion under color of official right, and one count of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right. Each of these five counts carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge.

U.S. Attorney Bharara praised the work of the Criminal Investigators of the United States Attorney’s Office and the FBI, who jointly conducted this investigation. Mr. Bharara also noted that the investigation is continuing.

This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Howard S. Master, Carrie H. Cohen, Andrew D. Goldstein, and James McDonald are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


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NYSED: Postpone Regents if you must but Exams must be Completed by Friday Jan 30

WPCNR SCHOOL DAYS. From the White Plains Public Schools and The New York State Education Department. January 26, 2015:

Here is the latest policy on postponed Regents Exams provided by the White Plains City School District. According to the State Education Department, all Regents Exams must be completed by Friday, January 30:

As you know, New York State will be affected by an historic snow storm over the next few days.  We are seeing reports that well over half of our students from Montauk to Utica will be affected by one or more days of school closures during the administration of the January Regents Exams. 

In addition, Tuesday is one of the final administrations of the Integrated Algebra Regents Exam, which, as you know, is a graduation requirement and an exam being phased out as part of our assessment transition.   

Therefore, the Department will make the following one-time adjustment in reaction to this historic, extraordinary, and widespread confluence of events. 

First and most important – be safe during the storm.  Close school if you need to close school.

When the storm has passed, each school superintendent, charter school leader, and nonpublic school principal in a district or school impacted by weather-related closures must send to the Department at emscassessinfo@nysed.gov a description of the date(s) on which schools were closed due to weather, which January Regents Exams had to be canceled, when you plan to administer the tests, and your comprehensive plan to ensure the security of exams and scoring materials during this time period

Please observe the following constraints when submitting your plan:

+All exams should be administered as close as possible to the original administration window.

+All January Regents Exams must be administered by Friday, January 30, 2015.

+Although scoring materials will be available according to the previously posted schedule, you may not access or distribute these scoring materials until all exams have been administered in your school.

+Regents Exam booklets should be kept secure until 5 pm on Friday, January 30.

We will work together to ensure that this historic and extraordinary situation is navigated in a way that keeps us all safe, is fair to students, and trusts our school and district leaders to preserve the integrity of the Regents Exam program.  

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