Tourists are crowding onto a Bronx bus tour that promises
“a ride through a real New York City ‘GHETTO’ ” — and local politicians
Three times a week, Real Bronx Tours takes riders —
mainly white Europeans and Australians — on a trip that includes stops
at food-pantry lines and a “pickpocket” park.
Last week, on the
first stop of the $45 tour, guide Lynn Battaglia, from Pittsburgh,
pointed out a housing project. She then mocked the Grand Concourse,
modeled after a Parisian boulevard.
“Do you feel like we’re on the Champs-Elysées?” she teased a couple from Paris.
SORRY SIGHT: Lynn Battaglia, a guide for Real Bronx Tours, points out sights on East 148th Street.
As the bus idled across from historic St. Ann’s Episcopalian Church,
Battaglia launched into a description of the crime, poverty and violence
that plagued the South Bronx during the 1970s recession.
spoke, a line of two dozen poor people — including one man visibly
agitated by the onlookers — waited for handouts from the church pantry.
“I don’t know what that line’s about, but every Wednesday we see it,”
Battaglia told the tourists. “We see them go in with empty carts, and we
see them come out with carts full.”
The bus stopped in front of St. Mary’s Park, where she credited Mayor Rudy Giuliani for curbing crime.
“If it were 1980 and you said to me, ‘Lynn, I want to die.’ My answer would be, ‘You’re in the right neighborhood,’ ” she said.
She suggested the park is still dangerous.
might encourage you to walk with a New Yorker, not because you’re going
to get shot, just because sometimes people take advantage if they know
you’re a tourist, either charge you too much or maybe someone would pick
your pocket,” she said.
The group listened as the bus swung onto
East 140th Street, where Battaglia claimed the derogatory use of the
word “pig” for police officer was born.
“The policeman, his name
is Patty, and he would walk up and down that street, and if he ran into
an alcoholic, he’d beat them mercilessly. So they’d call him ‘Patty the
Pig,’ ” she said.
The Online Etymology Dictionary says the slang originated in London in 1811.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz slammed the guide as “the biggest fool on the planet.”
should tell people about The Bronx that we all know, and that’s The
Bronx that’s had the lowest crime rate since 1963 last year,” he said.
have foreigners come and gawk at a long line of people who are less
fortunate than they are and to make money off of that and to view them
as they are some sort of entertainment is pretty disgusting.”
Real Bronx Tours did not respond to a request for comment. email@example.com
Finally, an honest pol! City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer helped bust a businessman on a bribery charge, The Post has learned. Mike
Wolfert, who’s developing a massive indoor rock-climbing center in
Queens, allegedly asked Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) to pull strings for him
after he was slapped with a stop-work order for doing construction work
without a permit. But rather than accept Wolfert’s e-mail offer
of “unconditional support” — including access to his company’s Facebook
friends and free use of his facility for political events — Van Bramer
blew the whistle, prompting a rapid-fire sting operation by the
Department of Investigation that nabbed Wolfert within weeks, sources
Jimmy Van Bramer
Van Bramer’s actions stand in stark contrast to the allegations
against a host of elected officials — including state Sen. Malcolm Smith
(D-Queens), Assemblyman Eric Stevenson (D-Bronx) and Councilman Dan
Halloran (R-Queens) — charged recently in payoff schemes. “We’re
grateful that, at a time when some people are succumbing to corruption,
this was reported to DOI,” DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said. According
to court papers, on April 16 an undercover DOI investigator posing as a
building inspector went to the former Long Island City warehouse that
Wolfert is converting into a climbing and fitness center to be called
“The Cliffs.” During a discussion about the permits needed to lift
the stop-work order, Wolfert allegedly told the investigator: “Whatever
I can do to help out, you tell me what’s fair. I can get you cash or
whatever. You tell me. Whatever, I’ll pay it.” Wolfert, who
already runs a branch of “The Cliffs” in Westchester, then allegedly
gave the investigator $94 in cash, which a source said was all he had in
his pockets at the time. Two weeks later, the investigator
returned to the construction site and told Wolfert he had rescinded the
stop-work order, prompting Wolfert to hand over two envelopes stuffed
with $500 each, court papers charge. Wolfert, 38, of
Croton-on-Hudson, was arrested Thursday on a felony charge of
third-degree bribery. He also was slapped with a misdemeanor charge of
“unlawful continuance” based on evidence that “additional construction
had been completed” at the site after the stop-work order, according to
the Queens criminal court complaint. Van Bramer, a former
newspaper reporter, said he was “uncomfortable” when he read the
“disturbing and inappropriate” e-mail from Wolfert, whom he had never
met, and immediately contacted the council’s lawyer. Neither Wolfert, who was released without bail, nor his defense lawyer returned requests for comment. How the scheme unfolded: * The Department of Buildings slaps rock-climbing entrepreneur
MikeWolfert with a stop-work order for renovating a Long Island City
warehouse without a permit. * Wolfert e-mails Councilman Jimmy Van
Bramer, promising “unconditional support” in exchange for help getting
the stop-work order lifted. * Van Bramer tells the council’s lawyer about Wolfert’s offer, prompting a sting operation by the Department of Investigation. *
Wolfert is busted for bribery after allegedly handing over more than
$1,000 in cash to an undercover investigator posing as a corrupt
building inspector. firstname.lastname@example.org
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and NYPD Commissioner
Raymond W. Kelly today announced the indictment of 16 members of a
criminal ring that flooded New York City, Albany County and Schenectady
Video by Rafael Martínez Alequín
YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and NYPD Commissioner
Raymond W. Kelly today announced the indictment of 16 members of a
criminal ring that flooded New York City, Albany County and Schenectady
County with more than a million cartons of untaxed cigarettes illegally
imported from Virginia. A 244-count indictment, unsealed in Brooklyn
Supreme Court, charges 16 co-conspirators with enterprise corruption,
money laundering and related tax crimes. Each of the defendants faces up
to 25 years behind bars.
a 12-month investigation, law enforcement seized more than 65,000
forged NYC/NYS cigarette tax stamps that were not yet affixed to packs
of cigarettes, and nearly 20,000 cartons of untaxed cigarettes. The
investigation, which has so far uncovered $55 million in illegal
cigarette sales, is continuing. While it hasn’t been established yet
where the illicit proceeds ended up, similar schemes have been used in
the past to help fund organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah.
cheating New Yorkers out of tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue,
this dangerous criminal ring was able to generate astounding profits
that we are still continuing to trace,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.
“Not only did this organized crime ring hurt law abiding mom-and-pop
shops and other businesses in New York by putting those who do pay taxes
at a competitive disadvantage, there is a very real concern about the
possibility of violence related to this type of enterprise. I am
committed to putting criminals like this behind bars.”
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly
said, “The association of some of the suspects in this case to the Ari
Halbestram’s killer, the Blind Sheik and a top Hamas official concerns
us. While it hasn’t been established yet where the illicit proceeds
ended up, we’re concerned because similar schemes have been used in the
past to help fund terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah. I
want to commend Attorney General Schneiderman and Homeland Security
Investigations Special Agent in Charge James Hayes for their outstanding
work in this case, as well as our Operation Sentry partners including
the States Police of Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey, and of course
our own NYPD personnel, including Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence
David Cohen, Assistant Chief Thomas Galati and the lead investigator on
the case Detective Sean Foley.”
proceeds from this alleged scheme can be used to fund a host of other
criminal acts that threaten national security and public safety of
Americans at home and abroad,” said James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New York.
“We remain committed to working with our local, state and federal law
enforcement partners to ensure criminals are tracked down and brought
before a court of law.”
search warrants were executed up and down the Eastern Seaboard
yesterday, investigators seized three handguns from ring-leader Basel
Ramadan. The Attorney General’s Office also grabbed $1.4 million stashed
throughout Ramadan’s Ocean City, Maryland, residence, including stuffed
into black plastic garbage bags. Investigator seized over 20,000
cartons of cigarettes from defendants’ homes, cars and storage
facilities in four states. They seized $200,000 in cash from defendants’
located in New York City.
of non-taxed cigarettes deprive the state of millions of dollars in
lost cigarette tax revenues, hurt law-abiding small businesses and
undercut public health measures designed to discourage smoking.
joint investigation by the Attorney General's Organized Crime Task
Force and the New York City Police Department, and with the assistance
of Homeland Security Investigations, uncovered the trafficking ring and
its connections to Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx, Albany,
Schenectady and multiple other states, including Maryland, Delaware,
Virginia and New Jersey.
the use of electronic surveillance, physical surveillance and the
review and analysis of financial records in conjunction with other
investigative tools, the Attorney General’s investigation revealed that
the head of the enterprise, Basel Ramadan, and his brother, Samir
Ramadan, obtained cigarettes from a wholesaler, Cooper Booth Wholesale,
Inc., in Virginia and stored them in a public storage facility in
times a week, co-conspirator Adel Abuzahrieh, of Brooklyn, drove with
tens of thousands of dollars in cash from New York to Delaware where he
gave the Ramadans the cash in exchange for cigarettes.Beyond
the $55 million in purchases to cigarettes, the Ramadans have generated
more than $10 million in profits from their illegal activities.
addition to the Ramadans, the criminal enterprise – all of whose
members are Palestinian – consisted of several New York-based cigarette
distributors, several New York-based cigarette resellers and Abuzahrieh,
who transport of cash, sometimes over $100,000 per trip, and cigarettes
between New York and Delaware.
the distributors took possession of the merchandise – approximately
20,000 cartons of cigarettes a week - they distributed it to the
resellers, who in turn sold the untaxed cigarettes to a myriad of Arab
markets and grocery stores in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten
Island. One of the resellers, Mohannad Seif, also resold the untaxed
cigarettes to various grocery stores in Albany and Schenectady Counties.The sales tax revenue lost to New York State is estimated to be significantly in excess of $80 million.
Ramadan brothers furthered the criminal enterprise by depositing more
than $55 million from their untaxed cigarette sales into small local
financial institutions in and around Ocean City, MD., and used that
money to purchase additional cigarettes for illegal sale.
indictment, unsealed before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice William
Miller, charged the following individuals with enterprise corruption,
and other crimes in relation to their involvement in the untaxed
cigarette-based money laundering enterprise. Each defendant faces up to 8
1/3 to 25 years in prison.
BASEL RAMADAN, 42, boss of the enterprise, Ocean City, MD
SAMIR RAMADAN, 40, enterprise treasurer, Ocean City, MD
ADEL ABUZAHRIEH, 42, transporter, Brooklyn, NY
AHMAD ABDELAZIZ, 42, distributor, Brooklyn, NY
YOUSSEF ODEH, 52, distributor, Staten Island, NY
MUAFFAQ D. ASKAR, 46, reseller, Brooklyn, NY
MUFEED ATTAL, 62, distributor, Brooklyn, NY
RIBHI AWADEH, 39, distributor, Guttenberg, NJ
MOHAMED AWAWDA, 47, distributor, North Bergen, NJ
SAAD BADR, 58, distributor, Brooklyn, NY
MURAD BISHARAT, 37, reseller, Ridgewood , NY
MUNTHER MAHMOUD, 52, distributor, Brooklyn, NY
IZZAT NIMER, 46, distributor, Brooklyn, NY
MOHANNAD SEIF, 39, reseller, Brooklyn, NY
ISSA SULieman, 44, distributor, Brooklyn, NY
BASSAM TWAM, 47, reseller, Brooklyn, NY
Members of the criminal enterprise are set to be arraigned before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice William Miller beginning today.
General Schneiderman said that all packs of cigarettes sold in New York
City must bear a joint New York City/New York State tax stamp and only a
licensed stamping agent can possess untaxed cigarettes and affix the
tax stamps on the cigarette packs.
of the members of this untaxed cigarette distribution and money
laundering operation are authorized to sell tobacco products in New York
City or New York State.
General Schneiderman thanked the following agencies for their
partnership in the investigation. The New York National Guard
Counterdrug Taskforce; the New York State Department of Taxation and
Finance; the New York City Sheriff’s Office; the Albany Police
Department; The New York State Police; the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office; the
Delaware and Maryland State Police Departments; and the United States
Attorney’s Offices in Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey and especially
the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York which is
working together with us on the forfeiture aspect of this case.
investigation was directed by OCTF Senior Investigators Jeffrey Sauter
and Peter Odiot. They were supervised by OCTF Supervising Investigators
William Charles and Arthur Schwartz, Upstate Deputy Chief Eugene Black,
Downstate OCTF Deputy Chief Christopher Vasta andunder the overall supervision ofInvestigations Bureau Chief Dominick Zarrella. From the NYPD,Detective
Wafkey Salem worked under the supervision of Sergeant Robert Olson and
Lieutenant James O'Sullivan of the Intelligence Division and under the
supervision ofDeputy Commissioner
David Cohen. From Homeland Security, Special Agent Andrew Borra,
supervised by Deputy Special Agent-in-Charge Anthony Scandiffio.
The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorneys General Jonathan Sennett and Tarek Rahman,
under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff
and under the overall supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General
for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.
charges against the defendants are accusations and the defendants are
presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.
Senators Gustavo Rivera and Marcos Serrano calling Senators Skelo and Jeff Klein, coalition leaders to bring the woman equality bill for a vote on the senate's floor.
Video (1) by Rafael Martínez Alequín
William C. Thompson Jr., a Democrat, has received a
sorely needed jolt of high-powered fund-raising help from former Senator
Alfonse M. D’Amato, a Republican, as he seeks to project energy and
momentum in the wide-open Democratic primary for mayor of New York.
This is the first time that Alfonse M. D’Amato, leader of the state
Republican Party for a quarter-century, has been a major fund-raiser in a
New York City mayoral race.
Griffin (C) listens as James Manship reads from the U.S. Constitution
during a Tea Party Patriots rally on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol.
(photo: Ron Lamkey/Getty Images North America)
The Real I.R.S. Scandal
By Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker
15 May 13
scandal machinery, rusty from recent disuse, is cranking back up to
speed due to the alleged targeting of conservative groups by the
Internal Revenue Service. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said, "It's the kind of
thing that scares the American people to their core. When Americans are
being targeted for audits based on their political beliefs, that needs
to change." Senator Susan Collins, of Maine, called on the President to apologize. George Will said President Obama could be impeached.
Obama himself is taking the path of contrition. At a news conference
Monday, the President said, "If in fact I.R.S. personnel engaged in the
kind of practices that have been reported on and were intentionally
targeting conservative groups, then that's outrageous. And there's no
place for it." More hearings, with more outrage, are planned.
In light of this, it might be useful to ask: Did the I.R.S. actually do anything wrong?
The stories began to come to light on Friday, when the Associated Press reported
that a draft report by a Treasury Department inspector general had
found that the I.R.S. subjected certain Tea Party-affiliated groups to
undue scrutiny. Lois Lerner, head of the I.R.S. tax-exempt-organizations
division, said the agency was "apologetic" for what she termed
"absolutely inappropriate" actions by lower-level workers.
It's important to review why the Tea Party groups were
petitioning the I.R.S. anyway. They were seeking approval to operate
under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. This would require
them to be "social welfare," not political, operations. There are
significant advantages to being a 501(c)(4). These groups don't pay
taxes; they don't have to disclose their donors - unlike traditional
political organizations, such as political-action committees. In return
for the tax advantage and the secrecy, the 501(c)(4) organizations must
refrain from traditional partisan political activity, like endorsing
If that definition sounds murky - that is, if it's
unclear what 501(c)(4) organizations are allowed to do - that's because
it is murky. Particularly leading up to the 2012 elections, many
conservative organizations, nominally 501(c)(4)s, were all but
explicitly political in their work. For example, Americans for
Prosperity, which was funded in part by the Koch Brothers, was an instrumental force
in helping the Republicans hold the House of Representatives. In every
meaningful sense, groups like Americans for Prosperity were operating as
units of the Republican Party. Democrats organized similar operations,
but on a much smaller scale. (They undoubtedly would have done more, but
they lacked the Republican base for funding such efforts.)
So the scandal - the real scandal - is that 501(c)(4)
groups have been engaged in political activity in such a sustained and
open way. As Fred Wertheimer, the President of Democracy 21, a
government-ethics watchdog group, put it, "it is clear that a number of
groups have improperly claimed tax-exempt status as section 501(c)(4)
'social welfare' organizations in order to hide the donors who financed
their campaign activities in the 2010 and 2012 federal elections."
Some people in the I.R.S. field office in Cincinnati
took the names of certain groups - names that included the terms "Tea
Party" and "patriot," among others, which tend to signal conservatism -
as signals that they might not be engaged in "social welfare"
operations. Rather, the I.R.S. employees thought that these groups might
be doing explicit politics - which would disqualify them for 501(c)(4)
status, and set them aside for closer examination. This appears to have
been a pretty reasonable assumption on the part of the I.R.S. employees:
having "Tea Party" in your name is at least a slight clue about
partisanship. When the inspector-general report becomes public, we'll
surely learn the identity of these organizations. How many will look
like "social welfare" organizations - and how many will look like
political activists looking for anonymity and tax breaks? My guess is a
lot more of the latter than the former.
It is certainly true that the I.R.S., and every other
part of the government, should be evenhanded in how it applies the law,
regarding liberal and conservative groups alike. If left-leaning
organizations were disguising their true purposes to obtain 501(c)(4)
status, the I.R.S. should have turned them down, too. And there will
also be questions about how the Service, which is an independent agency,
answered questions from Congress.
But let's be clear on the real scandal here. The
columnist Michael Kinsley has often observed that the scandal isn't
what's illegal - it's what's legal.
It's what society chooses not to punish that tells us most about the
prevailing ethical standards of the time. Campaign finance operates by
shaky, or even nonexistent, rules, and powerful players game the system
with impunity. A handful of I.R.S. employees saw this and tried, in a
small way, to impose some small sense of order. For that, they'll likely
be ushered into bureaucratic oblivion.
Mayoral hopeful Bill Thompson (left) on Tuesday won the endorsement of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
Mayoral hopeful Bill Thompson
won the endorsement of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. on
Tuesday, a potentially key step in building a potent coalition of black
and Hispanic voters in the campaign.
Diaz is the city’s most prominent Hispanic elected official. His
endorsement was announced just days after Thompson unveiled the support
of two other prominent Hispanic Democrats from the Bronx, Rep. Jose E.
Serrano and his son, state Sen. Jose M. Serrano.
“Although he backed Thompson’s 2009 campaign for mayor, Diaz was
actively courted by all the top Democratic mayoral candidates this year.
Their attempts to land his support underscores the importance of Latinos voters and Bronx voters in the Democratic primary.
Diaz praised Thompson as a “coalition builder” - which is exactly what Team Thompson is trying to do.
His campaign says it has been working with Latino officials and
community organizers to link them to Thompson’s African-American base.
“I have known Bill Thompson for two decades,” said Diaz, a Democrat.
“He was the right man to lead our city as mayor four years ago, and he
remains the right man today.”
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mayoral candidate Bill
Thompson, who won a key endosement Tuesday, Bronx Borough President
Ruben Diaz Jr. The support could help him build a coalition of black and
Successfully creating such a black-Hispanic coalition would put
Thompson in prime position to at least force a runoff in the Democratic
However, Thompson’s effort to build a black-Hispanic coalition is not
certain to work - while most Latinos and African-Americans vote
Democratic in general elections, they have not always supported the same
candidates in a primaries.
His Democratic rivals this year have also have trotted out high-profile
Latino endorsements, including Bronx State Senator Gustavo Rivera for
Quinn and Bronx Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda for de Blasio.
Previous minority mayoral candidates have had mixed results in unifying
those voters. David Dinkins did well with Latinos during in his 1989
and 1993 campaigns; former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer
failed to win an overwhelming majority of black votes in 2005.
Diaz repeatedly praised Thompson’s “temperament,” though he later
denied it was a swipe at either City Council Speaker Christine Quinn
(D-Manhattan) or former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who both have been
accused of being quick to boil.
But Diaz did not shy away from ripping his predecessor in as Bronx
borough president, Adolfo Carrion Jr., the lone Latino in this year’s
mayoral race. Carrion, a former Democrat, is running as an independent.
“Just because you're a Latino candidate, this is not about satisfying
your ego. This is not about proving a point," said Diaz. "Running for
mayor of the city of New York is serious. It's real serious business."
In return, the Carrion campaign said, "that kind of statement is not worthy of a response.”