Timelines 5/28/15

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FTC takes aim at cancer charity fraudsters

The Federal Trade Commission, in conjunction with attorney generals in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, has charged the friends and family of a small group of alleged fraudsters for their administration of “cancer charities” which bilked donors out of over $187 million from 2008 to 2012 while contributing almost nothing to cancer care.

The complaint alleges the Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, Children’s Cancer Fund of America and the Breast Cancer Society deceptively marketed themselves as charitable groups even though only three percent of their earnings went to cancer treatment they purported to offer. Instead, the majority of funds were spent on luxuries such as cars, vacations, gym memberships, college tuition, dating site memberships, tickets to sports events and concerts and other luxuries.

The defendants were also accused of concealing the scheme on public financial documents by reporting $223 million donated “gifts in kind” given to residents of foreign nations, an inflation designed to make the scam look like an efficient expenditure of donor funds. The FTC argued a culture of corruption-included rampant nepotism, kickbacks and “professional fundraising”-also pervaded the organizations.

Due to the legal action, the Breast Cancer Society and the Children’s Cancer Fund of America will be dissolved, with the liquidated assets going toward criminal penalties. Cancer Fund of America CEO James Reynold’s Sr., who is the father of Breast Cancer Society ex-CEO James Reynold’s Jr. and the ex-husband of Children’s Cancer Fund ex-CEO Rose Perkins, plans to contest the charges.


Orangetown experiences latest bear sighting

In the latest of several bear sightings in Rockland County, a black bear cub was sighted in Grand View on Monday. The bear, which witnesses said had a tagged ear, was seen climbing up a hill on Upper Grand from River Road. A number of other sightings-including possible sightings of multiple bears-also occurred in Blauvelt, Pearl River and the Orangetown soccer fields.

Consequently, police stressed that residents should keep children and pets inside, put bird feeders away, secure garbage cans and food spills from outdoor cookouts and only set out trash the morning of pickup to avoid attracting the animals. Roaming bears have been a cause for concern in Rockland since April when the animals were sighted in Suffern, Ramapo, Monsey and Montebello, where a bear cub was struck and killed by a passing car early on Thursday. In Westchester, a bear managed to roam all the way down to Yonkers before it was tranquilized and safely captured.


CSX train sparks brush fire in Haverstraw

A passing train sparked a small cluster of brush fires in Haverstraw on Sunday night. The fires, which occurred on the River Line between West Haverstraw and the Haverstraw tunnel, were discovered by first-responders at around 7 p.m. By that time, they had combined into one larger brush fire.

The fires were quelled by volunteers with the Haverstaw, Congers and Stony Point Fire Departments, coming under control in about an hour. Though no injuries or serious property damage was reported, a railroad supply shed was damaged in the fire.


Suffern budget receives State Comptroller’s approval

The Village of Suffern’s controversial 2015-2016 budget plan was approved by the State Comptroller’s Office in a four-page report released on Friday.

The report, while acknowledging the Village’s burdensome $5.24 million deficit and history of fiscal mismanagement, characterized the current plan as “reasonable.” The Comptroller’s Office also stated that prior to the 2015-2016 budget, no efforts were made by Suffern officials to correct the Village’s longstanding financial problems.

Suffern has been designated by the Comptroller’s Office as the most fiscally-stresses village in the state, a dubious distinction earned largely through poor accounting practices and large expenses incurred by the village’s water and sewer districts.

Though the report could conceivably improve the state’s outlook on Suffern, it is not likely to please local taxpayers. Included in the 2015-2016 budget are a 16 percent tax hike and five percent increases to the water and sewer funds. Along with Pomona, Spring Valley and Haverstraw, Suffern was one of four villages in Rockland to exceed the state’s property tax cap.




Clarkstown residents voice support for tougher restrictions on sex offender residency

Clarkstown residents, particularly in Congers, have become increasingly worried about the presence of sex offenders in the town, particularly after a man convicted of sexually abusing a child moved into their neighborhood.

An uproar swelled among Congers residents after it was announced that Jaime Katz, a former NYPD sergeant who served five years in prison and 10 years probation for attempting to have oral sex with a 12-year old Nanuet boy, had moved from West Nyack to Congers. Katz, who was released 14 months ago, has been classified as a high-risk, level 3 offender.

Consequently, Clarkstown residents and officials on both the state and local levels have organized in support of stronger restrictions on sex offender residency, including the closure of a loophole which allows sex offenders to live near certain daycare centers which are not designated as schools.

Attempts at local laws in Rockland and other counties have largely failed to survive court challenges, due largely to court precedent which preempts any local laws which might conflict with state-level sex offender statutes. A set of state legislative bills which would update current state laws, one of which is co-sponsored by Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski currently under consideration in Albany.

Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack has also expressed support for a new local law in case state efforts fall through.



New City girl dies in upstate car crash

clarkstown94_photo3A 13-year old girl died on Saturday after a car driven by her father was struck by another vehicle in the upstate town of Warren.

Larisa Karassik was upstate with friends and family for the Memorial Day weekend. She was riding as a passenger in her father’s car when it was struck by a car driven by Heath Drouin, 42, who ran a stop sign and plowed into the passenger side of the other vehicle. Karassik was pronounced dead at Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown at 5:42 p.m.

Her father Bruce Karassik, 50, remains hospitalized with a concussion and injuries to his ribs and kidneys, while her friend and fellow passenger Anastasia Khilko, 12, was also hospitalized for a fractured leg. Drouin was pronounced dead at the scene.

Karassik is remembered by many as a constant positive presence in the community. As an athlete she played softball for the New City Athletic League and basketball for Albertus Magnus while also performing volunteer work, participating regularly as a congregant at the Clarkstown Reformed Church, and sitting on the student advisory board for State Sen. David Carlucci.

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