rct 2-5-14Supreme Court rules Education Commissioner correctly ruled on East Ramapo school sale
State Supreme Court Justice Roger McDonough ruled last Wednnesday that State Education Commissioner John King acted appropriately in deciding that the East Ramapo Central School District did not seek out the best possible deal in its controversial arrangement to sell Hillcrest Elementary School. East Ramapo, which sought damages from the suit, argued that King ignored information on the building’s fair market value and contradicted a prior ruling. However, McDonough ruled that King’s conclusions were wholly rational and in accordance with the law. With the ruling, King’s nullification of the District’s lease of the building to Congregation Avir Yakov for use as a religious school will likely stand. However, the nullification might also remove a revenue stream from the school district and compel the School Board to enact more cuts to the already struggling District.

Skoufis presents bill to prevent healthcare proxy limits
Stony Point Assemblyman James Skoufis recently announed the passage, in the Assembly, of a bill which is meant to protect patients by setting limits on the medical decisions which can be made by healthcare proxies. The law will allow courts to revoke the ability for a proy to make decisions on behalf of a patient if they have an order of protection placed on them, have been arrested, or have been charged with a crime against the patient. No law currently exists which automatically revokes proxy status for criminal offenders. The matter became an issue in 2010 when a Stony Point woman who ran her husband over with her car was allowed to keep him alive in spite of his family’s wishes to remove him and donate his organs. The wife was legally-allowed to make the decision because she had proxy status for her husband.

Major drug and prostitution ring broken up in Manhattan
Thanks to an 11 month joint investigation between the New York Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force and the NYPD, a high-end prostitution and drug ring in Manhattan was busted shortly before the Super Bowl. 18 individuals associated with the organized crime outfit were arrested in the sweep. The group stands accused of selling millions worth of “party packs” of cocaine and prostitutes and laundering the profits through front businesses which included a limousine service and fashion wholesalers. The bust was conducted in hopes that it would provide information on customers prior to the sporting event. The illegal deals were not clandestine affairs, either. According to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the group targeted high-end clientele and hoped to profit from the Super Bowl tourists. Schneiderman added the group often advertised its services through texts, public access television and the internet and charged customers’ cards once they were sufficiently impaired by drug use.

Three dead from heroin overdoses in Westchester
Three Westchester men were killed by heroin overdoses in the past week, the latest casualties in a nationwide epidemic of heroin use among young adults. Thomas Coogan, 23 of Buchanan, Whitney Delhay, 28 of Dobbs Ferry and Tyler Seger, 19 of Cortlandt, died last week. Toxicology test results have yet to return positive results, but it is believed the cause of death for all three was drug overdose. Heroin and prescription drug abuse have been persistent problems nationwide, particularly among youths. Within the past four years alone, Rockand has seen at least a dozen overdose deaths.

Patch sold off to Hale Global, hundreds of employees laid off
AOL’s decision to sell its majority shares of Patch to investment company Hale Global has finally hit home for Patch employees last Wednesday when hundreds of them were laid off. An internal email was sent out by Patch CEO Leigh Zarelli Lewis to Patch employees, terminating them on the same day. However, a conference call was held for employees retained after the layoffs later that day, when it was announced that in spite of hundreds of layoffs, all 900 Patch sites would remain open. The future operations and layout of Patch sites is yet to be announced. Patch has faced serious financial problems over the years, sustaining hundreds of millions in losses since its formation in 2007. Layoffs occurred last year as well but that plan failed to stabilize Patch and ultimately contributed to its sale to Hale.

Manning accused of selling fake memorabilia
A new lawsuit filed by sports collector Eric Inselberg alleges the New York Giants and Eli Manning conspired to sell fake sports memorabilia so Manning could keep the real game-worn items. According to Inselberg, an email exchange between him and Giants equipment manager Joe Skiba outlined the plan. Manning asked Skiba to make fake jerseys and helmets with Manning’s signature so Manning could hold onto the items, but Inselberg was able to verify with Skiba that the merchandise was fake. The suit also alleges one of the forged items-a signed helmet-is currently sitting in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Homeland Security seizes $21.6 million in fake NFL merchandise
In the lead up to the Super Bowl, the Department of Homeland Security conducted a large-scale bust of retailers who trafficked in counterfeit NFL merchandise and pulled millions of fake products off the market. With aid from ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Patrol, the Postal Inspection Service and both state and local police, the DHS seized $21.6 million in fake jerseys, caps, shirts, jackets and other items from warehouses, stores, online and street vendors. Many of the counterfeit goods were manufactured abroad and shipped into the country for the event. In addition, the DHS arrested 50 people connected to the counterfeit trade and shut down 160 websites which had been selling the gear.

Feds to provide NY with $50 million in heating and energy assistance
The Federal Government’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which supports state-funded heating and energy use subsidies for low-income homeowners, recently boosted New York’s own HEAP program with funds to cover the rest of this winter season. New York will receive $50 million of the Federal Government’s $454 million in LIHEAP funding, allowing it to function into February and provide for the 1.3 million New York households served by the program. This assistance will push the state’s HEAP funds up for the 2013-2014 season to $366.8 million. Eligible households can apply to receive one HEAP benefit per season and an emergenncy benefit if they are in immediate danger of having their power shut off. New York residents who do not live in NYC can apply for assistance at www.myBenefits.ny.gov.

New York records best year yet for Medicaid recoveries
Preliminary calculations by the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General indicate the state was able to recover $851 million in Medicaid funds in 2013, a 34 percent increase from the past three years and the largest ever figure in state history. The recoveries also set New York at the top of state rankings for Medicare recoveries. Most recoveries come largely from improper billing by providers or individuals participating in Medicaid fraud. 2013 was a particularly busy year for the Medicaid Inspector General, with renewed pushes to crack down on ineligible individuals who receive benefits, ensure compliance with Medicaid regulations and recover home health payments. The three-year total for recoveries now stands at $1.73 billion.

Heroin dealers arrested in Phillip Seymour Hoffman death probe
A raid on a Manhattan apartment complex netted four arrests on Tuesday night, including two drug dealers suspected of selling heroin to actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman a few months before his fatal overdose. Police arrested Robert Vineberg, 57, and Thomas Kushman, 48, for felony drug possession after finding 350 glassine envelopes containing a substance believed to be heroin. Two others, Max Rosenblum and Juliana Luchkiw, were arrested for misdemeanor possession. Hoffman denied suppplying heroin to Hoffman.