Westchester Accountant Faces Trial On Tax Fraud Charges in Rockland Court

Jury selection opened in Rockland County Court today for the trial of a Westchester certified public accountant accused of helping a New City restaurant hide $170,000 in sales taxes from the state.
One juror has so far been sworn in for the trial before Judge William Nelson.
Rye Brook-based accountant Steven M. Pordy faces charges of second-degree grand larceny and fourth-degree conspiracy, both felonies, and fifth-degree conspiracy, a misdemeanor, under criminal law. He also was charged with aiding or assisting in the giving of fraudulent returns, a felony under tax law. Jury selection will continue Monday.
He is being prosecuted by the state Department of Taxation and Rockland District Attorney’s Office.
Pordy, 46, and Lemongrass restaurant owner Varaporn Shoberg, 54, of Nanuet were charged in September 2008 with failure to report sales taxes on $2.1 million of income between 2003 and 2008. They were accused of conspiring to steal $170,742 in sales taxes from the state.
Shoberg has cooperated with investigators by recording conversations with Pordy to help Tax Department agents investigating the case, authorities said.
Through his lawyer, Michael Greenspan, Pordy claimed he only prepared the corporate income tax returns for the restaurant and had nothing to do with the sales tax returns.

Deported Suffern Drug Dealer is No-Show At Sentencing As Expected

It should have come as no surprise to Judge Catherine Bartlett that drug dealer Carlos Garcia didn’t show up for sentencing this morning at the County Courthouse in New City.
Back in November, when Garcia pleaded guilty to selling cocaine, Barlett released him without bail, even though prosecutor Christopher Waters told her that immigration officials would immediately take Garcia into custody and likely deport him to Mexico before his sentencing.
So when Bartlett’s clerk called Garcia’s name for sentencing this morning, the former Suffern resident didn’t show, nor did his lawyer, Mitchell P. Schecter of Spring Valley. Bartlett was then told that Garcia had been deported.
Garcia faced a sentence of time-served on his guilty plea to third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance. He admitted selling cocaine for $120 on Sept. 26, 2009, in a municipal parking lot in Suffern. Garcia was one of eight people arrested by Suffern police and the Rockland Narcotics Task Force.
Schecter wanted Bartlett in November to seal Garcia’s conviction as a youthful offender. Bartlett didn’t make a decision.
Instead, Bartlett released Garcia without bail and warned him she would issue a warrant for his arrest if he didn’t show up for sentencing.
Yesterday, Bartlett kept her word. She issued a bench warrant for his arrest.
Bartlett has been transferred to Orange County to serve in her appointed capacity as a Court of Claims judge, handing tax cases. She got the designation of state Supreme Court justice during her tenure hearing criminal and civil cases in Rockland.

“Wall of Anger” finally fixed in courthouse

It only took 15 months, but the county finally patched the cracked, dented plaster staircase wall in the Westchester County Courthouse that was damaged in October 2008 by the angry son of convicted murderer Carlos Perez-Olivo.

Merced Perez-Hall, who had been his father’s most ardent supporter, punched the wall several times, screaming expletives the entire time, after learning his father was convicted of fatally shooting Peggy Hall Perez-Olivo — Merced’s mother and Carlos’ wife. I remember standing less than 10 feet away, watching him wail on that wall, afraid to move lest he take out his anger on me. The fist-sized hole remained there until this past Friday, when it was plastered over.

Another footnote from the case … Carlos Perez-Olivo has been diagnosed with cancer. That bit of news came out during an interview he gave for “On the Case with Paula Zahn,” a true crime show on the cable TV channel Investigation Discovery. He said the diagnosis didn’t bother him because he was “half-dead anyway.” He still insists he is innocent of his wife’s death and that she was killed and he was wounded in an ambush.

The case continues to get national attention — including a Dateline NBC special last year — because the Perez-Olivos had lived on the same street in Chappaqua as Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Lippe murder trial: the details

The murder trial of Cortlandt jewelry designer Werner Lippe, charged with killing his wife, Faith, began today in Westchester County court. To read a brief summary of opening statements and testimony, click here.

A little about the jury: there are seven women and five men on the panel, plus four alternates (two men, two women). They are being allowed to take notes during testimony. They may be sequestered if they fail to reach a verdict during the first day of their deliberations. One juror was dismissed before opening statements because he said problems at his job, and his need to be there to solve them, would be a distraction during the trial.

Testifying today were massage therapist Marilyn Prego, realtor Diane Franzoso, longtime friend Julia Mercado and divorce lawyer Christopher Mangold, all of whom described Faith Lippe was an organized, meticulous “Type A” personality who made plans to see them on Oct. 3 and 4 and never showed up — an act completely against her character.

“She was beyond punctual,” Mangold said.

The prosecution’s case continues tomorrow.

Party on the second floor

There was wine, food, even bagpipes and kilts on the second floor of the Westchester County Courthouse this afternoon, as several newly-elected judges took were sworn in at a ceremony in Courtroom 200.

The New York State Courts Pipes & Drums provided the music to all those who packed the big courtroom, which was open only to the judges’ families and other invited guests.

Since I had to rush back to the newsroom to meet my deadline, I did not try to crash the party and politely declined a drink from the caterer in the hallway.

Judge Gave Carter Reading Material For Jail

Before sending fired New York City cable television anchor Dominic Carter to jail for domestic abuse on Thursday, Justice Arnold Etelson gave the boistrous Ramapo resident a magazine article.
The article centered on how Hollywood heartthrob actor Matt Damon has stayed humble despite his worldwide fame. Etelson gift referred to Carter’s courtroom antics of boasting that he was a”high-profile journalist” with influential friends.
Carter dropped some names when first brought to court before Etelson in December, apparently seeking a quick dismissal of an assault charge accusing him of beating up his wife in their Ramapo home. The names included Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau, state Chief Judge Judith Kaye. He boasted of interviewing state and city politicians.
Etelson also gave Marily Carter a “sticker” for their bathroom mirror that states: “Attitude Makes the Difference.” He told her that Dominic Carter should read the sticker every morning.
Etelson was in a giving mood – giving Dominic Carter 30 days in the county jail for third-degree attempted assault, ordering him to undergo psychiatric counseling, take medication and to stay away from his wife for two years.
Etelson also gave Carter a lecture on treating his wife with dignity – citing a decade of abuse complaints against him by her. He also attempted to bolster Marilyn Carter, though she asked Etelson not to sentence her husband to jail. She wanted him home with her and their two children, a 17-year-old son and 22-year-old daughter.
Marilyn Carter called 911 and signed a police complaint saying her husband beat her in October 2008. On the witness stand, she told Etelson that a day laborer she hired had beat her over an argument about money. She couldn’t remember his name.
She said she told police her husband had beat her because she was angry about an argument involving their son’s medical treatment. At Carter’s trial in October, prosecutor Richard Kennison Moran played a recording of Marilyn Carter’s 911 call and presented photos of her swollen lip, cut ear and bruised arm and leg.
Etelson said her revised story was “nothing short of preposterous.”
He implied that Dominic Carter was behind the day laborer story and said Carter could have been charged with suborning perjury. He said Marilyn Carter could have been charged with perjury, except her account typified “the victimization that she has endured.”
Carter dropped his moved to get a stay of sentence and remains in the county jail. He’s appealing his conviction.

Fundrasing event spotlights law firm’s role in Rwanda

Starting at 7 tonight, the NYC law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP is hosting a fundraiser called “Rwanda & Social Enterprise: Investing in Women” at Michael’s Restaurant, 24 West 55th St.

The cost is $150 per person, and all proceeds will go to Indego Africa, a nonprofit group focused partners that helps Rwandan women sell their art and crafts in the U.S. and on the Web. Indego Africa – which stands for INdependence, DEvelopment, and GOvernance, applies 100 peercent of profits and other grants or donations to training programs in financial management, entrepreneurship, literacy, and computers – which are administered by top Rwandan university students.

To register, go to http://indegoafrica.org/investing-in-women.

The event will feature Stephen Kinzer, an award-winning foreign correspondent who will talk about Rwanda’s emerging role of social enterprise, especially in empowering Rwandan women. Kinzer’s most recent book, A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It, was described by Archbishop Desmond Tutu as “a fascinating account of a near-miracle unfolding before our very eyes.”

Since 2007, Orrick has sent 16 young lawyers to Rwanda to help the Indego Africa program. to read more about the firm’s role in Rwanda, click here to read the law.com article.

New judge on MLK Jr. Boulevard

photo_courtroom_smThe newest addition to the Westchester County courthouse is Judge Albert Lorenzo, a court of claims judge formerly stationed in the Bronx, who will be hearing criminal cases here throughout 2010.

Administrative Judge Alan Scheinkman said that Lorenzo, who lives in Armonk, is “highly regarded” for his judicial ability. Scheinman sent former Westchester court of claims Judge Robert A. Neary, who lives in Pound Ridge, down to the Bronx to take Lorenzo’s spot, saying that moving judges around gives them a “different perspective.”

Lorenzo’s courtroom (for now) is on the first floor, in what used to be Judge Jeffrey Cohen’s courtroom. Cohen, who lives in Yorktown, became a state judge and was transferred to Orange County.

Photo courtesy of nycourtsystem.com

Feds give up on Gotti

tjndc5-5hlr2jwtx76vlggdjbj_thumbnailThe U.S. Attorney’s office just released a statement announcing that Preet Bharara has decided to forego a possible fifth attempt to convict John “Junior” Gotti after his first four trials ended in hung juries.

“In light of the circumstances, the Government has decided not to proceed with the prosecution against John A. Gotti,” Bharara said in the statement.

Bharara’s office submitted what is called a “nolle prosequi” order for approval by U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel, who oversaw the last Gotti trial where the son of former Gambino Crime Family boss John “Dapper Don” Gotti walked out of court a free man following Castel’s declaration of a mistrial on Dec. 2 when the jury said it could not reach a verdict. “Nolle prosequi” is a legal term derived from the Latin that basically means the prosecution will not continue.

The feds do have a conviction of Gotti stemming from a 1998 case where he and now-deceased Gambino capo Greg DePalma of Scarsdale were charged with extorting the notorious – or famous depending on your viewpoint – Manhattan strip club Scores. It was while he was in prison on that conviction that Gotti said he quit the mob. Federal prosecutors and the FBI disagreed and tried to prove it four times after Gotti was released from prison.

Next court appearance Friday for Yonkers corruption defendants

tjndc5-5rb7zpgc3ew12qfzvdfc_thumbnailJust got word that the three defendants in the Yonkers corruption case are going to be in court Friday for their first appearance before the judge who will handle their case, U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon.

Sandy Annabi (pictured left), Anthony Mangone, and Zehy Jereis have a 2:15 conference scheduled in McMahon’s Manhattan courtroom Friday afternoon. The appearance is in Manhattan because McMahon is assigned to the federal courthouse at 500 Pearl St. But she has been taking on cases based at the White Plains courthouse due to a backlog created by the deaths of judges Charles Brieant and Wiliam Conner.

U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel was appointed to replace Brieant. But she is limited in the number of criminal cases she can handle because of her previous gig as a high-ranking member of the U.S. Attorney’s office. Seibel was the number two person in the U.S. Attorney’s office, serving as then-U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia’s chief deputy. Seibel cannot oversee cases that started as investigations while she was still in the U.S. attorney’s office. The Yonkers case began in March 2007, more than a year before Seibel was nominated to the federal bench.

There’s no indication that the Yonkers case will be moved to Manhattan. McMahon sits in the White Plains courthouse one Friday a month, and future court appearances will probably be timed to that schedule. McMahon also has the high-profile terrorism case involving four Newburgh men charged with trying to blow up synagogues in the Bronx. That case has remained in the White Plains courthouse.