Queens man indicted, accused of rigging Chase ATMs

A Romanian immigrant is accused of setting up surveillance cameras and card skimmers at automated teller machines in Greenburgh and Rye Brook to steal bank account information from customers at JPMorgan Chase bank branches.

A Westchester County grand jury today indicted Razvan Apostol, a 31-year-old living in Queens, on eight felony counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument and one count of unlawful possession of a skimmer device, a misdemeanor, according to the county District Attorney’s office.

Rye Brook police and the U.S. Secret Service arrested Apostol on Aug. 26 at the Rye Ridge Shopping Center, where authorities found a skimmer by the key card entrance device and a camera over one of the ATMs at the Chase bank branch.

When he was arrested, Apostol had eight countertfeit $100 bills in his car — the forged instruments for which he was indicted — and was carrying a skimming device, which records personal information from the magnetic strip of credit and debit cards.

Nine days earlier, on Aug. 17, a customer at the Chase branch at 353 N. Central Ave. told bank security that there was an additional camera above the ATM there. Apostol was identified through the bank’s surveillance video, according to the District Attorney’s office.

Apostol is being held without bail waiting arraignment at the county jail in Valhalla. He is due in Greenburgh Town Court on Friday to answer a felony charge of eavesdropping, related to the illegal camera found at the Central Avenue ATM.

Landscaper pleads guilty in beating, stabbing death in Hartsdale

A 21-year-old landscaper admitted in court today that he murdered a 44-year-old hotel manager in his Hartsdale condominium, after claiming the victim made unwanted sexual advances after inviting him out for a drink.

Alejandro Macias Barajas (left) pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, first-degree robbery and possession of stolen property in the beating and stabbing death of Leonid “Lenny” Eylinkrig nearly a year ago.

Prosecutors said Macias Barajas killed Eylinkrig between 8 and 10 p.m. on Sept. 12, stole the victim’s credit cards and cell phone from the apartment and fled in Eylinkrig’s car.

Macias Barajas, a Mexican immigrant who was here on a legal visa, agreed to serve 22 years to life in state prison as part of his plea in Westchester County Court. He faced a life sentence without parole had he been convicted at trial.

Acting state Supreme Court Justice Richard Molea said he would sentence Macias Barajas  on  Nov. 16.

According to court records, Macias Barajas told Greenburgh detectives that he agreed to meet Eylinkrig for a drink and went to his apartment at the High Point condos on Sept. 12. He said that when  Eylinkrig came onto him, he punched him and beat him unconscious with a beer mug. He then stabbed him in the chest with a metal pick, according to police statements.

Eylinkrig, a Ukranian immigrant, was the director of services at the La Guardia Airport Marriott amd taught business, computers and management at New York City College of Technology.

His body was discovered by police the afternoon of Sept. 13 after his mother was concerned that he had never picked her up for Rosh Hashana services that morning and wasn’t answering his phone.

It was the second homicide that weekend in Greenburgh. The previous morning, owner Anthony Fizzinoglia was found shot to death in the office of his Lukoil gas station on Tarrytown Road. That murder remains unsolved.

Detectives had been working around-the-clock on the first killing when they learned of the second. Within 10 hours, they tracked down Barajas through cell-phone records and discovered Eylinkrig’s car behind 8 East Hartsdale Ave., where Barajas lived. They took him to Greenburgh police headquarters, where he gave a statement.

Jailhouse snitch can testify in Eastchester double-homicide retrial, judge says

A prison inmate who said Selwyn Days (left) confessed two years ago to the 1996 killing an Eastchester millionaire and his home health aide will be allowed testify against him at his murder retrial this fall.

The decision by acting state Supreme Court Justice Robert Holdman could strengthen the prosecution’s case against Days, a former Mount Vernon resident who is being tried for the third time for the double slaying.

Days’ defense team tried to prevent a jury from hearing testimony  from inmate Scott Irwin, saying he was a “roving agent” of the government —namely the Westchester County District Attorney’s office — which violated Days’ right to counsel. But the judge found that Scott Irwin, who is serving a seven-year sentence for robbery and attempted arson, came forward on his own.

“It was through the bars of adjoining cells that Mr. Irwin and the defendant became friends and eventual confidants,” Holdman wrote.

Days, now 45, has been incarcerated for nine years, since he was arrested in the killings. His appeal is being led by the Manhattan-based Exoneration Initiative and lawyers from two Manhattan firms. Days’ lawyers say they are prepared with not only an alibi defense but also psychological evidence showing that his confession to police was false.

At an Aug. 10 hearing in Westchester County Court, Irwin said he met Days at the Elmira Correctional Facility in September 2008. Within a month, Irwin said, Days confessed to his involvement and gave details of the slayings. He said Days was confident he would be acquitted and would become a millionaire after he sued the county.

Irwin also said Days asked him to kill his ex-girlfriend, who told police to look at Days for the two homicides and testified at his first trial that he bragged to her about the killings. He contacted Westchester prosecutors in January 2009.

The bodies of Harris, 79, and Ramcharan, 35, were discovered in Harris’ Berkley Circle home Nov. 21, 1996. Harris’ body was on a blood-soaked carpet in his bedroom next to a bloody baseball bat; Ramcharan’s was in a bathroom, next to a kitchen knife. A plastic bag was over her head and an electric cord was around her neck.

Days’ mother, Stella, used to work for Harris and accused him of sexually abusing her several months before the killings. Her son, who had a criminal record, was not arrested until February 2001, after he violated a protection order by going to his ex-girlfriend’s home. The woman suggested to police they look at him for the two homicides.

No forensic evidence linked Days to the scene. Prosecutors relied on a taped confession in which Days acknowledged going to Harris’ home to confront him about the abuse allegations. He said he hit Harris with a bat and stabbed him, and slashed Ramcharan’s throat when she walked into the room.

His first trial in 2003 ended in a hung jury. He was convicted a year later and sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.

Then in December, a judge threw out Days’ conviction after four witnesses testified that he was in North Carolina from Nov. 19 to 21, 1996 — the timeframe in which aurthorities said the slayings took place.

Days is currently being held on $300,000 bail at the county jail in Valhalla. Irwin is scheduled to be released on July 20, 2011.

Man gets 15 years in girlfriend’s heroin death

UPDATE: To read more about this story, click here

See link below to read victim’s impact statement.

The mother of a New Rochelle man convicted of giving his girlfriend a lethal dose of heroin pleaded with a judge for leniency today, saying her son never meant to do harm.

The judge, however, said Paul Aveni deserved no sympathy and sentenced him to 15 years in state prison for causing the death of Angela Camillo after breaking into his mother’s home to do drugs.

A jury had convicted Aveni of criminally negligent homicide, second-degree burglary, criminal injection of a narcotic drug and contempt, all felonies, as well as misdemeanor drug possession.

Camillo died on Jan. 12, 2009, when Westchester prosecutors said Aveni bought four bags of heroin and drove with her to his mother’s house on Laurel Place.

They went into a bathroom, where Aveni injected himself with heroin and then injected his girlfriend after giving her a sedative. Aveni woke up in a bedroom around 9 p.m. and found his girlfriend unresponsive. He tried reviving her with a syringe filled with salt and water, and burned her body with a lighter to try to revive her, according to prosecutors.

After those attempts failed, authorities said, Aveni ran out of the bedroom and hid in an attic crawl space. His mother found Camillo and called 911. Police found Aveni coming out of the attic and arrested him.

The victim’s mother, Cheryl Camillo, said no prison sentence could be enough for the man who she said connived and manipulated her 25-year-old daughter, described as a loving and affectionate woman.

“She was snuffed out by this monster in the prime of her life,”  she said in court today as her other daughter, Christy Camillo, stood next to her.  “All of the joy in our life is gone forever.”

Aveni was charged with burglary because he violated a court order barring him from his mother’s home. He denied that he burglarized his mother’s home and rejected a plea deal by prosecutors that would have sent him to prison for five years.

In court today, Mary Aveni told the judge that she has fought for years to lift the order of protection to no avail. She said her son never stole from her and always had her permission to be at her home.

“Paul has a drug problem, but he is not a burglar,” she said.

Westchester County Judge Susan Cacace lifted the stay-away provision of the protective order, allowing Aveni’s mother to visit him in prison.

Aveni was convicted as a predicate violent felon because he had previous convictions for attempted burglary and attempted gun possession.

To read Cheryl Camillo’s full victim’s mpact statement, click here

“Racist dog” slasher sentenced to 15 months in jail

A Yonkers man who admitted to slashing a so-called “racist dog” and causing the dog to lose an eye was sentenced today to serve 15 months in jail.

The sentence for 59-year-old Andrew Owens was part of a July 15 agreement in which he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of aggravated cruelty to animals.

He declined an offer to make a statement before Westchester County Judge John Colangelo carried out the sentence.

Owens used a 9-inch knife to attack his neighbor’s companion animal, a 4-year-old German shepherd named Jenna, who was leashed outside her home at 705-707 Nepperhan Ave.

The knife left a deep gash in Jenna’s face, and her right eye had to be removed.

The SPCA of Westchester County, which investigated the case, determined the slashing was unprovoked. An SPCA detective said Owens taunted the barking dog and charged at her. Owens later claimed that Jenna bit him a year earlier and told authorities he cut the animal in retaliation.

The day after Jenna was slashed, her owner, Paul Tocco, told The Journal News that Jenna had it in for Owens — and other minorities, for that matter.

“The dog reacts to black people, Hispanics, anyone who is not white,” Tocco said. “She always barked at him (Owens). He was well aware the dog didn’t like him, and he knew to stay away from her.”

After Tocco’s comments were published, he was bombarded by interview requests and calls from friends and customers. In the face of criticism, he backed off his initial statements, saying the dog does not dislike minorities. Others who know and love Jenna came to her defense, saying she’s no racist and, in fact, has many black and Hispanic friends.

Owens, a handyman at Valley Oil on Nepperhan Avenue, will serve his sentence at the Westchester County jail in Valhalla rather than state prison because the incarceration is for a definitive amount of time and not a range of time.

Owens is under a permanent court order to have no contact with Tocco, and by proxy Jenna.

Feds crack cell phone cloning ring

Federal authorities have charged nine people who worked at Sprint stores in the Bronx, New Jersey, and Florida in a case of illegal cell phone cloning.

Federal prosecutors and the United State Secret Service said the nine defendants illegally accessed customer accounts 16,000 times during the first six months of the year to steal information about the accounts that was then used to make copies of the cell phones. The illegal cell phones were used to ring up more than $15 million in calls, federal authorities said.

The federal complaint and news release do not say which company the employees worked for but the company was  identified in court as Sprint.

Among those charged was Johnny Santana, 29, of Yonkers, who worked at one of the Bronx stores. Other stores involved in the scam were in North Bergen, New Jersey, and Tampa,Florida, prosecutors said. The other eight defendants were Luis Abad, 24, of West New York, N.J.; Mathews Angel, 23, of West New York, N.J.; Luis Orriols, 22, of Jersey City, N.J.; Francis Lopez, 25, of Weehawken, N.J.; Pedro Rodriguez, 30, of the Bronx; Princetta Dorisma, 23, of Tampa, Fl.; Lesly Esquea, 27, also of Tampa; and Jacklin Volny, 36, of Riverview, Fl.

All nine defendants face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the top count: conspiracy to commit wire fraud.