8 takes pleas today in Yonkers, NYC gambling ring bust

A father and son from Yonkers agreed today to serve 30 days in jail on charges that they attempted to run a $2 million-a-year gambling ring in Westchester County and New York City.

Roberto Rodriguez Sr., 74, (left) and  his son, Roberto Jr., 47, were accused of running the illegal enterprise with help from family members and  others who accepted weekly wagers for the state Lotto, horse races and other numbers games that shadowed legitimate drawings.

Authorities said the so-called “Rodriguez Enterprise” operated out of several stores, including ones at 204 Ashburton Ave. and 28 Point St. in Yonkers, accepting bets of about $40,000 a week for at least a couple of years. The group also was accepting wagers for the state Lotto midday and evening drawings and a “three-five-seven” horse-racing scheme, authorities said.

According to the charges, bettors would place their wagers by phone or in person from clerks and other individuals. Money would be laundered at an actual laundromat on west 177th Street in Manhattan, and sent to a “bank” located in two apartments at 216th Street and Broadway in Inwood.

Rodriguez, who was said to control the day-to-day business, and his son, who officials said was the comptroller, pleaded guilty to attempted enterprise corruption, a felony. They will be sentenced Nov. 15 to five years’ “shock” probation, with 30 days in the Westchester County jail.

The father and son were among eight family members and associates who admitted their role in the enterprise today.

Lidia Arce, Eduardo Espinal and Alcides Silva also pleaded guilty to attempted enterprise corruption and will serve five years’ probation with no jail time. The younger Rodriguez’s wife, Betel “Jessica” Rodriguez, Carlos Portella and Diego Torres pleaded guilty to promoting gambling, a misdemeanor. They agreed to serve three years’ probation, but acting state Supreme Court Judge Richard Molea said he would consider giving Betel Rodriguez a condition discharge. All will be sentenced Nov. 15.

Four others — Esperanza Castro, Fanny Cano, Rose Lantiguadeleon Berkis Valera — previously pleaded guilty to charges of promoting gambling. Castro’s sentencing is set for Sept. 27, the others for Oct. 4.

The mass arrests in June 2010 followed a nine-month investigation by the prosecutor’s office and state police Authorities seized thousands of dollars, an array of computers and gambling receipts, and four stolen, loaded handguns, according to the Westchester County District Attorney’s office.

All 12 originally were charged with one felony count of enterprise corruption. That charge carries a minimum sentence of one to three years in state prison and a maximum sentence of eight and one-third to 25 years in prison.

Coello’s brief court appearance sparks anger, grief

Eddy Coello was only in court for a few minutes today, but his appearance was an emotional one for the family of his wife, who he is accused of killing.

Tina Adovasio’s former mother-in-law wept when Coello was brought out, handcuffed in an orange jumpsuit from the Department of Corrections. Another female family member yelled  “Coward!” as he was escorted out of the courtroom.

Coello, an ex-New York City police officer, showed no emotion at the outburst, or any part of his brief  appearance in Bronx County courthouse, where Coello’s lawyer and a prosecutor and  updated the judge on their progress of exchanging evidence and information, known in legal terms as discovery.

Judge Miriam Best set his next court appearance for Oct. 26.Coello, 38, is charged with second-degree murder. He is accused of killing Adovasio in the Bronx and dumping her badly-beaten body in the woods near the Mohansic Golf Course, off the Taconic State Parkway in Yorktown.

Adovasio, who lived in the Bronx, was divorcing Coello, who her family said had repeatedly abused her. Coello left the NYPD in 2000 while being investigated for domestic violence with another woman.Prosecutors have said physical evidence, surveillance video and Coello’s own words would show that he strangled his wife late March 11 or early March 12, carried away her body and then dumped it in Yorktown.

Adovasio, 40, worked as a maternity nurse at Sound Shore Medical Center. She had four children, including a 5-year-old daughter with Coello. The girl is living with Adovasio’s parents in Dutchess County. Her other children, ages 11, 15 and 16, are living with their father.

Top photo:  Coello at a previous court appearance, with his lawyer, Renee Hill. Bottom: Adovasio, family photo.

Westchester DWI program for women turns 1

Today’s story about the first class of women to graduate from Forward Motion, a county program for female drunken driving offenders, referred to the rising numbers of women on probation in Westchester County. However, there has been roughly 10 times as many men on probation for DWI, and their numbers are rising as well. Some statistics from the Westchester Department of Probation:

Year          Men       Women

  • 2005:      1,530        146
  • 2006:      1,585        147
  • 2007:      1,743        173
  • 2008:      1,826       199
  • 2009:      1,913        217
  • 2010:      2,077       234

So what’s behind the rise? Crackdowns by state and local police, for one. Also, probation officers are now supervising people NOT on probation but who have court-ordered ignition interlock devices to prevent them from driving.

Westchester County Courthouse back to business after quake

Today’s afternoon earthquake prompted a brief evacuation of the Westchester County Courthouse, (left) where
lawyers, judges, probation officers, court officers and others made a hasty exit and were told to step away from the 19-story court building while they waited for permission to re-enter.

“It felt like the building was swaying,” said Tracy Everson, spokeswoman for the county District Attorney’s office, which is on the fifth floor of the courthouse at 111 Martin Luther  King Jr. Blvd. “There was some rattling of file cabinets, then the fire alarm went off. Everybody got out — and fast. It was scary.”

The county courthouse was among hundreds of government buildings on the East Coast to be evacuated during the 5.9 magnitude earthquake. The 26-story federal courthouse in lower Manhattan began swaying and hundreds of people were seen leaving the building.

The tremors, which originated in Virginia, shook much of Washington, D.C., and was felt as far north as Rhode Island, New York City and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., where President Barack Obama is vacationing.

The earthquake had no effect on New York City subways, Metro-North Railroad or other systems operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, agency spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said. But Amtrak passengers should expect delays due to trains running at reduced speeds between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, part of its Northeast Corridor, which extends through New York City to Boston.

Liberty, JFK and LaGuardia International Airports were all shut down briefly as control towers were evacuated, delaying flights.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Greenburgh judge Doris Friedman stays on the ballot after challenge

A state Supreme Court judge overturned a decision by the Westchester County Board of Elections and ruled Tuesday that veteran Greenburgh Town Justice Doris Friedman (left) will be allowed to run as a Democrat in the Sept. 13 primary.

Four Greenburgh Democrats challenged the validity of Friedman’s petition, saying defective witness statements, late signatures and other technical snafus invalidated more than 700 signatures and made her ineligible to run on the party line.

Friedman and the other two justices, Sandra Forster and Arlene Gordon-Oliver, were not endorsed by the Greenburgh Democratic Town Committee. The committee chose to endorse three newcomers, saying that it was time for a change after years of critical audits and a recent paperwork debacle in which roughly 80,000 unresolved traffic tickets were found hidden inside courthouse cabinets.

Last month, Friedman turned in a petition with 1,569 signatures; she only needed 1,000 valid signatures to get on the Democratic ballot. Four Greenburgh residents — Herb Rosenberg, Diane Torstrup, Marjorie Gaffney and John Blakley Sr. — each filed identical objections listing general and specific problems with her forms. Westchester County Board of Elections found that only 848 of the signatures were valid and on Aug. 5 disqualified her from appearing on the Democratic ballot.

Friedman and her lawyer, Alan Goldston, filed court papers to reinstate her, and Judge Sam Walker held a two-day hearing where he heard testimony about the petitions. The objectors argued that signatures on 15 of 95 pages were invalid because the people who collected the signatures didn’t follow proper procedures. Several people who collected signatures for Friedman testified and explained how the mistakes, such as incorrect dates and changes without proper initials, were made.

Judge Walker deemed many of the errors “inadvertent” and restored 231 signatures, giving Friedman a total of 1,079 — enough to appear on the ballot. Walker said petitions containing “innocent and  inconsequential” violations should remain valid, as long as the mistakes pose no risk for fraud or prejudice.

Meanwhile, Forster said today that she turned in 2,005 signatures. Gordon-Oliver said she turned in more than 3,700.

Convict to serve 6 years for campus rape attempt

A convict from Greenburgh was sentenced today to six years in state prison for trying to rape a Purchase College, SUNY, student in her dorm room last year.

Dante Beamon, 27, had agreed to the prison term when he pleaded guilty in May to first-degree attempted rape and second-degree burglary for the Nov. 15 campus attack. The maximum punishment for each charge is 15 years in prison.

However, Beamon must serve 15 years of sex offender supervision once he is released from prison.

Beamon, who was not a student at the college, entered the victim’s room on the Purchase campus around 1:30 a.m. Nov. 13. Prosecutors said he announced that the two were going to have sex and demanded that she remove her clothing.

After she ordered him to leave, Beamon tried to force himself onto her and choked her with an article of clothing, prosecutors said. The woman escaped and Beamon fled.

He was caught by university police a short time later and has been in jail since his arrest.

Beamon, 27, has a criminal history that includes charges of petty larceny, driving while intoxicated and resisting arrest, and has previously spent time in county jail, officials said.

The sexual assault was at least the fourth report of its type related to Purchase College last year. In one case in March, a student told police she was dragged into the woods by five men one night during spring break and raped by one of them. Several weeks later, two female students reported that a male stranger tried to enter a dorm and grabbed their buttocks. A third assault was reported a week later during an annual music festival in April. Authorities later classified that as a rape.

No arrests have been made in any of those cases, and police have said they don’t believe they are related. In both rape cases, police said, the alleged victims stopped cooperating.

SUNY Purchase drew scrutiny last year when officials did not alert students after the first two reported sexual offenses, later saying they did not want to “unduly alarm people.” The college did release an alert immediately after the music festival attack and after Beamon’s attack. It also has sent reminders to students about safety precautions and expanded the campus Blue Light security phone system.

South African justice, human rights activist to speak at Pace Law School

Richard J. Goldstone, a former justice of three South African courts who was chief prosecutor in two United Nations International Tribunals, will speak at Pace Law School in White Plains on Thursday, Sept. 15.  Goldstone will present the law school’s annual Blaine Sloan Lecture, which is free and open to the public.

Goldstone, 72, is the Bacon-Kilkenny Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at Fordham Law School. Prior to entering the academy, he served as a judge at the Transvaal Supreme Court, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court of South Africa, according to Pace. He also served as chairperson of South Africa’s Commission of Inquiry Regarding Public Violence and Intimidation (the Goldstone Commission) from 1991 to 1994 and was the chief prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

He has served as co-chairman of the International Task Force on Terrorism and an international advisor to the International Committee of the Red Cross. As head of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, Goldstone urged the international community to put an end to impunity for violations of international law in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.

In recognition of his commitment to human rights, Goldstone has received the International Human Rights Award of the American Bar Association in 1994 and the Thomas J. Dodd Prize in International Justice and Human Rights in 2005. He holds Honorary Doctorate of Law degrees from 25 internationally renowned universities and is a fellow of the Weatherhead Centre for International Affairs of Harvard University. He is also a foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The lecture will begin at 4 p.m. in the Robert B. Fleming Moot Courtroom on the North Broadway campus.

Photo: www.constitutionalcourt.org.za

Non-profit law firm gets $65K grant, new finance director

Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, the White Plains-based agency that offers free legal advice in civil cases to low-income residents, now has an extra $65,000 to help unemployed people who are struggling.

The Westchester Community Foundation recently gave the agency a $65,000 grant to pay an attorney to handle public benefits cases and related housing matters from the White Plains office. According to the agency, the lawyer will help clients get or keep unemployment insurance and healthcare benefits, as well as other income and benefits, so they can stay in their homes and care for their family.

“We are so grateful for their shared commitment to our mission of improving the lives of the underserved in Westchester,” LSHV Executive Director Barbara Finkelstein said in a statement. “Together our two organizations are making positive and real changes in the lives of county residents. The current economic downturn makes our work more important than ever.”

Making sure the money is used properly will be Carol Ann Malinowski’s job. She has been named LSHV’s new director of finance and administration and will oversee the agency’s $8.5 million budget, as well as its 67-member staff.

Malinowski has more than 20 years of finance, strategic planning, and management experience with non-profit and corporate organizations, according to LSHV. She has been a senior financial advisor to McQuilling Services in Garden City, N.Y.; vice president of finance and investment manager for Northern Navigation International in Stamford, Conn. and vice president of finance services for the Girl Scouts. She also has worked for The Breast Treatment Task Force of NYC and the Cancer Support Community of Branford, Connecticut.

Ex-Yonkers library worker arraigned on felony theft charges

A former Yonkers library worker  pleaded not guilty today to charges that she swindles the library system out of  $163,582 over seven years.

Margo Reed of Yonkers (left) was arraigned in Westchester County Court on one count of second-degree grand larceny, 14 counts of falsifying business records, two counts of filing a false instrument and one count of filng a false tax returns. All of the charges are felonies.

She remains free without bail and is due back in court on Nov. 16, although her lawyer, Lawrence Sykes, will meet with prosecutors to discuss her case on Aug. 24.

She faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of second-degree grand larceny.

Reed worked in the library’s business office and was responsible for collecting overdue fines and other revenue from the three branches of the Yonkers Public Library System. She was also responsible for handing over the library’s revenue to the Yonkers Finance Department for deposit. County prosecutors say she stole the money between July 7, 2004 and Dec. 7, 2010 from One Larkin Center in Yonkers.

Police said she had a key to the library’s locked deposit bag and used it to pilfer cash. She also is accused of altering the library’s business records to hide the missing funds.

District Attorney Janet DiFiore said the stolen money could have been used to buy books, reading materials and computers for Yonkers libraries.

“In today’s economy, with limited resources and tight budgets, this kind of crime directly impacts children, students, the elderly and anyone who looks to the public library system as a place of knowledge and enjoyment,” she said in a written statement.

Yonkers’ 2009 salary records indicate that Reed made $43,323 in gross pay and worked for the city since 1985. She lives in a federally subsidized apartment building where residents’ rents are based on their income.She filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2003. Virtually all her debt was credit-card related, court papers show. According to federal court records, Reed’s case was closed on April 13, 2004, and a judge released her from all her debts.

Staff writer Ernie Garcia contributed to this report.

New Rochelle man to serve 20 years for afternoon stabbing death

A New Rochelle man was sentenced to 20 years in state prison today for the brazen midday slaying of a rival in downtown New Rochelle last year.

The sentence for 21-year-old Laurell Smith (left) was five years less than the maximum for first-degree manslaughter, the felony charge that he was convicted of in June.

Smith fatally stabbed Kevin Williams on Sept. 18, as he was walking along on North Avenue with his uncle at 2:30 p.m. Smith yelled at Williams from an apartment window, and the two began arguing. Smith, who was already on probation, ran out of the apartment building and confronted Williams on the street, asking him at one point if he was scared. Williams reportedly replied, “No, I’m not scared.”

Smith then pulled an 8-inch knife from his waistband and forced it into the left side of Williams’ abdomen, stopping an inch from his right kidney, prosecutors said. Williams died an hour later at Sound Shore Medical Center.

Smith was charged with second-degree murder, but a jury acquitted him after his lawyer argued that Smith only wanted to hurt Williams, not kill him. The murder charge carried a life sentence.

Smith also was sentenced to serve one to three years in prison for violating his probation by committing another crime. The sentence will run concurrently, or at the same time as his manslaughter sentence, according to the Westchester County District Attorney’s office.

Williams’ aunt, who spoke briefly at the sentencing, told Smith that she hoped God would forgive him for killing her nephew.

Two of Smith’s accomplices pleaded guilty to their role in trying to cover up the attack and protect Smith. Rico Johnson, 20, and Krista Leggieri, 18, pleaded guilty in March to second-degree hindering prosecution and evidence tampering, felonies, for helping to hide Smith’s clothes and the knife. Johnson was sentenced to five years’ probation, with four months in the Westchester County jail. Leggieri was sentenced as a youthful offender; her file has been sealed.

Westchester County Judge Barry Warhit sentenced all three defendants in the case.