Top-ranking mob figure arrested in Ramapo

Two men were arrested last Thursday in a joint Rockland District Attorney and FBI operation in Ramapo, including one top-ranking member of a well-known Hudson Valley crime family.

Daniel Pagano, 61, and his alleged associate Michael Palazzolo were taken in on charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering and extortion. Pagano is a known captain in the Genovese family, one of the infamous “Five Families” which were prominent in New York City through the second half of the 20th Century.

The indictment alleges both men were involved in the management of illegal gaming operations and extorted gamblers. If convicted, this would be Pagano’s second gambling-related charge after a three year stint in state prison for gambling and loan sharking in 1990.

Pagano’s attorney Murray Richman announced his client planned to plead not guilty to the charges.

Pagano has been in and out of prison since the early ’90s. Five years after his three-year sentence, he was sentenced to almost nine years in prison for a tax scam involving the sale of bootleg gasoline.


Waldorf teacher continued education career after child porn accusations

A former teacher at the Green Meadow Waldorf School in Chestnut Ridge who was released from employment following the discovery of child pornography in his possession and his admitted attraction to underage girls remains within the Waldorf system as a renowned educator.

Eugene Schwartz, 69, left Green Meadow in 2005 after a 24-year career with the school. Though Schwartz never faced criminal charges, an investigation commissioned by the school identified him as one of several educators within the Waldorf system who had engaged in sexual misconduct involving children.

In several cases, documented abuse of children and adults had occurred. Schwartz himself was alleged to have kept photographs-some of which were described as “provocative”-of Green Meadow students in bathing suits. After the discovery of child pornography in his possession in 2005, Schwartz also allegedly admitted to several adults that he was attracted to young girls.

Nonetheless, Schwartz remained a prominent voice in the Waldorf education movement since his departure. He has traveled extensively, worked as a consultant and lecturer and authored numerous books and articles. According to fellow educators and parents, he has retained an almost “rock star” like presence in the movement.

Schwartz’s reputation might now be damaged by the report. After the report was emailed to 168 Waldorf-associated schools and training institutes, both Green Meadow and Westside School in California barred Schwartz from their grounds. Others are expected to take similar action.


Tax rebate to begin in September

Shortly before the November elections, New york residents might find a surprise in their mailboxes in the form of a $350 rebate check, courtesy of the State Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The rebates, which were approved by the state in 2013, will go to residents who, as of 2012, had incomes between $40,000 and $300,000 and children under the age of 17. About one million families will receive the checks.

Additionally, rebates will be available to taxpayers who saw school tax increases in districts where local governments and school districts stayed within the two percent property tax cap. Rebates will continue through 2015 and 2016, taking the form of state income tax credits.

The state argues that in total, the three-year program will provide $1.5 billion in direct property tax relief. On average, 2.8 households will receive $656 over that time period.

Though the prospect of tax rebates is often popular among voters, the breaks have been lambasted by Cuomo’s opponent in the governor’s race, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino. According to him, the checks are a gimmick to boost Cuomo’s popularity at the expense of the state’s financial stability.


Iraqi crisis persists as Prime Minister Maliki clings to his position

As political rivals attempt to unseat Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the embattled Prime Minister continues to cling to his seat and attempt to rein in a growing Sunni insurgency at the same time.

Maliki has seen his support dwindle since President Fouad Massoum confirmed the nomination of Iraqi deputy Prime Minister Haider al-Ibadi to the current Prime Minister’s post on Monday. Ibadi has been charged with piecing together a new government within 30 days, but not before Maliki lashed out several times at critics and demanded to be nominated for a third term.

Maliki filed a complaint with Iraq’s High Court on Tuesday and has stated he would not step down until the court rules for Ibadi’s claim to the the position of Prime Minister. In spite of his mounting frustration, though, Maliki has pledged not to use force to keep his seat.

The developments reflect a deepening dissatisfaction with Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government. His rule has been associated with a refusal to share power with Sunni Muslims and a contributor to the explosion of violence in the northern part of the country where the Sunni-led Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) and the Levant have secured large parts of the country and initiated atrocities against non-Sunnis.

Given that U.S. foreign policy leaders are similarly wary of Maliki’s continued rule, the Prime Minister is in particularly bad shape. Both Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden have expressed support for a new government in hopes that it would help cool the heated conflict with ISIS in the north.


Court ruling allows distribution of $410 million to Madoff victims

A ruling in New York’s Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday will allow a $410 million settlement between the state and an associate of Bernie Madoff to be distributed directly to victims of Madoff’s massive ponzi scheme.

A 2012 agreement was reached between the state and J. Ezra Merkin, a money manager who invested $2 billion in Madoff’s scheme on behalf of investors. However, the payout was delayed by Madoff trustee Irving Picard, who claimed current bankruptcy laws gave him priority in his attempt to recover $500 million for other investors.

The contention was rejected in court, meaning investors will receive the money through Merkin over the course of three years. Merkin has also agreed to pay $5 million to the State of New York to cover fees and costs.


Neighbors stop fire in Nyack

A small fire on Catherine Street in Nyack was quelled with help of local residents whose prompt response to the blaze helped prevent serious damage.

The fire broke out in a small landscaped section of 22 Catherine Street at around 2 p.m. on Friday. Neighbors and workers on the block noticed smoke rising from the area and responded, using a garden hose to douse the flames while a workman used a hammer to rip burning plants from the ground.

Soon thereafter, a responding police officer used a portable fire extinguisher to further control the spread of the fire before the Nyack Fire Department arrived and spent thirty minutes hosing down the front of the house.

The house sustained minor damage to the front of the home, but the occupants were not present at the time and nobody was injured in the blaze.


Gun rights organization calls for shutdown of SAFE Act hotline, cites inconsistencies

Speaking for the Shooters Committee on Political Education (SCOPE), President Stephen Aldstadt called on Governor Andrew Cuomo to re-evaluate and shut down a hotline designed to provide information on the NY SAFE Act.

According to Aldstadt, the hotline has been providing inconsistent and incorrect information on the law. He reports SCOPE members have called with questions and received several different answers, many of which are contradictory to what the SAFE Act actually states.

“It does not appear that officers who answer the ‘hotline’ are working from scripted responses in the manner of a typical call center,” Aldstadt wrote. “It also appears in even within the NYSP that individual officers have different and sometimes directly conflicting views regarding the same statutory provisions.”

Aldstadt also raised the question of whether it was wise to allow the New York State Police to staff the hotline, given they are also responsible for investigating firearms violations and have offered rewards for information on lawbreakers.

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