DA Brown Gives Year-End Address
District Attorney Richard A. Brown – who this year begins 22 years as Queens County’s chief law enforcement officer – delivered a year-end message to the residents of Queens and praised his dedicated and talented staff for making 2012 another year in which Queens was again among the city’s leaders in crime reduction.
Brown said, “We, as prosecutors, have contributed greatly to New York City’s historic decline in serious crime through our law enforcement initiatives and the utilization of cutting-edge intervention and prevention programs – which, in turn, have created safer neighborhoods for our residents.
“We continue to be, I believe, among the best prosecutor’s offices in the country. Last year our office handled more than 70,000 arrest cases – cases running the gamut from quality of life offenses to serious violent felonies. And, by any standard, we handled those cases efficiently and judiciously. Despite the many challenges that we daily face, our Investigations Division continues to make the big cases. We have no appellate backlog – and our judges continue to praise our professionalism. We have a presence in all of the diverse communities of our county in seeking to prevent crime and in helping to turn young lives around. In sum, we continue to have the respect of our law enforcement colleagues and the confidence of the people of Queens County.
“The Queens County District Attorney’s Office has long been recognized as a nationwide leader in the number of court-authorized wiretaps that we handle. Our Special Prosecutions Division runs a host of crime prevention, school-based and community outreach programs. We have dedicated Child Advocacy and Family Justice Centers – and a Domestic Violence Bureau that maintains the highest domestic violence conviction rate and the lowest dismissal rate in the city and which takes more pre-indictment pleas than the rest of the city combined.”
Brown referred in his message to the New York Law Journal’s recent review of the city’s prosecutors’ offices in which it found Queens County to have the highest felony conviction rate and the lowest felony dismissal rate. “These numbers,” said the district attorney, “should come as no surprise as we are citywide leaders in many categories, including consistently maintaining the best arrest-to-arraignment time in the city and the highest percentage of cases arraigned within 24 hours.
“The reason why I have so much enjoyed my tenure as district attorney over these many years, why it is that I’ve found those years to be so rewarding, and why I look forward to continuing to serve as the district attorney of this county for many years to come, is the successes that we have enjoyed in lowering the level of violence in our county and improving the quality of life of our residents and because of the dedication and professionalism of those with whom we work.”
Brown listed some of the office’s successful prosecutions in 2012:
•People v. Gregory Calas and Nnonso Ekwegbalu: The defendants, both members of the Crips street gang, were convicted in November of first-degree manslaughter and other charges for the fatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy and the assault of a 17-year-old in Cambria Heights on Oct. 2, 2009. Each defendant faces up to 50 years in prison when sentenced on Jan. 9, 2013.
•People v. Robert Ellis: Ellis was convicted in June of second-degree attempted murder, among other charges, in connection with the July 2007 robbery and shooting of a young Queens man. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
•People v. Israel Garcia: Garcia was convicted in November of first-degree assault for a March 2012 incident in which he admitted violently shaking his infant daughter who suffered permanent life-threatening injuries and remains on life support. Garcia will be sentenced to 14 years in prison on Jan. 7, 2013, and has agreed to make an educational video warning of the dangers of shaking a baby.
•People v. Anthony Garvin: Garvin was convicted in August of multiple counts of third-degree robbery in connection with five bank robberies in January 2011. He was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison as a persistent violent felon after the judge presiding over his case heard recordings of Garvin from Rikers Island in which he stated that when he got out, he would plan the robberies better the next time.
•People v. Shaquan Gould and Evan Harrington: The defendants pleaded guilty in October to sex trafficking for forcing a 14-year-old girl to work as a prostitute and to turn over all her earnings to them. The defendants were sentenced to indeterminate terms of three to nine years in prison.
•People v. David Hartshorn: Hartshorn pleaded guilty in August to first- and second-degree criminal sexual act and use of a child in a sexual performance. Hartshorn, who had once been named “Rochdale Village Coach of the Year”, was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
•People v. Jordan Hawes: Hawes pleaded guilty in February to first-degree manslaughter in the beating death of his wife less than a month earlier. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison, which spared the victim’s family a lengthy prosecution and from reliving the details of her suffering at trial.
•People v. Frederick McDonald: McDonald was convicted in July of multiple counts of third- and fourth-degree grand larceny. McDonald was a recidivist thief who lurked about JFK Airport and repeatedly stole luggage and other valuables from unwitting passengers. He was sentenced to three to six years in prison.
•People v. Joseph Meyer: Meyer, who was convicted of first-degree gang assault and other charges, was sentenced in January to 18 years in prison for the brutal August 2009 attack on an off-duty police officer during a traffic dispute.
•People v. Benjamin Moreira: Moreira was convicted in November of second-degree murder and other charges for the July 2010 stabbing death of a Woodhaven man at the 85th Street-Forest Park subway station. He faces up to 26 and one-third years to life in prison when sentenced on Jan. 9, 2013.
•People v. Ramsundar et al: Three members of a Richmond Hill family – including Shane Ramsundar – were collectively sentenced to 139 and one-third to 418 years in prison for defrauding nearly two dozen members of the West Indian community out of $1.8 million through an immigration and real estate fraud scheme.
In addition, Brown said his Investigations Division conducted “many significant long term investigations over the past year into criminal enterprises throughout Queens County – criminal enterprises that prey upon our residents. We have consistently brought major cases dismantling violent gun and drug gangs and rescuing young women from underage prostitution and sex trafficking rings. And we have successfully taken down white collar enterprises involved in identity theft, credit card fraud, mortgage fraud, auto theft and insurance fraud and illegal gambling.”
The major investigations during 2012 noted by the district attorney included:
•Operation Heroin Highway, in which 105 Long Island residents were arrested on drug charges in January as part of an undercover probe of a New York City heroin drug ring. This initiative was followed later in the year by two other successful long term investigations in which two drug gangs were dismantled (one allegedly operated by the Bloods street gang, and the other allegedly by an original member of an infamous 1980s crack cocaine gang) in May and the arrest of 43 individuals on drug charges in August.
•Operation Pac Man, in which five individuals were charged in December in connection with illegal firearms trafficking in Southeast Queens. Twenty revolvers and semi-automatic firearms were allegedly purchased during the three-year operation. This operation followed a successful August gun buyback program in which 509 weapons were collected over a six-hour period. Among the weapons recovered were an AK 47, a Tec-9, a Calico 9mm with a 50 round magazine, 245 revolvers, 168 semi-automatic pistols and five sawed-off shotguns.
•Operation Last Call, in which 18 airport workers were charged in August in connection with the widespread theft of tens of thousands of unsold mini-bottles of liquor and other items from John F. Kennedy International Airport. The workers included 15 present and former truck drivers employed by a food and beverage subcontractor for the airlines and three security guards employed by two security firms operating at the airport.
•Operation Wide World Wagers, in which 25 individuals – including three owners of a sports betting Internet Web site – in five states were charged with operating an illegal sports betting enterprise in Queens County and elsewhere that profited by more than $50 million during an 18-month period by accepting wagers on various sporting events – including horse-racing and professional and college football, basketball, hockey and baseball.
In addition to his office’s many investigations during 2012, Brown noted that his office partnered throughout the year with various local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. For instance, in January, the Queens District Attorney’s Office joined with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and other agencies to launch the Prescription Drug Initiative, a comprehensive response to the epidemic increase in the abuse and diversion of so-called opioid analgesics, such as oxycodone.
In another joint initiative, U.S. government officials – including Lanny A. Breuer, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York – last month praised the Queens District Attorney’s Office for its significant role in helping to develop the historic case against HSBC, which admitted to money laundering and sanctions violations and agreed to forfeit $1.256 billion as part of a deferred prosecution agreement and pay an additional $665 million in civil penalties for its anti-money laundering program violations.
Brown concluded his message by wishing all a happy and healthy New Year and by saying, “I am optimistic that by continuing the very successful strategies that we have employed over the years we, together with our law enforcement colleagues, can make Queens County even safer in 2013.”