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Tag: New York

Judge Blasts FBI Agent for Failing to Disclose Evidence in Bank Robbery, Which Led to Mistrial

By Steve Neavling

A federal judge lashed out an FBI agent whose failure to disclose evidence in a bank robbery case in New York led to a mistrial. 

FBI Special Agent Paul Scuzzarella said he “forgot” to provide 199 pages of forensic laboratory evidence to federal prosecutors, The Times Union reports.

Saying she was “livid” at the agent’s actions, U.S. District Judge Mae D’Agostino declared a mistrial on the eve of the final day of testimony in the case of Ulysses Walls, 29, who is accused of armed robberies of banks in Albany and North Greenbush in 2019. 

A retrial has been scheduled for Feb. 21. 

“I want you to know, Agent Scuzzarella, that you are responsible for the position the court finds itself in,” D’Agostino told the agent.  “Negligence, ineptitude, carelessness, failure to do what you needed to do is going to result in another trial where these bank tellers are going to have to come in and relive what happened to them at two separate banks. Thousands of dollars of resources have already been spent for this trial to be conducted — and it’s on you. And I don’t know if you fully understand precisely the position you have put this court in.”

The judge added: “You should be embarrassed by your conduct.”

While the judge questioned the agent under oath on Dec. 15, Scuzzarella said he thought he had disclosed all of the evidence but was mistaken.  

“It’s on me that I apparently did not review everything and realized that this particular stuff was not included. And then I think just, over time, I forgot it was even done,” he stated. 

DEA Agent Puts Would-Be Carjacker in Hospital

Carjacking suspect Zachary Bell, via Facebook

By Steve Neavling

A would-be carjacker picked the wrong man to mess with. 

After finishing his shift, a DEA agent was stopped at a red light in Manhattan when Zachary Bell approached his government-issued vehicle and demanded he “get the f—k out of the car,” according to a criminal complaint filed in Manhattan Federal Court, the New York Post reports.

When Bell, of Maplewood, N.J., reached toward his waistband, the agent took action. 

The seven-year veteran assigned to the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force activated his police lights, pulled out his own gun, struck Bell in the face, tackled him, and handcuffed him before calling the police. 

Bell sustained “severe” facial injuries that required surgery, his attorney said. 

The identity of the agent was not released. 

DOJ: Man Who Threw Brick into FBI’s Buffalo Field Office Wanted Bureau’s Attention

FBI’s Buffalo Field Office. Photo via FBI.

A 43-year-old man who threw a brick into the front window of the FBI’s Buffalo Field Office was charged with destruction of property, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Thursday. 

Octavio Smith, of Buffalo, told police he did it to “get the FBI’s attention,” prosecutors said. 

Security officers immediately arrested Smith. 

The window was “severely” cracked and had to be replaced. 

Smith faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 

DOJ Files Hate Crime Charges Against Racist Buffalo Mass Shooter

By Steve Neavling

The Justice Department on Wednesday filed hate crime charges against the 18-year-old white gunman who killed 10 Black people in a mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket in May. 

Payton Gendron faces 26 counts of hate crimes and firearms offenses, The New York Times reports

The charges were announced on the same day that Attorney General Merrick Garland visited Buffalo. 

“No one in this country should have to live in fear that they will go to work or shop at a grocery store and will be attacked by someone who hates them because of the color of their skin,” Garland said. 

The complaint alleges Gendron’s “motive for the mass shooting was to prevent Black people from replacing white people and eliminating the white race, and to inspire others to commit similar attacks.”

FBI Arrests NY Lt. Gov. Benjamin on Bribery, Fraud Charges

Former New York Lt. Gov. Brian A. Benjamin. Photo: New York Senate

By Steve Neavling

New York Lt. Gov. Brian A. Benjamin was arrested Tuesday by the FBI on charges of bribery, fraud and falsification of records while he was a state senator.

Benjamin, 45, resigned soon after the Justice Department announced the charges.

Benjamin is accused of receiving thousands of dollars in campaign contributions in exchange for directing a $50,000 state grant to a non-profit controlled by a real estate developer. 

According to the indictment, the developer also raised money for Benjamin’s failed 2021 campaign for New York City’s comptroller. 

“Exploiting one’s official authority by allocating state funds as part of a bribe to procure donations to a political campaign, and engaging in activity to cover up the bribe, is illegal,” FBI New York Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll said in a statement. “As we allege today, Benjamin’s conduct in this scheme directly circumvents those procedures put in place to keep our systems fair.”

The developer was not identified in the indictment. 

FBI Special Agent Pleads Guilty to Using Government Money to Gamble

By Steve Neavling

An FBI special agent pleaded guilty to misusing government money to gamble in a Las Vegas casino following an undercover operation, authorities said Wednesday.

Special Agent Scott F. Carpenter, 40, of New York, entered the guilty plea in federal court to a single count of conversion of government money. 

According to prosecutors, Carpenter, who worked out of the bureau’s New York Field Office, was in Las Vegas with three other FBI agents to conduct an undercover operation in July 2017. Following the operation, Carpenter used $13,500 in government money to play blackjack in a high-limit room. 

Sentencing is set for May 18.

The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General investigated the case. 

Ghost Guns Partly Behind Rise in Crime, ATF Says

Homemade gun seized by U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle in February 2020.

By Steve Neavling

Ghost guns are partly to blame for the increase in crime, the ATF told CBS News.

Ghost guns are sold without background checks, are untraceable and end up in the hands of criminals. In 2006, the ATF stopped consider ghost guns as firearms. 

“You can buy a box of firearms parts, and you can assemble those firearms together. And I’ve seen videos on YouTube, where you can see people doing it in record time — 20, 30 minutes,” ATF Acting Director Marvin Richardson told CBS News. 

Seizures of ghost guns have sharply increased in New York City, where police confiscated 145 in 2020 and 225 last year, compared to 17 in 2018 and 48 in 2019. 

In October, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on the ATF to crack down on ghost guns.

An additional 455 ghost guns were seized in Chicago and more than 300 in Baltimore. 

Richardson said the guns are ending up in the hands of criminals and gang members with whom law enforcement are familiar. 

“So what we’ve learned is that those people that we go after have an average of eight arrests prior to us having that contact with them,” he said. “In many instances, eight violent criminal arrests, so we’re not talking about people that are shrinking violets.” 

Secret Service Arrests New York Man Accused of Threatening to Kill, Kidnap Trump

President Trump

By Steve Neavling

The Secret Service arrested a Queens man accused of threatening to kidnap and kill then-President Trump if he refused to leave the White House following his failed 2020 election.  

Thomas Welnicki, 72, was charged with making threats against the president in cell phone calls to the Secret Service between July 2020 and last month, The New York Post reports.

“I am going to do anything I can to take out [Trump]. Oh yeah that’s a threat, come and arrest me,” Welnicki allegedly said on a Jan. 4, 2021, voicemail.

“I will do anything I can to take out [Individual-1] and his 12 monkeys,” Welnicki allegedly said in his voicemail. “If I had the opportunity to do it in Manhattan that would be awesome.”

In a call on Nov. 8, Welnicki allegedly called Trump “Hitler” and said “I will do everything I can to make sure [Trump] is dead.”

Magistrate Judge Vera Scanlon ordered a $50,000 bond. 

During the hearing, his attorney Dierdre Von Dornum said Welnicki doesn’t own any weapons and hasn’t left New York City in 15 years. 

“If there were any actual danger here, I am certain that they would have arrested him sooner,” Von Dornum said.