Sunday, July 31, 2016

News From Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman


Ensuring Equal Rights For All Citizens

Attorney General Schneiderman and Governor Cuomo led a coalition of ten states and the District of Columbia in filing of an amicus brief challenging North Carolina’s discriminatory anti-transgender law. The so-called “bathroom bill” limits the ability of cities and localities to protect the rights of transgender and non-gender-conforming people. The coalition, along with two other states, filed a second court brief opposing Texas’s failure to allow transgender students to use the facilities of their choosing.

Allowing Consumers To Dispute Damage Fees When They Use Zipcars

The Attorney General reached a settlement with Zipcar for charging New Yorkers rental vehicle damage fees without giving consumers the opportunity to dispute them. Zipcar routinely charged consumers these fees before notifying them of suspected damage. Zipcar is a car-sharing service that allows members to rent vehicles on an hourly or daily basis at a variety of locations for a monthly membership fee. The company has agreed to refund damage charges assessed against consumers who contested their responsibility for the vehicle damage and comply with New York law regarding vehicle damage charges. 

Protecting Vulnerable Citizens From Unscrupulous Landlords

The owners of the Esplanade Senior Residences in White Plains will pay $528,000 to 139 elderly residents after forcing them to vacate their apartments. The Attorney General charged the owners for continuing to rent apartments to senior citizens without informing them of their plan to vacate and renovate the building. 

Have a question, comment, or complaint? Click here. You can also learn more about the various initiatives of the Attorney General's office by visiting our website at You can also call our General Hotline: 800-771-7755

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Former Head Of Foundation Sentenced To 20 Months In Prison For Bribing Then-Ambassador And President Of United Nations General Assembly

    Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that SHIWEI YAN, a/k/a “Sheri Yan,” the co-founder and former chief executive officer of the Global Sustainability Foundation, was sentenced in Manhattan federal court today to 20 months in prison for paying more than $800,000 in bribes to John W. Ashe (“Ashe”), the late former Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda (“Antigua”) to the United Nations (“UN”) and 68th President of the UN General Assembly.  Yan pled guilty in January 2016, and was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick.
U.S. Attorney Bharara stated: “As she admitted in court at her guilty plea, Shiwei Yan bribed the President of the UN General Assembly with hundreds of thousands of dollars to further private business interests.  For her role in corrupting the United Nations, Yan will serve time in a federal prison.”
According to the Complaint, Superseding Information, information presented in connection with sentencing, and other publicly available materials:
Starting in approximately April 2012, YAN, along with co-defendant Heidi Hong Piao, a/k/a “Heidi Park” (“Piao”), agreed to and did arrange for more than $800,000 in bribe payments to Ashe in exchange for official actions by Ashe and one or more other Antiguan officials to benefit several Chinese businessmen.  Piao also pled guilty for her participation in the scheme, but has not yet been sentenced.
The initial bribe payment arranged by YAN and Piao was a $300,000 payment on behalf of a Chinese media executive referred to as “CC-1” in the Complaint.  In exchange for this payment, Ashe agreed to “start the conversations” with Antiguan officials, including the then-Prime Minister, concerning CC-1’s interests.  With YAN’s knowledge, Ashe shared a portion of the bribe payment with one or more Antiguan officials.  YAN also requested and received an official appointment from Ashe as an adviser.
In August 2013, YAN and Piao began paying Ashe approximately $20,000 per month, purportedly for his forthcoming service as the “Honorary Chairman” of a non-governmental organization, the Global Sustainable Development Foundation, later known as the Global Sustainability Foundation (“GSF”).  GSF was founded by YAN and Piao and purported to promote the UN’s sustainable development goals.  YAN sent these monthly payments from a Chinese company she operated to personal accounts of Ashe.
In September 2013, Ashe formally began his one-year term as President of the UN General Assembly.  YAN and Piao thereafter arranged for another Chinese businessman, referred to as “CC-2” in the Complaint, to send Ashe $100,000.  Approximately one month after this payment, YAN arranged for Piao to travel with Ashe and CC-2 to meet with Antiguan officials about a business deal for a Chinese security company (the “Chinese Security Company”) affiliated with CC-2.  After YAN sent Ashe another $100,000, the government of Antigua signed a “memorandum of understanding” with the Chinese Security Company. 
YAN and Piao also arranged for ASHE to be paid $200,000 in exchange for attending a private conference in China in Ashe’s official capacity, hosted by a Chinese real estate developer identified as “CC-3” in the Complaint. 
During the scheme, YAN and Piao also arranged for Ashe to receive tens of thousands of dollars in custom suits and clothes.
In imposing sentence, Judge Broderick said, “To those bent on perverting decision-making” through bribery, “this simply will not be tolerated…there are consequences to these actions.”
YAN, 60, a naturalized United States citizen who resided principally in China prior to her arrest, was charged in October 2015 along with Piao, Francis Lorenzo (then-Deputy Permanent Representative of the Dominican Republic to the UN), Ashe, Ng Lap Seng, and Jeff C. Yin.  Piao and Lorenzo subsequently pled guilty to bribery, money laundering, and other charges.  Charges against Ng Lap Seng and Jeff C. Yin, who are scheduled to proceed to trial on January 23, 2017, remain pending, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.[1]
In addition to her prison term, YAN was sentenced to two years of supervised release, was fined $12,500, and was ordered to forfeit $300,000.

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Indictment Of Alleged Ringleaders Of Check Fraud Scheme

  Kevin Lee And Daniel Green Allegedly Cashed Over $100,000 In Fraudulent Checks As Part Of A Scheme To Defraud Account Holders And Local Credit Unions

Defendants Face A Maximum Of 10 To 20 Years In State Prison If Convicted
   Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the arraignment today of Kevin Lee (aka Kev Escobar) and Daniel Green (aka Lance Gambino) on a 19-count indictment charging them with issuing over $100,000 in fraudulent checks written in the name of a fictitious business as part of a scheme to defraud vulnerable account holders and small financial institutions.  Lee and Green are accused of convincing vulnerable individuals, many of whom were contacted over Facebook and other social media outlets, to deposit forged checks into their personal checking accounts. Lee and Green then allegedly drained the accounts of the available balances before the checks were returned and the financial institutions discovered them to be worthless.  The defendants are charged in Onondaga County Supreme Court with Grand Larceny, Forgery, and Identity Theft, among other charges. The defendants face a maximum of 10 to 20 years in state prison.
“These defendants allegedly attempted to line their own pockets by preying on vulnerable New Yorkers who were looking for an extra financial boost,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “My office has zero tolerance for those who commit identity theft and seek to exploit local financial institutions that ordinary consumers rely on for stability.”
State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said,  “These suspects are accused of using a devious scheme to victimize vulnerable people for their own gain. I commend the Attorney General and our Special Investigations Unit in Syracuse for their work on this case. It’s because of our strong partnership that we were able to bring charges and seek to hold these two suspects accountable for their alleged crimes.”
According to statements made by prosecutors in court today, Lee created phony bank accounts in the name of Jones Maintenance, a fictitious business in which Lee claimed to have an interest.  Thereafter, Lee and Green, relying heavily on Facebook and other social media outlets, allegedly targeted numerous financially vulnerable individuals—college students, young single parents, and other indigent, disadvantaged, and unwary young adults—to whom they issued forged checks in the name of that company. In exchange for depositing these forged checks in their accounts, the account owners were promised a portion of the check as a fee. After the checks were deposited and the funds cleared and became available, the defendants allegedly withdrew the money for their own personal use. In some instances, the defendants are accused of assuming the identities of the account holders, accessing their accounts, and withdrawing funds through ATM transactions using personal information the account holders had been required to provide for asserted security purposes.  As a result, the targeted financial institutions targeted were forced to devote resources to compensate account holders for the phony checks and fraudulently withdrawn funds.
Also according to prosecutors, between December of 2015 to May of 2016 alone, Lee and Green issued over $100,000 in fraudulent checks pursuant to this alleged scheme, primarily targeting small, local or regional credit unions and banks.
The Attorney General’s indictment charges Kevin Lee  with three counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (a class D felony), three counts of Attempted Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (a class E felony), one count of Grand Larceny in the Fourth degree (a class E felony), six counts of Forgery or Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree (class D felonies), one count of Identity Theft in the First Degree (a class D felony), one count of Identity Theft in the Second Degree (a class E felony), one count of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree (a class E felony), and one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree (a class E felony). Daniel Green is charged with two counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, one count of Attempted Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, two counts of Forgery in the Second Degree and one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree.
Lee, 26, of Clay, and Green, 20, of Syracuse, were arraigned today in Onondaga County Court before the Honorable Judge Aloi; Lee is currently being held without bail, and Green is currently being held on $150,000 bond over $75,000 cash bail.
The charges against the defendants are allegations and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
The Office of the Attorney General is continuing to investigate the alleged operation of this check cashing ring in other counties across the state, including Westchester, Rensselaer, Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga, Oneida, Broome, and Oswego counties.
The Office of the Attorney General thanks the New York State Police Special Investigations Unit – Syracuse and the Financial Crimes Unit for their invaluable assistance on this case.
The charges against the defendant are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj - 6th Annual Summer Streets 2016

The Bainbridge Avenue 204th Street Merchants Association with NYS Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj
and NYC Councilman Andrew Cohen
present the

6th Annual Summer Streets Festival!
Date: July 31st and August 7th
Time: 12pm-6pm
Location: East 204th Street
 between Bainbridge & Decatur Avenue

Come join us at this spectacular event!

Bronx Tourism Council - BRONX SALSAFEST

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

at Orchard Beach
Every Saturday beginning at 1pm

Tipica 73

AUG 14
Mambo Legends

AUG 21
Nelson Gonzalez Band

AUG 28
Los Hermanos Moreno

Bronx Chamber of Commerce invites you to join us at our SummerFest Membership Recognition Mixer

Pokémon NO! Disturbing investigation finds pokémon popping up at high-level sex offenders’ residences across the city

  Senators Klein & Savino call for new legislation to protect children from threats new augmented reality games pose

State Senators Jeff Klein and Diane Savino on Friday released an alarming investigative report, “Protecting Our Children: How Pokémon GO and Augmented Reality Games Expose Children to Sex Offenders.”

The wildly popular game, downloaded over 30 million times within the first two weeks of its release, takes players on a hunt for pokémon using real-life maps and locations. Gamers must pause at Pokéstops, located throughout the city,  to collect items necessary to play the game and at Gyms where they meet up with other players in real-life to battle their collection of creatures.

The investigation found:

  • Pokémon materialized in front of Level 2 or 3 sex offenders’ homes 57% of the time.

  • Pokéstops or Gyms were located within a half-block of convicted pedophiles’ residences 59% of the time.

  • A Pokémon-related item appeared near a high-level sex offenders’ residences 73% of the time.

“While children believe they are out to catch a pokémon, what might really be lurking could be a predator instead of a Pikachu. We want our children to have safe fun, but it makes no sense at all to give dangerous sexual predators a virtual road map to where our children congregate. We must update our law that already prohibits high level predators from using social media and we must make sure that gamers scrub these addresses from this game and future ones,” said Senator Klein.

“It’s dangerous to let our children linger in front of a sex offender’s home to play a game, and it’s absurd that a high-level predator should be allowed to have this map at his or her fingertips in the first place. We devised simple solutions in light of this alarming investigation to keep our laws up-to-date as technology advances,” said Senator Savino.

In light of the alarming findings, Senator Klein will introduce legislation to prohibit certain Level 2 and 3 sex offenders from playing augmented reality games. Many high-level sex offenders are already prohibited from using social media.

In another piece of legislation, Senator Klein will require game developers to regularly scour the Department of Criminal Justice website to obtain sex offender addresses and remove all in-game objectives within 100-feet of their residencies.

The investigation focused on 100 Level 2 and 3 sex offenders who committed crimes against children or who were convicted of possessing child pornography. All of the individuals are still on parole or probation and are prohibited from living within 1,000 feet of a school.

In each borough, a total of 57 pokemon were caught directly in front of these high-level pedophiles’ homes.
1493Dekalb1.png    408 manhattan ave 2.PNG
322 Huntington ave 2.png

460 N – BRIELLE  1.png150-17 17th Avenue 3.png

Worse, Pokéstops and Gyms populated surrounding areas a majority of the time.

Pokéstops are essential to playing, since players pick up items needed for the game. They are stationed at historical sites, businesses or on local artworks. “Lures” can be placed on them to attract pokémon, opening up another avenue of danger for children. A sexual predator can easily earn a lure module by playing the game or can purchase them with real world money.

Gyms prompt real world encounters. They are places where players must physically congregate to battle their pokémon, again leaving children vulnerable to predators who have access to a map of these sites, many of whom live very closeby.

Of 100 high-level sex offenders examined in this investigation, 59% of the time the predator lived within a half-block of a Pokéstop and/or Gym.

city map.jpg

KEY: Pokéball = Pokéstop/Gym,  Blue marker = Sex offender.

8/10/16- NCB's Annual Back to School Healthfest!

Join us on Wednesday August 10th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Kossuth Avenue (between 208th & 210th streets) to celebrate our Annual “Back to School” Healthfest.

·         Free Health Screenings
·         Health Education Booths
·         Medication Counseling
·         Health Insurance Eligibility Screening
·         Children’s ID Fingerprinting & Immunization                 Card Review
·         Games
·         Free Giveaways
·         Raffle Prizes and More!

Sponsored by the Friends of NCB Auxiliary and MetroPlus

News From Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Community Board 6 District Manager's Last District Service Cabinet Meeting

  Longtime Community Board 6 District Manager Ivine Galarza is seated at the conference table in the board office for her last District Service Cabinet meeting with local area representatives of city agencies. To Ms. Galarza'a right is the commanding officer of the 48th Police Precinct Captain Tim McCormick, and to her left is the new Community Board 6 district manager Mr. John Sanchez. 

  I had received a couple of phone calls from individuals who applied for the district manager position, and went to meet the new district manager. I was fortunate to be able to see my friend Ivine Galarza who had been the district manager of board 6 for the past 21 years. We had a very lovely chat, similar to the one I had with Ken Kearns who is the outgoing District Manager of Community Board 10. Ivine asked me why I was not on Community Board 8 anymore, and I said that she would have to ask Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. that question. I asked Ivine why she was retiring, and she said that while she would of loved to continue on as the district manager, but that 21 years was a long period of time in today's era of community boards to be the district manager. We spoke about many other items, and then she introduced me to the new district manager Mr. John Sanchez.

  In my role of being a political reporter I was familiar with Mr. Sanchez who had been on the staff of Assemblyman Michael Blake, whose assembly district covers parts of the community board 6 area. I joked with District manager Sanchez about Assemblyman Blake wanting to become a congressman, and I said that he might make a fine assemblyman should that happen. Having been a community board member for the past six years, and my boards Budget Committee Chair, I know firsthand of the recent changes instituted by the current mayor's office. Last year was the first year of a 48 page on line submission form for budget priorities, and this coming year was going to be no different, especially to a rookie district manager. 

  It seems that as Ms. Galarza and I talked, today we may not see a district manager with more than ten years on the job, as they are appointed by the members of the community board. It also seems that due to term limits of elected officials who appoint community board members more frequent turnover of board members may also happen. For now Community Board 6 appears to be in good hands, and Mr. Sanchez has Ivine Galarza's phone number in an easy to reach spot, just in case he needs some good advice.

Klein and Abbate Announce Law to Recognize Catholic War Veterans with Distinctive License Plates

   Catholic war veterans will now be recognized with special license plates, now that legislation sponsored by State Senator Jeff Klein and Assemblyman Peter Abbate was signed into law.

(05-24-16) 300-62 0023.jpg

“I am very proud that the extraordinary sacrifices made by our Catholic War Veterans, whose courageous acts contributed to our freedom, will be recognized in a special way.  This distinctive plates will allow us to paying tribute to our heroes each and  every  day.   We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to those who served in the military, as they are the true protectors of our civil liberties,” said Senator Jeff Klein.
“I am so proud to finally pass this bill and to honor our states’ Catholic War Veterans. What may seem like a small gesture to us will have a deep impact on them.  This is important step in showing our appreciation to these veterans for their outsize impact they have had on their country, their fellow soldiers and their families. It is my honor to have gotten to know many of them and fight alongside them for this privilege,” said Assemblyman Peter Abbate.
The Catholic War Veterans of the United States of America, which was established in 1935, now joins with the many other veterans’ organizations that are recognized with their own distinctive plates: American Legion, Jewish War Veterans of America, Korean War Veterans, Marine Corps Reserve, Marine Corps League, Navy Reserve, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans, and Veterans of World War II.   The Catholic War Veterans of the United States of America has been recognized by the Veterans Administration since 1940. This organization provide assistance and support to many veterans and their surviving family members.
“I thank Senator Klein on behalf of the Catholic War Veterans Department of New York  for sponsoring the bill to add us to the list of Veteran Service Organization that qualify to have a distinctive license plates. . Since we are also the smallest VSO, having our name on a license plate will bring needed visual recognition and helps us get our name out there so the general public sees us,” David Crum, NYS Department Commander of Catholic War Veterans.
“It is a thrill to know that Senator Jeff Klein after all these years accomplished what we knew he could and never gave up on us!  These license plates give us recognition and will inspire others  to apply for plates. It is a real honor to get recognition on license plates and finally see this happen,” said Jim Mullarkey, Post Commander,  Catholic War Veterans,  The Reverend  Dennis O’Donovan Post 222.

New York City Official Sentenced In Manhattan Federal Court For Food Stamp Bribery Scheme

   Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that HARRY FLETCHER was sentenced yesterday in Manhattan federal court to 36 months in prison for taking more than $20,000 in bribes in exchange for awarding more than $240,000 in food stamp benefits.  FLETCHER, a former official of the New York City Human Resources Administration (“HRA”), was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kevin T. Duffy.  FLETCHER pled guilty in April 2016 to one count of soliciting and accepting bribes from various persons in exchange for enabling those persons to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (“SNAP,” formerly known as Food Stamps) benefits for which they were not eligible.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Bharara said:  “As he admitted in court, Harry Fletcher set up a scheme to receive bribes for providing illegitimate benefits.  By doing so, he didn’t just take advantage of New York City’s social services system, he abused some of the neediest and least fortunate in the City.”
According to the allegations in the Complaint and other documents, and statements made in Manhattan federal court:
The HRA provides temporary help to individuals and families with social service and economic needs to assist them in reaching self-sufficiency.  Its services include, among other things, providing food stamps to low-income families and individuals.  Although the food stamp program is administered locally through HRA, SNAP benefits are funded entirely by the federal government.  To apply for SNAP benefits, an applicant must complete and sign an application form listing, among other things, the applicant’s income and financial assets.  HRA Eligibility Specialists such as FLETCHER are supposed to interview SNAP program applicants and review applicant documentation in order to determine if the applicant is eligible to receive SNAP benefits.   
Beginning in 2009, FLETCHER approached two landlords, who are referred to in the Complaint as CW-1 and CW-2, and who have pled guilty and are cooperating with the Government, and offered to provide CW-1 and CW-2 with monthly SNAP benefits in return for recurring bribe payments.  CW-1 and CW-2 agreed to pay the bribes and, as a result, received tens of thousands of dollars of SNAP benefits for which they were not eligible from 2009 through 2015.  CW-1 and CW-2 then recruited other individuals to the scheme, each of whom obtained monthly SNAP benefits arranged by FLETCHER, without regard to whether the applicant qualified for such benefits, in return for continued bribes.  In total, FLETCHER accepted over $20,000 in bribes for improperly approving over $240,000 in SNAP benefits to CW-1, CW-2, and the remaining defendants.  The applicants bribing FLETCHER were ineligible for SNAP benefits due to their income or to the fact that they did not reside in New York City and thus were not eligible for New York City social service programs.

Manhattan Art Consultant Charged In Federal Court For Failing To Disclose Millions In Swiss Bank Accounts And Income

Allegedly Used Sham Trusts in Panama and Liechtenstein to Hide Assets

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Shantelle P. Kitchen, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (“IRS-CI”), announced today the unsealing of an indictment against LACY DOYLE for obstructing the administration of the internal revenue laws and subscribing to a false tax return in connection with DOYLE’s establishment and maintenance of at least six secret, undeclared bank accounts in Switzerland and France.  DOYLE was arrested in lower Manhattan this morning and appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis earlier today. 
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As alleged in the indictment, Lacy Doyle went to extraordinary lengths to hide millions of dollars in assets and income from the IRS in overseas bank accounts.  As today’s charges make clear, my Office, and our partners at the IRS, will follow our investigations of U.S. tax law violations wherever they lead.”
IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Shantelle P. Kitchen said: “The use of offshore bank accounts to conceal income and assets remains a very high priority for the Internal Revenue Service.  IRS-Criminal Investigation has made great progress in getting access to offshore account information.  We will continue to utilize the resources at our disposal to uncover U.S. taxpayers who willfully evade taxes by hiding their money out of the country.”
As alleged in the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:[1]
DOYLE, assisted by others – including Beda Singenberger, a Swiss citizen who ran a financial advisory firm – established and maintained undeclared bank accounts in Switzerland to hide those accounts from the IRS.  DOYLE used a sham entity to conceal from the IRS her ownership of some of the undeclared accounts and deliberately failed to report the accounts and the income generated in the accounts to the IRS.
In 2003, DOYLE’s father died and secretly left an inheritance of over $4 million to DOYLE.  DOYLE, who was appointed the executor of her father’s estate, made court filings falsely stating under penalty of perjury that the total value of her father’s estate was under $1 million when, in truth and fact, it was more than four times that amount.
Thereafter, in 2006, DOYLE, with Singenberger’s assistance, opened an undeclared Swiss bank account for the purpose of depositing the secret inheritance from her father.  The account was opened in the name of a sham foundation formed under the laws of Lichtenstein to conceal DOYLE’s ownership.  As of December 31, 2008, the account held assets valued at approximately $3,548,380.
In 2010, the sham foundation controlled by DOYLE was re-domiciled from Lichtenstein to Panama.  As of May 31, 2010, the sham foundation maintained assets of at least approximately $3,151,961.37.
For each of the calendar years from 2004 through 2009, DOYLE willfully failed to report on her tax returns her interest in the undeclared accounts and the income generated in those accounts.  For each of these years, Doyle also failed to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) with the IRS, as the law required her to do.
Singenberger was charged on July 21, 2011, with conspiring with U.S. taxpayers and others to defraud the United States, evade U.S. income taxes, and file false U.S. tax returns.  He remains at large.

DOYLE, 59, of New York, New York, is charged with one count of obstructing and impeding the due administration of the IRS laws, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison, and one count of subscribing to a false and fraudulent U.S. individual income tax return, which also carries maximum sentence of three years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
U.S. Attorney Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of IRS-CI and also thanked the U.S. Department of Justice’s Tax Division for their assistance.
The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Lenow is in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Lawsuit Against Staten Island Auto Dealerships For Alleged Deceptive Practices That Illegally Inflated Car Prices

    Schneiderman:  When Consumers Shop For A Car, They Should Not Be Misled By Deceptive Dealerships Looking To Make Illegal Profits

    Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a lawsuit against two Staten Island dealerships owned by SG Hylan Motors Corp. d/b/a Honda of Staten Island, Staten Island Honda, Nissan of Staten Island and Staten Island Nissan (collectively “SG Hylan Motors”).  The lawsuit, filed in New York Supreme Court, alleges that SG Hylan Motors unlawfully sold “after-sale” products and services, including credit repair and identity theft protection services, to over 2,300 consumers. These extra products could sometimes exceed costs of $2,000 per consumer, and the charges were applied without the knowledge of the car buyer.
“When consumers shop for a car, they should not be misled by deceptive dealerships looking to saddle consumers with hidden costs,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Unfortunately, some dealers pad their pockets with fees for products and services that unaware consumers don’t need, and don’t want. We will continue to crackdown against car dealerships that seek to unfairly take advantage of ordinary New Yorkers.” 
According to the lawsuit, the SG Hylan Motors dealerships used deceptive sales tactics, including charging consumers for services while concealing such additional charges from the consumers, or by misrepresenting that the services were free.  In fact, consumers did not receive the credit repair and identity theft protection services for which they were charged. 
The court papers also allege that the SG Hylan Motors dealerships collected more than $2 million from consumers between 2011 and 2014 using these kinds of deceptive tactics.  The suit seeks a court order prohibiting the dealerships from engaging in such practices in the future and directing them to refund all illegally obtained overcharges to consumers.
SG Hylan Motors arranged with an independent company, called Credit Forget It, Inc., to sell credit repair and identity theft protection services beginning at least in 2011. It is a violation of state and federal law to charge upfront fees for services that promise to help consumers restore or improve their credit.  Contracts that violate the credit repair laws are void.
The court papers further allege that the SG Hylan Motors dealerships added on charges for other after-sale items like security systems and special tire protection services without clearly disclosing what they were charging for such services. The costs of these services were often bundled into the vehicle sales price and not separately itemized. As a result, unknown to the consumer, the price of the car stated on purchase and lease documents was inflated by the amount of these after-sale items or services.
This lawsuit is part of the Attorney General’s initiative to end the practice that automobile dealers call “jamming,” or charging consumers for hidden purchases.  In 2015, Attorney General Schneiderman announced a settlement with Credit Forget It, Inc., the company that purported to provide the credit repair and identity theft protection services.  Since 2015, the Attorney General has settled with 9 dealership groups for amounts totaling nearly $16 million in restitution and penalties.  Nearly 20,000 consumers were eligible for restitution under these settlements. 
The settlements include the following dealerships:
  •  Paragon Auto Dealership: a group of automobile dealers in Queens and Westchester counties, including Paragon Honda, Paragon Acura, and White Plains Honda
  •  Plaza Auto Dealership: a group of dealers located on Nostrand Avenue, Brooklyn, including, Plaza Toyota-Plaza Scion, Plaza Hyundai, Plaza Honda and Acura of Brooklyn
  •  Manfredi Auto Dealership: a group of dealers located on Hylan Blvd, Staten Island, including Manfredi Fiat and Fiat of SI, Manfredi Mitsubishi, Manfredi  Kia, Manfredi Hyundai, Manfredi Cadillac, Manfredi Chrysler Jeep & Dodge, Manfredi Fiat Inc., S.I. Toyota, Manfredi Toyota and Manfredi Scion, Manfredi Subaru, Manfredi Mazda and Staten Island Subaru
  •  Koeppel Auto Dealership: a group of dealers located in Jackson Heights, Long Island City and Woodside, Queens, including Koeppel Nissan, Inc.; LK Automotive Enterprises, LLC. d/b/a Koeppel Subaru, KL Auto Enterprises LLC. d/b/a Koeppel Mazda and Koeppel Volkswagen, Inc.
  •  L.I. Autoworld, Inc. d/b/a Generation Kia: located in Bohemia, Long Island
  •  Nissan 112:   located in Patchogue, Long Island
  •  Huntington Honda, Honda of New Rochelle and New Rochelle Toyota: located on Long Island and in Westchester counties
  •  Westbury Jeep Dodge and Fiat of Westbury: located in Westbury, Long Island
  •  Security Auto Sales, Inc. d/b/a Security Dodge: located in Amityville, Long Island
The office is continuing to investigate a number of other New York auto dealers that sold or sell after-sale services without the knowledge and consent of consumers. 
Consumers who believe they have been jammed with unwanted products or services in connection with a vehicle lease or purchase or who were sold Credit Forget It’s credit repair or identity theft protection services are urged to file complaints online or call 1-800-771-7755.

A.G. Schneiderman Reaches Agreement With Zipcar For Charging Thousands Of Consumers Damage Fees In Violation Of Law

Zipcar Failed To Provide Consumers With Opportunity To Dispute Damage Fees Before Charging Customers’ Accounts; Impacted Customers To Receive Full Restitution 
   Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office has reached a settlement with the membership-based rental car company Zipcar, Inc. for routinely charging New York consumers damage fees for rental vehicles in violation of New York law. The law requires that consumers have an opportunity to dispute damage fees before they are assessed, but an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office found that, in some cases, Zipcar charged consumers damage fees before notifying consumers of suspected damage.
“Consumers should never learn that they have been accused of damaging a rental car when they see a surprise charge on their credit card statement,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “New Yorkers have a right to contest damage fees before any penalties are assessed and my office will continue to enforce the law to ensure that customers are treated fairly.”
Zipcar’s membership contracts provide that consumers are liable for any damage to the rental vehicle that occurs while the car is in their possession – whether they cause the damage or not.  Zipcar failed to provide consumers with notice of the damage and the amount of liability, and an opportunity to inspect the damaged vehicle before charging for damage to the vehicle, as required by New York law.  Instead, when damage to a vehicle occurred, Zipcar conducted an investigation to determine which Zipcar member had the car reserved at the time the damage occurred.  It then notified the consumer it deemed responsible for the damage, and charged the consumer’s account for the damage – up to a limit of $1,000 – before the consumer had the opportunity to dispute the charge. Under this policy, Zipcar charged 5,000 New York consumers for damage to its vehicles from 2011 through 2015.
In one instance, Zipcar charged a consumer $750 for scratches on a car before it even notified the consumer of the damage.  When the consumer complained that the damage had not occurred at the time of his reservation, Zipcar reviewed the file but refused to refund the money it had charged.
Under the settlement with the Attorney General, Zipcar has agreed to refund any damage charges that were assessed against consumers who contested their responsibility for the vehicle damage.  Zipcar has also agreed to pay $35,000 in fees and costs to the Attorney General’s office.  In addition, Zipcar has agreed to comply with New York law, and not to charge consumers for damage to its vehicles unless they affirmatively agree that they are liable or Zipcar obtains a legal determination of liability.
Unlike the traditional rental car industry, which requires consumers to visit a centralized rental car location every time they want to rent a vehicle, Zipcar permits pre-approved consumers who sign a membership agreement and pay a membership fee to rent Zipcar cars on an hourly or daily basis without having to pick up the car at a rental car agency.  Zipcar members can pick up rental vehicles at a variety of locations, including street parking spots and commercial parking garages.  Zipcar charges consumers for each rental using the credit or debit card information maintained by the consumer on file.   
Consumers who were charged a damage fee in connection with their rental of a Zipcar vehicle may be eligible for a refund if they objected to liability at the time the damage fee was assessed.  Consumers can submit a claim online at, or call the Attorney General’s office at 212-416-6045 to have a claim form sent to them or they can submit a request by mail.