Tag Archive | "crime"

Man Charged in 1990s Murders of Two Women, Suspected in Third Murder of Woman Found in North Sea

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John Bittrolff of Manorville is accused of murdering two women in the 1990s and suspected in a third murder, in which the woman’s body was found in North Sea. Mugshot courtesy Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.

By Tessa Raebeck

A carpenter from Manorville who has been charged with the murders of two women in the 1990s is a also suspect in the death of Sandra Castilla, whose body was found in North Sea in Southampton in December 1993.

John Bittrolff, 48, who is married with two children, was arrested Monday, July 21, and charged with two counts of murder in the second degree. He was arraigned in Central Islip and ordered held without bail.

Mr. Bittrolff is accused of murdering Rita Tangredi, 31, of East Patchogue and Colleen McNamee, 20, of Holbrook, who were both strangled and beaten. They were killed in November 1993 and late January 1994, respectively. Both women are believed by authorities to have been prostitutes.

“The cause and manner of death of both of these women are exactly the same,” Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said in a press conference Tuesday, July 22. “There are significant evidentiary similarities between these two murders, Tangredi and McNamee, that he is now charged with and the murder of Sandra Castilla, whose body was found in North Sea in the Town of Southampton.”

The body of Ms. Castilla, 28, of Queens, who was strangled, was found in the woods on November 20, 1993 off Old Fish Cove Road.

The possible connection of Mr. Bittrolff to her murder is still under investigation, according to authorities.

According to Mr. Spota’s spokesman, Robert Clifford, Ms. Castilla “was not a prostitute but led a similar lifestyle.”

Mr. Bittrolff was charged after his brother Timothy submitted his own DNA evidence to the state police database. The DNA was matched to samples found at the crime scenes and police confirmed that John Bittrolff is the killer of both Ms. Tangredi and Ms. McNamee, Mr. Spota said.

“I just feel really relieved, finally,” Ms. Tangredi’s son, Anthony Tangredi, told reporters at the press conference.

Authorities do not believe Mr. Bittrolff to be the serial killer known as the Long Island Serial Killer or the Gilgo Killer who is believed to have murdered 10 to 14 sex workers over a period of 20 years, with the most recent discoveries of remains found in the spring of 2011. That killer dumped his victim’s bodies along Ocean Parkway, near Gilgo Beach and Oak Beach in Suffolk County and Jones Beach State Park in Nassau County.

“The evidence recovered from the bodies of Tangredi and McNamee, the manner in which their bodies were found and the crime scenes are unique to them and very and distinctly different from the Gilgo crime scenes,” Mr. Spota said.

Update: Sag Harbor Acupuncturist Arrested on Charges He Sexually Abused Female Patient

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Sag Harbor acupuncturist Michael Gohring was arrested July 12 on charges that he sexually abused a female patient. Mugshot courtesy Southampton Town Police Department.

Sag Harbor acupuncturist Michael Gohring was arrested July 12 on charges that he sexually abused a female patient. Mugshot courtesy Southampton Town Police Department.

Click here for the original version of this story.

By Tessa Raebeck

Southampton Town Police arrested Michael Gohring, an acupuncturist in Sag Harbor, on Saturday, July 12, on charges that he sexually abused a female patient he was treating.

Mr. Gohring, 64, a resident and business owner in Sag Harbor since 1987, was arrested at his office, Mikal Gohring Acupuncture & Comprehensive Oriental Medicine, on Noyac Road in Noyac. According to Detective Sergeant Lisa Costa of the Southampton Town Police Department, Mr. Gohring’s legal name on his identification is Michael, but he uses “Mikal” for business purposes.

The patient, who Sergeant Costa identified as a 50-year-old Southampton resident, told police that the acupuncturist had sexually abused her during an appointment while she had acupuncture needles inserted into her body and was thus unable to move. Mr. Gohring was charged with aggravated sexual abuse in the second degree, a Class C Felony, which alleges he violated the patient using his hand.

He was held overnight at Southampton Town Police Headquarters in Hampton Bays and arraigned Sunday, July 13, at Southampton Town Justice Court. Mr. Gohring was remanded to Suffolk County Jail in lieu of $20,000 bail, police said in a press release issued Wednesday, July 16. He has since posted bail.

When approached outside his Noyac Road acupuncture office on Tuesday, July 22, Mr. Gohring and his attorney, Robert J. Coyle, who practices in Sag Harbor, said they are in the process of preparing a formal statement attesting to his innocence that will be issued sometime this week.

Mr. Gohring added that he has strong ties to the community and has treated countless local people who can corroborate his professionalism. A poll of Dan’s Papers readers named Mr. Gohring’s practice “Best of the Best Acupuncturist in the Hamptons” several times, most recently in 2013.

According to his website, Mr. Gohring has been practicing professionally 27 years and offers “comprehensive oriental medicine, acupuncture and acutonics treatments.” He lists “women’s health” as among his specialties.

“My training and experience have given me professional expertise in treating diseases and chronic conditions difficult to treat through other disciplines,” his website states.

Mr. Gohring is due back in Southampton Town Court on September 9.

Police have asked that anyone with related information call the Southampton Town Detective Unit at (631) 702-2230.

Sag Harbor Acupuncturist Arrested on Charges of Sexual Abuse Against Patient

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By Tessa Raebeck

Southampton Town Police arrested a Sag Harbor acupuncturist Saturday, July 12, on charges that he sexually abused a female patient he was treating.

Michael P. Gohring, 64, a resident of Sag Harbor since 1987, was arrested at his Noyac Road business in the village. A patient told police that the licensed acupuncturist sexually abused her during an appointment.

Mr. Gohring was charged with Aggravated Sexual Abuse in the second degree, a Class C Felony. He was held overnight at Southampton Town Police Headquarters in Hampton Bays and arraigned Sunday, July 13, at Southampton Town Justice Court, then remanded to Suffolk County Jail in lieu of $20,000 bail, police said in a press release issued Wednesday, July 16.

Mr. Gohring offers acupuncture and comprehensive oriental medicine and was voted “Best of the Best” Acupuncturist in the Hamptons by Dan’s Papers’ Readers’ Poll in 2013. According to police, he uses the first name Mikal for his business.

Police ask that anyone with related information call the Southampton Town Detective Unit at (631) 702-2230.

Two Arrested for Making Threats Against East Hampton Jewish Center

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Asli Dincer, 44, and Melih Dincer, 31, of Riverhead, New York, were arrested by East Hampton Village Police Thursday in connection to threats made against the Jewish Center of the Hamptons.

Asli Dincer, 44, and Melih Dincer, 31, of Riverhead, New York, were arrested by East Hampton Village Police Thursday in connection to threats made against the Jewish Center of the Hamptons.

By Tessa Raebeck

The East Hampton Village Police Department arrested two Riverhead residents on Thursday on charges of making terrorist threats against the Jewish Center of the Hamptons.

East Hampton Village detectives arrested Asli Dincer, 44, and her former husband, Melih Dincer, 31 on Thursday night at John F. Kennedy International Airport, when the two returned to the United States.

Mr. and Ms. Dincer were both wanted for questioning in relation to the threats, which police said had taken place over several months, but they had left the country early in the summer.

The case originated when threats were sent in writing to the Jewish Center of the Hamptons, which were turned over to local police. East Hampton Village Police then coordinated their investigation and the identification of the suspects with detectives from the Suffolk County Police Department and the New York State Police working with the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Police did not reveal the nature of the threats.

The two face charges of making a terrorist threat, a felony, falsely reporting an incident in the first degree, a felony, menacing in the second degree, a misdemeanor, and conspiracy in the fifth degree, a misdemeanor.

East Hampton Village Chief of Police Gerard Larsen confirmed Friday that the two were arraigned at the East Hampton Town Justice Court by Justice Steven Tekulsky earlier that afternoon and bail was set at $50,000 for each.

Springs Man Assaulted with Machete in East Hampton

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Jose Javier Garces Hernandez, 24, of Springs, is charged with assault in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree for stabbing another East Hampton man with a machete Monday, May 26. Photo courtesy East Hampton Town Police Department.

Jose Javier Garces Hernandez, 24, of Springs, is charged with assault in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree for assaulting another East Hampton man with a machete Monday, May 26. Photo courtesy East Hampton Town Police Department.

By Tessa Raebeck

On May 26, East Hampton Town Police responded to a report of two men fighting in the roadway on Clinton Street in Springs. Upon arrival, police said they found Jose Maria Jimenez, 26, of Clinton Street had been assaulted with a machete and had suffered several serious wounds to his torso.

Mr. Jimenez was transported to Southampton Hospital for treatment before being transferred to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he underwent surgery.

According to police, the second man involved in the fight, Jose Javier Garces Hernandez, 24, of Rutland Drive, fled the scene prior to police arrival and was later located at a residence on Springs Fireplace Road.

Mr. Garces Hernandez was treated for injuries by East Hampton Ambulance and subsequently airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment. He has been charged with assault in the second degree, a felony, and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, a misdemeanor.

Mr. Garces Hernandez was arraigned in East Hampton Town Justice Court on Wednesday.

Police ask that anyone with information contact the East Hampton Town Police Department at (631) 537-7575. All calls will be kept confidential.

Court Grants Order of Protection for Victim of Alleged Rape in East Hampton

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Ex-Goldman Sachs banker Jason Lee is accused of raping an Irish student at his rental home in East Hampton last August. Photo courtesy Suffolk County District Attorney's office.

Ex-Goldman Sachs banker Jason Lee is accused of raping an Irish student at his rental home in East Hampton last August. Photo courtesy Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.

By Tessa Raebeck

A Suffolk County court on Friday granted an order of protection for a woman living in Ireland who was allegedly raped in East Hampton last summer.

Suffolk County Criminal Court Justice Barbara Kahn granted the application, filed by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, for a one-year order of protection against the defendant in the case, Jason Lee, 37, an employee of the Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs.

Mr. Lee is accused of raping a 20-year-old Irish student last summer in his East Hampton rental home. He was charged with rape in the first degree in August and pled not guilty in September, after posting $100,000 bail.

The order of protection will not allow Mr. Lee or anyone working on his behalf to contact the alleged victim.

“This court order will provide a level of protection for the victim of this crime, now at home in her native Ireland, who feels that [she] has been harassed and intimidated by visitors in the employ of the defendant, Jason Lee,” Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said in a press release.

“We are pleased the court included in the order of protection a specific provision not only barring the defendant from any contact with our victim [but also] importantly, to refrain from communication with her through third parties,” he continued. “This victim has told us she felt intimidated by the emissary sent to speak to her by the defendant, and that she feels she is being watched, increasing her fear and causing her great distress.”

East Hampton Town Police arrested Mr. Lee after coming to his rental house for an unrelated matter, being notified of the alleged rape and finding Mr. Lee hiding in his Range Rover.

Southampton Rally Remembers Sandy Hook Victims, Protests Lack of Federal Legislation a Year After Tragedy

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Gun control advocates in front of Congressman Tim Bishop's Southampton office at Sandy Hook Remembrance Rally Saturday.

Gun control advocates in front of Congressman Tim Bishop’s Southampton office at Sandy Hook Remembrance Rally Saturday. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

A year after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut took the lives of 20 first graders and six school employees, New York State has some of the toughest laws on gun control in the country.

But with no legislative action yet taken on the federal level, groups advocating for gun control are continuing their fight for safety laws.

Chanting “We will not forget!” members of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, States United Against Gun Violence and Organizing for Action, an advocacy group supporting President Obama’s legislative agenda, held a Sandy Hook Remembrance Rally outside Congressman Tim Bishop’s Southampton office Saturday afternoon.

Decked in hats, gloves and posters, a group of 17 advocates for gun control braved the snow to honor the victims, survivors and families of the Sandy Hook tragedy, commemorate the actions of Governor Andrew Cuomo and Congressman Bishop in the past year and call on legislators — particularly at the federal level — to do more.

Sue Hornik from States United Against Gun Violence and Sag Harbor’s Jackie Hilly, of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, spoke at the rally. They called for closing background check “loopholes,” banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, making schools safer and increasing access to mental health services.

“While sadness can be unbearable,” Hilly told the crowd, “it should also serve to embolden us to speak out against gun violence.”

The event marked the one-year anniversary of the school shooting at Sandy Hook. After Hilly and Hornik spoke, those in attendance read the names of the 26 victims, along with personal anecdotes, and rang a bell after each reading.

Ann Howard from Cutchogue read the name of Dylan Hockley, a six-year-old killed in his classroom who had “beautiful eyes and a mischievous grin” and “a love of bouncing on trampolines.”

Hilly thanked Governor Cuomo for making New York the first state to take decisive action after Newtown. The AR-15, the assault weapon used at Sandy Hook, can no longer legally be purchased in New York. Banning such weapons was one of the provisions of the New York SAFE Act, which was proposed by Governor Cuomo and adopted by the state legislature in January, less than a month after the tragedy.

“Now with the new regulations that were adopted in New York State,” explained Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., “if we don’t have the most stringent gun control measures, we’re in the top two.”

State Senator Kenneth LaValle agreed New York has some of the strongest gun control laws in the nation.

“Right after Sandy Hook I think there was a sense of purpose, because young people were killed — senseless murder — in an elementary school by an individual who had mental health issues,” said LaValle, “ and indeed in every one of these mass shootings, the shooter has a mental health issue.”RaebeckSandyHookRally2

The SAFE Act established provisions to help identify individuals with mental illnesses and correlate reporting of such illnesses with reporting of firearm ownership. Under the new law, a gun owner living with someone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness has a responsibility to make sure his or her guns are not available to that person.

“That’s kind of a good balancing, we believe, between rights and responsibilities,” said Hilly, “because you know, the other side is always talking about rights and rarely are they mentioning responsibilities.”

Additionally, mental health professionals are now required by law to alert police if they believe one of their patients is likely to hurt themselves or others — and that patient has a gun permit.

The SAFE Act also standardized the time period for renewal of permits across the state. Previously, Long Island and Westchester required gun owners to renew their permits every five years and New York City had a three-year requirement. Now, all of New York — including areas upstate that required renewal less frequently — has a maximum five-year permit renewal requirement (New York City can keep their three-year restriction). This sanction requires permit holders to reaffirm the facts of their permit, for example that they have not been convicted of a felony or diagnosed with a mental illness.

The SAFE Act enhanced the breadth and prevalence of background checks, limited the capacity of magazines from 10 rounds to seven and expanded the definition of assault weapons, such as the AR-15.

The law also aims to end the anonymous purchasing of large stocks of ammunition on the Internet. Rather than going online and having weapons delivered to your home with no regulation, ammunition must now be delivered to a gun dealer, who will then ask for identification (a permit is not required for ammunition).

Although the SAFE Act is a huge victory for gun control advocates, proponents say the state measures are limited by the lack of similar federal legislation. Although criminals are faced with these restrictions in New York, they can easily travel across state lines to purchase weapons and ammunition.

Since Sandy Hook, according to Congressman Bishop, on the federal level, “the short answer is nothing has happened.”

Of a number of bills introduced in the House of Representatives to help provide for gun safety, “none of them have moved at all,” said Bishop, who sponsored most of them.

In the Senate, an effort to bring up a bipartisan bill to expand background checks for people who wish to purchase firearms failed to garner the 60 votes necessary for it to be considered.

“You can still go on the Internet and buy firearms,” Bishop said Monday, “you can still go on the Internet and buy mass quantities of ammunition, you can still purchase a gun at a gun show without undergoing a background check, so basic things that ought to be put in place are not being put in place.”

“It pretty much breaks down on party lines,” added the Democratic congressman, “Democrats want to pass gun safety legislation, Republicans refuse to.”

Bishop said much of the proposed legislation has bipartisan support, “but the leadership of the House of Representatives refuses to move any of them.”

“I don’t want to say that there’s no hope,” he said, “but I do think that the track record of the house thus far does not give cause for optimism.”

Dix Hills Man Indicted on Fraud Charges; Feds Allege Scheme to Buy Shinnecock Cigarettes

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By Tessa Raebeck

A Dix Hills man was arraigned in federal court Tuesday following charges that he solicited over $5 million from friends and neighbors in what federal officials are referring to as a Ponzi scheme that took place over eight years.

Robert Rocco, 48, was charged with 14 federal counts of wire and mail fraud, after allegedly promising investors returns of as much as 18 percent annually on fabricated investments, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday.

Prosecutors said victims believed their investments – ranging from $25,000 to $1.2 million – were being used by Rocco to fund loans to a tobacco shop on the Shinnecock Native American Reservation to finance wholesale cigarette purchases, among other ventures.

Since 2006, Rocco purported to provide said financing through his corporation, Limestone Capital Services (Limestone) in Melville, in which over two dozen individuals invested, according to prosecutors.

As president of the Dix Hills Soccer Club, Rocco allegedly used his position to solicit donations and investments from members, donors and volunteers of the club. The indictment states he controlled the club’s bank accounts and did not permit others to access the records.

In early 2010, Rocco allegedly took some $66,915 from the Dix Hills Soccer Club and deposited the checks into a Limestone bank account, subsequently distributing the funds to his investors as their purported returns.

According to the indictment, Rocco then told one victim, who is a volunteer and member of the soccer club, that the club had no funds left, prompting the victim to make two donations of $20,000 and $25,000, respectively.

In the summer of 2010, Rocco allegedly solicited donations from the victim and his family for a new company, Advent Merchant Services, LLC, (AMS) which he said was a credit card processing company. The indictment states the money Rocco received from the victim for AMS was not invested, but instead used to pay purported returns to Limestone investors.

Prosecutors said Rocco again solicited the victim for donations to a third company, Advent Equity Partners, LLC, (AEP) and provided him with fraudulent notarized sale contracts and bank statements. In addition to the $45,000 in donations meant for the Dix Hills Soccer Club, the victim and his family paid Rocco over $1.3 million for supposed investments in AMS and AEP, said the indictment. Rocco allegedly used the victim’s own funds to pay the family’s returns.

According to the indictment, Rocco recruited a second victim – who also invested his money as well as his family’s money – to help him solicit investments from a wider network of friends, family and colleagues. Prosecutors said Rocco promised investors annual rates of return of 15 to 18 percent and raised over $5 million in investments in Limestone alone between 2006 and 2013.

Using funds received from later investors, Rocco allegedly paid initial investors about 10 checks of a few hundred dollars per year between 2009 and 2013, with lesser returns than promised.

Around February 2009, Rocco told Limestone investors that some $5 million in uninsured cigarette inventory financed by the company was stolen from the Shinnecock Reservation by “a rival Indian tribe,” according to the indictment. No police report was filed.

In the late summer of 2013, after allegedly missing payments to investors, Rocco reportedly confessed to the second victim – who had helped him solicit investments – that everything he had told him about Limestone was a lie.

Rocco is charged with five counts of wire fraud and nine counts of mail fraud, all federal. He reportedly pled not guilty to all charges.

If convicted, Rocco faces substantial jail time – as much as 30 years per charge – and must forfeit all funds and property obtained directly or indirectly as a result of his alleged offenses, including his home in Dix Hills.

Arrest Made in Alleged Sexual Assault in Wainscott

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By Kathryn G. Menu

A Rockville Centre teen, Joseph Cardinali, was arrested by East Hampton Town Police on Sunday, November 17 and charged with aggravated sexual assault in the first degree, a felony, and assault in the third degree, a misdemeanor.

According to East Hampton Town Police, around 5:11 p.m. they responded to the Wainscott address of Phoenix House, a non-profit provider of substance abuse services, following a report of a victim of violence.

An 18-year-old male victim was transported to Southampton Hospital where he was admitted and underwent surgery, said police. Police said investigation indicates a wooden broom handle was used by Cardinali, 16, to penetrate the rectum of the victim.

Cardinali was subsequently arrested and charged.

An investigation is ongoing. Police ask anyone with information that may assist in this investigation contact the East Hampton Town Police Department at 537-7575. All calls will be kept confidential.

East Hampton Man Charged in Federal Child Pornography Case

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By Tessa Raebeck

Michael S. Bonnet of East Hampton was arrested last Wednesday afternoon on charges that he transported child pornography, according to federal officials.

A registered sex offender, Bonnet, 28, is being held without bail in federal court in Central Islip, after being arraigned around 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 30 said Assistant U.S. Attorney Allen Bode. He is being charged with one complaint of transporting child pornography for interstate commerce, or distribution, according to Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Under the alias “Bob Jones,” the defendant knowingly sent numerous images depicting child pornography to an undercover FBI agent in February 2013, according to a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court on Tuesday. Public defender Randi Chavis, who is representing Bonnet in the case, declined to comment.

Bonnet, of Cosdrew Lane in East Hampton, is currently on probation with the Suffolk County Office of Probation after being convicted of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl in 2008, states the complaint. While Bode did not have the exact location of the 2008 incident, he said it did occur in New York State.

According to the complaint, the defendant responded to an advertisement seeking to “trade” images of child pornography which was posted by an undercover FBI officer on a “Human Sexuality forum” website. Using an email address that includes the first initial of his first name and his full last name, Bonnet responded to the undercover advertisement on February 24, according to the complaint.

The complaint states that Bonnet, using the name “Bob Jones,” and the undercover agent exchanged several emails that day. In one email, according to the complaint, Bonnet wrote to the undercover agent, “Just hoping your [sic] not a cop or anything don’t need trouble.” On February 24, “Bob Jones” sent the undercover agent a pornographic image of a prepubescent female, the complaint states.

The advertisement posted by the undercover FBI agent said, “send to receive,” according to the complaint. In response to the pornographic image allegedly sent by Bonnet, the undercover agent sent a corrupted video to “Bob Jones” with a title alluding that the file contained child pornography, states the complaint. Using an online program that is available to the general public, the FBI identified the IP address, a unique number that identifies a computer or device using the Internet, being used by “Bob Jones” when the file was opened by the recipient, said the complaint.

The complaint states the agent then determined that the IP address was associated with a cellular phone. During the conversation between “Bob Jones” and the undercover agent, the defendant allegedly said he used a cellular phone so the IP address could not be linked to a particular device, the complaint states. “Bob Jones” sent the undercover agent two more pornographic images of underage females, states the complaint.

According to the complaint, the undercover agent located additional postings under the name “great times” by a user using the same email address on a different forum, each time with the location of East Hampton, New York. Using the letters in the defendant’s alleged email address, the undercover agent then searched for subjects with the last name “Bonnet” and the first initial “M” in East Hampton, according to the complaint.

The complaint states that the search provided the undercover agent with one name, Michael S. Bonnet of Cosdrew Lane, East Hampton. An additional search revealed that the defendant was a registered sex offender located at the same address, according to the complaint.

On or about October 24, the defendant was interviewed at his probation office after being advised of and waiving his Miranda rights, the complaint states. According to the complaint, the defendant stated that he had sent the images of child pornography to the undercover agent in February 2013, that he traded and received child pornography with others via the same website and that he had approximately 100 pornographic images of children on his cellphone.

According to the complaint, after searching the content of Bonnet’s cellphone, authorities found “numerous images of apparent child pornography depicting victims ages five to 11 years old.”

Because of his prior conviction, Bonnet faces a minimum of 15 years in convicted.