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Freedom of Information

At SDNY Sentencing For Crack Sale By Starbucks Manager Baby Cries Echo In Empty Courtroom

By Matthew Russell Lee

NEW YORK CITY, February 13 – Twelve sales of crack cocaine by a single mother who works for Starbucks were the subject of a sentencing onFebruary 13 before Judge J. Paul Oetken in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The sentencing began with the cries of a baby - the defendants daughter - and ended with a sentence of time served. No media was present other than Inner City Press, in contrast to higher profile sentencing in the SDNY of Norman Seabrook, for example. But this case was and is heartbreaking in its way. According to the US Attorney, which did not call this a proceeding of interest, "This investigation began in November 2017 after detectives identified a phone number that appeared to be used by a narcotics dealer. In early December, upon calling the number, an undercover detective (the “UC”) spoke with a female later identified as Kimia Coard. The UC arranged with Coard to purchase “three” and when the UC arrived, a male later identified as Abdul Roberson sold the UC three small bags of crack. After the transaction, the UC called Coard back and asked if she was associated with Roberson, and Coard confirmed she was."

 Coard was arrested and held overnight. She lost custody of her daughter and has spent months trying to get her back from New York City's ACS. She reduced her hours as a Starbucks manager to 32 in order to go to court hearings and seek visitation with her daughter. She wore an ankle bracelet that tracked her location; the US Attorney's office at the sentencing said earlier this month instead of returning from her shift at midnight she "went to The Bronx" until 5 am.

 In the courtroom there were only a total of ten people, with Inner City Press being the only media, reduced to eight when Ms. Coard's father took the crying or vocalizing baby out into the hallway. (The clerk closed the courtroom room because the baby's cries still echoed.)  Her lawyer said, I am not trying to play on your heart strings, your Honor, this is just her reality. A social worker Ms. O'Boyle was in the courtroom too. The sun set over Foley Square, where trademark cases pended and people lost their children in the Family Court. In this case, the sentence was time serviced, with three years of Supervised Release and the mandatory $100 special assessment. "Good luck," Inner City Press told Ms. Coard on the way out of the empty courthouse. This case is, or was, United States v. Kimia Coard et al., 18 Cr. 391 (JPO). This too is Federal court. On February 13. Kimia Coard

Back on February 6 a sale of crack cocaine in November 2015 on Third Avenue in Manhattan made its way to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, with the sentencing of Kelvin Elliot who pled guilty to selling the crack.

Judge Andrew L. Carter began by asking the government, "Is this some retro thing going on?" He asked if crack is back, or these are old customers. Later in the proceeding he told Kelvin Elliot, now 50 years old, If you lose your job, "you can't go back to selling crack." Elliot said he understood, hard to understand given the accoustics of the high ceiling courtroom in the Thurgood Marshall Federal Courthouse.

But in light of Mr. Elliot's job -- for $17 an hour, his Federal Defenders lawyer pointed out - and taking care of his ailing father, Judge Carter sentenced him to time served and three years of supervised release (without mandatory drug treatment). No forfeiture, restitution not relevant; $200 special assessment, no search condition. In the elevator door, Elliot said to a reporter heading two floors up for a hearing about Phoenix House in light of a new Second Circuit decision (Velarde v. GW GJ, Inc., No. 17-330, 2d Cir. 2019), You're just wandering. Perhaps. It was United States v. Kelvin Elliot 16 Cr. 428 (ALC).

Last week, former New York City Police Department Lieutenant Paul Dean who pleaded guilty to his role in expediting gun permits for prominent people and some who paid bribes was sentenced to 18 months in prison on January 31 by Judge Edgardo Ramos in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

  Before issuing the sentence, Judge Ramos heard directly from Paul Dean about his 22 years in the NYPD, his time as a first responder at the World Trade Center site after the 9/11 attacks, and how he provided information to the authorities. 

  But citing the need for deterence, Judge Ramos imposed the 18 months in prison, two years of supervised release with drug testing, a $7,500 fine and as requested by the prosecution a forfeiture of $1000, an amount they said Dean had admitted to taking. The other bribes, according to Judge Ramos, consisted of free meals, car repairs, visits to strip clubs.

  "No one was getting rich," he said. Only the day before in the SDNY Judge Ramos accepted the guilty plea of a basketball coach who steered NBA prospects to financial advisers for the grand total of $22,000 (see Inner City Press story here).    Paul Dean's defense attorney during the sentencing proceeding emphasized that there are others more responsible than this client, at one point saying "the actor did have a felony conviction." Inner City Press hopes to have more on this.

After publication of the above, the prosecution issued this: "Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As a high-ranking officer and supervisor in the NYPD’s License Division, Paul Dean was entrusted with ensuring the integrity of the process for issuing gun licenses in New York City.  Instead of embracing that trust and focusing on the safety of New Yorkers, he monetized it for his own benefit, and enabled officers under his command to do the same.  Together with our partners in law enforcement, my office has worked tirelessly to make sure those efforts by Dean and others involved ended not with dollar signs, but in prison cells.  We will continue to root out corrupt law enforcement officers where we find them, while commending the vast majority of officers who, unlike Dean, serve the City of New York honestly and honorably.”                 

According to the Indictment and Complaint filed in this case, other public filings, and statements made during the plea proceeding:                

DEAN was a member of the NYPD from 1994 through 2016, and was assigned to the License Division from 2008 through 2016.  DEAN, a lieutenant, was one of the highest-ranking members of the License Division and, from approximately November 2014 through November 2015, regularly ran its day-to-day operations.  Co-defendant Robert Espinel was a member of the NYPD from 1995 through his retirement in 2016, and was assigned to the License Division from 2011 through 2016.                 

From at least 2013 through 2016, multiple NYPD officers in the License Division serving under DEAN’s command, including David Villanueva and Richard Ochetal, solicited and accepted bribes from gun license expediters – including Frank Soohoo, Alex Lichtenstein, a/k/a “Shaya,” and co-defendant Gaetano Valastro, a former NYPD detective – in exchange for providing assistance to the expediters’ clients in obtaining gun licenses quickly and often with little to no diligence.  DEAN, aware of this bribery arrangement, approved many of the gun license applications submitted by these expediters, despite the fact that no substantial due diligence had been performed on them.  As part of the scheme, licenses were issued for individuals with substantial criminal histories, including arrests and convictions for crimes involving weapons or violence, and for individuals with histories of domestic violence.                 

DEAN accepted things of value from the expediters whose applications he approved, including $1,000 cash from Lichtenstein, catered meals and alcohol from Soohoo, and gun equipment from Valastro.  DEAN also accepted gifts and favors directly from applicants whose licenses he approved, including free meals at restaurants, free liquor from a liquor distributor, free beer and soda from a beverage distributor, free car repairs from car shops, and free entertainment.                

In 2015, dissatisfied with the fact that private gun expediters were profiting thousands of dollars per gun license applicant when DEAN and others did the work to approve those applications, DEAN and Espinel decided to retire and go into the expediting business themselves.  In order to ensure the success of their business, DEAN and Espinel planned to bribe Villanueva and Ochetal, who were still in the License Division, to enable their clients to get special treatment.  They also agreed with Valastro to run their expediting and bribery scheme out of Valastro’s gun store.  According to the plan, Valastro would benefit from the scheme because DEAN and Espinel would steer successful applicants to Valastro’s store to buy guns.  They also tried to corner the expediting market by forcing other expediters to work through them.  Specifically, DEAN and Espinel attempted to coerce Frank Soohoo, another gun license expediter, into sharing his expediting clients with them by threatening to use their influence in the License Division to shut down Soohoo’s expediting business if Soohoo refused to work with, and make payments to, DEAN and Espinel.                

Espinel and Valastro have previously pled guilty and are awaiting sentence.  Villanueva, Ochetal, Lichtenstein, and Soohoo have also pled guilty in case number 16 Cr. 342 (SHS).  Lichtenstein was sentenced by the U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein to 32 months in prison, and the remaining defendants are awaiting sentence." Inner City Press wil continue to cover these cases. Watch this site.


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