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In SDNY After Ex Lobbyist Howe Gets Probation Inner City Press Asks of Congestion Pricing Not Needed In Idaho

By Matthew Russell Lee, Periscope, Photos

FEDERAL COURTHOUSE, March 15 – When Todd Howe, who pled guilty in the New York State corruption case(s), came up for sentencing on April 5, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Valerie Caproni was told that Howe is now working more than 12 hours a day in Idaho, on ski slopes and now a golf course. After his guilty plea he had been remanded to the Metropolitan Correctional Center when he disputed to Capital One some credit card charges and the government believed it to be another attempted fraud. Now, with him out of MCC for seven months, Judge Caproni said it may have just been a mistake. She put off sentencing Howe, instead putting him on five years probation. If he "stays clean" during that time, it all goes away. If not, he faces serious time. In the elevator down after Howe's lawyer, in what she called her last criminal sentencing, said Howe still respects government service after his lobbying career meltdown, Inner City Press asked Howe what he thought for example of congestion pricing. He laughed and said it is not needed in Idaho. Meanwhile a shackled prisoner Jones was led into Judge Caproni's now empty courtroom to plead guilty to selling crack in The Bronx and hiding a gun after a 1999 felony conviction. That sentencing is set for August 1...  In mid March Buffalo Billions defendants Schuler's lawyer Terrence Connors said his law firm has hired Schuler. Also to Judge Caproni, Connors argued that Schuler will be of more use giving scared-straight talks at law schools and colleges than in jail. Judge Caproni ultimately agreed, saying that perhaps Connors had a gremlin in her computer and this this in advance, sentencing Schuler to "time served" - one day, between 6 am and 3 pm - and 400 hours of community services, one third of which must be such talks. (She mentioned the Kiwanis and Lions Club).  Afterward Inner City Press asked Connors where Schuler might be teaching. UB, he mentioned, University of Buffalo - and quickly emphasized that he does NOT have a gremlin in Judge Caproni's computer. Which is a good thing since in other case, for example a Bronx mother who had twenty kilos of narcotics in the trunk of her used Saab, much longer sentences are given. But Schuler cooperated, even helping to exculpate another indicted defendant, and lost friends in the process. Connors said Buffalo is not a small town - it is a big room. Caproni's courtroom is smaller than some other SDNY judges', but there were three or four reporters for this sentencing, unlike for the Bronx mothers. Sometimes New York City can be too big...

Ealier on March 15 an NYPD officer who blew the whistle on cheating in promotion exams faced blow-back himself on March 15 in the SDNY

Jonathan Blatt is asking SDNY Judge William H. Pauley to restore his status as a probationary Lieutenant; the NYPD's lawyer said there are sexual harassment complaints against Blatt. The City's filings says Blatt "is charged with violation of NYPD rules prohibiting sexual harassment and the creation of a hostile work environment. The allegations against plaintiff include comments regarding threesomes and 'blumkins,' a particular sexual act, to a female service member."

While some call it a case of the "Bad Lieutenant," Blatt says his termination was retaliation, casting a chilling effect on himself and other officers to challenge the department. Cases going both ways were cited -- HANAC (101 F 3d 877), about the Mayor's decision, and Bartels v. Incorporated Village of Lloyd, 751 F Supp 2d 387 at 397. Judge Pauley reserved decision. The case is Blatt v. City of New York, 19 Civ. 1227 (WHP). Back on March 8 a shooting in The Bronx in October 2018 was the subject of an ill-attended conference in the SDNY. Jerome Jackson is described as in a white t-shirt with silver handgun on 2 October 2018 on Freeman Street - but in the SDNY courtroom of Judge Kevin Castel he was in jail house blues and shackles. His lawyer Julia Gatto questioned whether the NYPD detectives who questioned Jackson about the shooting were in fact part of a joint task force with the Feds - no, Karin Potlock for the government said, and on that basis no suppression - and questioned probable cause. There will be a hearing on that on April Fools Day and Inner City Press aims to be there. The case is US v. Jackson, 18 CR 760. A week before on March 1 when Statue of Liberty climber Patricia Okoumou appeared in the SDNY , it was to face revocation of bail for more recent climbs, all to protest the separation of immigrant families. SDNY Judge Gorenstein did not revoke bail but imposed house arrest. He jibed that it appeared Ms. Okoumou could only support herself by donations garnered by climbing. Afterward Inner City Press asked her lawyer Ron Kuby about this argument. He said the judge has it precisely wrong, or in reverse: she raised money because she is an activist, she is not an actively in order to make money. Ms. Okoumou raised her fist, and headed to Staten Island. Photos here. Inner City Press, which interviewed Okoumou on December 5 just after another SDNY decision, in the Patrick Ho / CEFC China Energy UN bribery case, headed out and streamed this Periscope, and this Q&A, with more to come, on this case and others. How guns eject shell casings was the subject of expert testimony in a Bronx gang trial on February 27 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Before Judge Robert W. Sweet, an ATF agent traced a bullet back to Illinois; under cross examination he said a shell casing might eject feet rather than yards unless it bounced on something. Then testimony went back to 2007, a 14-year old with a gun heading from the Millbrook projects to the Mitchell Houses. The defense asked for a mistrial when the name of a second gang was introduced; the prosecution shot back (so to speak) that it came from photos on the defendant's own Facebook page. And so it goes in trials these days. Back on February 25 a prison sentence of life plus five years was imposed for a Bronx murder by SDNY Chief Judge Colleen McMahon on February 25. She presided over the trial in which Stiven Siri-Reynoso was convicted of, among other things, murder in aid of racketeering for the death of Jessica White, a 28 year old mother of three, in the Bronx in 2016. Jessica White's mother was in the court room; she was greeted by Judge McMahon but declined to speak before sentencing. Siri-Reynoso was representing himself by this point, with a back-up counsel by his side. Judge McMahon told him, "You're a very smart man... a tough guy, a calculating person... You are a coward, sent a child to do it for you... Your emissary shot the wrong person, a lovely lady... It was a vicious, evil attack against the good people of that neighborhood." When she imposed the life plus five sentence, a woman on the Jessica White side of the courtroom cried out, yes Ma'am, put the animal away! Later, after Siri-Reynoso ended asking how he can get more documents about the case, a woman on his side of the courtroom said, "No te preocupes, muchacho, Dios sabe lo que hace" - don't worry, God knows what he is doing. But does He? Earlier on February 25 when the government tried to defend its 2018 change of policy or practice on Special Immigrant Juvenile status in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge John G. Koeltl had many questions about the change. He asked, are you saying that all the decisions before 2018 were just wrong, under a policy in place but not implemented at the time? In the overflow courtroom 15C the largely young audience laughed, as the government lawyer tried to say it wasn't a change of policy but rather an agency interpretation of the statute. Shouldn't there have been notice and comment rulemaking under the Administrative Procedure Act? The government said the argument proffered for this was about the Freedom of Information Act (on which, as Inner City Press has noted, the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has similarly reversed its policy 180 degrees without justification). SDNY Judge Koeltl demanded t know if the government is arguing that no juvenile court in New York, California (and maybe Texas for other reasons he said) is empowered to grant relief. The answer was far from clear - but where the ruling is going does seem so. Watch this site. The Bangladeshi Central Bank which was hacked for $81 million in February 2016, on January 31 sued in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Now the first pre-trial conference in the case has been set, for 2 April 2019 before SDNY Judge Lorna G. Schofield. Inner City Press will be there.

In Dhaka, the Criminal Investigation Department which failed to submit its probe report into the heist on time has now been ordered by Metropolitan Magistrate Sadbir Yasir Ahsan Chowdhury to do so by March 13 in Bangladesh Bank cyber heist case.

In the U.S. District Court for Central California, the unsealed criminal complaint against Park Jin Hyuk lists four email addresses involved in spear-phishing Bangladesh Bank and among others an unnamed "African Bank;" one of these addresses is said to also have communicated with an individual in Australia about importing commodities to North Korea in violations of UN sanctions.

To the Federal Reserve, Inner City Press has requested records relating to the Fed's role with response due in 20 working days - watch this site. In the SDNY, the case is Bangladesh Bank v Rizal Commercial Banking Corp et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-00983. On February 3 in Dhaka Bangladesh Bank's lawyer Ajmalul Hossain said it could take three years to recover the money. The Bank's deputy governor Abu Hena Razee Hasan said those being accused -- in the civil not criminal suit -- include three Chinese nationals. Ajmalul Hossain said the Bank is seeking its hacked million plus interest and its expenses in the case. He said US Federal Reserve will extend its full support and that SWIFT, the international money transfer network, also assured of providing all the necessary cooperation in recovering the hacked money.  The Philippines returned $14.54 million in November 2016, so $66.46 million has yet to be retrieved. Now defendant RCBC Bank of the Philippines has hired the Quinn Emanuel law firm to defend it, and it already fighting back in words. RCBC’s lead counsel on the SDNY case, Tai-Heng Cheng, said:  “This is nothing more than a thinly veiled PR campaign disguised as a lawsuit. Based on what we have heard this suit is completely baseless. If the Bank of Bangladesh was serious about recovering the money, they would have pursued their claims three years ago and not wait until days before the statute of limitations. Not only are the allegations false, they don’t have the right to file here since none of the defendants are in the US." But it seems the funds were transferred to and through the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. And as Inner City Press reported in the US v. Patrick Ho case last year, the wiring of funds through New York can confer jurisdiction. Inner City Press will be covering this case. The first paragraph of the 103 page complaint reads, "This litigation involves a massive, multi-year conspiracy to carry out one of the largest banks heists in modern history right here in New York City. On February 4, 2016, thieves reached into a bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (“New York Fed”) and stole approximately $101 million (out of the nearly $1 billion they attempted to steal). The bank account was held for the benefit of Bangladesh Bank, which is Bangladesh’s Central Bank. Bangladesh Bank has had a 45-year banking relationship under which it has placed its international reserves with the New York Fed. The New York Fed is a critical component of the United States’ central banking system and its link to the international financial system." Bangladesh's lawyers on the case are "COZEN O’CONNOR John J. Sullivan, Esq.  Jesse Loffler, Esq. Yehudah Gordon, Esq." We'll have more on this.

Debaprasad Debnath, a general manager at the central bank’s Financial Intelligence Unit, Joint Director Mohammad Abdur Rab and Account and Budgeting Department General Manager Zakir Hossain all left Dhaka to head to New York, for the filing of the lawsuit, which Inner City Press will be following.

They say the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which on January 29 was instructed by the US State Department to allow Juan Guaido to access Venezuelan accounts, will be helping its Bangladeshi counterpart to get to the bottom of the hack.  Those eyed include Philippines’ Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation or RCBC and some of its officials, and Philrem Service Corporation, casino owners and beneficiaries. Ajmalul Hossain QC, a lawyer for the central bank, is with them to file the case.

It is an interesting twist on the SDNY as venue for the money laundering and FCPA prosecution of Patrick Ho of CEFC for bribery in Chad and to Uganda - in this case, too, the money flowed through New York. Inner City Press intends to cover the case.

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