Attorney General

AG: Allegedly Phony Architect Arrested In ‘Operation Vandelay Industries’

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office on Thursday announced the indictment of a Troy-based businessman who allegedly claimed he was an architect.

The case wouldn’t be so noteworthy if it weren’t for the Seinfeld-laden references.

The businessman’s name is Newman, the nemesis of Jerry Seinfeld’s character on the show. His best friend, George Constanza, had claimed to people he wanted to be an architect. The name of the probe to bring down Paul Newman? “Operation Vandelay Industries” — a reference to the fake business George concocts.

No word on whether he’s being represented by Jackie Chiles.

But the case isn’t about nothing, Schneiderman said in a statement, pointing to Newman’s alleged use of drafted architectural renderings for more than 100 properties in the Capital Region area that had been submitted along with engineer letters, foundation inspections, field reports and energy compliance letters.

“As we allege, for over seven years the defendant has pretended to be a Registered Architect, deceiving hundreds of New Yorkers – including families and senior citizens — with the sole goal of enriching himself,” Schneiderman said.

“By allegedly falsifying building plans, code compliance inspections, and field reports, the defendant jeopardized the safety of those who resided in and frequented the buildings he was contracted to work on. Deceptive actions like these erode public trust — and my office will not tolerate them.”

Professional licenses are managed by the state Education Department, including those of architects.

“The State Education Department’s Office of the Professions investigates and prosecutes professional misconduct in more than 50 licensed professions to help protect New Yorkers,” said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “We are grateful for our continuing partnership with Attorney General Schneiderman and his team of professionals as we work together to ensure the safety of the public is protected against the dangers of unlicensed practice.”

Schneiderman Donates ‘Blue Bloods’ Residuals

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s brief appearance on the CBS cop drama “Blue Bloods” netted him $2,368 in residuals — money he’s donating to benefit real-life law enforcement.

Schneiderman on Monday released his tax returns for viewing by reporters, showing he earned $249,137 in 2016, counting both his investments and his $153,596 salary as the state’s attorney general.

Schneiderman so far has received $650 from his appearance on the show, donating the money to the Police and Fire Widows and Children’s Fund. Once he receives all the residuals, the money will be donated to that charity.

Other charitable donations last year included is synagogue, Congregation B’Nai Jeshurun, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Louis Armstrong House Museum, and the Samuel L. Fields Y.

The returns show Schneiderman paid $48,080 in federal taxes and $23,434 in state taxes. He received a federal tax refund of $1,364 and a state refund of $1,259 which are being applied to next year’s taxes.

During the conclusion of the state budget’s passage this month, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan confessed the show starring Tom Selleck is one of his favorites.

“The AG is proud to donate all income from his appearance on Blue Bloods to the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund, an organization that provides vital support to the families of those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice to protect New Yorkers,” said Schneiderman spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick.

Schneiderman Introduces Tenant Protection Measures

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Wednesday released a package of measures that would be aimed at strengthening tenant rights in New York City.

The measures, broadly, are aimed at addressing what Schneiderman says is a high bar for prosecutors in criminally charging landlords with harassment of tenants living in rent-regulated units. The bill backed by Schneiderman would set the bar for prosecution of landlords lower, such as removing the need that physical injury of a tenant must be proven. At the same time, the bill allows for prosecutions that arise from actions such as turning off utilities like heat and hot water or exposing children to lead and dust.

“Our current laws are outdated, ineffective, and totally inadequate to keep tenants safe from unscrupulous landlords seeking to unlawfully evict New York families. With affordable housing as scarce as ever, it’s time for lawmakers to give prosecutors new tools to stop the menacing – and often dangerous – measures these landlords use to force tenants out of their homes,” Schneiderman said. “Protecting vulnerable tenants has been, and will remain, a top priority of my office.”

The legislation introduced dovetails with the launch a new team that is designed to strengthen resources that combat tenant harassment as well as a tenant protection task force.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio praised the proposal.

“Toughening up criminal penalties helps us level the playing field and protect tenants victimized by greedy, negligent landlords who put their own profit ahead of the rights of those paying the rent,” de Blasio said. “I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman’s move to make it harder for bad actors to harass tenants, and will join him in advocating for this important penal law change.”

Schneiderman Blasts Trump Administration, Once Again

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Monday once again signaled his opposition to actions taken by President Donald Trump’s administration on labor and immigration issues.

Schneiderman in a statement on Monday afternoon blasted the claim by the U.S. attorney general, Jeff Sessions, that states and local governments do not have the authority to refused participation in immigration enforcement actions with the federal government.

“As my office’s legal guidance makes clear, President Trump lacks the constitutional authority to broadly cut off funding to states and cities just because they have lawfully acted to protect immigrant families,” Schneiderman said.

“Public safety depends on trust between law enforcement and those they bravely serve; yet, again and again, President Trump’s draconian policies only serve to undercut that trust. My office will continue to ensure local governments have the tools they need to legally protect their immigrant communities – and we won’t stop fighting to beat back President Trump’s un-American immigration policies.”

Later in the day, Schneiderman knocked the Trump administration for scaling back a key labor regulation for wages.

“President Trump says he is fighting for American workers, and then signs a law that lets companies that repeatedly steal from their employees get federal contracts,” he said.

“Once again, Trump’s actions speak far louder than his words.
“As I’ve said, if the federal government falls down on the job, we won’t hesitate to act to protect workers. Over the past five years, my office has used state law to recover over $27 million in stolen wages for over 20,000 workers – and put those who steal their workers’ wages behind bars. That work will continue at full speed, no matter what President Trump does. New York’s workers deserve nothing less.”

Schneiderman has repeatedly blasted Trump and his policies, even since before he was sworn in, suing the businessman over the claims made by his Trump University for-profit school.

Ortt Pleads Not Guilty, No Plans To Step Down

A defiant Robert Ortt on Thursday morning pleaded not guilty to three charges of felony filing a false instrument in Albany County Court and vowed to fight the charges.

Ortt, a western New York Republican first elected in 2014, insisted he would not step down from his state Senate seat.

“I am not guilty,” he said after a 10-minute court appearance with his attorney, Steve Coffey. “I am not resigning. I believe I will be exonerated and vindicated.”

The charges unsealed in court stem from Ortt’s time as the mayor of North Tonawanda. Prosecutors allege Ortt’s wife was given a no-show job, being paid $21,500 between 2010 and 2014, in order to make up for a $5,000 reduction in his annual pay as mayor.

“No show jobs and secret payments are the lifeblood of public corruption,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. “New Yorkers deserve full and honest disclosures by their elected officials-not the graft and shadowy payments uncovered by our investigation. These allegations represent a shameful breach of the public trust – and we will hold those responsible to account.”

Ortt faces up to 1-1/3 to 4 years on each count.

Ortt and Coffey both blasted Schneiderman following the court appearance.

Ortt, in a statement to the press after the appearance, insisted he is the victim of a partisan witch hunt.

“I haven no doubt the only reason why I am involved in this case, part of this investigation, is to further Eric Schneiderman’s partisan agenda,” Ortt said. “The people of the 62nd district know me. They know what kind of person I am and they know what kind of public servant I have been.”

He added: “I am guilty of nothing. I will fight these charges and I will prevail.”

Schneiderman, a former state senator and a Democrat, has prosecuted cases involving members of both parties, including Democratic political operative Steve Pigeon and former state Sen. Shirley Huntley, a Queens Democrat.

Former Sen. George Maziarz is due in court later today and is expected to be charged as well. Coffey said he did not know how Maziarz’s case was related to Ortt’s charges.

Ortt would not respond on Thursday when asked if he had spoken to Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flangan. In 2015, Ortt had called on then-Majority Leader Dean Skelos to step down from his leadership post following corruption charges.

One of Ortt’s GOP colleagues in the Senate, Fred Akshar, tweeted his support for the embattled lawmaker, posting that he is a “dedicated and distinguished public servant who has proudly served our country and the people of SD62.”

The indictments come as state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are negotiating a state budget that is due to pass by the end of next week.

Senate Democrats in the mainline conference used the news of the indictment to call for ethics reform.

Schneiderman Knocks Revised Travel Ban

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a statement Monday said he is ready to once again challenge President Donald Trump’s effort to limit immigration to the United States.

Trump on Monday issued a revised ban on travel from Middle Eastern countries, designed his aides say in an attempt to withstand the legal scrutiny that faced the previous executive order.

Schneiderman, along with Democratic attorneys general across the country, challenged the ban in federal court.

“Courts across the country have made clear: President Trump is not above the Constitution,” Schneiderman said in today’s statement.

“While the White House may have made changes to the ban, the intent to discriminate against Muslims remains clear. This doesn’t just harm the families caught in the chaos of President Trump’s draconian policies – it’s diametrically opposed to our values, and makes us less safe. My office is closely reviewing the new executive order, and I stand ready to litigate — again — in order to protect New York’s families, institutions, and economy.”

Schneiderman over the last several weeks has challenged a variety of Trump administration directives, including efforts to rollback Obama-era regulations on the environment.

Schneiderman, Gillibrand: Sessions Doesn’t Belong As AG

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Thursday in statements called for U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to step down from the top law enforcement post in the country after it was revealed he spoke with the Russian ambassador while he was a senator.

“It’s clear that Attorney General Sessions gave false testimony under oath at his hearing. This should disqualify him from leading the Justice Department,” Gillibrand said. “Between Attorney General Sessions’s false testimony and the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman working with the White House to kill stories about Russian contacts, we need to get all of the facts.”

Schneiderman, meanwhile, also called on Sessions to resign, echoing a call made this morning by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“Attorney General Sessions – our nation’s top law enforcement official – appears to have lied under oath, which in and of itself is disqualifying,” he said, adding, “For the good of the country, Sessions must immediately resign.”

Republicans have generally refrained from calling for Sessions’s resignation, but are asking that he step aside from overseeing an investigation into Russian’s alleged involvement in the U.S. election.

Schneiderman Makes Federalism Argument In Subpoena Rebuff

Rebuffing a suboena from a congressional panel reviewing his investigation into ExxonMobile’s climate change claims, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman pointed to federalism and the separation of powers in justifying the rejection.

“We had hoped that with the start of a new Congress, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology would turn its attention exclusively to authorized and legitimate legislative activity,” Schneiderman’s office wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Rep. Lamar Alexander, the committee’s chairman. “Your Subpoena does otherwise. I write to inform you that the NYOAG cannot and will not comply with the Subpoena as presently composed.”

House Republicans are investigating whether Schneiderman’s investigation into the energy company and its claims of impacting the climate was influenced by environmental groups.

But Schneiderman’s office says the Republican investigation of the state probe is only serving to disrupt the state-led effort.

“An inquiry into the alleged effects of the NYOAG’s state law fraud investigation on the research of climate scientists does not require a trove of confidential communications about ongoing law enforcement matters,” the letter states.

Nyoag Objections to Feb 16 2017 Subpoena-signed by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Schneiderman Cheers Puzder’s Withdraw

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman celebrated the withdraw of businessman Andrew Puzder as labor secretary on Wednesday, a development that is also be feted by organized labor.

“I stand with millions of working men and women across America in cheering Andrew Puzder’s decision to withdraw his troubled nomination for Labor Secretary,” Schneiderman said. “Puzder had no business running the Labor Department — an agency that uncovered wage theft at a number of Puzder’s own restaurants — and it remains baffling that President Trump even nominated him in the first place. President Trump’s next nominee for Labor Secretary must be committed to protecting workers’ rights, rather than seeking to undermine them at every turn. Whoever that nominee is, I stand ready to use the full force of my office to ensure that workers are treated fairly.”

The nomination of Puzder, a former fast food executive who had led the company that owned Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., had previously come under the scrutiny of labor groups for his support for automation. Support for his confirmation further collapsed following revelations that he had employed an undocumented immigrant and had assaulted his wife.

Democrats had previously sought to scuttle the nomination of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to no avail.

“Fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder should have never been nominated to lead a department once headed by Frances Perkins, a true working-class hero,” said Héctor Figueroa of 32BJ SEIU. “That’s why today, as we celebrate Puzder’s withdrawal, we should also honor Perkins and the many men and women who dedicated their lives to fight for the minimum wage, equal pay, the 40-hour week and the right to have a voice at work. It’s because of them and the millions of hardworking Americans who continue to fight for what’s right that we will prevail.”

After 12 Years, Greenberg Case Finally Settled

The long running fraud suit against former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg has been settled after 12 years, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office on Friday announced.

The securities fraud case first began under the tenure of then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in 2005 as he undertook an aggressive pursuit of Wall Street malfeasance that redefined the scope and ambition of the office.

As part of the settlement announced on Friday, Greenberg will pay $9 million — most of the money he was paid in bonuses during a period of questionable transactions that under scrutiny by prosecutors.

The settlement also includes the case of AIG’s former chief financial officer, Howard Smith.

“Today’s agreement settles the indisputable fact that Mr. Greenberg has denied for twelve years: that Mr. Greenberg orchestrated two transactions that fundamentally misrepresented AIG’s finances. After over a decade of delays, deflections, and denials by Mr. Greenberg, we are pleased that Mr. Greenberg has finally admitted to his role in these fraudulent transactions and will personally pay $9 million to the State of New York.”

AIG had previously settled the fraud case in 2006, paying $1.6 billion, but both Smith and Greenberg had refused.

The case stemmed from two deals Smith and Greenberg executed known as GenRe and Capco, which prosecutors said misrepresented losses and misstated the results between 200 and 2004.