New York State Criminal Cases – Friday, September 03, 2021

Last edited on Friday, September 03, 2021, at 4:12 PM.

Welcome to The Blanch Law Firm’s weekly digest of New New York Criminal Cases. Our goal is to keep the public informed as to recent events in federal courts around the country. 

As always, unless otherwise disclosed, none of the defendants mentioned in these summaries are clients of our firm.

If you or someone you love has been charged with a state or federal criminal charge, or you are under investigation by the federal government, our top-rated attorneys are here to help.

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Friday, September 03, 2021

I. Manhattan D.A. Vance, NYPD Commissioner Shea Announce Indictment of 13 Members of “Chico Gang”

On August 18, 2021, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., along with NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, announced the indictment of 13 members of “Chico Gang,” which is based in and around NYCHA’s Wagner Houses, for engaging in numerous shootings and other acts of violence carried out against their rivals, including residents of NYCHA’s Jefferson Houses. The indictments allege 21 shootings – with 12 shooting victims – in and around the Jefferson Houses and other areas of East Harlem beginning in November 2018.

The defendants are charged in two New York State Supreme Court indictments containing a total of 65 counts. All defendants are charged with Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree, but additional charges include varying counts of Attempted Murder in the Second Degree, Assault and Attempted Assault in the First Degrees, and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, among other crimes. 

The indictment follows a long-term investigation led by the Violent Criminal Enterprises Unit (VCEU) of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, as well as the NYPD’s Manhattan North Violent Crimes Squad.


II. Recipient of a Presidential Pardon, Ken Kurson Charged with Cybercrime Felonies

On August 18, 2021, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. filed charges against Kenneth Kurson, 52, in New York County Criminal Court. For example, Kurson is charged with Eavesdropping and Computer Trespass, as well as for unlawfully accessing communications of his then-wife from September 2015 through March 2016, as he served as Editor-In-Chief of Observer Media Group. On October 23, 2020, Kurson was charged for related conduct by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. 

On January 20, 2021, Kurson was granted a full pardon by President Donald J. Trump. The New York State charges follow an investigation by the D.A.’s Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau commenced in January 2021 after the pardon was issued. “We will not accept presidential pardons as get-out-of-jail-free cards for the well-connected in New York,” said District Attorney Vance. 

As alleged in the Manhattan Criminal Court Complaint and stated on the court record, from September 24, 2015, to March 3, 2016, Kurson unlawfully used an electronic monitoring software program commonly known as “spyware” on a computer belonging to his then-wife, with whom he lived. Using the spyware to monitor his wife’s keystrokes, Kurson obtained her passwords and accessed her Gmail and Facebook accounts. 

According to IP address records, Kurson used the spyware from his computer at the offices of the Observer Media Group on West 44thStreet in midtown Manhattan, where he was working as Editor-In-Chief, among other locations. Among other intrusions, in October 2015, Kursob unlawfully accessed and then anonymously disseminated private Facebook messages.


III. Two Indicted for Manufacturing “Ghost Guns” in Manhattan Apartment

On August 20, 2021, the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., announced the indictment of Francisco Martinez, 38, and Maria Ovalles, 29, for manufacturing eight operable, untraceable “ghost guns” in their Hamilton Heights apartment using component parts they ordered online. Martinez and Ovalles have been charged in a New York State Supreme Court indictment with multiple counts of Criminal Possession of a Weapon, Criminal Sale of a Firearm, Prohibition on Unfinished Frames or Receivers, and Possession of an Imitation Pistol.

According to the indictment and documents filed in court, on June 26, 2021, at approximately 9:45 p.m., Martinez fired several shots from what were later determined to be “ghost guns” from the roof of his apartment building on West 153rd Street. NYPD officers responding to a ShotSpotter activation discovered ten nine-millimeter cartridge casings on the roof of the building and identified Martinez as a suspect after viewing video surveillance that showed him climbing the stairs to his roof with at least one visible gun. 

Martinez and Ovalles, with whom he resides, were both apprehended exiting their apartment the next morning.


IV. Charges Brought Against Gang Members for Shootings, Theft, and Gun Possession

On August 1, 2021, the Bronx D.A. Darcel D. Clark, Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance Jr., and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea announced that alleged members of the “20-30” crew, A/K/A “30 Block,” have been charged in Manhattan and the Bronx for financial crimes and violence. Eight defendants are indicted in the Bronx on 155 counts, including Conspiracy to Commit Murder. In Manhattan, five of the defendants are charged in a complaint with sophisticated thievery that targeted Uber and Lyft drivers as well as state unemployment funds, netting them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In October 2020, the Manhattan DA’s Office, the NYPD, and other law enforcement partners executed search warrants on the defendants’ homes in the Wakefield section of the Bronx, Yonkers, and Mount Vernon. Investigators recovered more than $100,000 in cash and money orders, more than 150 credit and debit cards, and a laptop open to an out-of-state online unemployment application, as well as loaded firearms.


V. Albany County Man Pleads Guilty to Possession and Distribution of Child Pornography

On August 27, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York, Antoinette T. Bacon, along with Janeen DiGuiseppi, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Albany Field Office, announced that Michael Kurtz, 57, of Albany, pled guilty to charges of distribution and possession of child pornography. 

By pleading guilty before U.S. District Judge Mae A. D’Agostino, Kurtz admitted that between September 29, 2018, and at least January 12, 2019, he used a peer-to-peer file sharing software program installed on his computer to distribute approximately 28 videos of child pornography from his home in Albany.  Kurtz also admitted to possessing over 200 images of child pornography on his home computer at the time of his arrest on March 18, 2019.

If he is convicted in a court of law, Kurtz faces at least 5 years and up to 20 years in prison, as well as a term of supervised release of between 5 years and life.  His sentencing is scheduled for December 28, 2021 in Albany.


VI. Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Extradition Of British National For Participation In Film And TV Piracy Group

On September 1, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, announced that George Bridi, a citizen of the United Kingdom, had been extradited to the United States from Cyprus on August 31, 2021.  Bridi was extradited on charges of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, wire fraud conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property. The charges stem from his involvement in the Sparks Group, which has been identified as an international piracy group that illegally distributed movies and television shows on the Internet. 

Bridi was arrested on August 23, 2020, in Paphos, Cyprus.  He was presented and arraigned Sept. 1 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang.  Codefendant Jonatan Correa, a/k/a “Raid,” previously pled guilty to conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and was sentenced on May 19, 2021, to three years and three months of supervised release, with the first three months to be served in community confinement.  Codefendant Umar Ahmad, a citizen of Norway, remains at large.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman.


VII. Two Rochester Men Arrested on Cocaine Charges Following Police Chase

On September 2, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, James P. Kennedy, Jr., announced that Brian Cintron, 37, and Edwin Junior Gallardo-Ortiz, 35, both of Rochester, NY, had been arrested and charged by criminal complaint with conspiring and attempting to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. If they are convicted of the charges in a court f law, they each face at least 10 years and up to life in prison, as well as a $10,000,000 fine.

According to the criminal complaint, a search warrant was executed on a U.S Postal Express Mail Parcel sent from Puerto Rico and addressed to Cintron at a Waverly Place residence. The parcel contained approximately eight kilograms of cocaine. The contents were replaced with “sham” and the parcel was delivered. A law enforcement officer, dressed as a letter carrier, approached the residence, and identified Clinton who stated that he had been waiting a while for the parcel. 

Cintron took the parcel and left the area about a short time later in a vehicle driven by defendant Gallardo-Ortiz, who had been driving around the area of the Waverly Place residence for at least an hour prior to the delivery of the parcel.


VIII. Oswego County Woman Charged with Misusing Social Security Numbers, Aggravated Identity Theft

On September 1, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York, Antoinette T. Bacon announced that Tammy Tilton-Gajewski, 48, of Fulton, NY, had been arrested on an indictment charging her with 32 counts of misuse of Social Security numbers, along with two counts of aggravated identity theft. The charges came about because of her misuse of the names and social security numbers assigned to other people, to obtain credit cards and loans.

Tilton-Gajewski was arraigned on the indictment Sept. 1, in U.S. District Court in Syracuse, New York and released pending trial on a date to be scheduled in the future. If she is convicted in a court of law, Tilton-Gajewski faces up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised supervision of up to three years for the misuse of Social Security numbers. However, if she is convicted of aggravated identity theft, she faces at least two years in prison on each aggravated identity theft count.


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