Cheating on the SAT: A Moral or Legal Crime?

Recently, a Long Island SAT cheating scandal made national news.  I have been fascinated by this case since the story broke. It is a personal one as I am a graduate of Great Neck North High School, the birthplace of the scandal.  I am also interested in the case as a former prosecutor (Manhattan District Attorney’s Office) and now as a criminal defense attorney: The case is a perfect intersection of my specialty areas: white collar crime and the defense of young adults.To begin, the main question for me is, “Can cheating on a college entrance exam be categorized as a criminal act? And, if it can should it be?”

The Nassau County District Attorney’s Office has charged numerous teens with various forgery crimes and false impersonation and conspiracy charges. Their theory is that numerous students paid large sums of money for an individual to impersonate them and take the SAT in their stead.  The test-taker Sam Eshagoff has admitted to the acts and articulated his conduct on a recent 60 Minutes interview. [Read more…]

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She was ill – not drunk

By Alfonso A. Castillo
Published: September 11, 2008

As part of Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi’s “Wall
of Shame” program, Andrea Sangermano’s name and photo were published on the
county’s Web site and elsewhere after her arrest on drunken-driving charges
over Memorial Day weekend.
But the Bellerose woman was not drunk or high when she was arrested, Nassau
prosecutors asserted yesterday, and a county judge dismissed…

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Woman to sue for false DWI ‘Shame’

By Alfonso A. Castillo
Published: September 12, 2008

The diabetic woman who was included in Nassau County’s
drunken driving “Wall of Shame” – even though she wasn’t drunk or high –
blasted the initiative as “horrible” and “wrong,” as her attorneys announced
Friday they were suing the county and the police department that arrested her.
“I was proven guilty before I was innocent. Seriously, I did nothing
wrong,” Andrea…

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Corrections; Chrages Dismissed In Gas Station Case

By Leslie Eaton
Published: February 6, 2005

AT the request of federal prosecutors, a judge dismissed criminal charges in October against four men involved in operating gas stations on Long Island, charges that were substantially overstated in an article in the Long Island section last Sunday. The article, about the reaction among local Turks to raids by federal agents on Turkish-owned gas stations, failed to report that the charges against the men had been dismissed.

The article also reported incorrectly that the four men — Turhan Ak, Sukru Akkaya, Mustafa Catalbas and Ahmet Cayan — had been charged with evading taxes and bootlegging gasoline. It also implied incorrectly that they were charged with smuggling illegal aliens into the United States.

The Times article contained a number of errors and was marred by journalistic lapses. The most serious lapse was the failure of the newspaper to contact the four men or their lawyers.

In fact, the four men were charged in July with only one, less serious, crime: trying to circumvent federal regulations that require banks to report cash transactions over $10,000 to the Internal Revenue Service. Prosecutors alleged that the men had divided big deposits into smaller chunks to avoid triggering that reporting requirement.

Lawyers for the men categorically denied the charges. Joel R. Weiss, who represented Mr. Akkaya in the criminal case, said in an interview on Thursday that the men made frequent bank deposits to avoid keeping cash at the gas stations, and deposited money into different bank accounts because the stations were set up as separate corporate entities and were often owned by different combinations of shareholders.

In October, a judge granted the request of the prosecutors, from the office of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, to dismiss the charges. On Thursday, a spokesman for the office, Robert Nardoza, declined to comment on the case.

In July, Federal authorities seized bank accounts belonging to Messrs. Ak, Akkaya and Catalbas, and a Mercedes belonging to Mr. Akkaya, and continue to assert in a civil proceeding that these assets are forfeit because the men violated the cash reporting regulations.

Steven L. Kessler, the Manhattan lawyer representing the group in the civil forfeiture case, said the government’s case is weak. ”There is nothing here,” he said.

At the time of the raids in July, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced in a press release, still available on its Web site, that it had moved against ”an alleged Turkish organized crime ring suspected of violating money-laundering and immigration laws to raise and move millions of dollars overseas.”

English- and Turkish-language news reports said that law enforcement officers had picked up at least 50 people of Turkish origin who were suspected of being illegal aliens; the immigration authorities would not confirm those accounts last week.

The Times article misused quotations from law enforcement officials who were commenting on the broad set of criminal proceedings that they brought against a varied group of Turkish defendants last July. The article mistakenly suggested that these officials were commenting specifically on the cases of Mssrs. Ak, Akkaya, Catalbas and Cayan.

It misidentified one of the men so quoted, Joseph Foy; he is a spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service, not Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The article reported incorrectly that the four men own 140 gas stations on Long Island; according to lawyers for the four men, Mr. Akkaya and Mr. Catalbas owned 16, and Mr. Ak was a partner in at least one, said his lawyer, Douglas T. Burns. Mr. Cayan did not own any gas stations, according to his lawyer, James O. Druker, who described him as a low-level employee.

Prosecutors did not contend that the men evaded taxes on about $14 million of gasoline revenue, as the article reported. In fact, the chief document filed with the court in their criminal case, an affidavit from an I.R.S. special agent, says only that he believed that the men may have tried to avoid government scrutiny of their cash transactions because he suspected that they were underreporting their income on their tax filings. Their lawyers say this speculation is unfounded, as is an allegation that the men were in any way involved in bringing in gasoline from New Jersey to avoid New York taxes.

The article also erroneously implied that their stations were pumping gasoline that includes an additive, MTBE, which has been linked to groundwater pollution and is banned in New York. Lawyers for the four men stressed that the gas stations they operated were affiliated with major-brand oil companies that would not have permitted such practices.

The article said they were denied bail, which was incorrect. Mr. Akkaya and Mr. Catalbas were released directly from the courtroom under bail arrangements; Mr. Ak and Mr. Cayan made bail within days, their lawyers said.

The accompanying photograph did not depict a gas station owned by any of the four men, their lawyers said. It was raided in July, but court documents link it to a different group of defendants. The caption stated incorrectly that it was involved with gasoline smuggling.

Their legal problems have been very difficult for the four men, financially and emotionally, said Andrew L. Crabtree, another lawyer who represents them. Mr. Akkaya and Mr. Catalbas are American citizens, he noted.

”They ask, in America, how can they do this?” Mr. Crabtree said. ”It’s very difficult to explain to them.”

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Court Bars Prosecution Of 10 Nurses Who Quit

By Joesph Berger
Published: January 25, 2009

THE 10 Filipino nurses were branded by the Suffolk County, N.Y., district attorney as derelict in their duties, accused of abandoning five chronically ill children, four of whom were on ventilators, and one terminally ill man by quitting their jobs in 2006 in a labor dispute.

But in a strongly worded ruling, a New York State appeals court, the Appellate Division in Brooklyn, has barred District Attorney Thomas J. Spota from prosecuting the nurses and said that he had joined with their employers in forcing them into ”involuntary servitude” by using criminal sanction to force them to work against their will, thus violating the nurses’ constitutional rights.

The Jan. 13 ruling also said the district attorney violated the First Amendment rights of the lawyer who advised the nurses by prosecuting him for conspiracy.

The case concerns 10 nurses, all fresh immigrants, who were recruited in 2005 by a large New York network of nursing homes known as SentosaCare. The company, with 24 homes or affiliates caring for 5,000 patients, is headquartered in Woodmere, N.Y.

The 10 nurses were quickly sent to work for a SentosaCare home in Smithtown, Avalon Gardens Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, but they said it was soon obvious that the terms of their contracts were not being honored. They joined 16 other Filipino nurses in claiming they were significantly underpaid, did not receive the same health insurance and workers’ compensation benefits as other nurses and worked on understaffed shifts.

On April 7, 2006, the 10 nurses submitted their resignations and quit at the end of their shifts, saying they were confident that pediatric and elderly patients would be attended because they knew of SentosaCare nurses waiting for assignment. No patient was ever in jeopardy, they said.

SentosaCare sued them, and in March 2007 the Suffolk district attorney secured a grand jury indictment on misdemeanor charges of endangering the welfare of a child and of conspiracy. The charges carried a yearlong sentence in jail. All 10 nurses eventually landed nursing jobs, though for a time some employers declined to hire them because of the charges, according to their lawyer, James O. Druker.

Overruling a lower-court judge, the four-judge Appellate Division unanimously issued a writ of prohibition halting the prosecutions — a rare judicial maneuver used when a prosecutor oversteps his powers. While state law does bar nurses from leaving in midshift, the judges found that the 10 nurses did not do so, that the nursing home was in fact able to find the needed coverage and that ”no patients were deprived of nursing care.”

Leonard Lato, who brought the indictment for the district attorney’s office, said the office was weighing whether to file an appeal with the Court of Appeals, which accepts only a small percentage of Appellate Division decisions for review.

”Do we think the decision was wrong? Yes,” he said, explaining that the Appellate Division did not fully appreciate the danger to the children on ventilators.

Lawyers for SentosaCare have denied that the nurses were mistreated or shortchanged.

The Appellate Division judges agreed with defense lawyers that prosecuting the 10 nurses violated the 13th Amendment prohibition against ”involuntary servitude by seeking to impose criminal sanctions upon the nurses for resigning their positions.”

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Major Contributor to Cuomo To Testify at a Bribery Trial

By Kirk Johnson
Published: November 25, 1987

A major contributor to Governor Cuomo’s 1982 election campaign, who is also a law client of the Governor’s son Andrew, will play a key role in a complicated conspiracy and bribery trial that began in Manhattan yesterday, a defense attorney said in his opening statement to the jury.

The attorney, James O. Druker, represents a real-estate developer in the case and he said the campaign contributor, Sheldon J. Goldstein, had been subpoenaed to testify for the defense.

Mr. Drucker said testimony would discuss the roles of Mr. Goldstein and Andrew Cuomo in the leasing of a lower Manhattan office building to the state in 1982 and the investigations that led to the criminal charges. He said Mr. Goldstein had influence with Andrew Cuomo, who instigated the inquiry.

The trial, in State Supreme Court, focuses on New York State’s effort, beginning in 1980, to move offices of state agencies from the World Trade Center to other privately owned locations in economically depressed areas of the city. Essential Agreement on Facts.

In their opening statements, the attorneys for the three defendants essentially agreed with the prosecution on the facts of the case: Harry C. Partridge 3d, a real-estate developer, bought the building at 400 Broome Street in lower Manhattan; Joseph Siggia, a former state official, wrote a report recommending it for state use, and Paul Adler, an Albany lobbyist, worked successfully – on a retainer from Mr. Partridge – to have a lease approved.

The question, the defense attorneys told the jury, is whether any of that was illegal.

The state, in a 31-count indictment, charges Mr. Siggia, who supervised the search for office space for the State Office of General Services, Mr. Adler and Mr. Partridge with scheming to defraud the state of $20 million over the 10-year lease.

The prosecution contends that Mr. Siggia took a bribe from Mr. Partridge, in the form of a promise of a concession stand in the building, in return for a recommendation that the state lease space in the building. The state also says Mr. Partridge and Mr, Siggia then conspired to inflate the cost of the building’s renovation, which was partly financed by the state. ‘A Case Aboiuyt Greed’

Mr. Adler is charged with grand larceny and conspiracy for helping negotiate the lease of the space after Mr. Siggia’s recommendation. The state contends that the combination of the renovation and the lease itself amounted to $20 million in overcharges.

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Nassau to Keep Posting D.W.I. Suspects’ Photos

By Derrick Henry
Published: October 10, 2008

JUST over four months after Nassau County began posting photographs of drunken-driving suspects on its Web site, officials said that it was too early to tell whether the threat of shaming those drivers was working but that they intended to continue the initiative.

From May 25, when the program began, through Sept. 22, the number of drunken-driving arrests in the county increased by 5.7 percent over that period last year. The police attributed the increase in large part to extra weekend patrols from June through Labor Day that focused on drunken driving.

The initiative was a response to a police officer’s being badly injured by a drunken-driving suspect. The Web page, called the Wall of Shame, lists the names and hometowns of those arrested and is updated weekly.

In the program’s first four months, county police data showed officers had made 1,188 drunken-driving arrests, 65 more than in the same period last year.

The additional weekend patrols consisted of one sergeant and nine officers in areas identified as possible hot spots for drunken driving. A grant from the state and money from forfeitures in criminal cases were used to pay for the patrols, said Lawrence W. Mulvey, the police commissioner.

Thomas R. Suozzi, the Nassau County executive, said he would measure the success of the initiative by seeing whether there were significant changes in alcohol-related accidents and fatal accidents. But others said there were additional ways to gauge effectiveness.

Because most people would be too embarrassed to be put on the Web site a second time, one way to keep track is to see if a person’s photograph goes up more than once, said Denna Cohen, the president of the Long Island chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Elizabeth S. Kase, a lawyer who represented a woman whose photo was put on the Wall of Shame and who then had the charges dismissed, said it would be better to use the Web page upon conviction, not arrest.

“There’s no difference in the scare tactic to the general population,” she said. “There are other ways to deter crime without taking away the people’s presumption of innocence.”

Mr. Suozzi said he planned to keep the initiative going despite complaints that the Web page unfairly punishes people before their cases have gone through the legal system. “It’s a very controversial program, but it’s effective because it’s getting people talking about drunk driving,” he said. “We’re trying to institute a cultural change.”

Drunken-driving arrests in Nassau had been relatively flat since 1998. In 2007, there were 4,013 drunken-driving arrests, including 529 that involved crashes. This year through August there had been 2,876 drunken-driving arrests, an 8.9 percent increase over the same point last year, and 327 D.W.I.-related crashes, a 4.9 percent decrease.

Fatal accidents involving drunken driving increased to 30 in 2007 from 24 in 2006. This year, there were 13 fatal accidents linked to drunken driving through July, according to figures from the county police, village police and the State Police.

Mrs. Cohen said the program might have more impact on first-time offenders. Repeat offenders, she said, may require a more rigorous effort that includes jail time and monitoring. “Anything that can be done to deter a drunken driver to me is a good thing,” she said. “The only thing is the habitual drunk driver. It won’t make a difference. Habitual drunks — you can’t shame them.”

The county started the Web page after a police officer was seriously injured on the Long Island Expressway in Plainview on May 18. The officer, Kenneth J. Baribault, 30, had pulled over a drunken-driving suspect when another car, driven by Rahiem Griffin, 27, of Shirley, hit the officer’s car at 75 miles per hour as he was sitting in it, the police said. Charges against Mr. Griffin include drunken driving and vehicular assault.

Officer Baribault, who suffered brain and pelvis injuries, is undergoing rehabilitation in New Jersey.

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John L. Kase*, Acting Supreme Court Judge/ Nassau County Court Judge (Term 2005-2015)

John founded the firm with Jim in 1978 and was Senior Partner until 2004, when he was elected County Court Judge of Nassau County.   At Kase & Druker, John expertly litigated criminal matters and was a seasoned trial and appellate attorney.  He represented thousands of clients in state and federal courts.

John began his legal career as an Assistant District Attorney in Bronx County in 1967.  He then served as a Special Attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, Organized Crime and Racketeering Strike Force.  He was an Assistant Attorney General for the New York State Organized Crime Task Force and was appointed Assistant District Attorney in Nassau County, where he was Chief of the District Court Bureau, Narcotics Bureau and the Rackets Bureau.

He is a graduate of New York University and St. John’s School of Law.  He continues to serve on numerous boards of various professional organizations and has been recognized by many groups as an accomplished trial attorney and a respected jurist.

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Paula Schwartz Frome, Of Counsel

Paula Schwartz Frome is Of Counsel to Kase & Druker, where she focuses her practice in papers and appeals in criminal, commercial, and income tax cases.  She was a member of the New York State Special Attica Commission in 1975.  She is a member of the Nassau County and New York State Bar Association.  She earned her B.A. Degree, Magna Cum Laude from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1971, and her J.D., with distinction, from Hofstra University School of Law in 1974, where she graduated first in her class.

Paula is also active in her community.  She is a past President of her Temple, and serves on the Board of Trustees of Variety Child Learning Center, an organization serving the educational needs of young children with special needs, and a member of the Rehabilitation Institute, an organization that trains and assists individuals with disabilities to find employment.


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