Police Watch: Pair indicted in rental scam, teen arrested for masturbating in Union Square

Cops are hunting three men who they believed robbed Crema, a restaurant at 111 West 17th Street.
On September 12 at 10:30 p.m., police arrived at Crema after being called by a restaurant employee who said three men walked in and snatched a cash register from behind the bar. The victims also said that one of the robber pulled out a machete and demanded money in Spanish. The men then fled west bound on West 17th Street towards Seventh Avenue. The investigation is ongoing and the suspects are described as three Hispanic men in their 20’s wearing masks.

On Tuesday, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., announced the indictment of Matthew Wada, 36, and Jennifer York, 27, for engaging in an apartment rental scam that defrauded more than 20 victims, many of whom were moving to New York City for the first time, out of approximately $60,000 dollars. Following an investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD’s sixth and ninth precincts, the indictments charge the defendants with scheme to defraud in the first degree and multiple counts of grand larceny in the fourth degree. Wada is also charged with grand larceny in the third degree.
According to documents filed in court and statements made on the record in court, from late October 2013 to early March 2014, Wada and York gained temporary access to various apartments by renting the apartment through websites including Craigslist and NYHabitat.com for vacation or a short-term stay. The apartments were located throughout Manhattan, including in Midtown, Chelsea, Greenwich Village, and the East Village. Once the defendants gained access to an apartment, they would then advertise it for rent on different websites, including Craigslist and Bazarynka.com, the latter a website serving the Polish community in New York.
Victims who responded to the defendants’ rental advertisements were shown an apartment Wada or York had access to for only a short period of time. The victims, who were falsely told that Wada was the apartment’s landlord, signed long-term lease agreements with future start dates and gave the defendants varying amounts of rent and security deposits up front.
Victims lost anywhere from $150 to $4,500, with average losses around $2,200. In many  cases, multiple victims signed leases for the same apartment.

Police arrested 23-year-old Sarkis Avoyants in front of 447 East 14th Street in Stuyvesant Town last Wednesday at 2 p.m. Avoyants, along with another man, allegedly stole $500 from someone who had contacted him on Craigslist to conduct a move. The two men took the money from the victim and then fled without providing the service that was promised, police said.  Police caught Avoyants but the other man got away.

Fifty-year-old Stuart Bennett was arrested for sexual abuse last Thursday at 5:05 p.m. on the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 27th Street. Bennett allegedly approached a woman from behind, put his hands on her hips and forcibly pushed himself into her with his groin and began gyrating into her buttocks. A witness, who flagged down a nearby Port Authority police officer, told police that he saw Bennett forcibly gyrating against the woman.

Police arrested a teenager in the Union Square subway station for public lewdness last Friday at 9:30 a.m. The teen was on the L platform masturbating under the stairs leading to the N/Q/R platform with his right hand inside his right front pants pocket. The teen attends Park West High School at 525 West 50th Street and is in 11th grade. His name is being withheld due to his tender age.

Police arrested three men for forgery last Tuesday at 11:35 p.m. on the corner of Second Avenue and East 24th Street. Troy Brooks, 23, and Darryl Riddick, 21, allegedly used counterfeit money to buy beer at a nearby bar. Twenty-year-old Shamar Dunigan was allegedly working with Brooks and Riddick and also attempted to make purchases at the bar with counterfeit money. He was also in possession of additional counterfeit currency, police said.

Police arrested 32-year-old Justin Davidson inside the 13th precinct for false alarm of a fire last Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. Davidson allegedly dialed 911 operators and made threats to blow up the NYC Transit System by means of telephone. The report did not specify where Davidson made the call from or if he made threats about a specific station.

Police arrested two men involved in a fight last Wednesday. Kenny Smith, 51, was arrested at 3:06 p.m. in front of the BRC at 127 West 25th Street and thirty-eight-year-old David Cameron was arrested in front of 124 West 25th Street at 3:16 p.m. Smith allegedly picked up a 2×4 piece of wood and struck the victim in the back of the head and Cameron allegedly punched the same man in the head, causing physical injury. The incident occurred at the BRC where Smith was apprehended immediately and Cameron was arrested down the block after attempting to flee.

Police arrested 25-year-old Desiree Rodriguez for assault last Saturday at 1:29 a.m. in front of 12 East 22nd Street. The victim told police that he and Rodriguez, his neighbor, had an argument about the volume of the television and the argument escalated into a physical fight. Rodriguez allegedly grabbed an umbrella and repeatedly struck him, causing cuts on both his right and left forearms.

Police arrested 22-year-old Saverio Galasso for theft of services in front of The Hurricane Club at 360 Park Avenue South last Saturday at 3:13 a.m. Galasso paid $450 of his bill in cash and attempted to pay the rest on a credit card. When the card was declined, he allegedly attempted to leave without paying the remaining balance, which was $988.

Police arrested 27-year-old Keshaun Williams in front of 4 East 15th Street last Wednesday at 6:19 a.m. for violation on undisclosed New York State laws. Williams was allegedly sleeping on a public sidewalk inside cardboard boxes about four feet tall and eight feet long.

Police arrested 36-year-old Fidel Valasquez for possession of burglar’s tools last Saturday at 12:10 p.m. on the corner of East 23rd Street and Madison Avenue. Valasquez was seen casing multiple commercial pharmacies while holding what appeared to be cash. He then entered a pharmacy in the area and allegedly attempted to use a counterfeit $20 bill to make purchases. When police searched him, they found that the money was fake and he was also allegedly in possession of burglar’s tools.  No information was available on the specific pharmacy that Valasquez entered.

Police arrested 23-year-old Marcus Sirmans for theft of services at the 13th precinct last Sunday at 3:22 a.m. Sirmans got into a yellow taxi at West 116th and Broadway and gave the driver his home address, 340 East 29th Street. The driver brought him to the location and Sirmans then allegedly told the driver that he had no money because he left his wallet at the party. The driver brought Sirmans back to his original location but nobody answered the door because there wasn’t anyone left at the party. The driver then brought Sirmans to the precinct closest to where he lives and told officers what happened, leading to his arrest for failing to pay his taxi fare of $83.50.

Police arrested Jorge Rendall, 55, for violating tax law at the corner of First Avenue and East 27th Street last Wednesday at 9:50 a.m. Rendall allegedly sold an untaxed pack of Newport Light cigarettes to someone for $8.

Police arrested 42-year-old Alfredo Fabian for the intent to sell a controlled substance in front of 132 West 15th Street last Tuesday at 1:43 p.m. A plain-clothes officer saw Fabian casing the corner at West 15th Street and Sixth Avenue. Fabian then allegedly approached two other people and sold a quantity of heroin. He was in possession of a large quantity of alleged heroin, police said.

Fire starts in microwave in Peter Cooper Village

Karen Moline opens the destroyed microwave. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Karen Moline opens the destroyed microwave. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Wednesday, August 27, a fire broke out in a Peter Cooper Village building that had started in a microwave. No one was injured and the fire, at 4 Peter Cooper Road, eventually burned itself out, even before Public Safety officers quickly arrived with a fire extinguisher. As for why it happened, that hasn’t been determined.

However, the resident of the apartment, Karen Moline, said she believes it was due to a problem with a defective appliance.

According to her, when the fire started, the Microwave had been turned off with nothing inside. Though that might sound odd, Moline said this isn’t the first time she’s had a problem with the electrical appliances in the apartment, where she’s lived for 10 years. Once, her freezer started smoking due to the fan belt blowing out. There’s also the air conditioner in the living room, which she said has been known to turn itself on. It’s now kept unplugged when not in use.

Unrelated though equally worrisome, the apartment also had a problem with black mold last year. The apartment was renovated during the Met Life era.

As for the recent fire, it was Moline’s 13-year-old son, Emmanuel, who discovered it. He’d been boiling water on the stove for pasta while she was in the living room.

“He called out at me in a panic, and said, ‘Ma, there’s a fire.”

Moline then saw for herself that “the whole interior was in flames.” Moline then called 911 while Emmanuel got on his cell and called the Public Safety department.

Public Safety officers got to the apartment first, then the Fire Department arrived (in slightly under four minutes after receiving the call). By then the fire had burnt itself out, since no one opened the microwave door. Moline said the fire was “active” for about four minutes. Oddly, the smoke alarm never went off.

Once firefighters arrived, they went to turn off the apartment’s fuses and saw that the fuses in the box were mislabeled. Later, engineers from Stuyvesant Town were at the scene and, said Moline, they found the wrongly labeled fuses “unbelievable. They were furious on my behalf.” The fuses have since been relabeled.

Though everyone who’d responded “couldn’t be nicer”, she said, one management employee who responded was skeptical when she told him there had been no food in the microwave.

Still, she understood how someone could be incredulous.

“He was the only one who looked at me like I was a liar. A Microwave spontaneously catching on fire? It is unbelievable. But if you’re the one person it happens to, it’s scary. What if I wasn’t home? Kids know to call 911, but when you panic, you’re not always thinking straight.”

On Monday, workers removed the microwave, the ceiling of which was scorched with pieces peeling off, and replaced it with a new one.

“I used it for 30 seconds. It hasn’t caught fire yet,” Moline joked.

As for the old microwave, Moline also said she was told by a service rep for GE that the company hadn’t had a recall for that model, numbered JNM1541DM5WW. She also said the person she spoke with told her no one would be able to say what the problem had been without looking at the microwave. The employee offered to have a technician look at it as soon as Tuesday if management requested it. However, Moline said she just wanted the appliance gone.

A spokesperson for GE, Kim Freeman, also told T&V there was no way to determine the problem without checking the appliance. However, she added that the “vast majority” of the time when there’s a fire, it is because of food.

“I can’t say anything about this particular issue because we didn’t get a chance to look at the unit,” she said, “but generally with microwave fires, it is food related, overcooked food.”

“They are electrical appliances and any electrical appliances could have an issue,” she added.

A spokesperson for the Fire Department told T&V the FDNY was not aware of similar incidents or of the cause of the incident, which was referred to as “an electrical emergency.”

A spokesperson for CWCapital did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, Moline said she’s got some advice for management. “If you want to make money, spending money on good appliances is cost effective in the long run,” she said.