Monday, October 15, 2018

USA Today: Plan for a smaller Sears begins to emerge in bankruptcy court

USA Today : Plan for a smaller Sears begins to emerge in bankruptcy court

https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2018/10/15/sears-bankruptcy-plan-court-whats-next/1652213002/
Artwork by Elizabeth Williams

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y.— Following its late-night Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, Sears attorneys were in court Monday urging a swift bankruptcy to preserve the company as a smaller entity.

“For us, time is absolutely of the essence,” said Ray Schrock of Weil, Gotshal and Manges representing Sears Holdings. “We have to do this for Sears and its employees.” ( click on image to see larger)

At the hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York, Schrock proposed an accelerated timeline to decide the fate of another batch of stores as well as a financing plan for the stores that remain.


Sears has proposed having its Chapter 11 reorganization plan filed by late December and confirmed in March 2019.

One critical date is Nov. 15, when it plans to make a decision about its so-called "bubble stores" that are being reviewed to see if the lease terms can be renegotiated and if ways can be found to make them profitable.  The sole bidder right now is Eddie Lampert’s ESL investments but Schrock said, “We are prepared and will be marketing those assets.”  Dec. 15 is another critical date in which Sears is aiming to have financing in place for its remaining stores.

Schrock said that the better part of a week was spent with key lenders Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup to secure financing. And the group reached agreement on a plan that would include the provision that the first $200 million of proceeds from the sale of certain assets would be placed in a reserve account to make sure the company can pay severance and other costs.He also noted that, while the company has 12,000 vendors, “Trade credit has been substantially limited coming into Chapter 11.”That credit has been reduced 78 percent leading to Sears' shrinking inventory and increasing its borrowing to secure merchandise.
The judge, the Hon Robert Drain, granted interim approval of payments of $70 million and $90 million to critical vendors, adding that they are, "by definition, necessary.”


The hearing covered a wide range of payment obligations from shipping and warehouse fees to severance for workers whose stores will be closing to its product returns programs.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

NBC NEWS Fyre Festival organizer Billy McFarland sentenced to 6 years on fraud charges

Fyre Festival organizer Billy McFarland sentenced to 6 years on fraud charges

McFarland pleaded guilty in July to wire fraud charges related to his failed April 2017 music festival in the Bahamas.
by Doha Madani /  / Updated 
Artwork by Elizabeth Williams 

The organizer of a failed Caribbean music festival was sentenced Thursday to a combined prison term of six years in prison for fraud.
Assistant US Attorney Kristy Greenberg and defense attorney address Judge Buchwald during the sentencing of Billy McFarland ( click on an image to see larger)

Billy McFarland, 26 was taken into custody following the sentencing in federal court in Manhattan for his role in the Fyre Festival, a music concert that was supposed to place in the Bahamas in April 2017. People paid thousands of dollars for tickets and accommodations to what was supposed to be a luxury musical festival in the Caribbean, but upon arrival were met with FEMA tents and cheese sandwiches and no concert.
Celebrities such as Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid endorsed the event on their social media pages. Fyre Festival cost investors, including rapper Ja Rule, $26 million — roughly the same amount the judge ordered him on Thursday to forfeit.
Judge Naomi Buchwald who sentenced McFarland to 6 years. 
McFarland apologized during his sentencing and said that a "fear of letting everybody down" drove him to make mistakes.
"I made decisions that were a slap in the face to everything my family tried to teach me," McFarland said in court.
Billy McFarland seated in court with leg shackles
McFarland pleaded guilty in March to wire fraud charges relating to the festival and in July pleaded guilty to various fraud charges stemming from a separate ticket selling scam. McFarland was able to make $150,000 in phony ticket sales to fashion, music and sporting events, according to U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman of the Southern District of New York.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Papa John's Founder Schnatter Says He Has NDAs With Two Women


Papa John's Founder Schnatter Says He Has NDAs With Two Women

 Updated on 
“Do you have settlements with some women?’’ Blake Rohrbacher, a lawyer for Papa John’s, asked Schnatter in Delaware Chancery Court. The businessman said he didn’t know if the agreements amounted to settlements.
The use of non-disclosure agreements has come under increased scrutiny in the #MeToo era. NDAs require parties not to discuss particular issues and are commonly used by companies to protect trade secrets. But their use by powerful men in business, media and politics to buy the silence of victims of sexual harassment has sparked criticism, lawsuits and firings.
Schnatter declined to comment on the agreements outside the courtroom. Terry Fahn, Schnatter’s spokesman, said he had no information about the agreements.
The pizza chain’s founder has previously faced sexual harassment 
The use of non-disclosure agreements has come under increased scrutiny in the #MeToo era. NDAs require parties not to discuss particular issues and are commonly used by companies to protect trade secrets. But their use by powerful men in business, media and politics to buy the silence of victims of sexual harassment has sparked criticism, lawsuits and firings.
Schnatter declined to comment on the agreements outside the courtroom. Terry Fahn, Schnatter’s spokesman, said he had no information about the agreements.
The pizza chain’s founder has previously faced sexual harassment allegations. One woman, Lesli Workman, sued Schnatter and the company in 1999, alleging that he’d sexually harassed her for months, repeatedly visited her house and kissed and groped her, according to court filings. Schnatter denied the allegations.
Garland Kelley, one of Schnatter’s lawyers, confirmed outside the courtroom the businessman does have a confidentiality agreement with Workman, but wouldn’t specify what it covers. He said company officials, rather than Schnatter, are in possession of that pact and the businessman is requesting they turn it over as part of the Delaware case.
Kelley said the other NDA involves allegations that a woman misappropriated money from Papa John’s. He wouldn’t say what Schnatter’s connection to that situation might be.
Schnatter wants to return to power at the embattled pizza chain, which is struggling with declining sales and controversies related to the founder’s alleged miscues. He sued to force current Papa John’s executives to hand over documents related to their moves to force him out of the company. The company also stopped using Schnatter in its advertising.
Schnatter acknowledged using a racial slur on a media-agency call in July, but says it was taken out of context. He testified Monday that he used the slur while discussing the addition of singer Kanye West in Papa John’s advertising. “I was pushed to use that exact word and I also said I was not a racist,’’ Schnatter told the judge.
Schnatter filed a separate suit in Delaware accusing current CEO Steve Ritchie of plotting to paint him as a racist so he could be pushed out of the company. The businessman testified Monday he was trying to uncover whether Ritchie and other Papa John’s officials had launched a coup against him.
The businessman said he sued the company in Delaware over the records because he had inklings something wasn’t right in the chain’s C-suite and there were many things “that didn’t add up.’’
He also said a Forbes story about his use of the racial slur failed to note that it was in the context of discussing other people’s use of the term. The incident occurred in a racial-sensitivity training session, he added.
The case is Schnatter v. Shapiro, No. 2018-0646, Delaware Chancery Court (Wilmington).


Thursday, August 23, 2018

BBB Warns Artists: Beware of Emails About Buying Art

BBB Warns Artists: Beware of Emails About Buying Art
January 04, 2016
St. Louis, Mo., Jan. 5, 2016 – Recent emails to area artists seeking to buy their art are another way scammers are targeting potentially vulnerable individuals, Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns.
Scammers apparently think artists are likely to fall for these bogus offers,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB president and CEO.
“No matter how flattering it may be to get an unsolicited offer for your work, BBB advises artists to be skeptical of emails that have no information about how or where they saw your work and give few details about who the so-called buyer is or where he or she is located.”
The emails, often riddled with grammatical errors and vague about the art they want to buy, usually ask the artist to contact them or send them links to a website. The scammers may claim to be from a distant state or country or in some cases claim to be active duty military about to be sent overseas. In a few cases, they do mention the piece of art they want to buy but often are vague about that, too.
Artists who’ve replied to the scammers say they may promise to send a “bank certified check” that covers the cost of an art work as well as shipping or other costs. The artist is asked to cash the check and pay the shipper, who is supposed to contact the artist after the money has been sent. Some buyers offer to use a credit card or PayPal, which also can be faked.
The scam resembles “fake check” or “overpayment” schemes in that a check – usually a fake – for more than the price of the artwork is sent to the victim, who is advised to refund the difference to the scammer or a third party, such as the shipper. If the victim deposits the check, it likely will bounce, and the victim will have to replace any money they withdraw based on that check. By that time, the “shipper” has taken money from  the victim.
A St. Louis gallery said it had received many of the scam emails – often four or five identical emails to several of the organization’s email addresses. No direct contact information, such as the scammer’s actual address, was included except an email address from a free site, such as Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo!
Several artists have compiled lists of hundreds of emails and names used by the scammers.
BBB advises artists to beware of unsolicited emails seeking to buy their work. More tips:
  • If you receive an unsolicited email offer to buy your artwork, use a search engine to research the email address and name of the sender. Several sites compile lists of email addresses used by scammers.
  • If there is no specific information other than a name and email address, be skeptical. A legitimate buyer likely would offer you more information about themselves and how to contact them.
  • Be cautious if the email has no specific information on the art or if the person offers to buy several works without seeing them. Such an offer likely is too good to be true – another sign that it’s likely a scam.
  • If the email offers to pay you more than the asking price of the art, beware. Scammers often use such “overpayment” offers to get the victim to send them money. Be especially cautious if you are asked to wire the money back to the emailer or the shipper or to buy reloadable payment cards to send the money back. It’s very difficult to get back money once it’s been wired or taken from a prepaid card.
  • If you’re not sure whether the email is legitimate, contact BBB at 314-645-3300 or go to bbb.org.
For more consumer tips or to check out a business or charity, go to www.bbb.org or call 314-645-3300.
About BBB
BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more information.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

CNBC New York GOP Rep. Chris Collins pleads not guilty to insider trading

GOP Rep. Chris Collins' insider trading arrest puts a deep-red seat on the House battlefield

L-R  Assistant US Attorney Robert Allen, defense attorney Jonathan Barr, Christopher Collins, defense attorney Rebecca Ricigliano, Cameron Collins, Stephen Zarsky, defense attorney Amanda Bassen, Artwork by Elizabeth Williams 
CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO SEE LARGER

  • GOP Rep. Chris Collins' arrest on insider trading charges makes his deep-red New York district more competitive in November's House elections.
  • Supporters of his Democratic opponent, Nate McMurray, have already started to raise money on Collins' indictment.
  • Republican Rep. Chris Collins' arrest and indictment on insider trading charges Wednesday suddenly makes his safe red congressional district a lot more interesting in November's midterm elections.
    The New York 27th District, lodged between Buffalo and Rochester in the western part of the state, has grown more Republican since Collins first won it narrowly in 2012. The area backed President Donald Trump by nearly 25 percentage points in 2016, while Collins breezed to re-election with about 67 percent of the vote.
    The stain of the insider trading accusations quickly makes the district more competitive — although it still favors Republicans. Regardless, the GOP cannot afford another contested seat in the state as it fights to stop Democrats from winning the 23 Republican-held seats the party needs to take a House majority.
    Nonpartisan election analysis sites Cook Political Report and Sabato's Crystal Ball moved their ratings for the district to "likely" Republican from "solid" "safe" Republican, respectively, on Wednesday. A scandal can cause a 10- to 12-percentage-point swing and Collins' arrest is "perhaps on the more severe side," tweeted Nate Silver, data guru and editor in chief of analytics site FiveThirtyEight.
  • Story Link

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Harvey Weinstein pleads not guilty to rape charges NBC NEWS

Disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein pleaded not guilty Tuesday morning to rape and criminal sex act charges.

Wearing a navy suit, Weinstein appeared before a Manhattan judge after a grand jury last week charged him with raping a woman in a hotel in 2013 and forcing another to perform oral sex on him after a meeting in his office in 2004
click on the images to see larger 
Weinstein said little other than "yes" when asked questions by State Supreme Court Justice James Burke.
His attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said the fallen mogul intends "to vigorously defend his case."
During the hearing, Brafman also apologized to the court for his repeated use of the phrase "casting couch" in speaking to the media and promised to "never use it again."
Last month, after Weinstein's arraignment last month, Brafman told reporters, "Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood," adding that “bad behavior is not on trial in this case.”
Story link: 
https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/sexual-misconduct/harvey-weinstein-pleads-not-guilty-rape-charges-n880161
Judge James Burke presiding over the Weinstein case


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Harvey Weinstein in May after his arrest and perp walk in Manhattan Criminal Court felony arraignment part surrounded by NYS Court Officers and NYPD Detectives 
Artwork by Elizabeth Williams 

Monday, May 28, 2018

Former TOB Supervisor Venditto cleared of all corruption charges

Former TOB Supervisor Venditto cleared of all corruption charges

Jury ‘deadlocked’ on verdict for Ed, Linda Mangano

Former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto was found not guilty of all corruption-related charges against him on Thursday, according to numerous published reports, after a jury deliberated for five days.
The jury remained deadlocked, according to court officials, on the charges against former Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and his wife, Linda.“I think the jury has spoken, and they came out with the proper verdict,” said Mike Rich, 69, a lifelong Oyster Bay resident. “We try cases in court, not public opinion. I think coverage by [some media] was slanted, especially when they repeated the charges every day. I’m very proud of my town.”
Mangano and Venditto were both facing multiple charges of bribery and corruption, and restaurateur Harendra Singh, who has pleaded guilty to bribing the former officials in exchange for help for his struggling businesses, was the government’s key witness.

John Venditto Verdict and Closing statements by Aggie Whelan Kenny



Marc Agnifilo closing statements: Atty Marc Agnifilo addressing jury,  Back of Atty Michael Keating, John Venditto, Linda Mangano, Edward Mangano
John Venditto’s defense
Marc Agnifilo, Venditto’s attorney, attacked Singh’s character. “Harendra Singh is selfish, remarkably self-important, and has grand plans … .” he said. “He’s not happy with where he is. He needs more. He needs to be more — to be somewhere else.”
He portrayed Venditto as “self-contained and happy” — already having all he could want or need. He said even Singh complimented Venditto at one point, calling him “a humble man.”
Agnifilo went on to say, “Singh uses love and closeness to get what he wants, and then he tells us it’s all a lie.”
Agnifilo said Venditto saw Singh as good for Oyster Bay back in 2010. The restaurateur had been a town concessionaire for 10 years, and had made capital improvements to the town buildings that he leased with his own money.
Agnifilo said Venditto didn’t know that Singh was in a corrupt relationship with former deputy town attorney Frederick Mei, who also testified last month in the trial as per a cooperation agreement. Agnifilo said Mei admitted under oath that he forged a document to make it look as though Venditto had signed a loan agreement on Singh’s behalf. Mei also admitted to forging a lease to get an earlier loan for Singh from Habib Bank, without Venditto’s knowledge.
Agnifilo likened Mei and Singh to Bonny and Clyde. “They found each other to commit crimes,” he said.
John Venditto not guilty verdict:  Jury foreman reading not guilty verdicts, court deputy right, Judge Joan Azrack, foreground l-r US attorneys, Lara Treinis Gatz, RaymondTierney,Middle ground l-r, Atty Marc Agnifilo, John Venditto, Edward Mangano, Linda Mangano

More
http://liherald.com/stories/former-tob-supervisor-venditto-cleared-of-all-corruption-charges,103525

Thursday, May 3, 2018

REUTERS Four found guilty in insider trading case linked to U.S. health agency

Four found guilty in insider trading case linked to U.S. health agency


https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-crime-healthcare/four-found-guilty-in-insider-trading-case-linked-to-u-s-health-agency-idUSKBN1I42P4
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two partners at the hedge fund Deerfield Management and two others were found guilty on Thursday of charges stemming from what prosecutors have described as an insider trading scheme based on leaks from within a federal healthcare agency.

Assistant US Attorney Joshua Naftalis presents case to jury

Rob Olan and Ted Huber, partners at Deerfield Management who are on leave, were convicted of counts including wire fraud, securities fraud and conversion of government property, as was David Blaszczak, founder of political consulting firm Precipio Health Strategies.
Christopher Worrall, who worked for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), was also convicted of wire fraud and conversion of government property, but acquitted of securities fraud. The verdict was handed down by a jury in Manhattan federal court after nearly four days of deliberations, following a four-week trial.
Ted Huber defense attorney,  Barry Berke presents defense case to jury.
Lawyers for Huber and Worrall had no immediate comment. Lawyers for Olan and Blaszczak could not immediately be reached. A Deerfield spokesman declined to comment.





This case is being handled by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brooke Cucinella, Ian McGinley, and Joshua A. Naftalis are in charge of the prosecution.   

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

NBC: 'Smallville' actress Allison Mack freed to parents on $5 million bond


'Smallville' actress Allison Mack freed to parents on $5 million bond

A federal judge agreed on Tuesday to release "Smallville" actress Allison Mack to the custody of her parents in California, setting a $5 million bond.
Mack, 35, pleaded not guilty on Friday to recruiting women to join a secret organization, called Nxivm, that prosecutors say treated them as “slaves,” providing sexual and financial services for the group’s leaders. She is charged with sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit forced labor.
Judge Viktor Pohorelsky of U.S. District Court in Brooklyn said Mack would be allowed to travel only for court appearances, attorney meetings and other approved reasons. She is prohibited from using cellular services or the internet while she is at her parents’ home, and will be electronically monitored.
Allison Mack during bail hearing, with her mother signing the 5 million dollar bond. 
In an undated statement posted by the group on its website, Nxivm denies the accusations.
“In response to the allegations against our founder, Keith Raniere, we are currently working with the authorities to demonstrate his innocence and true character,” read the statement. “We strongly believe the justice system will prevail in bringing the truth to light.”
Some of Mack's old tweets from 2013 and 2016 show her attempts to contact and potentially even recruit celebrities like actress Emma Watson and singer Kelly Clarkson into Nxivm.

Friday, April 20, 2018

LA TIMES: In recorded jail call, Robert Durst tells friend he regrets doing 'The Jinx'

Robert Durst tells friend he regrets doing 'The Jinx'

Artwork by Bill Robles
Robert Durst listening to recordings at pre trial hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court. In a jail call recorded in 2015, Robert Durst told a friend he regretted giving interviews to the producers of  " The Jinx" saying he realized while watching the siz part HBO documentary that he "definitely had a problem"

The New York real estate scion was arrested in connection with the slaying of his best friend Susan Berman on March 14, 2015 — the day before the finale of "The Jinx," which focuses on his tangled life.
Prosecutors have said they feared Durst, who was arrested at a New Orleans hotel in possession of guns, cash, a fake ID and a mask, might flee after realizing the "damning evidence" in the documentary.
Prosecutors contend Berman, whose body was found on Christmas Eve in 2000, was killed to prevent her from providing incriminating information about Durst's involvement in the 1982 disappearance of his wife, Kathleen, a case that remains unsolved. Durst, 75, has denied killing either woman.

Read More..
http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-robert-durst-20180419-story.html

Thursday, April 19, 2018

NEWSDAY Power on Trial: Sinnreich spars with Keating



By Joye Brownjoye.brown@newsday.com

Nobody asked

Jonathan Sinnreich, Oyster Bay’s outside legal counsel, and Kevin Keating, defense attorney for Edward Mangano, Nassau’s former county executive, spent much of Thursday morning engaged in a verbal tennis match.
Jonathan Sinnreich, Oyster Bay’s outside legal counsel, and Kevin Keating, defense attorney for Edward Mangano, Nassau’s former county executive, spent much of Thursday morning engaged in a verbal tennis match

Keating would ask whether Sinnreich agreed with the defense attorney’s characterization of — well, just about anything.
And Sinnreich would fire back, mostly with “no,” along with a detailed explanation of why Keating’s characterization of discussion during an April 28, 2010, meeting — how construction loans are structured, what he said or did not say to a grand jury or to federal investigations and on and on and on — was wrong.
At least twice, Sinnreich also disagreed with how his statements to federal prosecutors were stated in FBI notes.
At one point during the trial of Mangano, his wife, Linda, and former Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, Keating pressed Sinnreich on whether he mentioned in grand jury testimony that Mangano placed a hand on Singh’s shoulder during the 2010 meeting in the campaign headquarters of John Venditto, then-Oyster Bay’s town supervisor.
“I don’t think so, but I wasn’t asked a question that would have elicited that response,” Sinnreich replied.
Under cross-examination by Marc Agnifilo, Venditto’s lawyer, Sinnreich had high praise for Venditto.

Smart man

Under cross-examination by Marc Agnifilo, Venditto’s lawyer, Sinnreich had high praise for Venditto.
“He is a very smart lawyer and a very smart man,” Sinnreich testified, noting that he has worked as the town’s outside legal counsel — and thus, with Venditto — for more than a decade.
Venditto, whose seat at the defense table is closest to the witness stand, didn’t react to the comments.
A few minutes later, Agnifilo asked about Frederick Mei, the town’s former deputy town attorney.
“I always experienced Mr. Mei as solicitous of Mr. Singh’s issues,” Sinnreich testified.
Earlier, Mei testified that he received numerous bribes from Singh over the years, including cash payments, trips and the cost of a lease on a BMW.
On redirect examination from Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine M. Mirabile, Sinnreich, was asked whether Mei — as the town asserted early on after the Singh scandal broke — was a “rogue” employee.
“Oh, absolutely not,” Sinnreich replied.

Billing practice

At one point, Sinnreich testified, he was asked to put a Rivkin Radler legal bill on work related to the Singh loans through his law firm.
Sinnreich said he did so, as he has in the past for other professional services related to projects he worked on for the town. “They wanted me to do it, I did it,” he testified.
There is nothing illegal about such “pass through billing,” as it’s called.
And the mechanism often is used to speed payment. Still, it also makes seeking a formal town board action on the payment unnecessary, Mirabile pointed out.
“Correct,” Sinnreich answered.
The method also makes the bill unavailable to the public, Mirable went on.
Sinnreich disagreed.
“Bills go to the town comptroller,” he said. “I think it is available by the Freedom of Information Law.”
But the town’s record on complying with the law hasn’t been pristine, either. In 2016 Newsday sued and won to get access to documents covered by FOIL.
A New York State judge ordered Oyster Bay to provide materials, including records related to Singh’s concession agreements with the town, that Newsday had requested under FOIL in 2014.

Just say yes

Sinnreich, under questioning by Mirabile, testified that he was pretty much out of continued discussions about how to have the town legally back loans for former restaurateur Harendra Singh — after he continued to oppose many proposed iterations of a deal.
During an April 28, 2010, meeting, Sinnreich testified, he laid out his concerns and had some back and forth with William Cornachio and William Savino, attorneys for Rivkin Radler, Edward Mangano’s former law firm.
By May, he testified, he was out of the loop.
“It had become obvious to me through the town’s silence that the town was looking for Rivkin Radler to say yes to the dress,” he told jurors Thursday.
He said he did not learn until much later that the town had amended Singh’s concessions to help him get loans.

Lawyer needed

Sinnreich testified that in 2015 Leonard Genova came to him after federal agents visited the then-town attorney’s home.
Genova, Sinnreich, testified, was upset.
And, he said, that Genova, who had just lost his wife to cancer and has two young children, asked the agents to return later.
He told Sinnreich that the agents had agreed to do so.
“I asked him if he had a lawyer,” Sinnreich testified. “I told Mr. Genova that he needed his own lawyer, that I couldn’t do it because I am not a criminal attorney.”
“I also told him the supe ought to have criminal lawyers,” Sinnreich testified, referring to Venditto