Feds arrest 100 suspected mobsters in New York, New Jersey, New England

Published: Thursday, January 20, 2011, 10:43 AM     Updated: Thursday, January 20, 2011, 10:44 AM


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Gloucester County Times


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NEW YORK (AP) — Federal agents dealt another major blow to New York’s five Mafia crime families by arresting more than 100 suspected mobsters throughout the Northeast on charges including murder, extortion and narcotics trafficking.

The FBI said most of the arrests were made Thursday morning. Many were in Brooklyn, but they also occurred throughout New York City and in New Jersey and New England.

The takedown was the result of multiple investigations. Federal probes aided by mob turncoats have decimated the families’ ranks in recent years and have resulted in lengthy prison terms for several leaders.

On Friday, a federal judge in Brooklyn sentenced John “Sonny” Franzese, 93, to eight years in prison for extorting Manhattan strip clubs and a pizzeria on Long Island.

Federal prosecutors had sought at least 12 years behind bars for the underboss of the Colombo crime family — in effect, a life term. To bolster their argument, they had an FBI agent testify that Franzese bragged about killing 60 people over the years and once contemplated putting out a hit on his own son for becoming a government cooperator.

In October, Mafia turncoat Salvatore Vitale was sentenced to time served after federal prosecutors praised his total betrayal of his own crime syndicate — and after he apologized to the families of his victims. Authorities said he had a hand in at least 11 murders, including that of a fellow gangster in the fallout from the infamous Donnie Brasco case.

The evidence provided after his arrest in 2003 helped decimate the once-fearsome Bonanno organized crime family, Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Andres said.

“The Mafia today is weaker because of his cooperation,” Andres said. “Mr. Vitale provided lead after lead. … The results speak for themselves.”

Oversight leads Schuylkill judge to return mandamus complaint

An administrative oversight led to a Schuylkill County judge being prematurely presented with a mandamus complaint filed last week by the commissioners against Controller Melinda Kantner.

“There was a document … that shouldn’t have been submitted. It was submitted inadvertently,” county solicitor Eric M. Mika said Thursday.

The commissioners filed the complaint Jan. 13, asking a judge to force Kantner to pay the last of three $18,000 installments to the county’s external auditor, Pottsville accountant Sam Deegan.

By Monday, the complaint had already found its way to Judge Jacqueline Russell’s desk.

Kantner’s solicitor, Sudhir Patel, has not yet filed a response. As such, Russell returned the complaint to the prothonotary’s office.

Russell made no ruling on the validity of the complaint, but merely ruled on the “praecipe” – a legal term for a request that the court act.

Mika said the praecipe should not have been submitted with the complaint last week.

“Judge Russell rightfully dismissed the praecipe,” he said.

Mika also said the issue remains “on track.”

In her ruling, Russell said “it is evident that the case is not trial-ready,” as Patel had not yet filed a response.

The mandamus centers on money owed to Deegan for his work auditing county financial records. Deegan is to be paid three installments of $18,000 and a $6,000 retainer fee when the work is complete.

He has been paid the first two installments, but Kantner has refused to pay the last. She has attempted to deduct $4,800 from Deegan’s check in order to pay another accounting firm, Maillie Falconiero and Co., Pottstown, for its work helping her complete two financial reports for the state.

The commissioners never approved that deal and have refused to use taxpayer money to pay the bill.

bwolfgang@republicanherald.com

Avoid used-car buyer's remorse by doing your homework


The used car appeared to be in excellent condition. The paint was shiny, and so was the engine. The tires looked good. But when its new owner drove it home, the engine sounded odd. Soon, bills to repair the car totaled more than the car’s cost.

That scenario is not uncommon. A majority of Floridians buy used cars as opposed to new ones, according to the Florida Attorney General’s Office, and they don’t always buy wisely.

A used vehicle can become a nightmare of costly and time-consuming repairs if people don’t do their homework before making a purchase. Never buy a used car without test driving it and having it checked out by a certified mechanic.

Most older used automobiles do not carry warranties. When the car is sold “as is,” a disclosure required by federal law, the dealer is guaranteeing absolutely nothing, according to Palm Beach County Consumer Affairs officials.

Dennis Moore, Palm Beach County Consumer Affairs director, said, “The best time to buy a new car was a few months ago. Now we are seeing increases in new car prices and some increases in financing. Because of that we are seeing a resurgence in lease arrangements.

“Under normal circumstances I would personally recommend that people consider purchasing a newer used car or a car that has just gone off lease. In some of these cases, the car is still under warranty,” Moore said.

Although financing costs may be slightly higher for a used vehicle, keep in mind that a new vehicle can lose at least 10 percent of its value, and perhaps 20 percent to 30 percent, as soon as it leaves the dealer’s lot.

Before making the purchase, take a deep breath and think about it for a while.

“Don’t be fooled by the sales pressure and rhetoric,” Moore said. “Do a little research on the vehicle you are considering.”

That includes checking with your mechanic and doing research on CarFax, in Consumer Reports and websites such as AutoTrader.com.

Once armed with good information, you will be better prepared.

Don’t even discuss a trade-in on a vehicle until you find out the cost of the vehicle you’re interested in buying, Moore said. Or sell the used vehicle on your own.

“It just depends on how much time you want to spend on everything and how much money you really want to save. Often it comes down to value vs. the time you have,” Moore said.

~ susan_salisbury@pbpost.com

Could Gabrielle Giffords lose her House seat?

New York – Arizona law says politicans unable to perform their duties for three consecutive months must step down. Could the injured Rep. Giffords lose her seat?

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) continues to recover at a “miraculous” pace from the assassination attempt that nearly claimed her life earlier this month. But, even as she amazes her doctors, some fear the congresswoman could be subject to a state law that calls for any public official unable to “discharge the duties of office for the period of three consecutive months” to lose his or her position, and a special election be called. Could Giffords end up losing her seat in the House? (Watch the first interview with Giffords’ husband)

Not under this law, no: The legal precedent here is clear: Only the Constitution dictates qualifications for members of Congress, says constitutional lawyer Paul Bender, as quoted in The Washington Post. “The state has no right to say when the office becomes vacant.”
“As Gabrielle Giffords continues recovery, lawyers say Arizona statute won’t endanger seat”

And who would be foolish enough to evict her? Even taking into consideration the “inevitable court challenge” that would follow any attempt to unseat Giffords, says Jazz Shaw at Hot Air, can you imagine anyone actually doing it? Only someone looking to commit political suicide would try to evict “one of the most closely watched, sympathetic figures in the nation” as she bravely recovers from an “attack by a madman.” Giffords will stay in her seat.
“Could Giffords’ seat be declared vacant?”

She won’t lose her seat… for now: The congresswoman won’t be forced from office under this Arizona law, says Jim Newell at Gawker, but at some point, given the months of rehabilitation she faces, “a decision will have to be made about Giffords’ congressional career, and whether she’s capable of continuing it.” When that time comes, it will definitely be an “awkward issue” to raise.
“Will Arizona law force Gabrielle Giffords out of her seat?”

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Burzichelli-Riley bill would extend lemon law protections to farm equipment

Published: Thursday, January 20, 2011, 11:46 AM     Updated: Thursday, January 20, 2011, 12:56 PM


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John Barna/Gloucester County Times


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TRENTON —  Legislation that would extend the state’s vehicle lemon law to new farm equipment has cleared the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.

The bill would apply to new motor vehicle farm equipment purchased or leased in New Jersey.

Its sponsors include Democratic Assemblymen John Burzichelli of Paulsboro and Celeste Riley of Bridgeton.

“Consumers are protected financially if they’re vehicles turn out to be a lemon, and farmers should get the same consideration,” Burzichelli said.

Ask Andy: Denied auto warranties – WMC

By Andy Wise – bio | email | Facebook

MEMPHIS (WMC-TV) – Auto dealers and manufacturers cannot refuse warranty work on your car if you or an independent mechanic perform the vehicle’s regular maintenance, according to the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov) and the Car Care Council (www.carcare.org).

“It’s a common misconception that only car dealers can perform the maintenance services on a newer vehicle that is under warranty,” said Rich White, the Car Care Council’s executive director. “Consumers can have maintenance services performed by their local independent repair shop or even do the work themselves without affecting the warranty.”

The federal “lemon law,” known officially as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, prohibits auto manufacturers or their dealerships from voiding or refusing warranty work when someone else maintains the car.

“It’s illegal for a dealer to deny your warranty coverage simply because you had routine maintenance or repairs performed by someone else,” said a FTC consumer alert released in December. “Routine maintenance often includes oil changes, tire rotations, belt replacement, fluid checks and flushes, new brake pads and inspections.”

Your best protection:  documentation.

Scott Westbrook, owner and lead mechanic of Westbrook Auto Service  Body Shop, 3966 Winchester Rd., says ‘do-it-yourselfers’ should maintain their vehicles according to manufacturers’ suggested service intervals and keep dated records of the repairs to ensure manufacturers will honor any remaining warranty work.

“Even your extended warranty — a lot of extended warranty companies require you to show proof of documentation that the proper oil changes have been done before they’ll honor their warranty agreements,” said Westbrook.

“Our manufacturer, Ford Motor Co., may ask to see maintenance records before authorizing repair or replacement of certain components such as engines and transmissions,” said Stephen Nagel, general manager of Dobbs Ford Mt. Moriah and Dobbs Ford, Lincoln/Mercury Wolfchase. “We do not deny warranty repairs because a customer services his vehicle himself or at another facility.”

If you or an independent mechanic maintains your vehicle, Westbrook recommends you keep these records:

* RECEIPTS FOR PARTS PURCHASED AND INSTALLED

* DATES/TIMES/INTERVALS/TYPES OF MAINTENANCE

* MILEAGE EACH TIME MAINTENANCE IS PERFORMED

* PROOF OF ASE CERTIFICATION (AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE EXCELLENCE) OF MECHANIC WHO PERFORMED MAINTENANCE WHEN APPLICABLE (http://www.asecert.org/)

To get the most out of your manufacturer’s warranty, the Federal Trade Commission recommends:

* READ YOUR WARRANTY.  Usually paired with your owner’s manual, the warranty describes the details of your coverage. Warranty specs should also be available on your manufacturer’s website in the “owners” section.

* BE AWARE OF YOUR WARRANTY PERIOD. Know what is covered and when it expires.

* HONOR THE INTERVALS!  The more you keep to the manufacturer’s suggested service intervals, the better you’re insured the manufacturer will honor your warranty.

Copyright 2011 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

State's lemon law bears fruit for Janesville trucker

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— Freightliner had a chance to settle for $55,000 but instead will pay several hundred thousand dollars after a federal jury sided in favor of a Janesville father and son in a lawsuit over a defective semitrailer tractor.

The case was tried under the state’s lemon law. Wisconsin is the only state that has a law that covers semitrailer trucks.

Randy Seeman and his son Jason paid more than $117,000 for the new truck in September 2007.

Their attorney, Vince Megna, said the truck developed engine problems and was in and out of several authorized repair shops around the state without a solution.

Megna said the Seemans asked Freightliner for a refund or a new truck, but they got no response. Jewel Trucking—the Seemans’ business—then filed suit.

A jury in November decided that the truck had at least one problem and that the problem continued after the fourth visit to a repair shop. The jury also determined that the truck was out of service for at least 30 days because of one or more problems.

The court ordered Freightliner to pay the Seemans $255,000—twice the amount of their actual losses allowed under the lemon law. It also tacked on interest charges and other costs to push the total above $290,000.

In addition, the court ordered Freightliner to pay the Seemans’ attorneys fees of $225,000.

Megna, who is a national lemon law expert with the Waukesha firm of Aiken Scoptur, said it was the largest jury award in semitrailer truck lemon law case.

Megna said the truck was in the shop 16 times for a series of engine problems. At the trial, an expert witness for Freightliner said trucks such as the Seemans’ often are in the shop 10 to 12 times in their first year, Megna said.

Megna said he found that testimony incredible. Apparently, the jury did, too.

“This truck really was a disaster,” Megna said.

He hopes the case draws attention to the fact that other state’s lemon laws don’t cover the big trucks.

“It creates an unfortunate playing field for owner-operators around the country,” he said. “I get lots of calls from truck drivers around the country, but unfortunately there’s nothing we can do.

“The small owner-operator is in such a dismal position; they’re operating on a shoestring, and they have no clout.”

Megna said large fleet operators are in a better position to deal with manufacturers over defective trucks. They have the muscle and buying power to demand satisfaction, he said.

“We’ve made a statement with this case, and somehow we’ve got to raise awareness of the issue these owner-operators face,” he said. “It’s not like all these other states have to come up with new laws, they just have to amend the laws that are already on the books.

“Maybe the best thing would be for all the drivers in neighboring states to come to Wisconsin to buy their trucks. That would bring attention to the problem.”

Megna said that the Seemans do not want to speak with reporters until the final settlement. In the meantime, the truck remains parked in their yard, although Megna said it would likely be returned to Freightliner.

Jewel Trucking is now out of business, the result of several factors including the defective truck, Megna said

Megna said that at one point in the case Randy Seeman was nervous about its outcome. He and Megna offered to settle the case for $55,000, and Freightliner countered with $33,000.

“At that point, we took our offer off the table and proceeded to trial,” Megna said.

'Assistive tech devices covered by lemon law'

Individuals who purchase assistive technology devices that are defective need not fret as they are protected by law, according to the Office of Disability Policy and Programs.

Special assistant Thomas J. Camacho said these consumers are protected by Public Law 11-101 or the Assistive Technology Warranty Act of 1998 signed by then governor Pedro P. Tenorio.

Also called the Assistive Technology “Lemon Law,” the law covers any assistive device used for major life activities and the warranties for such devices.

Camacho said the law also covers the right of consumers to return defective devices, refunds and allowances, and the provision of arbitration of disputes and enforcement of the act.

According to Camacho, the effectivity of the one-year warranty starts as soon as the individual receives the assistive device.

Camacho said a consumer who acquires a defective assistive device must document the date and time of the malfunction, a description of the problem, where the consumer was when it occurred, and the consequences caused by the malfunction.

He said the affected consumer can have the assistive device repaired by the manufacturer at no charge.

If the manufacturer cannot repair the device, it can replace it with a new one or refund the consumer, Camacho said.

To help assistive device consumers, Camacho said his office has provided a consumer’s guide that inform consumers about their rights and protection under the Lemon Law.

For more information, call the Office of Disability Policy Programs at 664-2200.

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