NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman Targets Astroturfing: Fake Reviews of Hair Removal Services, Strippers, and More

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New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman
We truly hate to be the ones to tell you this, but sometimes people say stuff on the Internet that is ... not true. Take a moment to collect yourselves. Case in point: 19 companies were scolded and fined yesterday by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for so-called Astroturfing: the practice of posting fake reviews on sites like Yelp, Google Local, and CitySearch. According to the AG, the companies hired freelance writers to write the fake ads from as far away as the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Eastern Europe, paying $1 to $10 per review.

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A Brooklyn Man Pleads Guilty to Involvement in $13 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

Categories: Fraud, Health Care

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A Brooklyn resident pleaded guilty to fraud charges in federal court on Friday. Gregory Konoplya, 57, will now face sentencing for his part in an elaborate kickback scheme that funneled $13 million in fraudulent claims from Medicare and Medicaid into a Brooklyn medical clinic.

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Harlem Parking Lot Owner Pleads Guilty to Pocketing His Employees' Payroll Taxes

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Pay them.
Trevor Whittingham of Fort Lee, New Jersey, owner and operator of two commercial parking lots in Upper Manhattan, pleaded guilty to willfully withholding his employee's payroll taxes from 2006 to 2009. According to the U.S. Attorney's office, Whittingham "used the corporate funds of EZ Going Park Here and We Have Cars II to pay for various personal items and otherwise finance a lavish lifestyle."

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Glafira Rosales, Master Art Scammer, Busted for Duping IRS and Selling Phony Masters

Here's a little bit of Upper East Side intrigue: a fancy dealer took it upon herself to double down and sharply increase her profit margin by selling phony paintings and duping the Internal Revenue Service out of millions, federal prosecutors tell us.

The wily Glafira Rosales allegedly hid $12.5 million earned from the sales of "work" by abstract expressionists Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning by hiding the cash in secret bank accounts in Spain, the U.S Attorney's office in Manhattan says. If only the IRS was so aggressive with large corporations: See Apple computer's many feathered tax shelters.

The feds busted her in Sands Point, N.Y. (aka F. Scott Fitzgerald's "East Egg" in "The Great Gatsby), early yesterday, and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, ever the man with a pithy quote, called her an "artful dodger" (see Dickens, Charles.)

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What's Wire Fraud Again? Everything You Wanted to Know About the John Liu Aide Scandal

Categories: Fraud

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Mayoral candidate John Liu.
On Thursday, two of John Liu's former aides were found guilty in an illegal scheme to raise funds for Liu's mayoral race. Want the simplest breakdown? Read on.

So, who are these people?

Xing Wu (Oliver) Pan is a real-estate developer and was a campaign fundraiser for mayoral hopeful John Liu, and Jia (Jenny) Hou served as Liu's campaign treasurer. Hou, the daughter of one of Liu's friends, was a mere 25 years old when she was charged, and paid just $27,678 by the Liu campaign while she was treasurer, according to the Daily News. Both Pan and Hou were convicted of engaging in a plot to funnel large funds from individual donors through "straw donors" and get matching funds from the city.

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Cheaters, Scammers, Fraudsters, Insider Traders: A Financial HiJinks Roundup

Oh fraud, how could we live our lives without it! Here now comes a list of financial crime cases out of federal court in Manhattan and Brooklyn that we have had the keen pleasure to follow so far this year.

And as we read, we must pause from time to time in awestruck admiration at the inventiveness of some of these people. What a wonderful contribution they have made to society!

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Michael Provenzano, HPD Official, and Four Others Busted For Bribery in City Construction Contracts

A pretty good government corruption story out of the federal prosecutors' office in Brooklyn: The director of construction at the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development has been arrested for taking annual $10,000 bribes over 5 years to provide inside information to contractors seeking city work.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn says Michael Provenzano, who made $96,000 last year and oversaw a hug construction portfolio, and a former HPD official, Luis Adorno, were arraigned yesterday in Brooklyn, along with three real estate developers. The scheme not only allowed developers to get contracts, but also let them ignore prevailing wage rules and pay their employees less than required by the city.

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Bill de Blasio Creates Another Website To Tackle a Not Very Local Issue

Sam Levin
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, at a press conference on Iran, in March.
Public Advocate and mayoral hopeful Bill de Blasio has gotten some headlines recently about his campaign against car companies that do business with Iran.

In March, he created the website IranWatchList.com, designed to target companies that work with Iran and in some cases allegedly sell directly to Iran's military. We noted at the time that his involvement in the foreign policy matter was a likely appeal to Jewish voters as he preps for the 2013 mayoral race.

Well today, de Blasio is out with another website that it about another fairly not-local issue: Wal-Mart and its covert political spending.

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Patrick Alcindor, Harlem Pharmacist, Gets 13 Years in the Slammer

Patrick Alcindor could spend up to 13 years behind bars for scamming Medicaid -- charging for pricey prescriptions which he never filled, according to the Manhattan District Attorney.

Alcindor, who ran the ring out of a Harlem pharmacy, got caught in March 2010 paying an undercover cop for these scripts, including HIV/AIDS medicines and anti-psychotics. The former pharmacist was convicted of attempted larceny and tampering with evidence charges Feb. 10, but just sentenced today.

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Tornadoes Across Midwest and South Kill Over 30; BP And Plaintiffs Reach Agreement; Man Gets 27 Years in Homegrown Terrorism Case

At least 31 are dead across Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Alabama after tornado storms ravaged the Midwest and South, essentially destroying towns. Today, the rescue effort continued, as parts of the South remained on tornado watch. "It's just nuts right here," National Weather Service meteorologist John Gordon told CNN during the storms. Indiana State Police Sgt. Jerry Goodwin told a CNN affiliate that they have "complete destruction." [CNN]

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