Daniel Zimnikov: Manhattan granny, ‘Moma Dot,’ admits role in $1M drug ring

Daniel Zimnikov via Daily News

Don’t let the wooden cane and graying hair fool you: This granny was all gangster.

Daniel Zimnikov

Doris Smith accused of helping her son-in-law run a drug ring out of her building

Diminutive Doris Smith, 72, confessed Wednesday to helping her son-in-law run a $1 million-a-year Harlem drug ring by using her tony Manhattan co-op as a stash house for PCP, crack and heroin.

The family matriarch — known among her drug pals as “Mama Dot” — was twice caught on wiretaps warning the son-in-law, gang kingpin Lamont (Big Bro) Moultrie, 42, that cops were inside the building at 101 W. 115th St.

“I’ve listened to the wiretaps,” Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Edward McLaughlin told Smith’s attorney. “Your client was quite involved. She knew what was going on, and tried to deflect the police.”

The short, heavyset grandmother of seven — and great-grandmother of one — pushed up her eyeglasses to wipe away tears while admitting her pivotal role in the lucrative dope-peddling business.

Smith, as co-op board president, held a key to the basement and a vacant third-floor apartment next door to where she lived with her daughter Nicole McNair Moultrie and son-in-law Lamont. The basement of the six-story building was used to store hundreds of heroin-filled packets and dozens of plastic bags loaded with crack.

The heroin was marketed under the brand name “24,” and a stamp with that number was kept downstairs.

The upstairs apartment served as the heart of the PCP trade, with gang underlings dipping spearmint leaves into 5-gallon cans of the liquid drug.

The angel dust-laced leaves were then sold for $10 apiece by dealers at three open-air Harlem drug markets — earning the gang its nickname, the “Kings of Dust.”

Lamont Moultrie and his kid brother Bernard (Little Bro) Moultrie, 39, were charged as the heads of the drug gang and are awaiting trial under the state’s “Drug Kingpin” statute.

They were arrested in January along with 33 other suspects, including Nicole McNair Moultrie, 41. The busts, with police executing 20 search warrants, capped a 15-month investigation.

Smith’s grandson, 11, lived in the apartment with his drug-slinging parents and his grandma, neighbors said.

Doris Smith, in addition to providing access to the building, served as an early-warning system for arriving police, wiretaps indicated. When police entered the building last Jan. 12, the retired Bellevue Hospital nurse immediately dialed her son-in-law’s phone.

“Speaking in a hushed voice, she told Lamont where the police were and how he could leave the building to avoid them,” court papers said.

Smith was arrested in February and held at Rikers Island before entering her guilty pleas to criminal possession of a controlled substance and conspiracy to distribute drugs.

The glum grandmother looked sadly out at relatives while walking slowly into court, her hand clutching the old-fashioned cane, before confessing to her crimes.

Smith will be sentenced to five years in prison in October. Her new digs will be a drastic change from her co-op, where three-bedroom apartments with hardwood floors sell for upward of $350,000. Under a city program to help the poor own their apartments, she bought her place in 2004 for just $250. Smith lived in the building for more than 30 years.

Neighbors described Smith as an imperious presence who openly handled her drug business and flaunted her drug money.

“They had Lamborghinis,” one neighbor said. “Mama had to get one, too.”

But another neighbor recalled the longtime resident playing Santa Claus for local children.

“She’d sit on the steps and give the kids presents — dolls, cars, toys,” the neighbor said. “My heart hurts for her.”

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Woman charged with helping murder suspect flee to Wildwood

Daniel Zimnikov via Associated Press

daniel zimnikov

A woman charged with helping a murder suspect escape to New Jersey is being held in York County Prison in Pennsylvania, above.

LANCASTER, Pa.. — Police have charged a woman they say helped a central Pennsylvania man flee to Cape May County after he killed his girlfriend and her mother earlier this summer.

Amber Faye Foultz was charged Tuesday with hindering apprehension and other counts for allegedly helping 23-year-old Gary Gerlach flee to Wildwood following the killings of Makenzie Hess and her mother, Mona Hess, on June 15.

Gerlach was arrested two days after the bodies of mother and daughter were found in their Leola home. Investigators say Makenzie Hess was strangled and her mother beaten with a hammer.

The Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era reports Foultz, 22, is in York County Prison on unrelated charges and will be transferred to Lancaster County for arraignment.

Court records don’t list an attorney for Foultz.

Christie adviser: Report that Christie thinks Romney may lose is ‘crazy,’ ‘inaccurate’

Daniel Zimnikov via NJ.com

Daniel Zimnikov

Gov. Chris Christie addresses members of the California delegation at their St. Petersburg hotel this morning.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Gov. Chris Christie’s top political adviser this morning denied a report in the New York Post saying the governor was cool to a vice presidential nod because he thought Mitt Romney was likely to lose.

“From my perspective, the story is inaccurate,” Bill Palatucci, Christie’s closest adviser, said.

A front-page story in the New York Post today said Christie refused to resign as governor to run as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential candidate because he assumed President Obama would probably win.

Palatucci called it “crazy” to suggest that Christie feared Romney would lose.

“He’s going everywhere for the guy, and I read the polls, and it’s extremely tight,” he said.

Palatucci declined to comment on whether Christie refused to step down as governor to join the Romney ticket, saying those questions are better directed at the Romney campaign.

On Fox News “Fox and Friends,” a spokesman for the Romney campaign said he had just gotten off the phone with Christie, who denied the story.

// Senior Strategist Russ Schriefer said Christie “said it’s totally not true.”

“He used a little bit stronger language than that,” Schriefer said. “He was, let’s put it this way, blunt about his denial.”

Christie would have had to step down, the Post wrote, because of laws attempting to curb pay-to-play. The laws would have limited what companies could have contributed to the Romney campaign if Christie was on the ticket, because the companies do business with New Jersey.

The story comes the day before Christie will deliver a high-profile speech touting Romney.

Daniel Zimnikov: Frantic 911 call from Camden woman who allegedly decapitated her son: ‘I did it, I did it’

Daniel Zimnikov via NJ.com

Daniel Zimnikov

camden

The 911 call from Chevonne Thomas was rambling and incoherent, but authorities said she made one thing clear: Her 2-year-old son had been stabbed, and “I did it.”

What police found at her Camden rowhouse early Wednesday was even more horrifying. Thomas had decapitated her son and placed his head in the freezer.

The 33-year-old mother later fatally stabbed herself after hanging up on emergency dispatchers, a violent end to a troubled life.

Thomas only recently regained custody of son Zahree after allegedly leaving the boy unattended in a car in 2010, telling police she had smoked marijuana laced with the hallucinogenic drug PCP and blacked out in a nearby park.

In a statement, the state’s child welfare agency, the Division of Children and Families, said it would conduct an internal review of information pertaining to the case — including its role with the family.

“At this time we can confirm that DCF did have an open case and was working with all family members to support the mother and her child, who had recently been reunified consistent with the court’s order of April 3, 2012,” the statement said. “… Zahree had previously been residing with relatives while his mother sought court-ordered treatment for substance abuse and mental health disorders.”

Thomas was charged with child endangerment in the 2010 car incident, but the case was dropped because of a problem with a witness, said Jason Laughlin, spokesman for the Camden County prosecutor’s office.

The gruesome events began unfolding Tuesday night. Neighbor Melanie Troutman reported seeing Thomas and her boyfriend sitting on the steps of their home, a familiar sight. But Troutman said that on this night, Thomas was topless and “clearly upset.” Another neighbor, Tayari Horcey, who lives a few doors from Thomas on Kaighns Avenue, insisted the woman was clothed.

About two hours later, Thomas called 911. During the call, she first accused her boyfriend of stabbing Zahree, but then quickly recanted.

“You know what, I did it, I’m lying, I’m lying, I’m lying, I did it,” she said, according to a recording of the rambling, often incoherent call released last evening.

“I did it, I did it, I did it,” she repeated later.

Asked if she takes medicine, Thomas said she used to take the antidepressant Prozac.

“I didn’t take it today, but I should have,” she said.

Police later found Zahree’s body on the first floor of his mother’s home, then discovered his head in the freezer. A medical examiner found a chest stab wound and marks on the child’s arms, said Laughlin, the prosecutor’s spokesman.

Thomas stabbed herself in the neck with a kitchen knife shortly after hanging up on dispatchers, Laughlin said.

Distraught family members who arrived at the scene late Wednesday morning expressed shock and declined comment.

Some neighbors described strange behavior by Thomas, who had just moved to the neighborhood from elsewhere in the city. Others saw no evidence of problems.

“Because had we known something was up, I’m quite sure all the neighbors on this block would have talked to her,” Horcey said. “But, you know, people hold stuff in. You don’t know what’s going on.”

Speaking outside the rented apartment Wednesday evening, Thomas’ landlord described her as good-natured.

“She was a really nice woman for the short amount of time that she lived there,” said the landlord, who did not want to be identified publicly. “She was never late with her rent and just a short time ago my wife was there and my kid played with them.”

A teen who lives a few doors down said Thomas moved into the neighborhood about two months ago.

“She used to sit on the step with her son,” the young man recalled. “She really didn’t speak. She just kept to herself. We’d see her out there, smoking cigarettes, but we didn’t really know her.”

Meanwhile, Camden officials took the unusual step of offering “community support counseling” for the entire city.

Counseling took place Wednesday, and continues today and tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Bethel Deliverance Church on Kaighns Avenue.

Clergy, the mayor’s staff members and city police will be on hand to help and counsel residents.

“My deepest sympathy goes out to the young child, family members and friends,” Mayor Dana L. Redd said in a statement. “As the investigation into the circumstances that led to this tragic incident moves forward, we need to remember that all life matters … In the city of Camden, we are all family and we will be here to help through the healing process.”

Daniel Zimnikov: Police Search For Alleged Manhattan Sexual Assaulter

Daniel Zimnikov via NY1

Police are searching for a man they say sexually assaulted a woman in Manhattan.

sexually assaulted a woman

They say the man entered a massage parlor on Washington Place in the West Village Friday morning.

Investigators say he kept hitting a 41-year-old woman until she became unconscious.

They say the man then sexually assaulted her and stole items from the business.

The woman was taken to the hospital in stable condition.

Police describe the man as between the ages of 20 and 25. They say he is about six feet tall with a medium build.

Anyone with information on the case should contact the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS, or text CRIMES and then enter TIP577, or visit www.nypdcrimestoppers.com.

 

Daniel Zimnikov: City Budget Hole From Stalled Taxi Program Could Result In Layoffs

Daniel Zimnikov – NY1

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Monday the city is facing a $635 million deficit because of a state judge’s ruling blocking a plan to extend taxi service in the five boroughs, and that city agencies are facing potential cuts. NY1’s Grace Rauh filed the following report.

Daniel Zimnikov

Mayor Michael Bloomberg

 Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to expand taxi service to all five boroughs would not just have been a boon for riders. It also would have put an extra $1.4 billion in the city’s coffers.

The money would have come from the sale of 2,000 taxi medallions, but that source dried up after a state judge’s decision on Friday blocked the taxi plan.

“What it means is, since we really don’t have the opportunity to raise taxes, it means cutting expenses and we will continue to do that,” said the mayor.

The decision blows a $635 million hole in this year’s $68.5 billion budget.

The city planned to collect another $365 million the following year from the medallion sales and another $460 million in fiscal year 2015.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and City Comptroller John Liu have both said it was risky for the city to bank on that money since it was tied up in a court case. The mayor, though, remained publicly confident that the city would prevail in court.

The city did not prevail. The judge found the city at fault because it did not get approval from the City Council to expand taxi service. Albany lawmakers signed off on the deal instead.

“We still think that we will win on appeal, but it’s going to be a real challenge,” said Bloomberg.

The city was already facing a $2.5 billion dollar budget deficit for next fiscal year.

As for the possibility of layoffs, the mayor said he had no idea at this point Monday. But he noted that if the city has less money, it will not be able to employ as many people, so it appears that some jobs will be lost, either through attrition or layoffs.

“Attrition doesn’t work very well in a slow economy. You got any other questions?” said Bloomberg.

Daniel Zimnikov: Critics say education reform bill signed by Gov. Christie doesn’t fix state’s biggest issues

Daniel Zimnikov – By Star- Ledger Staff

Daniel Zimnikov

Governor Chris Christie signs Bill S-1455

TRENTON — Everyone in Trenton agrees: The state’s brand-new law overhauling teacher tenure is one for the history books.

Gov. Chris Christie says it brings landmark reform to a century-old system that protects mediocre teachers. For Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), it’s “one of the most significant pieces of legislation this Legislature has acted upon.”

Even Christie’s arch-enemies at the New Jersey Education Association like the new policy, which subjects teachers and principals to yearly evaluations that will make it tougher to gain job security and easier to lose it.

But just as the measure enjoyed near-universal support when Christie signed it earlier this month, there is also a consensus among leading Democrats and Republicans that it doesn’t go far enough for inner-city schools.

Those reformers may be out of luck this year.

Interviews with administration officials, Democratic lawmakers and NJEA leaders reveal that whatever momentum there was for education reform has mostly fizzled. Instead, they’re back to bickering over how much teachers should earn and which ones should be laid off first when budgets are tight. And nobody’s budging.

Even Christie’s education commissioner, Christopher Cerf, isn’t satisfied.

“If this is our one shot at reform, this is a terrible disappointment,” Cerf told a panel of lawmakers before the bill passed, lamenting that nothing would be done to address seniority rights that guard the longest-serving teachers from layoffs.

The same issue spurred Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-Monmouth), a staunch Christie ally, to introduce a bill ending seniority rights days after the governor’s signing ceremony.

And in Newark, Mayor Cory Booker and School Superintendent Cami Anderson weren’t very impressed with the new tenure policy, arguing that real reform will take more work.

Cerf, Anderson and other Democrats say younger teachers can be more motivated, and losing them automatically to budget cuts hurts urban schools. But Democratic lawmakers aren’t eager to tackle what’s left on Christie’s wish list — not seniority, not merit pay, not vouchers, not an expansion of charter schools.

They first want to see how schools adapt to the new tenure law.

“Let’s see if this works, let’s give it a shot,” said Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden), a key player in the tenure debate. Greenwald said he won’t dismiss any proposal out of hand, but he said some of Christie’s ideas — like expanding charter schools into the suburbs — have led to “disaster.”

“We should be working on things like tenure reform, where we got wide agreement from all the interested parties,” Greenwald said, “not on expanding on some ideological ground charter schools in areas that aren’t served by them.”

Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said that “while the (tenure) reform was terrific and made advancements not seen in 100 years” there is plenty left to do. The administration will review Kyrillos’s bill carefully, he said.

Another Christie spokesman, Kevin Roberts, added: “It’s easy to focus on what was left out of tenure reform but at the same time there are still many other aspects of public education reform that can be acted on apart from personnel changes.”

When he laid out his education priorities earlier this year, Christie put teacher evaluations at the top of his list. He got them, but it seemingly cost him everything else he wanted, including an end to seniority and higher pay for teachers in difficult subjects, also known as “merit pay.”

Meanwhile, the NJEA lobbied hard to secure everything it had sketched out last year: a four-year tenure track, a one-year mentorship program, transferring employment disputes from the court system to arbitrators, and leaving seniority rights as is.

“We did our research,” said NJEA spokesman Steve Wollmer. “More rational people prevailed.”

Wollmer said seniority should be a moot issue now that yearly evaluations are being adopted. A teacher who performs poorly for two years could be fired, he said, and that’s the best way to weed out bad apples.

To the NJEA, Wollmer said, the biggest question is figuring out what the teacher evaluations will look like and how much weight will be given to standardized test scores. Merit pay and Christie’s other proposals are non-starters, he said.

“We welcome the discussion but off of what we know we don’t think those ideas are the way to go,” he said. “They’re not going to result in major changes — there’s no research showing that.”

State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), the architect of the new law, initially proposed allowing teachers who had tenure before the effective date of the bill to keep seniority rights. Those who got tenure after would not have the protection.

Ruiz told The Star-Ledger editorial board in May she crafted it that way hoping to coax the NJEA into a compromise. But when the powerful union — and the lawmakers who support them — would not budge, Ruiz amended the bill for fear it would not pass.

“I can sit here and fold my arms and say it’s not enough, but then we get nothing done,” Ruiz said of her decision.

The New Jersey School Boards Association, which long called for changes to teachers’ seniority rights, felt crushing disappointment when it learned of Ruiz’s decision, said spokesman Frank Belluscio.

“If you look at the numbers in terms of enrollment trends, reductions in force are going to have to be made in the future in New Jersey,” he said. “It’s essential that districts be able to decide whom to lay off based on performance rather than time on the job.”