Illegal liquor sales charges dropped against owners of St. Louis wine storage firm

ST. LOUIS • The Circuit Attorney’s Office has dismissed felony charges from 2016 that a St. Louis couple who own a wine storage business were selling liquor without a license. The charges, dropped by St. Louis prosecutors Friday against Marc Lazar, 41, and his wife Katherine Lazar, 37, alleged their business Domaine Storage, would routinely email offers to sell wine to Missouri residents without a license. Founded more than a decade ago, the company stores more than 1.8 million bottles of wine in five U.S. warehouses in Chicago, New Jersey, Washington, Napa Valley and at 3300 Samuel Shepard Drive in Grand Center. A spokeswoman for the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office said she would look into why the cases were dismissed but did not get back to a reporter. The cases against the Lazars were set for trial Feb. 26 in St. Louis Circuit Court, their lawyers said. The prosecutor’s office informed them Friday of the dismissals and that it was considering refiling charges soon. “We’re very pleased at the dismissal at this point in time,” said Bill Maruglis, who represents Marc Lazar. Paul D’Agrosa, who represents Katherine Lazar, said the couple’s business has remained open and has received a state consumption license for wine tastings on the premise. He said the couple has been waiting for approval of a consumption license from the city. Marc Lazar is a registered sex offender. In 2005, he was convicted of first-degree statutory rape of a victim under the age of 14, and statutory sodomy, both felonies. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but a judge suspended execution of the sentence and Lazar was placed on five years’ probation. Continue Reading

‘Affirmative Action Bake Sale’ charges University of New Mexico students based on race

A school bake sale organized by an on-campus activist group charged students based on their ethnicity, sparking critique and backlash at the University of New Mexico. Turning Point USA — which is not yet recognized as an official student organization — on Thursday doled out desserts in what they called “An Affirmative Action Bake Sale,” with prices for products varying based on the customer’s race. A sign placed in front of their on-campus sale read “Asians $1.50, Caucasians $1.00, African American and Hispanics $0.50.” William Witt, the regional director for the Colorado-based Turning Point USA, explained to KOB, the prices were “arbitrary numbers to represent the concept” of affirmative action. Witt noted he set up the table with the hopes of inspiring dialogue on how different groups get different opportunities and how affirmative action does not result in equal opportunity — but after a few peaceful hours, the bake sale took a turn for the controversial. “We had tons of people who wanted to have great conversations. But once people start yelling, destroying our stuff and breaking everything on the table, it makes it hard to have good discussions,” Witt said, noting the menu was “supposed to be racist because it’s showcasing what affirmative action means.” He said they left campus around 2 p.m. after all their things were destroyed. “Affirmative Action” is defined by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights as “any measure, beyond simple termination of a discriminatory practice, that permits the consideration of race, national origin, sex, or disability along with other criteria, and which is adopted to provide opportunities to a class of qualified individuals who have either historically or actually been denied those opportunities and/or to prevent the recurrence of discrimination.” Some students gathered Continue Reading

Brooklyn man named Patrick Day faces judge for drug dealing charges on St. Patrick’s Day

He didn't have the luck of the Irish on his side. An accused Brooklyn drug trafficker named Patrick Day was hauled before a judge on Friday — St. Patrick's Day — to face hefty conspiracy and drug sale charges in Manhattan Supreme Court. Day, 48, had nearly five pounds of crack/cocaine, 27 pounds of marijuana, over a pound of heroin and firearms in his Green Ave. apartment in Brooklyn when he was busted Thursday, authorities said. Day was heard on wiretap boasting there was "no limit" to the amount of cocaine he could sell to an associate, according to the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan. Assistant District Attorney Thomas Wright called Day, who pleaded not guilty at his arraignment, "a significant narcotics trafficker" in Brooklyn and "someone is who is able to move significant amounts of product with almost no notice." Day was ordered held on $750,000 bond or cash by Justice Neil Ross. Others of the 11-member crew were also arraigned. Oddly-named twin brothers John and Jonathan Gonzalez, 26, were also swept up in the bust. High end cars including a BMW X6 and Bentley Continental were seized at the Long Island home of Mason McCallister, 52, an alleged participant and stash house operator. Continue Reading

Man who filmed Eric Garner’s choking death fights phony drug sale charges

The man who filmed the police choking death of Eric Garner on a Staten Island street will continue to fight his case involving the sale of phony drugs in Manhattan. Ramsey Orta, 23, got a recommendation from prosecutors of one year behind bars — the maximum — for allegedly hawking fake Ecstasy to an undercover cop on the Lower East Side on June 30. Orta’s lawyer said his client shouldn’t get any time. “The bottom line is, it was an arrest without any cause at all,” Ken Perry said outside the courtroom. Orta faces more serious drug charges in Staten Island. He remained free on bail after his brief hearing Tuesday in Manhattan Criminal Court. ON A MOBILE DEVICE? WATCH THE VIDEO HERE. Continue Reading

Ramsey Orta, who filmed Eric Garner death, has charges reduced after officials say drugs were fake

Drug charges were reduced Monday against the man who filmed the death of Eric Garner after prosecutors said he only sold fake MDMA to an undercover cop. Ramsey Orta, 23, had been arrested Tuesday for allegedly selling drugs on the Lower East Side. After his collar, lab tests revealed Orta was not in possession of illegal drugs — but prosecutors aren’t throwing in the towel, and have charged him with petty larceny. “From my training and experience, I know that the defendant's actions are of a kind commonly used to defraud of money through a trick or swindle," Police Officer Richard Mclees said in court papers. Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Louis Nock reduced his bail from $15,000 bond or $7,500 cash to $8,000 bond or $4,000 cash. Supporters of Orta were expecting to post cash bail Monday afternoon in exchange for his release. Orta had been facing felony drug sale charges, but has now been slapped with misdemeanor charges for allegedly stealing money in the bogus drug deal and with selling the “imitation controlled substance.” New court papers also include possession of stolen property and fraudulent accosting counts. He is already indicted in two unrelated cases in Staten Island. Orta, through his attorney, rejected an offer of a one-year jail sentence in exchange for pleading guilty in the new case. Outside the courtroom, Orta's lawyer, Ken Perry, said the charges stuck in spite of the test results because of Orta's notoriety. “They're coming up with a very tortured view of the statute to make it a larceny by false pretenses,” Perry said. “Normally this whole thing would have gone away if it wasn't Ramsey.” William Aronin, who also represents Orta, said that the district attorney is “alleging that he sold a substance that is not illegal in the state of New York and they're then claiming that he defrauded someone Continue Reading

Two FIT students held on drug charges after selling drugs to undercover cop

Two aspiring fashionistas at Manhattan's prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology were busted Wednesday night for selling cocaine outside their pricey college dorm, police said. Mickenzie Dippenworth, 21, of Bel Air, Md., and her roommate, Christine Scafa, 22, of Princeton Junction, N.J., allegedly teamed up with a local dealer, Raymond Alameda, and together sold at least half an ounce of coke to undercover cops, police said. The women left the 7th Precinct stationhouse on their way to arraignment last night laughing, wisecracking and apparently clueless about how much trouble they were in. "Who do you think I am, Plaxico Burress?" Scafa quipped to journalists taking photos and firing questions at her. Asked if she'd be going back to school, she gave a wouldn't-you-like-to-know smirk and mumbled something unintelligible. Dippenworth, who looked surprised, yet amused, by all of the attention, gestured to the group and asked, "Are you serious?" Alameda just scowled and kept his head down. Dippenworth allegedly made the mistake of first hawking drugs to an undercover cop last month at the trendy W.27th St. club Home. "She told the undercover she could get whatever was needed," said Lt. Brian Murphy of NYPD's vice club initiative. Undercover investigators then made seven more buys from the two women, or their supplier, police said. All those buys took place outside the women's FIT dorm on W. 31st St. Room and board at any of FIT's Manhattan dorms runs about $10,000 a year - on top of the roughly $11,000 a year tuition at the State University of New York institute. Investigators didn't know how the two women met Alameda, although he lived nearby on W. 27th St. and catered to the club crowd the two women ran with. Alameda's eight prior arrests include a charge of attempted murder as a teenager, sources said. When Alameda was arrested Wednesday morning, cops seized his 2007 Chrysler and $1,300 in cash from his pockets. Scafa is a Continue Reading

Tatum O’Neal is all laughs after night in tank on drug charges

It was all a big joke. Actress Tatum O'Neal breezily laughed and chatted her way through court Monday - just hours after she tried to cry her way out of an arrest for buying drugs on a Manhattan street. The Oscar-winning actress looked haggard and her blond hair disheveled from a night in lockup, but she was lively enough to charm and joke with court officers, who shielded the former child star from the hordes of reporters gathered at Manhattan Criminal Court for her arraignment. Asked outside if she bought crack and powder cocaine, the long-troubled O'Neal replied softly, "No." Criminal Court Judge Felicia Mennin released O'Neal without bail until her next court date in late June. Her lawyer turned down Mennin's offer for the 44-year-old actress to sit through two days of drug counseling to see what kind of rehab program would be best for her. "She's going to go to her own, high-priced, out-of-the-spotlight rehab to get clean - again," a law enforcement source said. Ducking reporters and cameras, O'Neal's lawyer and architect boyfriend Ron Castellano whisked the actress away from court in a black Toyota Prius. O'Neal tried to wiggle out of her Sunday night arrest on the lower East Side by telling cops that she was researching a role, police said. "She was on the verge of tears. She was pleading with the police, 'Please don't arrest me! Is it really necessary? Please don't arrest me!,'" said hospital billing clerk Paul Sobel, 58, who saw the troubled star cuffed, along with alleged dealer Allen Garcia, 33. "She was handcuffed behind her back ... she started crying. She didn't look like she was going to any movie premiere," Sobel said. O'Neal was caught when investigators from the NYPD Manhattan South narcotics squad staked out a known drug hot spot at Rutgers and Madison Sts., near two sprawling housing projects, cops said. Garcia, described by his lawyer as a homeless junkie, was held on $10,000 bail on a felony drug sale charge. Continue Reading


HOLLYWOOD - "Die Another Day" director Lee Tamahori wasn't filming a "Tootsie" remake, but he was in full "drag" when he was busted for prostitution by an undercover vice cop, officials said yesterday. The 55-year-old director of thrillers like "The Edge" and "Mulholland Falls" was dolled up in a long black wig, a dress, make up and accessories when he offered to perform oral sex for a fee, said Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the Los Angeles city attorney's office. Available reports did not say what price the New Zealand-born filmmaker, who has worked with macho stars including Nick Nolte, Alec Baldwin, Pierce Brosnan and James Gandolfini, requested for the service. LAPD Officer Jason Lee said the department will not release Tamahori's mug shot due to "department policy." "The defendant was loitering on the sidewalk in drag and then approached an undercover officer in his car and offered to orally copulate him for money," Mateljan said. Tamahori, who is free on $2,000 bail, is charged with misdemeanor counts of soliciting and agreeing to engage in an act of prostitution and loitering with the intent to commit prostitution, Mateljan said. He faces up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine if convicted. Arraignment is scheduled for Feb. 24, but Tamahori does not have to appear in court because it's a misdemeanor case. His attorney, Mark Geragos, could not be reached for comment yesterday. The high-powered action-flick director once told an interviewer, "Sex should not be in the movies and it should be in the home. And violence should be in the movies and not in the home." The son of a British mother and a Maori father, Tamahori has also directed television, including an episode of "The Sopranos" in the second season. Tamahori's arrest occurred on the night of Jan. 8 on Santa Monica Blvd., just blocks from where actor Eddie Murphy picked up a transvestite hooker in May 1997. Murphy was not charged with any crime. In June 1995, actor Hugh Continue Reading

John Spano, who scammed the NHL by trying to buy the Islanders in the ‘90s, pleads guilty to forgery charges in Ohio

CLEVELAND (AP) — A man who once conned the National Hockey League into thinking he was a wealthy entrepreneur well-qualified to buy one of the league’s most storied franchises has been convicted of another scam in Ohio. John Spano Jr. pleaded guilty Monday to 16 counts of forgery for what authorities say was a scheme that saw him collect nearly $70,000 in sales commissions on fraudulent accounts that he created. The 50-year-old Spano faces as many as 16 years in prison when sentenced in a Lake County courtroom next month. He remains free on bond. His attorney did not return telephone messages Tuesday. Spano lives with his parents in Grand River, a village about 30 miles east of Cleveland. Spano became infamous after he agreed to purchase the New York Islanders in 1996 for $165 million. The NHL vetted Spano, who presented himself as a Texas businessman worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and approved the sale. He convinced banks to lend him $80 million for the purchase. But months after being hailed as a hero by Islander fans, his con was revealed when he failed to pay a relatively modest down payment of $5 million. The FBI launched an investigation and Spano pleaded guilty to fraud and theft charges in federal court in New York. He was sentenced to nearly six years in prison and was ordered to pay $11.9 million in restitution to the Islanders and victims of other scams, including $1.25 million to hockey great Mario Lemieux. Spano’s infamy was revived in 2013 with the release of a documentary about his aborted purchase of the Islanders titled “Big Shot.” The film aired on the ESPN series “30 for 30.” After prison, Spano returned to Ohio, where he spent his teenage years and graduated from high school. He started a finance company that fraudulently collected fees for services never delivered. Another investigation was launched and he again pleaded guilty in federal court. Along with a sentence of just over four years, he Continue Reading

Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao finally agree to deal, tickets go on sale Thursday

It took more than five years for Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao to agree to fight each other, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that ticket sales for the bout on May 2 would also be behind schedule. On Thursday, more than two months after the fight was announced and nine days before the opening bell, tickets for the supposed Fight of the Century will finally be available for those who have braved the wait. RELATED: MANNY PACQUIAO TO POCKET $2.25M FROM ADS ON SHORTS: REPORT After weeks of rancor between the two camps over ticket shares and hotel rooms, a site contract for the MGM Resorts in Las Vegas, where the bout will take place, was finally agreed upon by all sides and signed on Wednesday evening, paving the way for tickets to go on sale to the general public on Thursday, Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum told the Daily News. “It finally happened,” he said, nearing midnight on Wednesday. “They will go on sale tomorrow. It’s over.” Sure enough, a release was sent out at midnight by the event organizers, touting that tickets will be available for both “in-arena and closed-circuit viewing,” resolving a matter that should have been decided weeks ago. “It’s terrible,” Arum told The News earlier Wednesday before the contract was signed with the ticket situation still in limbo. “It’s embarrassing.” A verbal agreement was reached between all sides on Wednesday morning after CBS (which owns Showtime, Mayweather’s home network) chairman Leslie Moonves intervened and held a conference call with those involved, Arum confirmed in a development that Yahoo! Sports first reported. Arum said that only 500 tickets will be made available to the public for the live fight, down from the 1,000 that had initially been reported as open to the public. The rest of the tickets will be divided up among the entities involved in putting on the Continue Reading