National Roundup

New Jersey
Man behind corruption sting out of prison

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - The rabbi's son and admitted con man who became the central figure in New Jersey's largest federal corruption sting is out of prison.

Solomon Dwek was released from a federal prison in Maryland this week. He was placed into home confinement after serving less than 30 months of a six-year sentence.

U.S Prisons Bureau spokesman Ed Ross tells Dwek is under supervision. He will be able to go to work, visit doctors and attend some activities with his family, which includes six children.

The 42-year-old son of a prominent rabbi began cooperating with the FBI as part of a plea agreement after he was accused of running a real estate Ponzi scheme.

He secretly recorded meetings in which he sought to launder money from bankruptcy proceedings through Jewish charitable organizations and in which he posed as a corrupt real estate developer seeking influence with public officials.

The sting, which investigators called "Operation Bid Rig" led to the arrests of 46 political, business and religious leaders.

The arrests were unforgettable, even in New Jersey - a place with a reputation for political corruption. Elderly rabbis in long black coats, sweat-suited municipal employees and assorted bleary-eyed elected officials paraded in handcuffs off a fleet of buses for processing at FBI headquarters.

Dwek testified in several trials over the charges.

Ultimately, 34 people pleaded guilty, four were convicted, two were acquitted and one died before trial.

It has not been a smooth ride for Dwek. In 2011, a judge calling him "an extremely cunning liar" revoked Dwek's bail and sent him to prison as he awaited sentencing after he failed to return a rental car and then lied about the incident to his FBI handlers.

New York
Man sentenced in rat poison death of 5-year-old son

NEW YORK (AP) - A New York City man will spend 20 years to life in prison for killing his 5-year-old son and sickening his 7-year-old daughter with poison-laced pizza.

After learning that his ex-wife was seeing another man, Leonardo Espinal took it out on their children in November 2012 by tainting their pizza with rat poison, Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson said Thursday after the sentencing.

The little girl, Mia, threw up after eating the pizza. When her brother, Steward, soiled himself, their father took him into the bathroom.

Espinal's stepmother called 911. Police broke down the bathroom door. Steward was in the bathtub, dead from a combination of the poison and being submerged in water.

"My beloved angel," the children's mother, Rosaura Abreu, said in a victim impact statement that was written in Spanish, translated into English and read by a prosecutor in court.

"I will never forget the last time I saw my little son. ... He was radiant, happy, content and followed me all around the house."

"When it was time for me to leave, he followed me to the door and I knelt down to talk with him. It's as if my heart knew that it would be the last time I would see him alive."

Steward told his mother that he loved her. They hugged and she said "that I loved him from the bottom of my heart, more than own life."

After the crime, Mia suffered anxiety attacks at the mere mention of returning to the apartment. "She never wanted to sleep in the same bed where she slept with her Steward, protecting him from monsters," their mother said.

Therapy has helped them, but is by no means a cure-all.

"Mia suffers a great deal when she goes to parties, when she goes to bed, when she plays with other children, when she sees photos of him, when she sees another boy the same age as him, when she sees me sad because she knows I am thinking of him," Abreu said.

Espinal pleaded guilty last month to murder and attempted murder.

"All we can do," said Abreu, "is take it day by day."

Ex-FBI agent charged in drug tampering case

WASHINGTON (AP) - A former FBI agent was charged Friday with 34 counts stemming from allegations that he tampered with substantial amounts of drug evidence, kept heroin seized during investigations in his car, and periodically took the drug.

Matthew Lowry, 33, will plead guilty to all the charges, his attorney said.

The accusations caused federal prosecutors to dismiss charges against at least 28 defendants in drug cases and notify 150 more that Lowry had participated in investigations targeting them, according to charging documents. In one case, charges were dropped against 14 defendants suspected to be involved with a large-scale drug-trafficking organization that was the subject of a major FBI investigation in California and the District.

The charges, including 38 counts of obstruction of justice and 13 of heroin possession, were filed against Lowry in federal court in Washington. He faces at least seven years in prison.

Lowry's attorney, Robert Bonsib, said in a statement that in each of 20 incidents involving evidence tampering, Lowry removed small amounts of heroin from evidence packages to self-medicate a long-standing health issue known as ulcerative colitis.

Bonsib said Lowry "recognizes the importance of taking full responsibility for each of his acts."

"Mr. Lowry is devastated by the consequences of his conduct, particularly as it has affected the drug investigations that he, his fellow law enforcement officers, and prosecutors had spent so much time developing and pursing," Bonsib said.

Bonsib said the investigation into Lowry began after he was found unconscious in his unmarked FBI vehicle on Sept. 29 after overdosing on heroin.

After that "turning point," Bonsib said, Lowry immediately tried to right his wrongs, meeting with federal prosecutors and investigators to help investigate his conduct. He has also sought treatment for addiction.

Lowry is married and has a 13-month-old son.

Relatives say bad piloting caused fatal plane crash

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) - Relatives of a family killed in a plane crash in Erie last summer are suing the estate of the pilot and another pilot, saying both were at fault for a near mid-air collision that forced the aircraft down.

The family of Tori Rains-Wedan and her three sons filed four separate wrongful death lawsuits in Weld County District Court in connection with the Aug. 31 crash at Erie Municipal Airport.

The Boulder Daily Camera reports investigators believe the plane that crashed came too close to another aircraft before it went down.

Published: Mon, Mar 23, 2015