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Man charged sexual assault of child; police check for more victims

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GREENPORT—State Police from the Livingston barracks arrested a Greene County man for rape in Columbia County and are now looking for additional victims.

State Police investigators charged Keener A. Mendez, 18, of Coxsackie with first degree rape, a class B felony, and fourth degree stalking, a class A misdemeanor, February 19.

A seven-month-long investigation by the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation in conjunction with the Columbia County Child Advocacy Center, determined Mr. Mendez allegedly sexually assaulted a child.

Mr. Mendez was arraigned in Stockport Court and was sent to the Columbia County Jail in lieu of $5,000 cash bail or $10,000 bond.

He has been ordered to reappear in court March 1.

This investigation remains ongoing. Anyone with information possibly related to crimes allegedly committed by Mr. Mendez is asked to contact the Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Livingston at 845-677-7300.

Austerlitz

State Police arrested a pair from Indianapolis for felony drug and handgun possession in Columbia County.

Drugs, cash and a stolen gun were seized from an Indiana pair in Austerlitz. Photo contributed

State Police from the Livingston barracks charged Danyell D. Johnson, Jr., 27, and Latoya M. Moore, 33, both of Indianapolis, IN, with second degree criminal possession of a weapon, a class C felony; third degree criminal possession of a weapon (high capacity ammunition feeding device); fifth degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, both class D felonies; fourth degree criminal possession of stolen property, a class E felony; seventh degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and second degree criminal contempt, both class A misdemeanors, February 16.

At 2:15 p.m. that date, troopers conducted a traffic stop on a 2020 Dodge Charger for a violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law on the Taconic State Parkway in Austerlitz. An investigation revealed that Mr. Johnson and Ms. Moore allegedly possessed about 15.5 grams of 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), 4.14 grams of methadone, and a loaded Sig Sauer 9mm handgun reported stolen in Greenwood, Indiana.

Mr. Johnson was additionally charged with criminal contempt for violating a court order barring him from possessing any firearm. Ms. Moore was charged with fourth degree criminal possession of a controlled substance for possession of the methadone.

Both subjects were arraigned in Austerlitz Court. Mr. Johnson was sent to the Columbia County Jail without bail and Ms. Moore was jailed in lieu of $2,000 cash bail or $4,000 bond.

Copake Falls

State Police from Livingston continue to investigate a hate crime and seek the public’s assistance

with their probe into a hate crime in the Town of Copake which occurred at the Taconic State Campground, 253 Route 344, Copake Falls between November 13 and 15, 2020.

Investigators want to speak to any park visitors at the park during that time who have not yet been interviewed by the State Police.

Anyone who can help is asked to contact the State Police in Livingston at 518-853-2893. Reference case# 9939088.

Drugs / alcohol

The following face drug- and/or alcohol-related charges:

•Ramiro Velasco-Barradas, 31, of Pittsfield, MA, was charged with driving while intoxicated and related charges by Deputies John Sullivan and Timothy Roberts, January 18 at 12:54 a.m. Mr. Velasco-Barradas was stopped on the Taconic State Parkway in Taghkanic following a Vehicle and Traffic Law violation when he was allegedly intoxicated. He was charged with driving while intoxicated, and operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content greater than .08%, both unclassified misdemeanors. He was also charged with consuming alcohol in a motor vehicle on a highway, and speed not reasonable and prudent, both traffic infractions. He was issued appearance tickets to return to

Taghkanic Court at a later date to answer his charges.

•Lesley Myers, 58, of Ghent was arrested by Deputies Zachary Torchia and Jordan Brahm for driving while intoxicated and related charges February 5 at 8:04 p.m. Ms. Myers was arrested following a property damage auto accident on County Route 7 in Austerlitz, when she was allegedly in an intoxicated condition. She was charged with driving while intoxicated, and operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content greater than .08%, both unclassified misdemeanors. She was also charged with failure to keep right, and leaving the scene of an auto accident, both traffic infractions. She was issued appearance tickets to return to Austerlitz Court at a later date to answer her charges.

• Lorraine Czerno, 66, of New Lebanon was arrested for driving while intoxicated and related charges by Deputies Patrick McMahon and Joseph Favorito, February 4 at 4:27 p.m. Ms. Czerno was arrested following an accident on Route 20 in New Lebanon, when she was allegedly in an intoxicated condition. She was charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated—driving with a blood alcohol content of .18% or higher, driving while intoxicated, both class U misdemeanors, and operating an unregistered motor vehicle, a traffic infraction. Ms. Czerno was released with appearance tickets to return to New Lebanon Court at a later date to answer her charges.

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@columbiapaper.com

DA warns of unemployment insurance fraud

HUDSON—In a February 18 press release, Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka warned Columbia County residents of increasing reports of scammers filing false unemployment claims using identities stolen from residents.

DA Czajka said that criminals, likely international criminals, have submitted unemployment insurance claims in the names of New York residents during the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, county residents are finding they appear to owe hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars, in additional income taxes.

The state Department of Labor reports that, as of earlier this month, it has prevented $5.5 billion in benefits from being released to fraudsters in more than 425,000 fraudulent unemployment claims filed during the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, the state referred hundreds of thousands of those cases to federal law enforcement authorities for potential prosecution.

The U.S. Secret Service and FBI are actively pursuing reports that a Nigeria-based fraud ring has filed unemployment claims in different states using Social Security numbers and other personally identifiable information.

Despite law enforcement’s best efforts to thwart scammers, county residents are still finding themselves victims of unemployment insurance fraud. State Police from the Livingston barracks have reported 17 fraud cases since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. This week, DA Czajka asked all police agencies to refer any and all such complaints of unemployment insurance fraud to the investigative division of the NYS Department of Labor.

The DA urges Columbia County residents to be on the lookout for fraudulent activity and to report such activity to local authorities who will forward those complaints to the NYS Labor Department and, by extension, the state Attorney General’s Office.

The state Department of Labor warns that if a criminal files an unemployment claim, that criminal likely has the victim’s Social Security number. The state Department of Labor recommends that anyone who suspects that he or she is a victim of unemployment insurance fraud should:

* Contact local police and file a report

* Contact New York Department of Labor and fill out a report: https://www.labor.ny.gov/agencyinfo/uifraud.shtml

*Contact your financial institutions and update them. Change all of your passwords and passcodes

*Notify the three major credit bureaus and have a fraud alert posted, and obtain a credit report

*In addition, you must report this to the Attorney General in New York State. A report form is on the Attorney General’s website at https://formsnym.ag.ny.gov/OAGOnlineSubmissionForm/faces/OAGCFCHome or call 1-800-771-7755.

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