Casino and Bikers Top "Public" Agenda

On Monday night, I attended my first Common Council meeting in quite a while. The room was more packed than I had hoped and the enthusiasm of the group, which happily call themselves progressive, was one of frivolity…somewhat like that first day back to school when you realize all your friends have all the same “video-showing” teachers that you have.

I scanned the agenda and noticed all those silly bike helmets and realized they were all there for Bike Month…which they utilized to demand traffic calming and better bike lanes on Madison. I wondered if they had ever travelled Central Avenue so they could compare the two thoroughfares. I have, and if you have the need to travel Central you know which route needs more TLC too.

Bike helmets of the few who actually did ride to the meeting (I saw two), one even posed at the microphone in case there was a photo op, with Ms. Golby’s proudly placed atop her desk lamp…a beacon of idiocy while she babbled loudly at the announcement the public comment period would need to end with three remaining speakers on the public list.

Read more: Casino and Bikers Top "Public" Agenda

County Files Suits Against Vendors

From the County Exec:


Albany County Files Lawsuit Against DSS Vendor
For Selling Unsanitary Mattresses to Clients
Lawsuit Alleges Three Vendors Engaged in Fraud, Ripped Off the County

Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy today announced that the county has filed a series of lawsuits against Albany furniture stores for illegal business practices including selling mattresses infested with bedbugs to clients of the Department of Social Services. The lawsuit filed against Seraj Enterprises, DBA 99 Cents and More, of 141 S. Pearl St. and two other firms alleges that the company engaged in fraud for violating the terms of its contract with the county by illegally substituting household items included on vouchers provided by DSS.

The department provides vouchers to those clients who need household items. The vouchers can be redeemed at businesses that sign a contract with the county and agree to specific guidelines and prices for items provided to clients. In two cases, DSS clients have stated that their children were bitten by bed bugs from mattresses sold by 99 Cents and More and that the infestation forced two clients to vacate their apartments. The county hired a pest control firm which found the presence of bedbugs and evidence that the mattresses were unsanitary, defective and of poor quality.

“This egregious behavior will not be tolerated by my office,” said McCoy. “I was shocked to learn that a vendor would provide a mattress that was infested by bugs, of poor quality and unsanitary. It’s shameful really that they would have such disregard for families in need. The county will take all necessary remedies to make sure that these businesses are held responsible for such practices. We are also seeking to void their contracts with the county to serve DSS clients.”

County Executive McCoy also announced that the county has filed suit against two other vendors: AAA Furniture Outlet, 73 Central Ave. and City Discount Furniture, 278 Central Ave. alleging that the vendors violated their contracts by illegally swapping household items listed by DSS. The suit also claims that items paid for by the county were not delivered, were broken or dirty when delivered.

Since the county investigation began last year, there have been at least 10 instances of illegal swaps that took place. In several of those cases, the vendor substituted less expensive items and kept money it was not entitled to. The loss to the county is nearly $3,000. The county is seeking to recover those damages and an additional $25,000 in punitive damages from each vendor. In addition, the county is asking that the court order a pest inspection at 99 Cents and More in order to protect consumers.

The County Executive also announced a change in policy as a result of this case. Going forward, DSS vendors will only be able to provide clients with new mattresses. The county is asking clients to check the tags on their mattresses and to call their caseworkers if there are questions.

Read more: County Files Suits Against Vendors

Beware of Elaborate Tax Collection Scams

Tax Department Warning:

 

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection and the NYS Tax Department today alerted consumers to phone and email scams from individuals claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or State Tax Department.  Scammers posing as tax officials are threatening New Yorkers with fines, arrest, and other penalties if they don’t immediately pay a false claim of unpaid taxes.

“The New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection wants to remind consumers to be vigilant and be aware of dishonest individuals posing as public tax officials who use fear tactics and intimidation to cheat New York taxpayers out of their hard-earned money,” said New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales. “We urge anyone who feels they may have been targeted to contact the proper authorities immediately.” 

"Be vigilant regarding scams such as these during the tax season and throughout the year," said Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Thomas H. Mattox.  "Be very cautious about providing personal information or making payments in response to telephone calls.  If you do have a New York State tax debt, contact us directly so that we can establish a payment plan and resolve your situation."

The agencies warned of a new email “phishing” scam that is particularly relevant during the tax season.   Taxpayers receive emails with the IRS logo and claiming to be from the “Taxpayer Advocate Service.”  The email asks the taxpayer to resolve an issue with his or her “2013 filing” by clicking a link in the email.   The webpage accessed then solicits personal information such as the recipient’s legal name and contact information.

The telephone scams are conducted by a caller who instructs recipients to immediately submit payment for back taxes through wire transfers or a pre-loaded debit card. In some cases, these calls have been accompanied by a fake IRS e-mail sent to support the claim. If victims appear hesitant or unwilling to comply, the caller turns hostile by threatening police arrest or the loss of one’s home. If the victim does not respond to these threats, the scammer may have others call the victim pretending to be from a government entity such as a local law enforcement agency.

Through telephonic “spoofing” techniques, the phone numbers appear to be that of the IRS, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, or local police departments.  Scammers have also used fake names and IRS badge numbers, and may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim's Social Security Number.

To help consumers avoid falling victim to this scam, the New York State Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection provides the following tips and information:

  • The NYS Tax Department and the IRS always make first contact by letter with a phone number you can contact to verify that it was sent by the agency.
  • Neither agency will request personal or financial information by email or with a link in an email.
  • End the call immediately if someone claiming to be from the Tax Department or IRS unexpectedly calls and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation.

Contact the authorities

To report fraudulent activity to New York State authorities, contact the NYS Tax Department at 518-457-0578 or the New York State Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection at 518-474-8583. New Yorkers can also file a complaint online.

To resolve a New York State tax debt, call 518-457-5434.

Lark Street Hit and Run

The APD has confirmed that a 20 year old woman was struck by a vehicle at Madison and Lark early this morning. Police responded at 3:30 AM and discovered the young woman who was treated at the scene and transported to the hospital with minor injuries.

The vehicle involved fled the scene and the incident remains under investigation.

Leaders Agree to Establish County’s First Land Bank

From the County Exec :

 

Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy today announced that county leaders have filed an application with Empire State Development to establish the Albany County Land Bank, which will restore the community and address blight in the county.

 

In the early stages, the land bank will focus on the City of Albany in order to establish operations and due to the city’s concentrations of vacant and abandoned properties in the downtown area. The county has committed $1 million over the next two years to fund the start-up of the land bank. It is expected that the land bank will apply for Regional Economic Development funding and seeking other sources in its early stages.  

 

“This is truly good news for Albany County,” said McCoy. “The county is working with our partners to address the issue of blight in a proactive way. This is just the beginning as we will work to improve our neighborhoods, reduce crime and make our county a leader in bringing our community back.”

Read more: Leaders Agree to Establish County’s First Land Bank

Latest Comments