For the second time in a month, a fire in Masaryk Towers on the Lower East Side ended in the death of a resident, police and fire officials said.
On Friday morning March 25, Seamus Barr, 31, was found unconscious in the living room of his apartment on the 13th floor of 87 Columbia St. by firefighters who responded to the alarm at 8:50 a.m., a Fire Department spokesperson said. Barr was taken to Beth Israel Hospital where he was declared dead. The victims dog was also found dead in the apartment.
The alarm brought 20 companies with 80 firefighters to the fire, which was brought under control by 9:27 a.m. Two firefighters were taken to Bellevue Hospital for smoke inhalation injuries. The fire was not suspicious, a spokesperson said.
On March 16, Lun Bao Zhang, 44, a resident of the top floor of the same 21-story building, shot his 19-year-old son to death and ignited a gas explosion and fire in which he and a niece also died. Zhang also shot and wounded his wife and a nephew but they fled the apartment before the explosion.
Indict Village clinics
The Rackets Bureau of the Manhattan District Attorneys Office last week charged a group of medical professionals and six medical companies, including Premier Medical Care and four related companies on University Pl. in the Village, with grand larceny in connection with an insurance scam.
The defendants, including four doctors one of them in the Village a dentist, a psychologist and an acupuncturist, are charged with participating in a scheme to falsely bill insurance companies, including the city Transit Authority, which insures itself, for medical services that were fraudulently inflated or never provided.
An examination of financial records revealed that more than 60 insurance carriers were defrauded of millions of dollars, according to the District Attorneys Office.
The principal defendants are Abraham Pustilnik, 33, known as Abraham Post, and his mother Isabella, 57, neither of whom is a doctor but who own or control Premier Medical Care, Optimal Healthcare Medical practice, University Psychological practice, Focus Acupuncture and AAA Empire Medical Management, Inc., a medical billing service, all with offices at 99 University Pl., and Omni Medical Care, at 2044 Ocean Ave., Brooklyn.
Abraham and his mother were also charged with using licensed professionals as fronts to disguise their control of the clinics, a practice prohibited by state law.
Abraham Pustilniks wife, Inna, 32, a psychologist, was also indicted. Among the other defendants are Victor Basbus, M.D., of 33 Fifth Ave.; Gerardo Yanayaco, M.D., of 451 Park Ave. S.; and Galina Novofastovsky, 46, known as Galina Novo, manager of Premier Medical Care, who lives in Valley Stream, L.I.
As part of the investigation that began 18 months ago, the Rackets Bureau ran a sting operation involving an undercover couple making a no-fault Transit Authority bus accident insurance claim. The District Attorneys Office has also filed a forfeiture action against the defendants freezing more than $3 million in assets.
A man who walked into the Commerce Bank branch at 666 Broadway near Bond St. at about 9 a.m. Mon., March 28, demanded money from a teller and walked out with an undetermined amount of cash, police said. The robber, described as a black man in his 40s with a salt-and-pepper goatee, 6 ft. tall, 170 lbs and wearing a black knit hat, black jacket and dark trousers and shoes, is also believed to have robbed a Commerce Bank branch on Third Ave. near 44th St. on Thursday morning March 24.
Arrest in 1986 murder
Detectives from the Cold Case Squad went to Los Angeles last week and arrested a suspect on Tues., March 22, for the murder nearly 19 years earlier of a single mother on the grounds of the Rutgers Houses at 45 Rutgers St. at Madison St., police said.
The suspect, Norman Dennis, a former boyfriend of the victim, Sharon Copeland, fled after the March 26, 1986, shooting and was traced to Gardena, Cal., a Los Angeles suburb, after a fingerprint match was made recently linking him to a Norman Kearse, who had been arrested in 1993 in California.
Police said last week that the suspect acknowledged that he was Dennis, now 48.
Copeland, who was then 25, was raising a 5-year-old son and had just moved back to her mothers apartment in the Rutgers Houses public housing complex after her relationship with Dennis went bad, according to a New York Times report. She was shot in the head at 9:45 a.m. after refusing to give money to her former boyfriend, according to reports.
Police reopened the case in 1997 when they tried to match fingerprints from the crime through the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The match finally came through earlier this month.
The victims mother, Sarah Copeland, still lives in the Rutgers Houses and the victims son, now 24, lives outside the city.