Thursday, May 21, 2009

This Week's Forum South and West

Swine Flu Fears Renewed with City's First Death

By Conor Greene

A Queens assistant principal was laid to rest this week – the city’s first apparent swine flu victim – as the number of confirmed cases continues to rise.

With cases of the H1N1 virus mounting, officials scrambled over the past few days to shut schools that have apparent outbreaks of students with flu-like symptoms. At the same time, the Bloomberg administration has found itself defending its decision on to close all city public schools when the outbreak first hit Queens several weeks ago.

“We can’t stop the virus from spreading, unless you were to go wall yourself off and not have any contact with other humans,” said Mayor Bloomberg at a press conference earlier this week. “Our goal is to minimize the threat to those who are most at risk… We should not be surprised to see more serious illness.”

On Wednesday afternoon, family, friends and students gathered at Sinai Chapels in Fresh Meadows to pay their final respects to Mitchell Wiener, an assistant principal at IS 238 in Hollis. While city officials claim Wiener had a pre-existing health condition that contributed to his death on Sunday evening, the 55-year-old man’s family said he was in good health before he came down with flu-like symptoms.

Schools have been closed on a one-by-one basis, and some elected officials are now criticizing the Bloomberg administration for not taking broader action sooner. On Tuesday, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) called on Chancellor Joel Klein all schools in District 24, which she called “one of the city’s most infected areas.” The request came a day after Klein, teacher’s union president Randi Weingarten and other held a press conference at IS 73in Maspeth after 330 out of 1,700 students called out sick.

“Given the high number of student and teacher absences, coupled with the tragic deaths of Assistant Principal Wiener and the 16-month-old baby in Corona, I believe we must close all the schools in District 24… [to] allow cleaning crews enough time to sanitize the schools in order to stop the spread of the virus and to ease concerns of parents, teachers, students and administrators throughout the area,” wrote Crowley in a letter to Klein.

A DOE spokeswoman said on Wednesday the decision to close schools is “subjective” and made on a “case-by-case basis” as determined by the Department of Health. “The DOH recommends to the DOE to close the school, and once that happens we do so immediately,” she said. Having all kids stay home “is not necessarily the answer” and doesn’t provide assurances that “it is going to protect anyone else from getting it.”

Crowley also called on the DOH to open more testing centers for residents. “There needs to be enough free testing options available for constituents who are without healthcare in order to keep all of our community members safe,” she said.

The criticism of Bloomberg’s decision not to close more public schools was echoed by Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside). “It is absolutely clear that Mike Bloomberg and DOH failed to hear the concerns of parents and through their inaction allowed the spread of this virus,” he said. “As I suggested back in late April, a more aggressive approach should have been taken to close public schools in northeast Queens. There is no doubt in my mind that by taking preemptive measures we could have helped quell the number of cases within New York City.”

Around the city, hospital emergency rooms were flooded with residents suffering from flulike symptoms. The pediatric emergency room at Elmhurst Hospital Center had waits of up to 10 hours, and Queens Hospital Center erected a yellow tent in the parking lot to handle its overflow of patients.

Mayor Bloomberg stressed that all ill residents should receive medical help, regardless of their immigration status. “Whether you have health insurance coverage or your immigration status is in question, it doesn’t matter. We will not ask about that,” he said. “The only question that matters is, are you severely ill? And if you are, our hospitals are there to take care of you.”

While health officials determined that a 16-month-old Corona baby’s death was not caused by swine flu, the national death toll rose to eight with the death of a 44-year-old St. Louis man. Of the approximately 5,500 cases nationwide, fewer than 300 are in New York. In the past week, 19 city schools – mostly in Queens - have been ordered to close by the health department, and another five did so voluntarily. There are also at least four confirmed swine flu cases at Rikers Island.

Ognibene to Challenge Crowley in November

By Conor Greene

It’s not even summer yet, but this fall’s City Council race in the 30th District just got more interesting with Thomas Ognibene’s decision to challenge incumbent Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley in a bid to regain his former job.

“The last time I ran, I think the biggest problem was we had two viable candidates at loggerheads,” said Ognibene, referring to fellow Republican Anthony Como’s victory in last summer’s special election to replace Dennis Gallagher. Crowley finished second in that race, followed by Ognibene, who said that a lone Republican on the ballot “clearly would have won the election and would have carried that into the general election.”

Ognibene, a Middle Village resident with a local practice, said the events leading up to his decision to run began when the Queens Republican Party leaders asked him if he would consider running for mayor on the Republican ticket if the party decided to not endorse Mayor Bloomberg. Ognibene was the Conservative Party’s candidate for mayor in 2005 and had discussed the possibility of challenging Bloomberg again this year.

However, the path was cleared for Ognibene to run for his old City Council seat, which he held from 1992 until term limits forced him out of office in 2001, when Como recently told him “he was going in another direction” and would not be challenging Crowley his fall. Around the same time, the Queens GOP decided it would in fact support Bloomberg.

The result, according to Ognibene, is a Queens Republican Party that is devoid of internal strife for the first time in recent memory. “This probably is the first time for the Republican Party in this county that everyone is aligned behind one guy,” he said. “During my final meeting with Mayor Bloomberg, he said, ‘Tom, I would love to have you support me, and I would love to support you.’”

Como was unable to be reached before press time because he was traveling, but a source said he is being considered for an appointment by the Bloomberg administration to a position in the Department of Housing. An announcement is expected once the standard vetting process is completed.

Ognibene sat out last November’s election, when Crowley (D-Middle Village) defeated Como by 12% out of 33,000 votes cast in the district, which includes Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale and parts of Ridgewood, Woodhaven and Richmond Hill. The win allowed the Democratic Party to regain one of three seats that were held by Republicans at the time. (The GOP has since gained one seat back with the election of Ozone Park resident Eric Ulrich in the 32nd District).

Crowley said on Tuesday that her focus now is solely on representing the district. Still, she left no doubt that she will definitely seek re-election. “Yeah. I love my job. I want to have a full term. I would be honored to represent the people for a full four-year term,” she said.

With a full slate of issues to deal with, including the proposed Maspeth high school and the swine flu outbreak, Crowley is “not concentrating on reelection right now... I’m a fulltime councilwoman, and when it comes time for campaigning I hope my job will speak for itself, the good work I’ve done. When the people of the district come out to vote I think they will re-elect me as their Councilmember.”

It is likely Ognibene, who represented the district from 1992 until term limits forced him out in 2001, will tout his experience and his relationship with Bloomberg. “The most important thing is that the people living in this community need aggressive leadership. I know from my ten years experience where to go, where to look [to solve problems].”

Ognibene declined to comment on how he thinks the district has been represented since November. “I just feel it’s a short period of time and it’s hard for me to judge,” he said of Crowley’s time in office. “I think it really is up to the people to make that judgment so I’m not going to comment on that. I will run and people can then make a decision.”

One message he will push is the benefits his relationship with Mayor Bloomberg would provide for district residents. “The person who has the advantage as a councilmember is the person who can work closely with the mayor, that is the single most important thing,” said Ognibene. “No matter what powers the City Council has, they really do not measure up to the ability of the mayor to do things in a community that are positive, and to keep things from happening that are not positive. I feel I can bring that to the community.”

In terms of pertinent issues for the district, Ognibene mentioned the problems last summer caused by trains transporting garbage that were idling near residential areas and Christ the King High School. “I think you have to pay special attention clearly to the issue with what I call the garbage train,” he said, noting that action in federal court will likely be necessary. “Then there are the usual issues: school control, improving schools, the economic issues and trying to ameliorate the impact of the economic downturn.”

Parents Unhappy Over Catholic School Restructuring

Ridgewood School to Become Academy Under Diocese's Plan

By Conor Greene

Parents and students who are unhappy with changes coming to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal School rallied in Ridgewood on Tuesday to demand answers, which they say have not been forthcoming.

Under a restructuring plan announced by the Brooklyn Diocese, several schools including OLMM will be converted into Catholic academies. As a result, OLMM will be renamed the Notre Dame Catholic Academy of Ridgewood when it reopens in September. Under the new arrangement, the academy will be run by a lay board of directors.

Many parents who rallied Tuesday at the corner of Bleecker and 61st streets say they were upset by the name change, but understand it is necessary. The last straw for many came when it was announced that the OLMM’s longtime principal, Margaret Baxter, was not being retained for next year. Instead, Virginia Daly, the former principal at St. Aloysius School - which is set to close - has been hired to fill that position. In addition, all staff members had to reapply for their positions, and parents are worried the new principal will bring most of her staff with her to OLMM.

Among those who rallied was Maria Birkic, who previously switched her daughter from St. Aloysius to OLMM and said she was “horrified” to learn that Mrs. Baxter wouldn’t be retained. “Mrs. Baxter opened doors for my daughter. She took her under her wing and was nurturing,” said Birkic. “They were not honest with us. We feel very betrayed, like our voices mean nothing to them.”

At the center of the parents’ anger is OLMM pastor Msgr. Edward Ryan, whom they say has been refusing to answer questions or discuss the situation with them. Msgr. Ryan was not present during the protests, but discussed the situation in an interview that afternoon. He noted that as part the restructuring, it is necessary to hire a whole new staff, which is why current employees were forced to reapply for their positions.

Msgr. Ryan expressed displeasure that parents had children participate in the rally, which attracted dozens of participants waiving signs. “I understand that a number of children were involved, and would be disappointed if they were being used to put across points adults wish to make,” he said. “I don’t think it is helpful to involve the children at this point.”

A meeting between the new board of directors – which was appointed by a board of corporation members, including Msgr. Ryan – and parents of OLMM and St. Aloysius parents is scheduled for Tuesday, at which time “hopefully the issues will be calmly and rationally discussed and answered,” said Msgr. Ryan.

While there are several concerns with the restructuring plan among students and parents, Msgr. Ryan termed the issues surrounding the principal’s position “the large issue.” He said a board of director’s sub committee interviewed four candidates for the principal’s job. “They rated each of those candidates on several different areas… [and] selected the person they believe to have the best accord with the vision of the new structure of Catholic education where the principal will dynamically lead the educational community and work with the board of directors.”

Responding to criticism that Daly oversaw the decline of St. Aloysius, Msgr. Ryan noted that under the new structure, the principal “will not be responsible for the financial well-being of the school. The principal’s responsibility will be the educational mission of the school.” He added that St. Aloysius’ difficulties “go back many years” and have finally reached a point where that parish couldn’t keep up with its debt. “The attempt is to build up new academies to be as strong as they can be in terms of enrollment.”

Msgr. Ryan also refuted claims that parents have been left in the dark as the process has unfolded. “No information was withheld and we interviewed everyone who applied. The person who emerged with the highest rating was recommended,” he said.

While Msgr. Ryan criticized the parents for allowing the students to participate in the protest, many of the children who attended expressed heartbreak at what is happening at OLMM. “She’s been like a mother to us and listens to all our problems,” said Elizabeth Sweeney, an eighth grade student who is the third generation of her family to attend OLMM. “It’s ironic how they’re giving us the principal of a school that is being shut down.”

“They made us who we are today, and they’re taking it all away,” said fellow eighth-grader Josephine O’Malley.

City Buys Property Eyed for High School

Paid $16.25M for Restaurant Depot Site

By Conor Greene

The city has purchased the Restaurant Depot site in Maspeth, paving the way for the Department of Education to move forward with plans for a 1,100 seat high school, despite opposition from local civic groups and elected officials.

It appears the city was forced to pay top dollar for the 54,000-square-foot property, located at 74th Street and 57th Avenue near the Long Island Expressway. While the property had been listed online for $15 million, the city paid $16,250,000 to owner Lucky Star Elmhurst, LLC, according to a transfer report filed with the state.

This week, a DOE spokesman was able to confirm the purchase, but was unable to comment on the price. After being sent a copy of a Segal Realty flier advertising the property for $15 million, William Havemann responded in an e-mail, “I can’t comment about the details of our negotiations to acquire the property. All I can do is confirm the purchase price of $16.25M.”

The City Council voted 38 to 10 in April to approve the DOE’s plan for a 1,100 seat high school on the former Restaurant Depot site. The approval came despite opposition from local civic groups, the community board and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), who voted against the plan but was unable to garner enough support from her colleagues to block the proposal.

Since the vote, it has been revealed that the site is contaminated by the presence of some toxins, including mercury. The DOE says that the $80 million budgeted for the project includes money to install a protective barrier between the contaminated soil and the building foundation. The city recently issued a request for proposals for this project and will open bids on June 12 for demolition of the existing structure and construction of the new building, according to Havemann.

Meanwhile, Crowley’s office has asked the state Department of Environmental Conservation to “give a third party determination regarding the need for remediation” at the property. “Several community members, professors and scientists have expressed serious concern over the levels of toxins located at the site,” she wrote in a May 5 letter to DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis.

“The SCA has proposed laying down a protective seal and installing a ventilation to assure the safety of our children, but I am concerned that it may not be enough and we are just ignoring a need that will need to be addressed eventually.” She requests a “thorough review of the full Environmental Impact Statement to determine if the SCA needs to enact a full remediation… in order to assure that our children are going to school in the safest possible environment.”

Crowley is still awaiting a response from the DEC, according to her spokeswoman. However, Middle Village attorney Thomas Ognibene, who recently said he will challenge Crowley in November, said Tuesday that he is considering filing a lawsuit against the city to block the project.

“I’m very concerned that it is an inappropriate site with possible health hazards,” he said. “There is a lot of action you can take [to block it], and what I can do is sue the City of New York and the School Construction Authority, which is one thing I’m contemplating now and moving in that direction.”

Flood Victims File Lawsuit Against City

By Conor Greene

A dozen families whose property was damaged during the flooding of August 2007 have filed a lawsuit against the city claiming its storm water system was unable to handle torrential rainfall that hit the area.

“The initial lawsuit involves twelve families, but if we get the class action we can open it up to all 810 families that filed against the city,” said Forest Hills resident Bruce Saffran, whose apartment was filled with water and raw sewage. “I just want to be made whole. I’m not suing for all kinds of crazy damages, just to replace what I lost.”

In addition to being compensated for the damages, the lawsuit aims to force the city to upgrade the borough’s infrastructure to prevent future flooding. According to attorney Oscar Michelen, who is representing the victims, Queens only has a single line to carry both storm water and sewage, unlike other boroughs where there are two separate lines.

“What happens is sewage comes back up through the toilet bowl into the bathroom. All of a sudden the pipe gets flooded with water, which has to go somewhere, so it pushes into the pipe that is normally reserved for sewage,” said Michelen. “That’s why these folks are getting three feet of sewage in their apartments. Every time it rains heavily, folks hear water in their toilet gurgle. When you get heavy rain, you’re really in trouble.”

The August 2007 rainfall sent four feet of water sweeping through Saffran’s ground-floor apartment on Yellowstone Boulevard, destroying virtually all of the family’s possessions. He was forced to literally flee the apartment with his wife and young son, and to make matters worse, the bathroom toilet overflowed at the same time, sending raw sewage into the apartment.

”I don’t want to have to stay up at night worried every time it rains. It’s not a way to live [and] I think it’s almost cruel for the city to expect us to,” said Saffran. “None of us are looking to hit the litigation lotto. Everyone is legitimate with legitimate loses we think the city owes us for.”

The lawsuits come a month after City Comptroller William Thompson announced that the city is not responsible for compensating flood victims. The announcement came after an investigation by the city Department of Environmental Protection “found no basis for holding the city liable.”

However, Michelen took issue with the fact that the city conducted its own investigation. “They should have invested in an independent review. At least then it’s a third party and not their own internal investigation. I would be surprised when we review the report if it was really as thorough as it should be,” he said. “Everyone knows the situation in Queens, so this was very foreseeable. A number of things contributed to it that the city was aware of, and this is the price the people in these neighborhoods have to pay.”

The city has been served with the lawsuit, which Michelen says names the dozen families and seek “protection for the entire class of individuals who were damaged by the August 2007 flood.” Once the city responds to the suit, Michelen will file a motion asking the court to certify it as a class action. If that happens, all 810 residents who filed claims against the city will be notified that they might be eligible to join the action.

“We’re very confident that because of the number of claimants, we will get class action,” said Michelen. “This is the age-old story in Queens, [where] flooding is nothing unusual. The city just chooses to ignore it until they get sued or something else happens.”

Woman Sentenced to Jail in Poodle Death

Neighbor Found Dog in Trash Can

By Conor Greene

A Maspeth woman will serve 30 days in jail after admitting to stuffing her severely beaten poodle in a suitcase and leaving it to die in a trash can outside her 54th Place home. She later told police she was having trouble caring for both the pet and her baby.

Sonia Perez, 21, of 60-49 54th Place pleaded guilty Monday to attempted aggravated cruelty to animals. She was immediately sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years’ probation, announced District Attorney Richard Brown. She must also make restitution to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for medical care administered before the poodle’s death.

Perez was arrested on March 5 after a neighbor heard the injured dog from inside the trash can. The poodle was having difficulty breathing when the neighbor found it, was very cold and laying limp and non-responsive in its own feces. The dog was taken to the local Animal Care and Control Center and later turned over to the ASPCA where it was diagnosed with scrotal bruising and rib fractures. The dog died the following day.

Following her arrest, Perez was charged with felony aggravated cruelty to animals and misdemeanor torturing an animal before agreeing to plead guilty to the lesser charge this week. A witness told police that that Perez had told him previously that it was difficult to care for the dog while raising a child, and a police source said a neighbor reported that she had beat the dog on prior instances.

“The defendant showed a complete disregard for the life of a helpless and severely injured animal. Instead of getting help, the defendant unceremoniously tossed the dog into the trash like rubbage to either die a slow death or be crushed by a sanitation truck’s compactor,” said Brown.

Rally to Preserve Library Funding

By Conor Greene

Scores of children, parents and local officials gathered on the steps of Queens Library in Flushing on Monday to draw attention to budget cuts the system is facing.

As a result of the city’s budget woes, Queens Libraries, along with libraries throughout the five boroughs, face devastating budget reductions. If all proposed cuts are enacted, six-day and even five-day service at many branches will be eliminated. To draw attention to this situation, library leaders have been holding rallies around the borough.

On Monday, hundreds including Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, Borough President Helen Marshall and members of the Queens Civic Congress gathered for a “Stand Up for Libraries Rally” at the Flushing branch on Main Street. “One of our nation’s most precious resources is access to books and educational material,” said Crowley (D-Middle Village). “It is simply outrageous to cut library hours… The library is a cornerstone of a quality education for any student.”

With the city and state facing huge budget deficits, Queens Library is facing a $13.9 million reduction in its funding. As a result, the majority of branches in Queens will likely be closed on weekends starting July 1. In addition, Queens Library’s staff will have to be reduced by 279 positions, or 24%.

“Our library system here in Queens is the busiest in the world and provides a multitude of services to America’s most diverse population. Today’s rally is aimed at focusing attention on the consequences of a proposed budget reduction of $17 million. Among other things, the library’s workforce would be reduced, every community library would be closed on weekends and building maintenance would be curtailed,” said Queens Borough President Helen Marshall.

Queens Library has the largest circulation of any library system in the country, serving about 2.2 million residents annually at 62 branches. In 2007, more than 450,000 people attended the free programs offered by the library on a variety of topics.

“This will essentially shut people out from library services,” said James Van Bramer, chief external affairs officer for Queens Library. “For the sake of our kids and our job seekers, the mayor needs to look at all citywide agencies and must first cut wasteful spending rather than cutting out hours for learning… That is not something that should be happening in a difficult economic time.”

Crowley noted that a significant number of residents in neighborhoods such as Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale and Richmond Hill rely on library services. “Cutting library hours will have an economic impact on our community: professionals rely on Internet provided at libraries to do their work, and adults use the library’s resources to look for job opportunities.”

In April, Crowley rallied with second grade students and teachers from PS 87 to protest proposed cuts to weekend and extended hours. Later that month she wrote to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Mayor Michael Bloomberg urging them to find a way to keep the Queens libraries open. She is also fighting to secure millions of dollars in capital funding to upgrade library facilities. “For the sake of our kids and our job seekers, the Mayor needs to look at all citywide agencies and must first cut wasteful spending rather than cutting out hours for learning,” she said.

More than 60,000 residents have signed a petition supporting library funding, and another rally is planned for outside City Hall on May 28. The system has already endured about $5 million in budget cuts, forcing officials to eliminate the mobile book service and close the art gallery in the main branch in Jamaica.

International Credit Card Ring Busted

Netted $12 Million in Past Year Alone

By Conor Greene

A crime ring based in Queens that stretched across the globe has been dismantled, authorities announced at a press conference last week.

Nearly four dozen individuals have been charged following a 21-month investigation, announced Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly. The ring, which was comprised of three separate identity theft and credit card forgery groups that employed multiple cells, allegedly stole personal information from thousands of American and Canadian customers.

The ring’s activities are believed to have cost the victims, as well as financial institutions and retail businesses, more than $12 million in loses over the past year alone. “Our investigation reveals that – in terms of just the sheer number of people indicted – this is one of the largest identify theft networks uncovered in recent history and is just possibly the tip of a much larger global credit card trafficking operation,” said Brown.

A total of 45 individuals have been charged with being members or associates of three organized criminal enterprises that operated in Queens County and elsewhere, systematically scheming to defraud thousands of unsuspecting consumers and financial institutions including Citibank, Bank of America, Chase and HSBC.

According to the charges, suppliers fraudulently obtained credit card accounts and then sold them over to leaders of the identity theft cells. The cell leader would have forged credit and identification cards manufactured before distributing the phony credit cards to the ring’s foot soldiers and shoppers who actually accessed the accounts.

The foot soldiers generally accessed the accounts using ATMs and bank tellers. While using an ATM was less risky, there was usually a limit as to how much could be withdrawn at any specific time. However, equipped with a forged credit card and fake identification such as a driver’s license, a foot soldier could withdraw up to $4,900at a time from a bank teller. In addition, shoppers were responsible for making purchases, usually high-end electronics with the stolen credit cards. They were also responsible for finding “fences” to buy the electronics from them.

“When these suspects said ‘charge it’ they stole more than cash and goods. They robbed unsuspecting victims of their identities too,” said NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly. “This was a sophisticated crime ring which met its just end through painstaking investigation by NYPD detectives and unstinting support by Queens prosecutors.”

The investigation, dubbed “Operation Plastic Pipe Line” began in September 2007 when officers from the NYPD’s Identity Theft Squad and the District Attorney’s Economic Crimes Bureau launched a joint investigation into the large scale theft of Citibank credit cards and the subsequent use of the cards in Queens and elsewhere. Court-authorized search warrants were executed last week at 17 locations, leading to the recovery of forged credit cards, credit reports, machines used to forge the cards and nearly $100,000 in cash.

“Besides draining the bank accounts of individuals throughout North America, we believe the defendants – some of whom live in California, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Toronto – also shipped stolen or fraudulently obtained credit cards to buyers around the world and that purchases were made in such far-off places as Japan, Saudi Arabia and Dubai,” said Brown. “Particularly disturbing is that we have no way of knowing if any of these accounts have fallen into the hands of terrorists and are being used to finance their terrorist activities.”


Richmond Hill Man Sentenced for Rapes

17 Years in Prison for Two Area Assaults

A Richmond Hill man has been sentenced to 17 years in prison for committing two rapes, which he was linked to through DNA found by police during a search of his house during an unrelated narcotics investigation.

Peter J. Grebinger, Jr., 42, of 85-88 87th Street, was sentenced by Queens Supreme Court Justice James Griffin last Friday. He pleaded guilty to first-degree rape in April in connection with attacks he committed in Ozone Park and Hillside in 1997.

The first incident occurred on January 3, 1997 when Grebinger accosted a 33-year-old woman near 87-18 101st Avenue as she was walking to the subway at about 7:30 a.m. He forced the woman into a building where he raped her and demanded money before fleeing.

The second attack occurred on December 28, 1997 when Grebinger picked up a 22-year-old woman who flagged down his vehicle at about 6:20 a.m., believing it was a livery cab. He assaulted her inside the vehicle before kicking her out of the car and fleeing. Both victims went to local hospitals where sexual assault evidence and DNA was collected.

However, Grebinger wasn’t tied to the crimes until last year, when police searched the 87th Street home he shared with his father in Richmond Hill. As part of an unrelated investigation, police found two loaded firearms along with cocaine and marijuana while executing a court-authorized search warrant.

Grebinger and his 62-year-old father, Peter Grebinger, Sr., were charged in connection with the firearms and narcotics. Following his arrest, the younger Grebinger provided a DNA sample in accordance with state law. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner later matched Grebinger’s DNA to evidence recovered from the two rape victims, leading to the charges against him.

“Law enforcement has always had the tenacity to go back and attempt to resolve unsolved crimes. With DNA fingerprinting, we now have the technology to effectively do so,” said District Attorney Richard Brown. “This defendant is a violent predator and today’s sentence will protect the law-abiding members of our society from his brutish behavior and, hopefully, provide his victims with a measure of closure after so many years. It will also avoid the necessity of the defendant’s victims having to relive their ordeals on the witness stand.”