Meet the HFZ exec accused of taking mob bribes

first_imgFormer HFZ Capital Group executive John Simonlacaj (Credit: HFZ, iStock)UPDATE: Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, 5:20 p.m.: As an executive at HFZ Capital, John Simonlacaj had overseen some of the city’s top developments.Now he’s been charged with accepting bribes to let the mob siphon off hundreds of thousands of dollars from projects, including his company’s most ambitious one: the XI along the High Line.The 50-year-old Scarsdale resident has been fired from HFZ, where he was managing director of development, a spokesperson for the company said.Simonlacaj pleaded not guilty Friday to wire fraud conspiracy and tax fraud and was released after posting $250,000 bail, The City reported.Simonlacaj could not be reached and his attorney, Glenn Colton of Arent Fox, didn’t respond to a request for comment. Simonlacaj’s social media pages, including his LinkedIn profile and a personal website, have been taken down.ADVERTISEMENTThis isn’t Simonlacaj’s first brush with the law. In 2016, while running an unnamed company, he was charged with instructing someone who did business with the company to file a false tax form five years earlier. The filing was in connection with the award of contracts by the New York Power Authority.Simonlacaj pleaded guilty, paid a fine and was sentenced to three months in jail, court records show.Nir Meir, a managing principal at HFZ who helped to found the firm in 2005, penned a letter to the court on Simonlacaj’s behalf in 2016. Meir wrote that he had known him for more than two decades, and when Meir and his partner started a new venture, they took Simonlacaj with him as “a key member of our management team.”In the letter, Meir said Simonlacaj had expressed remorse. “He has always been forthright with me and my partner and and has a reputation for being fair and honest within the industry,” Meir wrote.A sentencing memorandum from his attorneys at the time said because of Simonlacaj’s client-facing role, he would lose his position if his work were interrupted by incarceration.Meir and Zeil Feldman, HFZ’s chairman and founder, did not return requests for comment.Simonlacaj is the son of Yugoslavian immigrants who settled in Brooklyn in 1967 to escape ethnic oppression and who went on to own apartment buildings in the Bronx. He grew up around New York — from Westchester to the Bronx to Washington Heights — and lived “modestly,” according to the memorandum and other letters on Simonlacaj’s behalf.The filings describe Simonlacaj as a hard worker and a family man; he married in 1993 and has three children. He was also portrayed as an active member of the local Albanian community, helping scores of immigrants settle into life in America.At HFZ, he has had a hand in major projects, including its 34-story under-construction NoMad office tower at 3 West 29th Street and Bryant Park’s first residential tower, The Bryant.The latest indictment charged a dozen defendants, including alleged members of the Gambino crime family from the Bronx and Westchester.Simonlacaj’s cousin Mark “Chippy” Kocaj and the alleged mobsters ran a carpentry firm, CWC Contracting, that paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks and bribes to employees of numerous construction and development companies — Simonlacaj among them, prosecutors allege.The firm worked on multiple HFZ projects, including the XI, public records show. The bribes were paid in the form of free labor and materials to renovate Simonlacaj’s home in Scarsdale, according to the indictment.In a statement, HFZ said it, along with other developers in NYC, learned of the investigation into CWC months ago and removed CWC from its projects. “HFZ immediately terminated Mr. Simonlacaj’s employment upon learning of the allegations against him, which run contrary to the values of the firm and how its business is conducted,” HFZ said.Prosecutors allege that Kocaj, an alleged associate of the Gambinos, and Vincent Fiore, an alleged Gambino soldier, bragged about the connection.“This director, John. There’s a beautiful ‘in’ there,” Fiore allegedly said. “There’s things we can do with [Kocaj] there, he whispers what he needs to whisper and we get things done.”Update: This article was updated to include a statement from HFZ and additional information about Simonlacaj’s first conviction. This content is for subscribers only.Subscribe Nowlast_img read more

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Why members don’t believe you when you talk about member service

first_img 1SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Holly Buchanan Holly Buchanan is the author of Selling Financial Services to Women – What Men Need to Know and Even Women Will Be Surprised to Learn. She is the co-author of The … Web: www.SellingFinancialServicesToWomen.com Details When you say, “We have excellent member service.”Your members hears, “Blah, blah, blah, blah.”Members have heard it all before.   And too many times that “excellent member service” was not so excellent.I recently heard my cable company talking about their focus on member service.I laughed out loud.So how can you talk about member service in a way that it actually means something?  How do you get that message past the “yeah right” filter in your prospects’ brains?   Get specific.Get specific about your member serviceSpecifics are always stronger than generalities.  This is especially true if you are using a cliché like, “excellent member service.”Here’s an example from Amazon’s letter to their shareholders from Jeff Bezos.  He talks about Amazon’s Mayday Button, a button customers can click on their Fire HDX to talk to an Amazon expert.“Mayday Tech Advisors have received 35 marriage proposals from customers. 475 customers have asked to talk to Amy, our Mayday television personality. 109 Maydays have been customers asking for assistance with ordering a pizza. By a slim margin, Pizza Hut wins customer preference over Domino’s. There are 44 instances where the Mayday Tech Advisor has sung Happy Birthday to the customer. Mayday Tech Advisors have been serenaded by customers 648 times. And 3 customers have asked for a bedtime story. Pretty cool.”Notice that these Mayday Tech Advisors are being portrayed as helpful, knowledgeable, friendly, and willing to go above and beyond to make sure customers are satisfied.   And imagine how boring it would be if Amazon described them as “helpful, knowledgeable, friendly and willing to go above and beyond to make sure customers are satisfied.”Are your employees going above and beyond?Does your credit union have an “Above and Beyond” award?  Every month employees and management can gather the best stories of how employees have gone out of their way to help members.   The winner gets a prize as well as public recognition.I’m always amazed at the stories that come out of this exercise. By officially gathering those stories, you can share them with the marketing department.  This way you will have specifics to share instead of generalities, so you can officially lay your member service clichés to rest.And yes. I just did use a cliché to talk about a cliché.   Let me follow some of my own advice and try again.This way you can escort your member service clichés to the door, pat them on the head, and say, “There’s a nice cable company up the road who would love to have you.”last_img read more

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April 1, 2012 Disciplinary Actions

first_imgApril 1, 2012 Disciplinary Actions Disciplinary Actions Prepared by The Florida Bar’s Public Information and Bar Services Department _____________________________________________________________________ The Florida Supreme Court in recent court orders disciplined 17 attorneys, disbarring five and suspending eight. Some attorneys received more than one form of discipline. One attorney was placed on probation; four attorneys were publicly reprimanded; and one attorney was ordered to pay restitution.The following lawyers are disciplined: Richard Keith Alan II, 301 Clematis St., Suite 3000, West Palm Beach, suspended for 30 days, effective May 1, following a January 24 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1997) Alan is further directed to attend a Florida Bar professionalism workshop. Alan improperly contacted a dismissed juror weeks after a case concluded, causing emotional anguish to the juror. He also engaged in inappropriate courtroom behavior by arriving more than an hour late to a jury selection process, in which he was unable to be reached by the judge’s assistant. (Case No. SC11-484) Gabrielle Alexis, 4613 N. University Drive, No. 558, Coral Springs, permanently disbarred, effective immediately,following a January 27 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1996) Alexis was found in contempt for failure to comply with the terms of her March 17, 2011, disbarment. Alexis did not submit to the Bar a sworn affidavit listing the names and addresses of all persons and entities to which she gave notice of her disbarment. (Case No. SC11-1538) Carol Cobourn Asbury, 3601 W. Commercial Blvd., Suite 18, Ft. Lauderdale, disbarred effective immediately, following a January 19 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1984) In two separate cases in U.S. district court, Asbury pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The charges were related to fraudulent mortgages. (Case No. SC11-2383) Rodolfo Mario Blanco, 14406 N.W. 88th Ave., Miami Lakes, publicly reprimanded and further, placed on probation for two years,following a January 24 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1994) Blanco is further directed to attend a trust accounting workshop. In the course of handling seven real estate transactions on behalf of clients and third parties, Blanco improperly commingled funds by depositing them into his personal bank account rather than into his trust account. (Case No. SC11-2424) Ryan Thomas Fasso, 1109 Lakemont Drive, Valrico, suspended for six months, effective immediately, retroactive to April 26, 2010, following a February 7 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Fasso was found in contempt for violating the terms of an April 2010 suspension. He failed to file quarterly sworn information reports as required by the rules for suspended attorneys, and he was improperly in direct contact with at least one client while on suspension. (Case No. SC11-1429) David Anthony Fontes, 310 S. Dale Mabry Highway, Suite 260, Tampa, suspended until further order, effective 30 days from a January 30 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1986) According to a petition for emergency suspension, Fontes appeared to be causing great public harm by misappropriating client trust funds. (Case No. SC12-17) Timothy C. Foster, P.O. Box 656, Stuart, permanently disbarred following a January 27 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1991) Foster was found in contempt for failing to comply with the conditions of his September 20, 2011, disbarment order. Foster did not submit to the Bar a sworn affidavit listing the names and addresses of all persons and entities to which he gave notice of his disbarment. (Case No. SC11-2399) Johnny Sherwood Gaskins, 1108 Hobson Court, Raleigh, N.C., suspended for two years, effective immediately, following a January 31 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1993) Gaskins was convicted of a felony by a North Carolina court for structuring financial transactions with banks for the purpose of evading the reporting requirements. He was subsequently suspended from practicing law by the North Carolina State Bar. Gaskins failed to timely notify The Florida Bar of his indictment. (Case No. SC11-1440) Heather Mary Ann Gray, 10011 Cannon Drive, Riverview, disbarred effective immediately, following a January 19 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1996) Gray failed to respond to Bar inquiries regarding her conduct following a complaint against her in February 2010. (Case No.SC11-1089) James Crenshaw Kelley, 12651 S. Dixie Highway, Suite 201, Pinecrest, suspended until further order, effective immediately, following a December 30, 2011, court order. (Admitted to practice: 1977) Kelley was found in contempt for repeated failure to adequately respond to official Bar inquiries and failure to show good cause for noncompliance. (Case No. SC11-2108) Paul Rogers Kennedy, 55 N.E. 5th Ave., Floor 2, Delray Beach, publicly reprimanded following a February 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Kennedy was found in contempt for failing to timely respond to multiple inquiries by The Florida Bar. (Case No. SC11-1985) Douglas Scott Lyons, 325 N. Calhoun St., Tallahassee, publicly reprimanded following a January 24 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1970) Lyons’ office staff erroneously mailed an unsolicited advertisement as well as a brochure containing names and personal information of persons unrelated to the intended mailing. (Case No. SC11-835) James Robert Mann, 1220 16th St., Miami Beach, permanently disbarred effective immediately, following a December 30 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1997) Mann was found in contempt for failure to comply with the conditions of his August 12, 2011, disbarment order. Mann did not submit to the Bar a sworn affidavit listing the names and addresses of all persons and entities to which he gave notice of his disbarment. (Case No. SC11-2181) James Stewart Mattson, P.O. Box 370586, Key Largo, publicly reprimanded in the Southern Reporter, following a January 19 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1983) Mattson shall pay restitution to one client of $10,000 and attend ethics school. After being retained, Mattson failed to adequately communicate with a client and took no action to move a matter forward. (Case No. SC11-2425) Jeffrey Allen McCann, 4371 Northlake Blvd., No. 249, Palm Beach Gardens, suspended 30 days from a January 4 court order, until further order of the court. (Admitted to practice: 2003) McCann was found in contempt for failing to respond to official Bar inquiries. (Case No. SC11-2226) Randall Shanafelt, 803 Turner St., Clearwater, suspended until further order, effective 30 days from a January 20 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1995) According to a petition for emergency suspension, Shanafelt appeared to be causing great public harm. The Bar’s investigation revealed that for at least three months, Shanafelt abandoned his law practice. He also failed to notify the Bar that felony charges were filed as a result of an arrest for domestic violence and battery on a law enforcement officer. (Case No. SC12-46) Karen Timberlake White, 4124 Steve Reynolds Blvd., Norcross, Ga., suspended until further order, effective 30 days from a January 3 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1995) According to a petition for emergency suspension, White appeared to be causing great public harm. In October 2010, White was disbarred in Georgia for failure to diligently represent clients in two separate instances. She also failed to notify The Florida Bar of her disbarment in Georgia. (Case No. SC11-2398) Court orders are not final until time expires to file a rehearing motion and, if filed, determined. The filing of such a motion does not alter the effective date of the discipline. Disbarred lawyers may not re-apply for admission for five years. They are required to go through an extensive process that rejects many who apply. It includes a rigorous background check and retaking the bar exam. Historically, fewer than 5 percent of disbarred lawyers seek readmission. April 1, 2012 Disciplinary Actionslast_img read more

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Magic circle: 29% of new partners are women

first_imgClifford Chance last week completed this year’s magic circle partnership round by announcing it was making up 30 lawyers, with a gender mix in line with its long-term diversity goals. One-third of the new cohort are women.The firm has said it is working towards raising the percentage of female partners from the current 20% to 30%.Clifford Chance’s announcement means all of the five magic circle firms have revealed their partner intake for 2019.At Linklaters, 33 lawyers were given the nod this time around, including 11 women. In London, one of the 11 promoted lawyers was female. The firm had pledged that at least 30% of new partners will be female.Of the 34 promotions at Allen & Overy, eight were women (24%), including four in London. By 2021 the firm wants 30% of its partnership candidates to be women. However, when the Gazette asked how many candidates in this round were women the firm was unable to say. At the moment, the London partnership is 20% female and globally the figure is 18%, but those figures do not take into account the latest round of promotions.Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer elected 22 new partners (eight in London). Six of the 22 lawyers are women, including one from London.The remaining magic circle firm, Slaughter and May, has promoted two men.In total, just under a third of 121 new magic circle partners in this round are women.last_img read more

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