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No Evidence of NYC Threat: Sources


There is no evidence of any new, specific threat to New York City's subway system, according to intelligence sources asked about potential developments after the Associated Press reported the Iraqi prime minister said his country's intelligence operation uncovered a plot for an imminent attack.

The mayor and the police commissioner also said in a news conference they assessed the prime minister's "vague" statements and found no credible threat. 

The Associated Press reported Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Thursday he was told of the alleged plot by Baghdad, and that it was the work of ISIS in Iraq. Asked if an attack was imminent, he said, "I'm not sure," according to the AP. He also said the United States had been alerted about the threat, according to the AP, but security officials tell NBC 4 New York that is not true.

No overseas partner told U.S. law enforcement of any new or specific such threat, a senior security official said, nor have authorities at the FBI, NYPD, Port Authority or MTA uncovered evidence indicative of any new, specific plot targeting the city's transportation system

"The first we heard of this threat is when the press began reporting it," the official said.

At a briefing at the Union Square subway station, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said they assessed the prime minister's statements and found "no credible threat," but police will remain "ever vigilant," said de Blasio. 

The city has already been on high alert due to the United Nations General Assembly and the Jewish high holidays, Bratton said, and that heightened security level "can be very quickly enhanced."

De Blasio and Bratton assured New Yorkers that they should feel "very comfortable and very secure riding the subways," according to Bratton. 

The police commissioner added that he and the mayor had just taken the subway to Union Square with Yankees fans on their way to Yankee Stadium to celebrate Derek Jeter's last home game there.

Nevertheless, the mayor urged residents to remain as vigilant as always.

"Law enforcement depends on everyday citizens to alert us to any potential threat," he said.  

Al-Abadi made the initial remarks in a media roundtable. In expanded remarks to NBC News later, an Iraqi official clarified the prime minister's statements, saying the Paris public transit system was a target, but that no specific target in the United States had been revealed.  

A federal security official said the prime minister's comments "took us security officials by surprise." Another senior official said, "We don't know what he is talking about."

An internal Homeland Security bulletin to law enforcement agencies said the department's intelligence unit has been working with multiple intelligence community partners to try to identify the kind of threat reports that al-Abadi referred to. 

But "no similar threat reporting can be located," stated the bulletin, obtained by NBC News. "Nor is it clear who, or what agencies in the United States Government were alerted." 

Authorities are looking into the source of his information and comparing it against past "open source" intelligence from about a month ago alleging a possible threat against the metropolitan area's commuter rail system, but they stress they have found no new threat to local infrastructure.

Nothing about the prime minister's statement has been validated and no one knows where his information came from, one New York security official said.

The NYPD said in a statement it was aware of the prime minister's statements and was in close contact with the federal law enforcement agencies "as we assess this particular threat stream."

"New York City normally operates at a heightened level of security and we adjust that posture daily based on our evaluation of information as we receive it," the statement said.

Officials have stepped up security across the tri-state area in response to the ISIS threat overseas in weeks out of an abundance of precaution.

Last week, a post on an ISIS message board titled “To the Lone Wolves in America: How to Make a Bomb in Your Kitchen, to Create Scenes of Horror in Tourist Spots and Other Targets” encouraged readers to attack sites throughout the country, including Times Square.

Earlier this week, the extremist group purportedly released a new audio that warned Americans "you will not feel secure even in your bedrooms."

On Wednesday, Govs. Cuomo and Christie announced a bi-state agreement to coordinate intelligence-gathering and share information as part of a plan to step up security in the wake of the threat overseas. A senior security official told NBC 4 New York if tri-state area residents notice a ramping up of security on trains Thursday, it's because of that agreement and the general threat environment, not because of the remarks by Iraq's prime minister.

The bi-state agreement to substantially increase security at transportation hubs and critical infrastructure in the metropolitan area is effective immediately. Over the next 100 days, law enforcement and military personnel will join forces within the metropolitan area to engage in counterterrorism operations by increasing visibility, inspections and surveillance on and at trains and train stations, airports, landmarks, and bridges and tunnels, according to the plan.

The two states will also participate in a joint emergency exercise in the coming months and continue to evaluate methods for increased intelligence and emergency coordination.

Follow Jonathan Dienst on Twitter @jonathan4NY

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut

Officials ID Man Found Dead in New Fairfield Lake


A 60-year-old New Fairfield man was pronounced dead after being pulled from the water at Candlewood Lake in New Fairfield on Wednesday afternoon.

Officials from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection have identified the man as Christopher M. Brown, of New Fairfield

Officials said he had been working on his 14-foot sailboat about 45 feet from the boat slip at Hollywyle Park.

Authorities said a friend called the police to report that something had gone wrong.

It’s not clear how the man ended up in the water.

DEEP’s Environmental Conservation Police are investigating.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Detectives Make Arrest in Police Chase, Shooting


State police have arrested a Southbury man accused of leading police on a 13-mile chase, pulling a gun on police and then hitting a police cruiser earlier this month.

The incident happened on Saturday, Sept. 1, when police went to Tyler’s Santoro home on Old Waterbury Road in Southbury to investigate a domestic complaint, but Santoro had fled in a stolen SUV, police said.

Half an hour later, a state trooper who was on patrol on Main Street in Woodbury, saw the SUV, so he and a Woodbury police tried to stop the vehicle and chased the man into for 13 miles, in Washington, until he crashed, according to police.

As the trooper and officer approached the vehicle, Santoro pulled a gun and the trooper and officer fired their duty weapons, police said.

Santoro, 31, took a knife and tried to cut his own neck, suffering a non-life threatening wound, then tried to again get away in the car, but hit the Woodbury Police cruiser, police said.

Troopers removed Santoro from the vehicle and took him into custody.

Santoro was transported to a hospital and treated for his injury. No officers were hurt.

Around 11 a.m. on Thursday, Santoro was served with a warrant, charging him with brandishing a facsimile firearm, engaging an officer in a pursuit, interfering with an officer, criminal mischief in the first degree, third-degree larceny, weapons in a motor vehicle, reckless endangerment, possession of narcotics, possession of drug paraphernalia and reckless driving.

Santoro, who has been in custody since this incident on unrelated charges, was processed this morning at Bantam Superior Court and held on a $350,000.00 cash bond. 

Man Charged in False Report of Southington Home Invasion


The man accused of falsely reporting a home invasion in Southington over the summer and hiring a prostitute has turned himself in to police.

According to the warrant for his arrest, 26-year-old Joseph Sanchez, of Meriden, called police to report that he had been the victim of a home invasion in Southington on July 24, police said.

Police said Sanchez gave various accounts of the incident. He had hired a prostitute, and during the encounter, an electronic device was stolen from the home.

Sanchez turned himself in the night of Sept. 23. He's charged with second-degree false statement, falsely reporting an incident, patronizing a prostitute criminal liability for acts of another/sixth-degree larceny and interfering with an investigation.

He was released on a promise to appear and is due in court Oct. 6.

Police said the prostitute was never located or identified.

Photo Credit: Southington Police Department

Man Breaks Into Hamden Home, Robs Woman at Gunpoint


Hamden police are searching for the man who broke into an apartment on Mix Avenue late this morning and robbed a woman at gunpoint, then fled in a car that may have been stolen from a house in West Haven yesterday.

According to police, the man entered the ground-floor apartment through an unlocked sliding glass door around 11:50 a.m. Thursday. He pulled out a semiautomatic handgun and demanded money from a female resident who was home at the time.

The woman’s husband walked in and interrupted the robbery, and the suspect took off with the woman’s Coach purse, which contained her credit cards, ID and keys, police said. No one was injured.

He was last seen walking southbound away from the apartment. Police said he got into a dark blue Nissan Juke that matches the description of a car stolen during a gunpoint robbery on Knox Street in West Haven yesterday.

Police are investigating to determine if the vehicles are one and the same. The car was last seen in the north end of Hamden, heading toward Cheshire.

"This is a serious incident and the public needs to know what's going on," said Hamden police Chief Thomas Wydra, at a press conference Thursday afternoon.

Although Quinnipiac University sent out alerts to the campus community following the incident, Wydra said there's no reason to believe students were ever in danger.

The home appears to have been randomly targeted, and Wydra said a resident noticed someone checking sliding doors in the area today. Residents are urged to keep their homes locked.

"I think when we talk about someone entering the sanctity of a home – brandishing a firearm, demanding money, demanding personal property – that is as high-level a crime as we could possibly investigate, and so we need to deliver crime prevention strategies to our residents but we need to make them feel safe," said Wydra. "We need to make them actually be safe."

The suspect is described as a dark-skinned black man in his 30s with a mustache and possibly a beard. Police said he is between 5-foot-6 and 5-foot-8 and was wearing a red hooded sweatshirt, dark pants and black-and-white sneakers.

Hamden police are searching the south end of town for a car connected to the break-in and said a vehicle matching its description was spotted leaving New Haven.

Anyone with information is urged to call the Hamden police Major Crimes Unit at 203-230-4040.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Mom Brought Children as She Shoplifted: Police


West Hartford police have arrested a mother who they said brought her three children along as she shoplifted.

Shamara E. Bridges, 24, was arrested on Sept. 18 after shoplifting from Old Navy, police said. When they took her into custody, they also found her with items stolen from Sears, according to a news release from police.

Bridges was charged with sixth-degree larceny and risk of injury.

Bond was set at $5,000 and she was released from custody.

Bridges is due in court on Oct. 2. It is not clear if she has an attorney.

Photo Credit: West Hartford Police

Teen Fights Officer After Trying to Access Dorm: Cops


An 18-year-old is facing charges after trying to get into a female student’s dorm room at the University of Hartford, then struggling with a security officer who responded to the scene, according to West Hartford police.

Police said Joquawn Tamari Ryans-Merritt started banging on a female resident’s door around 3 a.m. Sept. 18.

Ryans-Merritt, who is not a student, told security officers the resident had his keys. Officers walked him down the hallway and tried to get in touch with the resident.

According to police, Ryans-Merritt became upset and tried to leave, then approached one of the officers with his hand raised as if he preparing to throw a punch.

The officer grabbed Ryans-Merritt’s arm and, in turn, Ryans-Merritt grabbed the officer’s arm. The two fell over a coffee table as they struggled, police said.

Ryans-Merritt was charged with second-degree breach of peace. He was held on $5,000 bond and appeared in court Sept. 18.

Masked Man Robs Manchester Gas Station at Knifepoint


Manchester police are searching for the man who robbed a gas station at knifepoint Thursday afternoon.

The suspect, who was brandishing a knife, walked into Best Gas at 134 Tolland Turnpike around 2:40 p.m. Thursday and handed the employee a note demanding money, according to police.

It's not clear how much money was stolen.

The suspect is described as a white man wearing a maroon jacket with yellow sleeves. Surveillance footage shows him wearing a white shirt underneath, dark pants and white sneakers. Police said a white bandanna was covering his face.

Anyone with information about the robbery is urged to call Manchester police at 860-645-5510.

Photo Credit: Manchester Police Department

Malloy Orders Extra Security at Airport, Train Stations


Commuters will soon see an extra police presence at Bradley International Airport and along Metro-North and Amtrak rail lines, a precaution taken in light of recent terror threats, according to Gov. Dannel Malloy.

Malloy announced the order in a news release Thursday.

A spokesperson for the governor's office said additional patrols would start immediately upon the next shift change and commuters should see a higher police presence within the next few hours.

"The health and safety of our citizens is my number one priority," Malloy said in the release, citing "current events overseas and out of an abundance of caution."

"But let me be clear," he added, "there is no credible threat against the State of Connecticut at this time and these measures are precautionary in nature."

It comes after the Iraqi prime minister claimed to have knowledge of a terror plot targeting the subway systems in New York City and Paris. U.S. law enforcement, however, said it has not uncovered evidence of a direct threat.

Residents are urged to be aware of their surroundings and report suspicious activity or items to the state Homeland Security Tips Line at 866-HLS-TIPS.

Call 911 in the case of an immediate threat.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Man Arrested in Theft of Car From Madison Shop


Police have arrested the 20-year-old Westbrook man accused of stealing a car from a Madison shop and service center over the summer.

Eric Christopher Beninson, 20, of Waldron Drive in Westbrook, was arrested Thursday and has been charged with second-degree larceny and second-degree criminal trover.

He's accused of stealing a car from J&J Autoworks at 240 Boston Post Road in Madison on June 21.

Police said Beninson is in custody "for other criminal matters" and appeared in court today.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Principal Runs Marathon to Buy Students New Desks


The school principal at Saint Timothy Middle School in West Hartford is hoping to raise money to buy her students new desks – by completing the Hartford Half Marathon next month.

“I am going to run the half marathon to get off my seat and earn seats for my students,” said Principal Tara Bellefleur.

Bellefleur said some of the desks are more than 50 years old and need to be replaced. They’re scratched, scuffed and some students say they're too small.

“Our legs don’t even fit under them, so new desks would be very useful,” said eighth-grade student Sean Macary.

Bellefleur admitted running the race won’t be easy. She just turned 60 and started training last month, but said she wants to inspire her students.

“We just embrace the idea of always trying your best, so for me, running a half marathon will be a major effort and I will just try my best to earn them,” Bellefleur said.

Bellefleur hopes to find sponsors to help her raise $18,000 to cover costs. Students said they’ll be there cheering her on.

“You can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it, and to doing something for a greater cause for other people – definitely to help,” Macary said.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Registered Sex Offender Assaults 12-Year-Old Trumbull Boy: Police


A registered sex offender from Bridgeport is facing new charges after sexually assaulting a 12-year-old boy from Trumbull, according to police.

Walter Santiago, 54, of Madison Avenue in Trumbull, was arrested Thursday. Police said Santiago befriended the boy, whom he met through a neighbor, and sexually assaulted him at the victim's home.

Santiago was charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a minor and risk of injury to a minor.

According to his listing on the Connecticut Sex Offender Registry, Santiago was convicted of first- and second-degree sexual assault in 1996. He was released from prison in 2001.

He was held on $1 million bond.

Photo Credit: Trumbull Police Department

Mystic Pizza Owes Employees $105,000: Dept. of Labor


The owner of Mystic Pizza must hand over more than $105,000 in back pay after failing to properly compensate his employees and paying some of them as little as $5.69 per hour, according to the Department of Labor.

The department’s Wage and Workplace Standards Division began investigating restaurant owner John Zelepos after three people filed individual complaints.

Investigators learned that 110 employees received less than minimum wage and were not paid properly for their overtime work between May 2012 and June 2014, according to the DOL.

Zelepos paid cooks, dishwashers and hosts as little as $5.69 per hour, the DOL said. Other workers received $7.40 per hour. At the time, the state’s minimum wage was set at $8.70.

Some employees also worked up to 93 hours per week. Many were paid cash, and Zelepos did not accurately document their overtime hours, according to the DOL.

According to Wage and Workplace Standards Director Gary K. Pechie, the department is also investigating the report that one employee was fired after contacting the DOL to report wage violations.

Zelepos must pay the affected employees a total of $105,165.94 and is also required to pay $23,400 in civil penalties for 155 minimum wage and overtime violations.

Photo Credit: Timothy Valentine/Flickr

Man Tries to Steal Jewelry From Trumbull Mall: Police


A Bridgeport man is facing charges after tampering with a jewelry case at the Westfield Trumbull Mall on Wednesday, then leading officers on a chase through the parking lot, according to police.

Ismail Padilla, 42, was arrested after mall security officers caught him tampering with jewelry display cases around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, police said.

Padilla ran from the mall and led officers on a chase through the parking lot. Trumbull police took him into custody on Walnut Street, where his car was parked, according to police.

He was charged with first-degree burglary, first-degree larceny, second-degree criminal trespass and sixth-degree larceny.

Padilla was released after posting $25,000 bond and is due in court Oct. 3.

Photo Credit: NBC10.com

2 Vernon Stores Robbed Half a Mile Apart


Police are searching for the men who robbed two convenience stores in Vernon on Tuesday night and are asking for the public’s help in tracking them down.

The first robbery occurred around 7:45 p.m. Tuesday at the Rubia Food Mart at 70 Windsor Avenue. Police said a man armed with a knife demanded money from the employee and got away with an undisclosed amount of cash.

The suspect is described as a white man in his mid-20s with a thin, muscular build. Police said he stands about 6 feet tall and was wearing a dark-colored hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans.

A second convenience store was targeted about four hours later. According to police, a man armed with a black handgun demanded money from a clerk at the 7-Eleven store at 180 Union Street around 11:30 p.m. The two stores are located within half a mile of each other.

According to police, the suspect made off with cash and two cartons of cigarettes. He’s described as a white man in his mid-20s with dark hair and a medium build. He stands about 5 feet 10 inches tall and was wearing a black cloth over his face.

Police said he was clad in a dark-colored puffy zip-up jacket with a gray hooded sweatshirt underneath, white sneakers and a black “Chicago Bulls” baseball cap with a “winter camouflage” brim.

Officers searched the area but couldn’t find the suspect.

Police are investigating the two robberies. It’s not clear if authorities believe they are connected.

Anyone with information is urged to call Det. Charles Hicking at 860-872-9126 ext. 224 or call in an anonymous tip to 860-872-9126 ext. 7301.

Photo Credit: Vernon Police Department

Investigation Clears Hartford Detective Who Used Taser on Teen


The Hartford police detective who used a Taser on a local teen while breaking up an unruly crowd last month has been cleared of misconduct allegations, according to an update from the police department.

The department launched an investigation into the conduct of Det. Shawn Ware late last month after surveillance video captured Ware shooting 18-year-old Luis Anglero with a Taser prior to arresting the teen on charges of interfering with an officer and breach of peace.

Anglero was hospitalized after the incident, which sparked backlash from community members. Activists protested Ware's use of the Taser and urged police to drop the charges against Anglero and arrest Ware instead.

Police, on the other hand, claimed Anglero was uncooperative and combative. According to Hartford police spokesman Deputy Chief Brian Foley, Anglero "was a clear aggressor and agitator" who ignored officers' commands.

Hartford Police Chief James Rovella called for an internal investigation on Aug. 20, the day after the incident. Investigators interviewed witnesses and involved officers and combed through police reports, radio recordings and video evidence, police said.

According to police, the department's Internal Affairs Division "found that Detective Ware's actions complied with HPD Policy and Procedure" and said "the investigation revealed no misconduct."

Photo Credit: Hartford Police Department
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Concern Mounting Over Arrests of Waterbury Students


School climate and safety was set to take center stage at Thursday night’s Board of Education meeting in Waterbury.

The focus for board vice president Karen Harvey is the number of recent student arrests, a topic she says has become taboo.

“It hurts our kids, because if we don’t talk about it, that means were not looking at ways to help,” said Harvey.

This is not the first time Harvey has tried to call attention to the problem. Earlier this year, she began collecting data and then relayed her findings.

“No one said anything. No one wanted to talk about it. It was not on our agenda, almost as if it didn’t matter,” she said Thursday.

Harvey says the numbers warrant the discussion. Her data shows more than 115 arrests throughout the district in the 2013-14 school year. West Side Middle school topped that list with 46 arrests. Wallace Middle School was next, with 35.

“It’s a lot, but there could be a reason and we need to look at those reasons,” Harvey said.

In response, school officials have begun working with the city’s police department to develop arrest alternatives. They have also implemented strategies to reduce the number of suspensions.

“Keep the child in school," Harvey said. "If they are not in school they are not going to learn.”

Thirty minutes was set aside for discussion of Thursday’s school climate and safety report.

Speakers include the Waterbury superintendent and the city’s chief of police. The meeting was set to begin at 5:30 p.m. at Buck Hills School. Harvey says the conversation will not end any time soon.

“[Don’t] think because we don’t talk about it, it will go away, because it will not go away," Harvey said.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Branford Weight-Loss Company Scammed Customers: Authorities


Federal authorities have shuttered a weight-loss company operating in Branford, citing deceptive practices after learning the business had been charging customers some $80 for so-called free trials.

A federal court injunction froze the assets of LeanSpa LLC, which was based at a complex on East Main Street in Branford, following an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, State of Connecticut and Better Business Bureau.

“LeanSpa was offering what was supposed to be a free trial if consumers paid shipping and handling," explained Howard Schwartz, communications director for the Better Business Bureau of Connecticut. "What ended up happening is consumers ended up being charged $79.95 for that so-called free trial, and then they were finding subsequent charges monthly on their credit card bills.”

Customer complaints substantiated those findings.

"I provided my credit card information to receive a free trial offer and be charged the $4.95 I was expecting in shipping and handling fees. My card was shortly thereafter charged $158.98 for two bottles of the product which I did not order or authorize," one customer wrote.

LeanSpa also made deceptive weight-loss claims in advertisements featured in the FTC's complaint exhibits, according to the Better Business Bureau.

“In this situation, the company was using logos from well-known news organizations in an effort to lend credibility to their products, and that's just not right,” said Schwartz.

The FTC is now sending out claim forms to 400,000 customers who lost money to determine whether they qualify for refunds.

“Consumers will have 60 days from the time they receive this information to submit it and refunds should follow soon after that,” said Schwartz.

LeanSpa customers who lost money but did not receive a claim form can obtain one by calling 1-888-621-4156 or by visiting the FTC’s case site.

Photo Credit: LeanSpa

Hartford Man Accused of Sexually Assaulting Minor


Hartford police have arrested a local man accused of sexually assaulting a minor.

Police said they had two outstanding warrants for Jimmy Benitez, 34, of Hartford, and detectives from the special investigations division learned on Friday, Sept. 19 that he was on Franklin Avenue.

They conducted surveillance and found him returning to a parked vehicle in front of 217 Franklin Avenue, so they approached the vehicle and found Benitez hiding in the third row, according to police.

Benitez has been charged with three counts of first-degree sexual assault of a minor, one count of fourth-degree sexual assault of a minor and three counts of risk of injury to a minor.

The charges connected to the firearms violations include first-degree failure to appear, interfering with police and criminal possession of a firearm.

He was considered armed and dangerous prior to his arrest, according to a "wanted' poster the department released earlier this month.

Benitez is being held on a $500,000 cash-only bond.

Photo Credit: Hartford Police Department

Bristol Brothers to Play in Macy's Parade


In just a few months, two Bristol brothers will have a chance to live out their dreams and play the drum together in New York City as part of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Simon and Philip Andrews have been playing music since they were babies and now they're rehearsing together with the Bristol Central High School band.

“For me the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is like an all-star game for a professional basketball player,” Philip Andrews said.

Philip Andrews, a senior, played the drum during the parade last year, and now, after passing a difficult auditioning process, his brother Simon will get the chance to join him.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled,” Simon Andrews said.

Band director John Abucewicz, who has taught at Bristol Central High School for more than a decade, said the Andrews brothers are his first students to ever to play in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“Students from all over the country auction for something like this,” Abucewicz said. "So to have two students from one school go, that’s pretty special, and brothers no less.”

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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