A Chelsea man pleaded guilty last week in federal court in Boston to being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Cesar Alicea, 22, pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns scheduled sentencing for Nov. 7, 2018.
In December 2017, Alicea was indicted along with Andres Perez, of Chelsea, who was charged with possessing cocaine base and heroin with intent to distribute. It is alleged that Alicea and Perez are members of the East Side Money Gang.
On Oct. 31, 2017, Alicea was in a car that was stopped by law enforcement officers. As Alicea ran from the police, he was observed throwing an item. Shortly thereafter, Alicea was apprehended by police and arrested. The item was recovered and determined to be a .25 caliber Raven Arms pistol.
The charge of being felon in possession of a firearm provides for a sentence of no greater than 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The opening of the fully-completed Clark Avenue Middle School is just about one month away, and work crews are finishing up the final preparations to welcome students into the completed new school project – after more than three years and two phases of construction.
“I think we’re shooting for substantial completion by the middle of August,” said Gerry McCue of the Chelsea Schools. “Teachers go back on Aug. 27 and students come into the new school on Aug. 29. We expect to have the school operational then. There will be punch list items to get to, but nothing major will be left.”
The completion of Phase 2 will mark the end of the $57 million project that started under former City Manager Jay Ash, and was carried out by City Manager Tom Ambrosino and the School Department.
Already, Phase 1 opened in December 2017, and students and teachers have been using half of the school since that time. The former building, the Old Chelsea High, had been completely demolished earlier this year to make way for Phase 2.
Demolition of the other side of the old high school started in March 2015, when the project first got off the ground.
With the addition of the Phase 2 building, the school will be introduced to many of the amenities, including the gym, an auditorium, a small performance stage, the library, technology labs, art rooms, music rooms, an administrative suite and the new front courtyard facing Crescent and Clark Avenues.
“In addition to things like the gym, there will be a smaller performance space and things can be done on that stage and the cafeteria can be used for seating,” he said. “Larger productions can be done in the auditorium. That’s important because the Clark Ave is the feeder program for the Chelsea High Drama Club, so they have an emphasis on music and performing arts at the Clark Avenue.”
The courtyard will be a very welcome addition to the school and the neighborhood, he said. The space was designed to open up to Crescent and Clark Avenues so that the buildings are pushed back and the space seem more open and inviting. He said the possibilities are endless for the new space.
“We could do outdoor performances or in the summer the City could have a movie night for the neighborhood out there,” he said. “There will be seating and decking in the courtyard. There will also be a school garden there too. There has been a big emphasis on school gardens across the district and the Clark Ave will have one too.”
He said that the top floors are pretty much completed, and many classrooms are set up now. He said the bottom floor is still having work done – as the contractor started from the top and worked down.
As it is, the action is aplenty on the site as the final work is completed.
“There’s just a lot of activity there now and it will be non-stop until the first day of school,” he said.
The Clark Avenue School is expected to have 668 students when it opens in August.
The Chelsea Walk – for those on the right side of the law – has been a place to run from.
Now, City officials, a local artist and GreenRoots are hoping to make those kind folks find a reason to stay in the Walk. After raising more than $58,000 and getting a MassDevelopment matching grant, GreenRoots and the City have now embarked on a public process to begin revamping the Walk – a long-troubled small stretch of walkway between the Cherry Street parking lot and the Broadway business district.
On Monday, the collaborators held a public visioning session on the Walk, complete with Chelsea artist Sylvia Lopez Chavez – who has been selected to design and carry out the sprucing up of the place.
Roseann Bongiovanni, director of GreenRoots, said the Walk was targeted as a place that could become very important to the downtown.
“We’re looking at murals, lighting, furniture and art installations on the roof fixtures to make it feel more friendly, inviting, safe and comfortable,” she said.
She said Monday was the first of two visioning exercises with the public, and then it will be full steam ahead. A community paint day led by Lopez Chavez is scheduled for Aug. 3 and 4 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day. Much of the changes are expected to be done in about one month, and the final result could be programming that includes game nights and more seating.
“I’m excited about a new look and design for the walkway,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “It would really make it pop. That the goal and it’s in a very visible spot.”
Chavez said she is very excited to get to paint a mural and refurbish something in her own community. A veteran of mural and public art work in Boston, she is now focused on what kinds of creative things can be put into the Walk.
“There are a lot of very good ideas,” she said. “There is a desire to keep the community fabric and to retain a part of the history of Chelsea. There will be a lot of color. That’s a signature of mine. The space seems very art deco to me. I’m thinking of patterns…I’ve looked at textiles of different cultural background. It will just flow from the walls. I like the zig zag line that is already here. That will be a starting point.”
Additionally, she is working with members of the community to think about what should be decorating the top rafters of the walk. There is talk about things hanging from it, perhaps lights, and maybe even colored plexiglass to make the look very unique.
Bottom line, she said, is to create a space where people feel comfortable and want to stay for a bit.
That won’t be entirely easy to come by, as reclaiming the space from the criminal element and the bar crowd from the pub next door will take work. Even during Monday’s event, there were some incidents that had to be ironed out.
Councilor Enio Lopez said he is glad to see it recovered.
“I think it’s a very good idea to beautify this space and to help in what GreenRoots is doing,” he said. “It’s going to look great. We need to beautify this area, especially around this bar where there are so many problems. It’s the only bar that opens at 7 a.m.”
Ocean animals don’t always draw national attention, but once every year, they become a media sensation. That time of the year is back. First aired on July 17, 1988, Shark Week returned to Discovery Channel this week to celebrate its 30-year anniversary.
The 10-show lineup launched with a bang on Sunday, starring the week’s host Shaquille O’Neal and UFC Hall of Famer Ronda Rousey, among others. O’Neal made headlines, when a small shark entered the former NBA star’s protective cage, forcing him to get pulled out of the water.
Shark Week will have featured 26 shows in all, when the two-hour special of Naked and Afraid of Sharks run on Sunday, July 29.
But as visibility of white sharks have seemingly increased in recent years, one must wonder if sharks are as great a threat as Shark Week makes them out to be.
“Shark Week has gotten much better in terms of their science content around [sharks], but as is common to most media and TV, their promotions of it often still promotes the idea of sharks as being dangerous or a threat,” said Tony LaCasse, of the New England Aquarium. “We play on the fear aspect that most people have of large predators.”
People should still be careful around sharks, but the likelihood of a fatal shark attack is fairly uncommon, LaCasse said. In fact, the last fatal shark attack in Massachusetts happened in 1936; the last non-fatal shark attack was in 2014, when two kayakers safely escaped a great white shark that bit their boats.
His biggest tip on cautionary measures against sharks? “If you’re swimming in the outer cape, and you see a seal in the water, get out of the water,” LaCasse said. “That’s going to minimize the chance that you have an accident.”
LaCasse said New England has always been home to a small population of white sharks, but with seals under the protection of the U.S. federal law, population of seals, the preferred prey of white sharks, have increased drastically in areas including Chatham and Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.
“Over time, all those white sharks [Massachusetts has] that were dispersed throughout New England are concentrating around the elbow of Cape Cod because that’s where their food is,” LaCasse said of the increased visibility of the white sharks.
“If you’re going to the outer cape, the thing that hurts most people are other people,” LaCasse said.
This won’t be the only time this summer will feature sharks on air, as The Meg will be released in theaters on August 10. The film is based on Steve Alten’s 1997 science-fiction novel, Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror.
The film features Jason Statham, Rainn Wilson and Ruby Rose. Despite the name’s similarity, The Meg is unrelated to the 2004 horror Megalodon or the Megashark franchise.
Metro Credit Union recently awarded $16,000 in scholarships to college-bound high school seniors.
Metro’s Scholarship Program encourages high school seniors who are members of Metro Credit Union, or who have a parent or guardian who is a member, to apply for the chance to receive $1,000 towards tuition.
Thirteen scholarships were awarded to graduating high school seniors who have been accepted to an accredited undergraduate program. Scholarship recipients were selected on the basis of academic record, demonstrated leadership and participation in school and community activities, honors, work experience, statement of goals and aspirations, unique personal or family circumstances, and an outside appraisal.
“We’re proud to help students advance their education and their future prospects with scholarship funding,” said Robert Cashman, president and CEO of Metro Credit Union. “We hope that students who benefit from our scholarships will achieve personal and professional success.”
Students honored with Metro Credit Union Scholarships are: Leslie Rallis of Peabody, Brianna Bardales, Thomas Mirbel, and Lilian Guerrero of Lynn, Marie Jeanty of Burlington, Rhaida Shephard of Lawrence, Danielle More, Cara Madarese, Crystal Atchison, and Vincent Rocchio of Boston, Roberto Martinez of Framingham, and May Lam and Tina Nguyen of Chelsea.
Metro also awarded $3,000 in scholarships to Peabody and Chelsea High School students who participated in the High School Branch Banking program throughout the school year. The Financial Literacy Scholarship was designed to honor students who showed exemplary skills in their Finance and Business coursework during their internships at Metro’s high school branches.
Metro Credit Union is the largest state-chartered credit union in Massachusetts, approaching $1.8 billion in assets. Metro provides a full range of financial products to more than 200,000 members in Essex, Middlesex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Plymouth, Barnstable, Bristol and Worcester counties, as well as to over 1,200 companies throughout the Commonwealth.
Founded in 1926, Metro currently operates 15 branch offices in Boston, Burlington, Chelsea, Framingham, Lawrence, Lynn, Melrose, Newton, Peabody, Salem, and Tewksbury. Learn more at MetroCU.org.
The leader of the MS-13 East Coast Program was sentenced July 18 in federal court in Boston for racketeering conspiracy.
Jose Adan Martinez Castro, a/k/a “Chucky,” 29, a Salvadoran national formerly residing in Richmond, Va., was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV to 235 months in prison, the top of the sentencing range recommended by the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. Castro will be subject to deportation upon completion of his sentence. In November 2017, Castro pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO or racketeering conspiracy.
After a multi-year investigation, Castro was one of dozens of leaders, members, and associates of MS-13 named in a superseding indictment unsealed in January 2016 that targeted MS-13’s criminal activities in Massachusetts. According to court documents, MS-13 members engaged in a variety of racketeering acts and crimes of violence, including six different murders committed by MS-13 members in Massachusetts between October 2014 and January 2016.
Castro was one of 49 defendants to be convicted as part of this case. All nine defendants who went to trial were convicted and 40 others pleaded guilty.
During the investigation, Castro was identified as the leader of MS-13’s East Coast Program. Most of the cliques in Massachusetts fall under the East Coast Program, which also has cliques in Maryland, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas, and Ohio.
On Dec. 13, 2015, using a cooperating witness, law enforcement recorded a meeting of the East Coast Program leadership at Castro’s home in Richmond. The recorded meeting provided evidence about the organizational structure, leadership structure, and recruitment system of MS-13 as well as the means, methods, objectives, and operating principles of the gang. Leaders of the East Coast Program cliques from Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia attended the meeting.
During the meeting, Castro and others discussed how there was enough space in the East Coast Program for the all of the assembled MS-13 cliques to work cooperatively. Castro and others also discussed the need for the cliques to be better at planning and coordinating hits (i.e., murders) and Castro confirmed that murders generally had to be approved by MS-13 leaders before the local members could carry them out. The group also discussed sending money to El Salvador to support MS-13, the need to work together to increase the gang’s strength and control, and the need to kill anyone who provided information against the gang. An El Salvadoran-based leader of MS-13 also participated in the meeting via the phone and provided direction to the assembled leaders.
The leader of a violent MS-13 clique was sentenced on July 17 to life in prison.
He was convicted of being responsible for two murders, one in Chelsea.
Noe Salvador Perez Vasquez, a/k/a “Crazy,” 27, a Salvadoran national, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV to life in prison and five years of supervised release. In April 2018, Perez was convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO conspiracy, and of committing or knowingly participating in two murders. Perez also was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute marijuana.
Co-defendants Luis Solis Vasquez, a/k/a “Brujo,” 27, a Salvadoran national, and Hector Enamorado, a/k/a “Vida Loca,” 39, a Honduran national, were also convicted of RICO conspiracy and of committing or knowingly participating in murder. Solis is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 11, 2018, and Enamorado is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 2, 2018.
At trial, Perez was identified as a leader of the Everett Locos Salvatrucha (ELS) clique, which was one of the largest, most active, and most violent MS-13 cliques in Massachusetts. Perez was furthermore considered to be a strict leader, demanding that clique members hunt down rival gang members and frequently subjecting younger clique members to harsh punishments.
On Dec. 14, 2014, Perez, Solis, and Enamorado worked together to murder a 29-year-old male victim at an apartment in Chelsea. According to testimony and exhibits introduced at trial, Solis was a full member, or homeboy, with the Eastside Locos Salvatrucha (ESLS) clique and Enamorado was a homeboy with the Chelsea Locos Salvatrucha (CHS) clique. Enamorado and the victim had engaged in a gang-related fight the night before the murder, and when Enamorado encountered the victim again, Enamorado called Perez to ask him for a gun. Perez delivered the murder weapon, a .380 caliber pistol, to Enamorado in Chelsea. Solis armed himself with a gun and went with Enamorado into the apartment to provide backup and necessary support for the attack. Enamorado used Perez’s gun to fatally shoot the victim three times. Enamorado also shot and wounded a second victim who was inside the apartment at the time of the murder. Following the murder, Perez arranged for Enamorado to flee to New Jersey. Federal agents, however, intercepted the car and arrested Enamorado before he could leave Massachusetts.
On July 5, 2015, a 16-year-old, mid-level member of the ELS clique was stabbed to death in a park in Lawrence by two members of his clique. Perez and other MS-13 members targeted the 16-year-old for murder because they believed, incorrectly, that he was cooperating with law enforcement. Perez planned and encouraged the murder. After the two ELS clique members stabbed the 16-year-old to death, Perez promised to promote them to homeboy status.
Perez was one of 49 defendants to be convicted as part of this case. All nine defendants who went to trial were convicted and 40 others pleaded guilty. In all, 16 defendants, including Perez, were found to have committed or knowingly participated in murders.
A state budget advocacy organization – Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center – has released a report this week detailing a five-year roadmap to fix the state’s education funding crisis – a plan that would require $888 million over five years and mean $21 million more in state funding per year for Chelsea Schools.
Colin Jones of Mass Budget told the Record that the report – titled ‘Building an Education System that Works for Everyone: Funding Reforms to Help All Our Children Thrive’ – details a plan that would allow the state to increase school aid – specifically to communities like Chelsea Revere, and Everett – by around $200 million per year over a five-year period. That phased approach would lead to restoring what the 1993 education reform law promised, he said.
“The big picture is our school funding and the system isn’t really providing the resources that are needed for kids across these Gateway Cities like Chelsea,” he said. “The formula for funding hasn’t been updated in 25 years and the school district with the least wealth are facing the worst of it. We looked at the budgets and found that many of these districts are spending 25 percent below what they are supposed to spend on teachers. To make up for it, they have to shift money from other areas or get additional revenues or make cuts to other areas. That’s leading to these big budget gaps.”
Supt. Mary Bourque said the research confirms what the Chelsea Schools have been saying for quite some time.
“The Mass. Budget research validates what we have been saying as superintendents for years,” she said. “In 2013, Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents did their own research which placed the underfunding of school districts at over $2 billion. In 2015, the Foundation Budget Reform Commission – of which I was a member – placed school districts also at over $2 billion underfunded. Now in 2018, we have MassBudget research attesting to the same. It is time to address the flaws that are well documented by multiple groups. It is time to fund our schools and place our students first.”
Jones said the formula fix needs to address the disparities between wealthy and poorer districts. Right now, he said Weston spends around $17,000 per student, while Chelsea Revere, and Everett are around $11,000 per student.
He said it should be the other way around.
He said the current formula requires districts to spend a set amount on teacher salaries, and in order to do that in the current funding climate, districts like Chelsea have to cut the extras, ask for City money or seek out grants. If that doesn’t happen, then it leads to cuts, bigger classes and no extras. Another byproduct is not being able to maintain school facilities properly.
“There are big gaps in these districts and it’s where you’ll see bigger class sizes, less money for the arts and less for enrichment programs,” he said. “You see them have to cut ties with long-time successful partners. They can apply for grants, but they shouldn’t be in that position. Education reform was about the districts doing their job at educating the kids and the state giving them what they needed to do it…We’re now starting to see a backsliding to what it used to be like before education reform.”
In Chelsea, the Foundation budget now is at $113 million, and state Chapter 70 education aid is $90 million. Under the new plan by Mass. Budget, by 2023, the school foundation budget would be $134 million and the state Chapter 70 aid would be $110 million.
It’s a gain of some $21 million per year in aid that the Chelsea Schools have been calling for over the past several years.
Jones said they consider their report a blueprint for fixing the statewide problem – a problem that is especially apparent in cities like Chelsea Everett, and Revere. He said he is hoping that it garners attention on Beacon Hill and becomes a point of discussion.
“We can fix this,” he said. “We have a blueprint now. These things will cost money to implement. There is a price, but we’re in a good economy and we’ve had good revenue collections at the state level. We’re looking at a phased approach of $200 million each year for five years.”
For the past several days, articles in the national media have reported accusations of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s sexual improprieties with several adults and his criminal violations of the sexual abuse of minors. These alleged actions, when committed by any person, are morally unacceptable and incompatible with the role of a priest, bishop or cardinal.
I am deeply troubled by these reports that have traumatized many Catholics and members of the wider community. In one case involving a minor the Archdiocese of New York, after investigation, has found the accusation to be credible and substantiated. While another accusation concerning a minor is yet to be investigated, the reports are devastating for the victims, their families and for the Church itself. Each new report of clerical abuse at any level creates doubt in the minds of many that we are effectively addressing this catastrophe in the Church.
These cases and others require more than apologies. They raise up the fact that when charges are brought regarding a bishop or a cardinal, a major gap still exists in the Church’s policies on sexual conduct and sexual abuse. While the Church in the United States has adopted a zero tolerance policy regarding the sexual abuse of minors by priests we must have clearer procedures for cases involving bishops. Transparent and consistent protocols are needed to provide justice for the victims and to adequately respond to the legitimate indignation of the community. The Church needs a strong and comprehensive policy to address bishops’ violations of the vows of celibacy in cases of the criminal abuse of minors and in cases involving adults.
My experience in several dioceses and my work with the members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors have brought me to this conclusion. The Church needs to swiftly and decisively take action regarding these matters of critical importance. In every instance of claims made by victims of sexual abuse, whether criminal violations or the abuse of power, the primary concern must be for the victim, their family and their loved ones. The victims are to be commended for bringing to light their tragic experience and must be treated with respect and dignity. Recent media reports also have referenced a letter sent to me from Rev. Boniface Ramsey, O.P. in June of 2015, which I did not personally receive. In keeping with the practice for matters concerning the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, at the staff level the letter was reviewed and determined that the matters presented did not fall under the purview of the Commission or the Archdiocese of Boston, which was shared with Fr. Ramsey in reply.
These accusations are understandably a source of great disappointment and anger for many. These cases, involving a cardinal, must be viewed in light of the last two decades of the Church’s experience with clerical sexual abuse. It is my conviction that three specific actions are required at this time. First, a fair and rapid adjudication of these accusations; second, an assessment of the adequacy of our standards and policies in the Church at every level, and especially in the case of bishops; and third, communicating more clearly to the Catholic faithful and to all victims the process for reporting allegations against bishops and cardinals. Failure to take these actions will threaten and endanger the already weakened moral authority of the Church and can destroy the trust required for the Church to minister to Catholics and have a meaningful role in the wider civil society. In this moment there is no greater imperative for the Church than to hold itself accountable to address these matters, which I will bring to my upcoming meetings with the Holy See with great urgency and concern.
About 20,000 students recently graduated from U.S. medical schools. Now, they’re beginning the next chapter of their training, as residents.
Yet less than 7,000 will be pursuing careers in primary care. America will be short up to 43,100 primary care physicians by 2030, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Medical schools have a responsibility to help fix this shortfall. They can do so by making primary care more alluring to students.
Primary care physicians are our healthcare system’s first line of defense. They diagnose illnesses, help manage chronic conditions, and refer patients to specialists. Without them, patients would get lost in today’s byzantine health system.
The shortage of primary care doctors is partially due to concerns over money and status. Specialists are better paid and often involved in prestigious new research.
Between April 2016 and March 2017, physician recruitment firm Merritt Hawkins conducted nearly 3,300 searches for its clients. The average offered to recruit an orthopedic surgeon was $579,000. The average to recruit a family practitioner was less than half that.
The shortage also occurs because U.S. medical school’s faculty are mainly specialists. Surgery departments in U.S. medical schools boast over 15,000 faculty members. Family practice departments have just 5,700 members.
Professors serve as role models to students, many of whom seek to follow in the footsteps of these mentors. Overwhelmingly, that means pursuing a career as a specialist.
Aspiring doctors also train in settings that push them toward specialties, not primary care. Medical students generally train in large teaching hospitals that serve patients who have been referred from primary and secondary care providers. Few students train in small clinics and local doctor’s offices.
But most health care — and almost all primary care — is delivered outside of the hospital. Americans make 923 million trips to physician offices every year — and only 130 million to emergency departments. More than half of office visits are to primary care physicians.
So medical students rarely gain enough experience in primary care settings to decide if it’s the right career path for them.
These barriers are significant but not insurmountable.
To start, schools could promote primary care as a career. In 2015, the medical school at the University of California, Riverside, partnered with the Desert Regional Medical Center and Desert Healthcare District to launch a new primary care residency program in Palm Springs. UC Riverside also partners with Loma Linda University to offer the Pediatric Primary Care Residency Training Program, which prepares residents for careers in pediatrics and family medicine.
Second, schools could ensure students gain hands-on primary care experience by encouraging them to serve at community clinics. At the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine, for example, nearly nine in 10 students volunteer in clinics in underserved communities. As a result, half of UC Davis students picked a primary care residency in 2015.
Third, schools could subsidize tuition for students who commit to primary care careers. At St. George’s University, on the Caribbean island of Grenada, our CityDoctors Scholarship program provides grants to students from New York City who agree to return to practice in the city’s public hospital system after they graduate. This year, eight students received CityDoctors scholarships worth a total of $1.1 million.
Medical schools must make careers in primary care exciting and affordable for a new generation of physicians.
Richard Olds, M.D., is president of St. George’s University. He was founding dean of UC Riverside’s medical school.