The U.S. Congressional race has heated up this week as both candidates, incumbent Congressman Michael Capuano and challenger Ayanna Pressley, have touted their fundraising efforts, and one local Chelsea official gives the first endorsement – but for the challenger.
City Council President Damali Vidot announced Wednesday that she would be backing and supporting Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley in her Congressional run. The shot across the bow comes in territory that has firmly been in the Capuano camp for many years, but perhaps could be a key battleground community in the race.
As has become a common criticism of Capuano, Vidot said it’s not enough to simply vote against attacks.
“Attacks on our community are nothing new, but, in light of Donald Trump and the Republican Congress, we need a new generation of leaders who are willing to intentionally advocate for solutions that address our most challenging issues,” said Vidot. “For that, and so many other reasons, I emphatically support Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley’s candidacy for the 7th Congressional District… Leadership like Ayanna’s is what our country is missing at this critical moment in history. It is not enough for our elected officials to vote against the attacks on our communities. We need representatives that will lead with us, for us, and alongside us to help build the communities we deserve.”
Vidot said Pressley’s advocacy on DACA and TPS recipients within the immigration debate in Boston, as well as her leadership for women and people of color, were reasons for her endorsement.
Meanwhile, in a press release battle of fundraising prowess, Capuano got the upper hand on Pressley this week, noting he has raised more money and has more money in his campaign fund. That coming shortly after Pressley sent out a news release about her “surprising” fundraising efforts.
On Tuesday morning, Pressley put out a news release saying the campaign had raised $364,368 in the first two months of the race.
“I am humbled by the outpouring of love and encouragement I have received from so many individuals who share our vision for our district, our Commonwealth, and our country,” said Pressley. “I am also deeply moved by those who tell me that they are contributing or volunteering for the first time ever, and have chosen this unique and challenging moment in our nation’s history to stand alongside our campaign and fight for a better future.”
A few hours later, the Capuano campaign put out a similar press release showing far greater fundraising in the first quarter of the year.
Capuano touted raising more than $500,000 in the first quarter and having $1.1 million in cash at the moment.
“I am truly grateful for the support I am receiving in this campaign,” said Capuano. “We face real challenges from a Trump presidency threatening working families, seniors, women, immigrants, and young people all across our district. I’m on the front lines of these fights and will keep standing up to Donald Trump to keep making a difference for the people who count on me to protect and advance their interests.”
Campaign Manager Sam Raymond said campaign volunteers gathering nomination signatures across the district are finding enthusiastic supporters. “During caucuses and in coffee shops, at farmer’s markets and community meetings – our volunteers are finding and growing the strong support Mike has throughout the district because his record of strong advocacy and real results on issues that impact their lives is substantial,” he said.
“From protecting vital programs like Social Security and Medicare, to advancing legislation that supports job creation and economic growth, Mike is standing up to President Trump and his dangerous policies and he’s making a difference. The people of our district know it,” Raymond added.
The Pressley campaign touted its grass-roots efforts on the ground, including in places like Chelsea
They indicated a strong presence at 30 Massachusetts Democratic Party caucuses in every city and town across the district. This past weekend, the campaign’s first “Day of Action” brought out over 40 volunteers who participated in signature gathering efforts in Somerville, Cambridge, Chelsea, and Boston, they said.
The campaign said it has activated more than 300 volunteers across the district, including Councillor Vidot.
A Chelsea man, dubbed the “Spelling Bee Bandit,” was sentenced March 7 in federal court in Boston for four bank robberies.
Jason S. Englen, 34, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns to 84 months in prison and three years of supervised release. In November 2017, Englen pleaded guilty to four counts of bank robbery.
On Oct. 31, 2016, a man, later identified as Englen, entered a branch of TD Bank in Arlington, approached a teller and presented a note written on a deposit slip indicating a robbery and demanding cash. On the note, the word “robbery” was misspelled. The teller handed Englen money from the drawer and Englen fled the bank leaving the demand note behind.
Over the next few weeks, three additional banks were robbed in the same fashion: a branch of TD Bank in Reading on November 5, a branch of Salem Five in Burlington on November 7, and a branch of TD Bank in Peabody on November 13. Based on the similarity of the robberies and the physical description of the robber, law enforcement, seeking help from the public, identified Englen, who was already in state custody on unrelated charges, as the bank robber. On Dec. 12, 2016, Englen was arrested by federal authorities and charged.
SALVADORAN SENTENCED FOR ILLEGAL RE-ENTRY
A Salvadoran national was sentenced March 8 in federal court in Boston for illegally reentering the United States after deportation.
Gerardo Alberto Perez-Fuentes, 22, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton to six months in prison and one year of supervised release. Perez-Fuentes will be subject to deportation proceedings upon completion of his sentence. In December 2017, Perez-Fuentes pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful reentry of a deported alien.
Perez-Fuentes was previously deported on Sept. 4, 2015, and on Oct. 8, 2015. On Sept. 6, 2017, law enforcement in Chelsea encountered Perez-Fuentes and determined him to be illegally present in the United States.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling and Michael Shea, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston, made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne Sullivan Jacobus of Lelling’s Major Crimes Unit prosecuted the case.
A Brazilian national was sentenced Feb. 8 in federal court in Boston for conspiring to launder approximately $20 million in proceeds from the TelexFree pyramid scheme – a scheme that affected hundreds of Chelsea residents.
Authorities reported finding the money hidden in a mattress.
Cleber Rene Rizerio Rocha, 28, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Leo T. Sorokin to 33 months in prison and one year of supervised release. In October 2017, Rocha pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit money laundering and one count of money laundering.
In April 2014, a search warrant was executed at the headquarters of TelexFree Inc., a massive pyramid scheme based in Marlborough that caused billions of dollars in losses to nearly two million victims worldwide. Later that same day, Carlos Wanzeler, one of the founders of the company, fled first to Canada and then to Brazil, his native country. In his haste to flee the United States, however, Wanzeler left millions of dollars hidden in the greater Boston area.
In mid-2015, an intermediary working on Wanzeler’s behalf contacted an associate for help transferring the money from the United States to Brazil. The associate, who later cooperated with federal authorities, arranged with Wanzeler’s representative in Brazil to launder cash through Hong Kong, convert it to Brazilian Reals, and then transfer it to Brazilian accounts. In January 2017, Rocha, working as a courier for Wanzeler’s representative in Brazil, flew from Brazil to New York City. Rocha later met the cooperating witness in Hudson, Mass., where Rocha gave him a suitcase containing $2.2 million of Wanzeler’s hidden TelexFree money, intending that the cooperating witness help launder the cash out of the United States. After the meeting, agents followed Rocha to an apartment in Westborough, Mass., and he was later arrested. A search of the apartment resulted in the seizure of approximately $20 million in cash found hidden in a mattress box spring.
Wanzeler and TelexFree co-founder James Merrill were indicted in July 2014 on charges that they operated TelexFree as a massive pyramid scheme. Merrill pleaded guilty to those charges and was sentenced in HYPERLINK “https://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/pr/former-president-telexfree-sentenced-billion-dollar-pyramid-scheme” March 2017 to six years in prison. Wanzeler remains a fugitive.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling and Michael Shea, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston, made the announcement today. U.S. Attorney Lelling and Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil J. Gallagher Jr. of the Economic Crimes Unit prosecuted the case.
An alleged member of MS-13 pleaded guilty Jan. 11 in federal court in Boston to an immigration charge.
Elenilson Gonzalez-Gonzalez, a/k/a “Siniestro,” 31, a Salvadoran national, pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful reentry of a deported alien. U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV scheduled sentencing for April 5, 2018.
Following a lengthy investigation, Gonzalez-Gonzalez was one of 61 defendants named in a superseding indictment targeting the activities of alleged leaders, members, and associates of the transnational criminal organization, La Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13.
Gonzalez-Gonzalez is the 27th defendant to plead guilty in this case.
In December 2015, during the course of the investigation, law enforcement encountered Gonzalez-Gonzalez near Deer Island National Park in Winthrop. Further investigation revealed that in May 2012, Gonzalez-Gonzalez had been apprehended by U.S. Customers and Border Patrol agents illegally entering the United States near Mission, Texas.
At that time, Gonzalez-Gonzalez admitted that he was a Salvadoran national who had entered the country illegally and was attempting to make his way to the Boston area. He was subsequently removed from the United States in 2012 on an expedited basis. Gonzalez-Gonzalez later re-entered the United States and was charged with illegal reentry after deportation.
The charging statute provides for a sentence of no greater than two years in prison, one year of supervised release, and up to a fine of $250,000. Gonzalez-Gonzalez will also be subject to deportation upon the completion of his federal sentence. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor
Association of Mature American Citizens
Dear Rusty: I will be turning 62 in 2018; birth date 9/24/1955. My husband is 77 and receiving Social Security. Longevity runs in my family. I have been self-employed all my life. I am still working and my husband collects a pension, Social Security and RMD from a traditional IRA, so there is no need for additional monies under my current circumstances. When should I start taking Social Security? Signed: Thinking about Retirement
Dear Thinking: The question of when to take Social Security normally gets an answer of “It depends on your health, your family history of longevity, and your need for the money”. You’ve already addressed those items so I’ll focus on your main question – when should you start taking Social Security?
Even though you’ll be eligible to collect Social Security when you turn 62, if you do so you will only get 74.17% of the retirement benefit you would be entitled to at your full retirement age (FRA). Whenever you apply, you will be deemed to be filing not only for your own retirement benefit but also any spousal benefit you may be entitled to from your husband’s work record. Similar to your SS retirement benefit, your spousal benefit would also be reduced because you took it early; instead of being 50% of your husband’s benefit at your FRA, you would only get 35% at age 62 (if that is larger than your own retirement benefit). The point I’m making is that by claiming SS early, any benefit you’re entitled to will be reduced from what you would get at your full retirement age.
Just as you are penalized for claiming before your full retirement age, you are rewarded for waiting beyond it to claim Social Security retirement benefits. In fact, for each year you wait beyond your full retirement age, your retirement benefit will be 8% higher than it would be at your FRA. That will continue up until you are 70 years old when your retirement benefit will be 30.67% higher than it would have been at your FRA. You stop earning additional credit at age 70, so there’s no reason to wait beyond that to apply. Let’s use an easy example to illustrate: If your FRA retirement benefit is $1000, by applying at age 62 you would only get $741 per month instead of $1000. But if you wait until you are 70 to claim benefits, you would get $1306 per month, nearly twice what you would get by applying at age 62.
There are two other factors you should incorporate into your thinking:
1) At your FRA, you will be entitled to ½ of your husband’s benefit at his FRA. If your spousal benefit at your FRA is substantially more than your own retirement benefit, then applying at your FRA may be a good strategy, as opposed to waiting and earning delayed retirement credits.
2) Once you have reached your FRA you will be entitled to 100% of your husband’s benefit amount if he should predecease you. If your eventual survivor’s benefit would be more than your own FRA benefit amount, you might be better served by claiming your retirement benefit earlier than age 70.
As you can see, most of the answer to your question depends upon whether your benefits as a spouse or a survivor will be more than your benefit based upon your own work record. If not, then waiting beyond your FRA up to age 70 will yield you the maximum retirement benefit. But if your spouse and/or survivor’s benefit will be more than your own retirement benefits, then applying at your full retirement age may be the best strategy. If you haven’t already done so, I suggest you go to www.ssa.gov and set up your personal “My Social Security” account which will give you access to your currently estimated retirement benefit. Comparing that to your potential spousal and survivor benefits should give you the answer you’re seeking.
The information presented in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The opinions and interpretations expressed are the viewpoints of the AMAC Foundation’s Social Security Advisory staff, trained and accredited under the National Social Security Advisors program of the National Social Security Association, LLC (NSSA). NSSA, the AMAC Foundation, and the Foundation’s Social Security Advisors are not affiliated with or endorsed by the United States Government, the Social Security Administration, or any other state government. Furthermore, the AMAC Foundation and its staff do not provide legal or accounting services. The Foundation welcomes questions from readers regarding Social Security issues. To submit a request, contact the Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jose Iraheta has been at nearly every Chelsea City Council meeting in the last four years.
Even when no one else showed up on cold nights in February, one could count on seeing him there.
He has translated for free to help those who couldn’t speak English, attended virtually every community event, sat next to and chatted up Federal Rese
Resident Mario Caballero of Webster Avenue shares his story about being in fear due to the potential of having his Temporary Protected Status (TPS) rescinded by the federal government. An announcement on TPS is expected in six months. Caballero said he had been in the US under TPS since 1988
rve Chair Janet Yellen when she visited Chelsea, and spoke up for things he agreed with and things he did not agree with.
But on Monday night, he was there to tell a far different story.
It was his story, and it was a story about how the man who is everywhere in Chelsea could one day in the next six months be nowhere in Chelsea – all due to the recently announced decision by the Federal Government that the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program is no longer necessary.
“I am a recipient of TPS due to an earthquake that happened in my country (of El Salvador) in 2001,” he said, holding back strong emotion. “I feel somewhat selfish to come up here because this directly affects me and it’s hard to talk about it. When I first heard that they had put out a letter saying TPS might be rescinded, it was a really dark place for me and probably everyone like me. I started thinking about an exit strategy. I’ve spent more time in the US than in my country. I came here when I was 12. I went to school here, graduated from college and built a life here and a home here. The thought of having to leave is so incredibly hard.”
Iraheta was one of several TPS recipients that appeared before the Council to call on the body to pass a resolution that asked the federal government not to eliminate the TPS program, which affects legal immigrants from Haiti, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador who have fled dangerous situations like earthquakes and other disasters.
Many Haitians who fled the earthquake in 2010 are greatly affected. It is estimated that about 340,000 people nationwide have TPS status, but a good many like Iraheta reside in Chelsea.
“This resolution gives me hope and gives others like me hope in this situation,” concluded Iraheta.
Other residents, such as Mario Caballero of Webster Avenue said he is retired, having received TPS many years ago. As a retired man who worked two jobs for more than a decade, he wonders what will happen to him.
“I had no worries at all until I heard this news that TPS could be gone,” he said, speaking through an interpreter. “And just like me, the man who owns the home where I rent an apartment also has TPS. We wonder what is going to become of us. I’ve been on a pension for three years now and my first question is what will happen to my pension and my insurance.”
Councillors voted 11-0 to support the resolution, which garnered a standing ovation from a large group that came to speak on the matter.
Councillor Judith Garcia spoke emotionally about the measure, noting that family members have TPS.
“I know so much how you have contributed to the community and the economy,” she said. “We are breaking families apart. Many of those with TPS have children born here…Expelling residents is breaking up Chelsea…This resolution is a bold and important move. I hope other communities like Everett, Revere and Lawrence will join us. We have six months to really rally and bond together to make our voices heard.”
Councillor Dan Cortell said such decisions in Washington are being made by people who don’t have to look those affected – such as Iraheta – in the eye.
“The people making these decisions at a national level are missing having to look people in the eyes whom they are actually affecting,” he said. “Politicians like Trump aren’t looking people in the ye and understand the ramifications…We cannot sent people back to these places when they are not safe. Change is not going to happen from the top down so it has to come from the bottom up…These are our neighbors and we have to fight for them.”
The resolution won a unanimous vote and was signed by 10 of the 11 members.
An East Side Money Gang (ES$G) member, known as “Superbad,” was sentenced Monday in federal court in Boston for racketeering and drug trafficking charges.
Josue Rodriguez, a/k/a “SB,” a/k/a “Superbad,” 20, of Chelsea, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns to 10 years in prison and five years of supervised release. In June 2017, Rodriguez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, commonly known as RICO, and one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and cocaine base.
Rodriguez is a member of the ES$G, a Chelsea-based street gang, which uses violence to further its criminal activities and enforce its internal rules. Specifically, ES$G uses violence to protect its members/associates, target rival gang members/associates and intimidate potential witnesses.
Rodriguez admitted that on July 5, 2015, he ambushed a rival gang member who was walking down the street, shooting at him with a semi-automatic pistol, but did not hit him. On March 29, 2016, Rodriguez and another ES$G member agreed to provide a .22 caliber revolver to a third ES$G member so he could “spank” with it – meaning that he could use it against rivals of ES$G.
On April 3, 2016, the third gang member used the revolver to attempt to murder two men believed to be members/associates of a rival gang.
One of the targets was shot but not killed.
On May 26, 2016, Rodriguez attempted to hide the .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver used in a shooting, as well as spent and live shells, after another ES$G member/associate attempted to shoot a rival gang member.
The East Side Money Gang was also involved in drug trafficking, including cocaine, cocaine base (crack) and heroin.
Rodriguez conspired with other gang members and associates to distribute at least one kilogram of cocaine base. Rodriguez further admitted that he stored drugs at, and distributed drugs from, his home in Chelsea, and that the gang maintained at least one firearm at the location.
Rodriguez is one of 53 defendants indicted in June 2016 on federal firearms and drug charges following an investigation into a network of street gangs that had created alliances to traffic weapons and drugs throughout Massachusetts and to generate violence against rival gang members. According to court documents, the defendants, who are leaders, members, and associates of the 18th Street Gang, East Side Money Gang and the Boylston Gang, were responsible for fueling a gun and drug pipeline across a number of cities and towns in eastern Massachusetts.
During the course of the investigation, more than 70 firearms were seized.
Thee members/associates of the 18th Street Gang, including one Chelsea man, pleaded guilty last week in federal court in Boston in connection with illegal, street-level gun trafficking.
Oscar Oliva, a/k/a “Droopy, 26, of East Boston; Ralph Bonano, 23, of East Boston; and Dennis Pleites Ramos, 23, of Chelsea, pleaded guilty to engaging in the business of dealing with firearms without a license. Oliva also pleaded guilty to one count of possessing with intent to distribute and distribution of cocaine base and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. U.S. Senior District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf scheduled sentencing for January 2018.
In 2015 and 2016, a federal investigation identified a network of street gangs, which had created alliances to traffick weapons and drugs throughout Massachusetts and generate violence against rival gang members. Based on the investigation, 53 defendants were indicted in June 2016 on federal firearm and drug charges, including defendants who are allegedly leaders, members, and associates of the 18th Street Gang, the East Side Money Gang and the Boylston Street Gang. These gangs operated primarily in the East Boston, Boston, Chelsea, Brockton, Malden, Revere and Everett areas. During the course of the investigation, over 70 firearms, cocaine, cocaine base (crack), heroin and fentanyl were seized.
Oliva was a leader in the 18th Street gang, a multi-national criminal organization that operates throughout the United States, and was involved in a large conspiracy to deal in firearms in the Greater Boston area. Oliva was personally involved in at least 12 firearms deals involving at least 13 firearms to a cooperating witness. In total, the cooperating witness was able to obtain over 30 firearms from the conspiracy during the investigation, including assault rifles, shotguns, and handguns – several of which had obliterated serial numbers. Bonano and Pleites Ramos were involved with selling handguns in the Greater Boston area. In addition to the firearms trafficking, Oliva also sold cocaine base (crack cocaine) to a cooperating witness.
Damali Vidot, popular councillor-at-large, knows from first hand experience the trouble that Chelsea youths can encounter in their formative years
“As someone who used to get in to trouble and who lost a friend a few days ago that I met when I used to get in to trouble, I know the importance of being there for these young people – just to have someone that they can count on to lead them in the right direction.”
That’s one of the reasons that the 39-year-old Vidot, along with City Councillor Yamir Rodriguez, Danny Mojica, and Isidra Quinones, founded The Movement, a summertime youth basketball league. The league held its playoffs and season-ending pizza party Saturday at Highland Park.
“The Movement was born out of some shootings that were happening in the community and we wanted to provide an outlet for kids 13-20 because I feel that’s an age that really doesn’t have enough supportive services that we wanted to engage them in during the summer,” said Vidot.
The Movement has grown to close to 100 youths who participate in the outdoor basketball league Wednesdays and Saturdays at Highland Park across from the Jordan Boys and Girls Club.
The mood was festive as the basketball players were united in spirit and celebrating the league’s second successful season. Police officers Keith Sweeney and David Batchelor Jr. were on hand to coach a team and affirm the support of Chelsea’s finest.
Vidot understands The Movement is only in touch with its players a few hours a week on the basketball court and that the players must take responsibility for their actions beyond the court.
“Even though we’re with them a limited number of hours during the week, I’m hoping it sets the tone for the rest of the week and they remember that there are grown-ups out there that actually care,” said Vidot.
Betsy Vicente, mother of 14-year-old, 6-foot-2-inch aspiring basketball player Christian Rios, said her son likes the competition and atmosphere of The Movement.
“He loves it. My son absolutely adores coming here. He looks forward to playing here every weekend and hanging out with his friends.”
Vicente said The Movement is like “a second family.”
“This is his neighborhood family,” said Vicente. The kids feel safe and the league is bringing them together in a good environment.”
As for rising community leaders Damali Vidot, Jamir Rodriguez, Vicente said what many at the Highland Park basketball courts were thinking, “The leaders of The Movement are doing a phenomenal job. I like the new Chelsea.”
City officials and consultants for the Re-Imagining Broadway effort will take one of their most controversial suggestions to the business community on Broadway today, Aug. 31, prompting a discussion about making Broadway a two-way street.
The six-month planning effort has come up with numerous suggestions about how to improve the corridor, but at the top of those suggestions is the idea about taking Broadway from a one-way to a two-way.
The street has been in its current configuration for more than a generation, and few remember the last time it was moving differently.
However, count City Manager Tom Ambrosino as a convert to the idea.
“I think it will be transformative and make a large difference for the downtown’s flavor,” he said. “I think we can do it. Put me down as a huge proponent. It could dramatically improve the safety of the corridor by slowing down traffic considerably. I think it would look a lot prettier. The drawings have a very interesting iteration of a two-way Broadway.”
Ambrosino said this month that after the meeting with the downtown stakeholders, including the businesses, they would come up with a decision on the matter.
All downtown business owners and employees are invited to attend the meeting, which takes place at 9 a.m. at the Greenhouse Apartments Community Room, 154 Pearl St.