Articles by

Paul Squire and Carrie Miller

11/24/14 3:46pm

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A Wading River man charged with felony assault in connection with a Monday morning stabbing in Wading River claimed at his arraignment that the other man involved in the fight stabbed himself to have him arrested.

James Ebbrecht, 28 years-old and dressed in plaid pajama pants and a sweatshirt, told Justice Richard Ehlers that the victim, 32-year-old Patrick Fontaine, also of Wading River, came to his driveway Monday morning to fight and then slashed Mr. Ebbrecht. (more…)

10/07/14 3:53pm
Tom Cutinella's family embrace after the teen's funeral Tuesday morning. The 16-year-old was killed after being injured while playing football last week.

Tom Cutinella’s family embraces after the teen’s funeral Tuesday morning. The 16-year-old was killed after being injured while playing football last week. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Tom Cutinella was a gifted athlete, an exceptional student and a patriotic young man who planted flags at Calverton National Cemetery and had dreams of going to West Point, his father Frank said to hundreds during a eulogy opening his funeral service Tuesday morning.

But while the teen loved his country and competing in sports, to Tom, his family always came first.  (more…)

04/22/14 3:46pm
An orange sign on the locked door of Blue Agave Mexican Grill announcing that the restaurant was seized Tuesday afternoon. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

An orange sign on the locked door of Blue Agave Mexican Grill announcing that the restaurant was seized Tuesday afternoon. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

State tax officials shut down an East Main Street burrito joint Tuesday afternoon for failing to pay thousands of dollars in state sales taxes — but the restaurant’s owner told the News-Review he’s going to pay back the state Department of Taxation and Finance and that the eatery won’t be closed for long.

“I’m working with them now, and it’s going to be reopened definitely next week,” owner Ken Loo said.

The doors of Blue Agave Mexican Grill, which opened in 2012 and had, of late, only accepted cash payments, were locked Tuesday afternoon. Customers were greeted by multiple bright orange signs informing them that the property had been “seized for nonpayment of taxes and is now in the possession of New York State.”

According to the state tax warrant system, five tax liens have been filed against the restaurant since 2012, four of which are current — totaling $13,804. A New York State Tax Assessment spokesperson said that, in order for the restaurant to reopen, Mr. Loo will need to pay a total of $8,187 for nonpayments from 2013.

Mr. Loo — who also runs the sushi restaurant Haiku out of the same East Main Street building as Blue Agave as well as the Hy Ting Chinese restaurant on West Main Street — said he had to focus his attention on the Birchwood restaurant after his brother James, who owned and operated the Polish Town bar, died suddenly in January.

Mr. Loo said he discovered Birchwood was five weeks behind on payroll.

“I had to pay those guys,” he said. “A lot of things I can live with, like owing the state money. But I can’t owe people that have been working there for 30 years and not give them their paychecks.”

In addition to the money owed from Blue Agave, two liens totaling $13,659 were filed against Hy Ting and one for $14,149 was filed against Haiku, according to state records.

Mr. Loo said he had been in the process of paying for the taxes owed by Hy Ting and Haiku, and had a year to pay off the Blue Agave’s lien, but instead chose to use the money at Birchwood to “keep it afloat.”

When the deadline for Blue Agave’s payments came and went, the state stepped in.

Finding that tax agents had seized the restaurant and changed the locks was no surprise, Mr. Loo said.

“They change the locks and, when you give them the money, they give you the key,” he said.

He told the News-Review he would pay the state taxes in full to reopen the restaurant and was confident that, despite a “brutal” winter, the eatery would survive.

“I don’t want to see that place go,” he said. “It’s going to be open again … All three are still going to be there.”

02/27/14 1:10pm
Digger O'Dell's on West Main Street in Riverhead. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Digger O’Dell’s on West Main Street in Riverhead. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

The annual fundraiser for Cornell University’s Long Island Horticulture Research & Extension is set for next Thursday, March 6, in Riverhead.

The buffet dinner will include pasta, chicken, beef and potato dishes, served by “celebrity bartenders” from the horticulture industry like greenhouse owners, landscapers, local farmers and growers.

“This is really a good fundraiser for us,” said Diane Hanwick, an administrator at the extension. “This is one of the big ones.”

Ms. Hanwick said Digger’s owner Steve Wirth offers up the space for free for the fundraiser and donates nearly all of the proceeds to Cornell — he only asks that the tips remain with his waiters.

“He’s been very generous,” she said.

Mark Bridgen, center director and professor of horticulture, said the fundraising event is in its tenth year, and has proven to be a fun night, bringing those interested in agriculture together.

Farming experts that work at the center include plant pathologists, an entomologist, grape specialists and others. They research local and regional growing methods designed to increase crop yields, improve crop quality, decrease production and marketing costs and increase production and marketing efficiency for local farmers.

They do all this while working to preserve the local environment, according to the Cornell website.

The event is priced at $20 per person, and all income collected from the meals will be donated to Cornell’s Riverhead center.

The campus, a now 68-acre facility, features state-of-the-art greenhouses, a nursery and container production area, and a plant tissue culture facility. It was established on a 30-acre farm in 1922.

Each summer the center hires student interns to help run the experimental growing operations. A portion of the proceeds will go toward funding the student interns, Mr. Bridgen said.

Digger O’Dell’s is located at 58 West Main St. in Riverhead.

02/25/14 3:00pm
GOOGLE MAPS PHOTO | Several break-ins were reported across Wading River this weekend, according to police reports.

GOOGLE MAPS PHOTO | Several break-ins were reported across Wading River this weekend, according to police reports.

A strip of businesses in Wading River were burglarized over the weekend, with thousands of dollars in copper pipe stolen from one entrepreneur’s store, according to one victim and Riverhead Town police. A separate string of burglaries were also discovered at six Hulse Landing Road cottages, police said.


10/31/13 1:18am
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | This Hess station on Edwards Avenue was robbed at gunpoint Wednesday night, authorities said. The robber remains at large.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | The Hess station on Edwards Avenue that was robbed at gunpoint Wednesday night, police said. The robber remains at large.

It had been a quiet night for Hess gas station clerk Mohammed Kahn.

Unlike during the busy summer months, there were no customers inside the station’s market on Edwards Avenue near the Long Island Expressway on-ramp Wednesday.

About 7:45 p.m., Mr. Kahn said a customer — a man in his 30s wearing a black hat and black clothing — walked in through the doors and up to the counter. The man told Mr. Kahn to give him money from the register.

The cashier, the only employee working at the time, thought it was a prank.

“I was looking to him like he was joking,” Mr. Kahn told the News-Review.

That’s when the man pulled out a handgun and pointed it at the clerk, demanding the cash.

Mr. Kahn quickly realized the man wasn’t kidding. Mr. Kahn said he gave the robber cash from the register and the man ran away from the station.

No one was injured in the robbery.

Riverhead Town police responded to Mr. Kahn’s call to 911 moments later, and searched the scene for the robber.

“They came right away,” Mr. Kahn said. “They’re very fast.”

Suffolk County police reached the gas station soon after Riverhead cops and took over the investigation. The Hess station sits about a quarter-mile into the Suffolk County police’s jurisdiction.

Town police described the suspect as a white male standing about 6-feet-tall and wearing dark clothing. He was last seen running north along Edwards Avenue and remains at large.

Suffolk County Police Department detectives are actively investigating the robbery, county police said.

Mr. Kahn said Suffolk County sheriffs often stop by the mart by while patrolling the area, but no police were nearby when the robbery occurred.

“[The robber] was lucky,” he said.

Still, he’s confident the robber will be caught; the suspect was caught on surveillance footage, Mr. Kahn said.

Mr. Kahn, better known to his customers as Assad, has been working at the Hess station for 12 years and said he had never been robbed before.

But in recent years, he said, the neighborhood around the station has been changed by more drugs on the street.

“I see girls and boys come by, they look like they came from good homes,” Mr. Kahn said. “There’s a lot of drugs.”

10/01/13 10:38am

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Rick Mascia, 21, is led into Riverhead Town Justice Court for his arraignment on a burglary charge Tuesday morning.

Two men — including a man wanted for violating probation — are being held at Suffolk County jail Tuesday afternoon after they were arrested on burglary charges Monday in Mastic Beach hours after a break-in at a Wading River home earlier that day, according to a police statement.

Ryan Mercado, 21, of Shirley and Rick Mascia, 21, were arraigned in Riverhead Town Justice Court Tuesday morning on second-degree burglary charges in connection with the theft, police said.

A resident at the targeted home on 15th Street called police at 1:19 a.m. to report her house had been “forcibly entered,” police said. The woman told police $4,000 in cash had been taken from the home.



“It looks like they just kicked in the front door,” said police Lt. Robert Peeker.

Detectives gathered information and found Mr. Mercado and Mr. Mascia were staying at the Smith Point Motel, arresting the men just after noon.

Some of the stolen money was recovered, police said.

A bench warrant out of county court had been issued for Mr. Mascia for violating probation in connection with a driving while intoxicated arrest in 2012, his attorney said in court.

Mr. Mascia is being held on $10,000 bail, while Mr. Mercado is being held on $2,500 bail.

“Right now I’m broke. I just have a bad habit,” Mr. Mercado said when asked how he supported himself.