Another case involving officer who shot Corey Jones ends in plea

Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja shot and killed Corey Jones, 31, on an Interstate 95 off ramp at PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens on Oct. 18, 2015.
Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja shot and killed Corey Jones, 31, on an Interstate 95 off ramp at PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens on Oct. 18, 2015.

A Palm Beach Gardens woman facing charges of drug possession and driving with a suspended license has become the latest person arrested by the same officer who shot Corey Jones to accept a plea offer and avoid a potential trial.

According to court records, former Palm Beach Gardens officer Nouman Raja arrested 35-year-old Melanie Navarro on August 18, exactly two months before his deadly encounter with 31-year-old stranded motorist Corey Jones, who was waiting for a tow truck  at the exit ramp of Interstate 95 at PGA Boulevard when Raja approached him in plainclothes and eventually opened fire, killing him.

» RELATED: Read The Palm Beach Post’s full coverage of the Corey Jones shooting

Navarro was charged possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, possession of drug paraphernalia, and driving on a suspended license. According to court records, Navarro accepted a plea agreement Wednesday and was sentenced to the 32 days she has already served in jail on the charges.

Raja, an eight-year veteran with the Atlantis Police Department, began working for Palm Beach Gardens Police in April and was still on probation at the time he shot Jones. Raja said he shot Jones because the popular drummer came towards him with a gun.

Corey Jones, a 31-year-old drummer and property manager, was shot to death Oct. 18.
Corey Jones, a 31-year-old drummer and property manager, was shot to death Oct. 18.

Palm Beach Gardens fired Raja shortly after the shooting but offered no reason. Because he was still on probation, they explained, they could fire him without cause.

Since Jones’ shooting, prosecutors have either dropped charges against or made plea offers to at least a half dozen defendants in cases for which Raja was the arresting officer.

In one of the most recent cases, Matthew Oshman was facing burglary, petit theft and other charges connected to three separate cases but took a plea and agreed to a term of probation that included jail time on the morning his trial was to begin.


Madoff victims still want billions from Jeffry Picower’s estate

More than six years after Jeffry Picower was found dead in the pool of his Palm Beach mansion, those who blame him for helping Bernard Madoff orchestrate the biggest financial fraud in the nation’s history are still trying get his heirs to pay up.

In this Nov. 26, 2005 photo, Barbara and Jeffry Picower attend the Association of Fund-Raising Professionals' annual Philanthropy Day Luncheon in Palm Beach, Fla. On Friday, Dec. 17, 2010, Barbara Picower agreed to return $7.2 billion that her late husband made through his association with disgraced financier Bernard Madoff. (AP Photo/Palm Beach Daily News, Jeffrey Langlois) MANDATORY CREDIT; NO SALES; TV OUT; MAGS OUT
Barbara and Jeffry Picower in 2005, four years before he drowned in the pool of the couple’s Palm Beach mansion.

West Palm Beach attorney Joseph Galardi said Thursday he plans to appeal this week’s decision by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge who threw out an $11 billion lawsuit he filed against Picower’s estate on behalf of New York resident Pamela Goldman and A&G Goldman Partnership.

Further, Galardi filed another lawsuit in Palm Beach County Circuit Court this month, claiming millions that Picower’s widow, Barbara, is using to run the charitable JPB Foundation rightfully belongs to the thousands of victims of Madoff’s long-running Ponzi scheme.

(NYT17) NEW YORK -- Jan. 14, 2009 -- MADOFF-BAIL-1 -- Disgraced financier Bernard Madoff, center, heads to Federal District Court in lower Manhattan, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009. Federal prosecutors were challenging a ruling that allowed him to remain free on bail, although under house arrest in his luxury penthouse apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. (Michael Appleton/The New York Times) ORG XMIT: NYT17
Bernard Madoff heading into U.S. District Court in New York in 2009.

While both cases were filed on behalf of Goldman and the partnership, he is seeking to make both class-action lawsuits to benefit thousands who invested an estimated $20 billion with Madoff only to find out that the $65 billion he claimed they were worth came from phony profits that existed on paper only. The money was never invested. Arrested in December 2008, Madoff is now serving a 150-year prison sentence.

In his 37-page ruling his week, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Stuart Bernstein said the $7.2 billion settlement Barbara Picower reached with bankruptcy trustee Irving Picard in 2010 blocks Galardi’s attempts to seek more money for Madoff’s victims. As part of the settlement, a judge ordered a permanent injunction, barring creditors from “asserting claims duplicative or derivative of the claims” brought by Picard, Bernstein wrote.

Noting that the matter has been litigated extensively in various lawsuits, Bernstein cautioned against further litigation. While he rejected Barbara Picower’s request that he ban future lawsuits, he wrote: “the question is close.”

But, Galardi said, he isn’t challenging the injunction that was issued as part of the settlement that came a year after the billionaire medical entrepreneur drowned in the pool of his oceanfront home south of Southern Boulevard. While the amount Barbara Picower returned to Picard was eye-popping, scores of investors were forced to payback phony returns so Picard could redistribute the money to other investors.

In the lawsuits, Galardi is arguing that Jeffry Picower actively helped Madoff perpetuate the fraud. Therefore, his heirs should pay damages to those who were victimized by it, he said. “Picower was complicit,” Galardi said.

Picard, himself, made similar claims before reaching a settlement with Picard’s widow.

New York attorney William Zabel, who represents Barbara Picower in the New York litigation and is a director of the foundation that was formed to allow her to continue her charitable activities, wasn’t immediately available for comment. Well-known by Palm Beach County charitable organizations, Barbara Picower still gives money to the Kravis Center through the JPB Foundation, tax records show.

Man gets 12 life sentences for 2012 shootout with police

Michael Wallach
Michael Wallach

UPDATE 2:12 p.m.: In what could have been a self-fulfilling prophecy, Michael Wallach last week sat on a witness stand and told a Palm Beach County jury that if he returned to prison again, the only way he would leave is in a coffin.

Circuit Judge Krista Marx officially made that prediction a reality for Wallach Thursday, sentencing him to 10 consecutive life sentences as well as what amounted to an additional two concurrent life sentences for a wild June 2012 crime spree that ended only after he shot at police and a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s helicopter.

Marx had no choice but to sentence Wallach to life on each of eight charges of  attempted murder of a law enforcement officer. But even if she had discretion, she told Wallach, she would have given him the maximum punishment.

“I know your attorneys have worked really hard to convince me that you’re someone capable of redemption, but I don’t see it,” Marx said. “It’s a shame, It’s a waste of life. I wish you luck in the department of corrections, I really do.”

Wallach remained stoic through his sentencing hearing, but his mother left the courtroom with both tears and angry words for the Lake Clarke Shores officers who eventually ended the gun battle with Wallach by shooting him in the arm and thigh on Shawnee Road.

“You buried him. You did it,” she told them on her way out. “You have no idea how painful this is.”

ORIGINAL POST: Michael Wallach, the 28-year-old man a jury convicted of attempted murder last week after they rejected his insanity defense for a 2012 shootout with police, is expected to learn his punishment Thursday afternoon.

Circuit Judge Krista Marx could sentence Wallach to as much as life in prison for the June 2012 incident where he shot at Lake Clarke Shores Police and a Palm Beach Sheriff’s helicopter in a desperate attempt to escape an arrest that would return him to prison.

Wallach testified in his own defense during his trial, saying most of his actions stemmed from trauma he suffered from a prior 21-month prison stint where he was attacked by a group of inmates and watched another inmate slash his  friend’s throat. The prospect of returning to prison for another five years  for an aggravated battery charge he picked up before his first prison term aggravated his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and rendered him legally insane, Assistant Public Defenders Travis Dunnington and Mattie Fore told jurors.

Assistant State Attorneys Danielle Sherriff and Alex Braunstein, on the other hand, told jurors that picking up new criminal charges by stealing one car, carjacking another woman to take another car, threatening police officers verbally and ultimately putting the officers’ lives in danger was the wrong response for someone who was actually trying to avoid prison.

Wallach is already serving 15 years in prison on an unrelated case.


Owner of Rumbass, brother handed 9-year terms in scam

The owner of Rumbass nightclub and his brother have been sentenced to 9-year prison terms for their roles in what federal prosecutors described as a $3 million staged accident scheme that ripped off dozens of insurance companies.

RELATED: PIP fraud not ended by “reforms,” Lake Worth and other cases showed

Janio Vico
Janio Vico

Janio and Jharildan “Harold” Vico were sentenced last week after  a nearly all-day hearing in front of U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg. She also ordered  Janio Vico, 32, who owned the Military Trail dance club, and his 34-year-old brother to pay $1.9 million in restitution.

Jharildan Vico
Jharildan Vico

A jury in October convicted the Lake Worth area brothers of 16 charges, including money laundering and mail fraud, in connection with V&V Rehabilitation, a clinic the brothers operated from 2009 to 2011 on 10th Avenue North near Boutwell Road.

Prosecutors claimed the clinic was a sham. No real treatment was offered and few of the patients who went there were actually injured, they said.

Like dozens of others who have been prosecuted in recent years, the two were taking advantage of the state law that requires Florida drivers to carry personal injury protection insurance and insurers to pay up to $10,000 for each person injured in a crash, a jury found.

The brothers hired people to get involved in traffic accidents and then billed insurance companies for treatment their clients either didn’t need or didn’t receive. The key to the operation was a chiropractor, who allowed the brothers to use her license to operate the clinic. The chiropractor, Jennifer Adams, was previously convicted, and testified against the brothers during the three-week trial.

Claiming the clinic was a legitimate health care operation, lawyers representing the Vicos have vowed to appeal the verdict.