Howard’s updates on 3 stories he’s been working for awhile

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Here's a little update on 3 stories we've been on for awhile.

First, the odd case of Maksud (Mak) Lacka. This guy ran a long-standing family safe business into the ground. He stopped delivering the safes for which customers had paid. Victims live all over the country.

He moved his business suddenly from Hackensack to Elmwood Park after I started investigating.

Hackensack police eventually busted him.

But the Bergen County prosecutor kicked the case over to Hackensack Municipal Court.

We were there for a number of court dates. Finally, a special session to dispose of Mak's case was scheduled for June 22.

Then the municipal prosecutor, of all people, pulled a fast one. Prosecutor Elsbeth Crusius decided to take a plea from Mak at the regular court session on June 13. She did it with just a few hours notice to the attorney who represented some victims in efforts to get their money back.


We wanted to ask her about that and a few other aspects of the case. But she sent us an email saying, "It is policy for the prosecutor not to comment on such matters."

In other words, she just didn't want to talk to us.

She told us to contact the Hackensack city manager's office.

But the city manager doesn't prosecute accused criminals. The prosecutor does.

As one person connected to the case suggested to us, it seems she didn't want media coverage for the plea.

But that would mean she didn't want you to be able to see how justice is done.

We hope that's not the case because that just raises more questions.

As for Mak Lacka, he pleaded out to ripping off three customers and agreed to make partial restitution. He'd previously paid back another victim.

And then there's Caryn Celestina. She was posing as a realtor on Staten Island. She'd get deposits and then not deliver the apartments people expected.

She slammed the door when I came by, but she couldn't keep out the NYPD. They busted her.

The Staten Island District Attorney's office tells us Celestina pleaded guilty to petit larceny and made full restitution.

And then there's contractor Ibrahim Ndao of BNI Supply in Brooklyn. He's another contractor who starts jobs and takes his sweet time finishing.

We had two women who came to us at the same time with problems. One paid a deposit to get her floor done and received nothing in return. A few days after I spoke with Ibrahim, she had her money.

The other woman, Ester Aron, of Valley Stream, wanted Ibrahim to finish the job on her home. A lot of small things still needed to be done. After we got involved Ibrahim came back and did some more work.

But come in, Ibrahim. Finish the job already. We'd love to report that good news.

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