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Morristown attorney will likely avoid prison for misuse of client funds August 12, 2009

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Paul Hirsh,  a former Morristown-based attorney (now out of Washington, D.C.)  pleaded guilty today to forgery and misapplying $47,500 in client-settlement funds that were supposed to be deposited in trust accounts.  The State had alleged that he improperly deposited funds from settlements involving three clients into his own personal account to help run his failing  law office.

Hirsh’s biggest problem with this case is that he forged settlement checks involving two clients.   While only a fourth degree crime, the forgery adds a criminal element to the entire case which is otherwise just an attorney ethics issue.  Its one thing to screw up a trust account, its another to forge checks.  You can’t sell your defense theory to the jury with no real defense to the forgery count. 

However, I see no reason to take this plea deal.  Why not take this case to trial?  He can’t do much worse than the probation with 364 anyway even if he was convicted.  He was only facing third and fourth degree crimes.  Although he had a great defense attorney in John Whipple so I will assume that this was well thought out.

Click here for the story.


Will Brian Stack get caught up in Operation Bid Rig III? August 2, 2009

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Yesterday, the Record reportedthat a donation of $4,000 from BH Property Management shows up on a 2007 campaign finance report for Union City First, a political action committee linked to Union City Mayor Brian Stack.  The company has been identified in a federal complaint as “an FBI undercover company” that was used to facilitate money laundering.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that every dollar the company gave was used or intended to be used to facilitate criminal activity. 

However, this story comes a day after the Star Ledger reportedthat Solomon Dwek, the cooperating witness who was at the heart of the 44 arrests of Operation Bid Rig III which ensnared three mayors, two state assemblymen and five rabbis.    Dwek reportedly gave $2,600 to Stack as well as $3,500 to U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.  Menendez claimed to not know who Dwek was.

It seems like Stack has either been contacted by law enforcement or had some indication that he would be looked at as he has hired attorney Dennis McAlevy.  McAlevy has also represented former Hoboken Mayor Anthony J. Russo who pled guilty  to extorting $317,220 from accounting firm in exchange for contracts.  Russo was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

I’m sure that as OBR3 moves on, some of the 44 people will provide evidence against others who have not been arrested yet.  Whether or not Stack is one of them remains to be seen.

Contractor arrested for theft by deception August 1, 2009

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Robert D. Hamway of Toms River, who is not a licensed contractor, was arrested and charged with theft by deception after allegedly taking money to fix a roof but never performing the work. 

These cases are common but in my opinion, most of them are not criminal cases.  Instead, they are civil cases where the customer does not want to go to civil court for a number of reasons.  While I have little to no facts here, my experience tells me that the customer got fed up at some point and asked for his money back.  However, Hamway may have dodged phone calls or told the customer that the money was on the way, when it never really was.  It is that conduct that occurs after the transaction that tends to push this into criminal court.

Story is here.

Utah law firm indicted for H-2B visa program fraud August 1, 2009

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James Hector Alcala, his law firm the Alcala law firm, seven current or former employees and a property management company have all been indicted for an alleged immigration fraud scheme.  Authorities allege that the firm lied on applications to help 10 companies in Salt Lake, Utah and Davis counties get work visas for ineligible foreign workers. 

The H-2B visa program allows employers to petition for permits that allow foreign nationals to work temporarily in the United States. More than 700 petitions filed by the Salt Lake City firm led to the issuance of more than 5,000 work visas. The majority of those were fraudulent.

This is the type of case where the number of people arrested can increase exponentially if authorities find evidence that the companies working with the firm knew that the applications were fraudulent.  I’m sure at least some of the companies know, but proving it is another matter.  These other companies need attorneys right away to field inquiries from authorities. 

While it looks bad for Acala, I’m questioning the case against the other employees.  Authorities in these cases tend to believe that everyone is in on it.  However, most employees are “worker bees” that do what they are told without being told what is really going on.  With the benefit of the whole picture in front of them, authorities find it impossible to believe that everyone else wasn’t in on it.  I’ve seen this many times. 

Thus, attorneys for these other employees need to really look at the case from a number of angles to see if there is any real criminal exposure for their clients.  Law enforcement tends to exert a lot of pressure on attorneys in an effort to weaken their opinion of the case which in turn, will change the advice they give to their clients.  In these situations, attorneys need to counter this pressure and work to convince law enforcement that they have no case.  I’ve done this several times with great results.

Story is here.

11 week bribery trial ends in 5 hours July 30, 2009

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My heart goes out to Robin Lord.  She’s a great attorney.  After 11 long weeks of trial, her client, John Fiore was convicted  after just 5 hours of deliberations.  In my opinion, that tells me that it wasn’t even close which just has to kill you as an attorney.  There is no way that a jury can give serious consideration to 11 weeks of testimony in just 5 hours.  While I did not follow the trial, those two numbers alone tell me that most of the jury probably convicted him a few weeks ago.  Thus, this may have been a situation where, for whatever reason, there is little an attorney can do and no one could have done better. 

Press release:

TRENTON – Attorney General Anne Milgram and Criminal Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni announced that John Fiore, former executive vice president of the East Windsor Police Athletic League, was convicted at trial today of official misconduct and bribery for steering a PAL construction contract to a contractor who built a deck at his home free of charge.

According to Director Gramiccioni, Fiore, 63, of Allentown, was convicted by a Mercer County jury of conspiracy, bribery and official misconduct, all second-degree offenses. The verdict followed an 11-week trial before Superior Court Judge Mitchell Ostrer. The jury deliberated for five hours over a two-day period. Second-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison and a $150,000 fine. Judge Ostrer scheduled Fiore’s sentencing for Oct. 13.

Assistant Attorney General Lewis Korngut conducted the trial for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. The charges stem from an investigation by the Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor within the Division of Criminal Justice.

“This defendant selfishly and corruptly used his public position within the PAL for his personal gain,” Attorney General Milgram said. “Today’s verdict sends a loud message that this type of conduct will not be tolerated.”

The jury found that Fiore, a retired East Windsor police officer, used his position as an officer on the Board of Directors of the East Windsor PAL to steer a contract to Jeffrey Nemes to build the PAL a combined concession stand and administration building on Airport Road in East Windsor. The jury found that, in return for Fiore influencing the Board of Directors to hire Nemes’ company, Nemes built a $12,000 deck, free of charge, at Fiore’s former home in Washington Township, Mercer County.

The state’s investigation revealed a conspiracy among Fiore, Nemes and a third man, Marc Rossi, to arrange for Nemes Construction Company to get the contract and overcharge the East Windsor PAL for the project. The PAL paid Nemes a total of $274,046, which was at least $90,000 more than what the building should have cost. Rossi received $5,000 for his role in arranging the deal between Fiore, the East Windsor PAL, and Nemes Construction Company.

The investigation was conducted and coordinated by Lt. Robert Stemmer, Civil Investigator Joseph Salvatore, Analyst Paula Carter, Deputy Attorney General Asha Vaghela and Assistant Attorney General Lewis Korngut. Stemmer and Salvatore were formerly assigned to the Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor but now are assigned to the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.

“This verdict is a tribute to the superb hard work and dedication of the Division of Criminal Justice’s investigative and trial teams,” Director Gramiccioni said. “Today’s conviction marks the conclusion of a 10-year investigation in which 12 people were convicted, resulting in seven people being sent to New Jersey State Prison.”

In March, Nemes, 43, of Hamilton, pleaded guilty to bribery, admitting he built the $8,000 deck for Fiore in return for the PAL contract. The judge ordered Nemes to pay $8,000 in restitution to the East Windsor PAL and imposed a five-year state prison sentence, concurrent to an eight-year sentence he was already serving on a 2007 bribery conviction obtained by the Division of Criminal Justice.

Rossi pleaded guilty to theft in 2003 in connection with the $5,000 payment involving the PAL. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

Nemes, a former Hamilton Township police officer, was convicted at trial in 2007 of offering two Hamilton Township fire chiefs up to $500 and other rewards if they would delay fire suppression and increase damage at fire scenes so as to increase potential profits for Nemes’ company and an insurance adjustment firm owned by Rossi. That conviction led to his prior eight-year state prison sentence. Assistant Attorney General Korngut also represented the state in that trial.

In addition, Nemes pleaded guilty in March to theft for stealing insurance money from four fire victims who hired him for repairs that he never completed. For that charge, Nemes received a concurrent jail sentence and was ordered to pay $74,472 in restitution.

Rossi pleaded guilty in 2003 to bribery and operating an “arson-for-profit” insurance fraud scheme. Rossi admitted to intentionally setting at least six fires in the Trenton area in 1999 so his public insurance adjustment business would be hired to adjust the insurance claims. Rossi was sentenced to eight years in prison and was ordered to pay $542,853 in restitution and a $50,000 insurance fraud fine.

Ponzi schemes continue to roll up July 30, 2009

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Some of the ponzi schemes that surfaced over the past year are starting to plea out.  The latest includes Marcia Sladich, the former operator of a Clifton-based real estate investment program.  She admitted that she fraudulently stole more than $15 million from hundreds of investors.  She pleaded guilty on Thursday in federal court to a one-count information charging her with mail fraud.  Under federal sentencing guidelines, she faces up to 78 months in prison but of course, the guidelines are no longer mandatory.

After the circus that was the Madoff case, I would want a few more of these cases to shake out first before tempting fate.  Conventional wisdom has traditionally been that a good attorney can shave years off the sentencing guidelines in a white collar crime case.  My firm has made that a reality.  Of course, post-Madoff, some judges might want to send an example especially when the victims are in the hundreds.  A six and a half year sentence in a  $15 million case is pretty good deal so we’ll have to see what the judge hands down.

Story is here.

Mortgage fraud crackdown continues July 28, 2009

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Six people, including an attorney were charged by the FBI this week with wire fraud.  With many of these investigations, the allegations stem from incidents that occurred in 2005.  As 2010 nears, the Feds have to focus on cases from 2005 or risk running into the statute of limitations.

Of course, the mortgage industry didn’t fall apart until 2008, so we will see these cases crop up for years to come.

Press release:

Six Mortgage Industry Insiders Charged by FBI and IRS

NEWARK, NJ—FBI Special Agent In Charge Weysan Dun announced today the arrest of Daniel Verdia, Don Apolito, Jaye Miller, and Chrystal Paling (all on Tuesday, July 21), as well as the surrender of Robert Gorman and Philip Blanch (on Friday, July 24)—all in connection with a mortgage fraud scam operated out of an office in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey. All of the arrests occurred without incident. The six defendants are each charged with one count of wire fraud, in a joint investigation between the FBI and IRS titled “Operation Follow The Money.”

The investigation centered around activities occurring between February and September of 2005. According to the criminal complaint, the defendants obtained five mortgage loans by fraud between February and September of 2005 and deceptively converted the proceeds of those loans to their own use. This was done by first misrepresenting to the buyers and sellers the terms of the mortgage financing the purchase, the disbursements of the mortgage proceeds, and the source of the proceeds to pay off the mortgages, among other details. The second phase of the fraud involved falsifying information on the mortgage loan applications—namely the income and assets of the purchasers on the loans, the source of the down payments on new purchases, and the disbursements of cash related to the mortgage proceeds. The defendants allegedly accomplished their misdeeds through numerous interstate wire transfers. In the end, the only people who made a profit were Verdia, Miller, Apolito, Gorman, Blanch, and Palings.


According to the complaint, Verdia, age 51, has owned and operated mortgage brokerage companies since 2001, beginning with Challenge Mortgage Services, LLC which was located at 377 Route 17, Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey. Challenge later became Monarch Mortgage Services, LLC, which eventually moved to 1 International Boulevard, Mahwah, New Jersey in 2007. In February of that year, Verdia and his associates closed Monarch and opened The Mortgage Exchange at the same address.  While he operated Monarch at the Hasbrouck Heights location, Verdia also owned Capital Investment Strategies (CIS), LLC which operated out of the same office and purportedly was the source of funds for Verdia’s real estate ventures. According to the complaint, CIS is a shell company used by Verdia and his associates to fraudulently conceal money.

Defendant Jaye Miller, age 50, has actively worked with Verdia since 2000 and has functioned as a loan officer and loan processor within Verdia’s companies. Miller was also a 50% owner of CIS and endorsed checks made out to that entity—monies that were allegedly proceeds of fraudulent activity. Robert Gorman, age 60, has also worked in many of Verdia’s businesses. Gorman obtained information from the mortgage applicants and processed the applications. This involved knowingly signing and submitting applications with false information, according to the allegations. Don Apolito, age 37, has done business with Verdia since 2002 and operated a number of companies that supplied warehouse lines of credit that funded Verdia’s alleged fraudulent transactions. All three of the companies operated by Apolito—Nina Funding, Matrix Funding, and the Mortgage Exchange—were operated out of Verdia’s Hasbrouck Heights office. Additionally, the complaint alleges that Apolito also served the same function as Gorman: knowingly signing and submitting loan applications with false information. Attorney Philip Blanch, age 69, closed all of loans in question. It was his responsibility to ensure the legality of the transactions and to verify the accuracy of the information in the closing documents and disbursement of funds.  Blanch did this by signing the federal Uniform Settlement Statements (HUD-1) forms involved in the transactions.  However, the complaint alleges Blanch was well aware that information he “verified” on the HUD-1 statements was false. Crystal Paling, age 49, worked for Blanch. The complaint alleges that Palings recruited individuals to purchase and sell the properties that were the subjects of fraud in this case. The complaint also alleges that Palings authored many of the documents associated with these transactions and facilitated the wire transfers to and from Blanch’s trust account.

The Scheme

The following outline is based on allegations made in the criminal complaint.  In the simplest terms, a victim home owner (two of which in this case were suffering financial hardship due to medical expenses) was convinced by one of the defendants named above to either sell or refinance his or her home through Monarch Mortgage Services, LLC as part of a foreclosure bailout scheme. The defendants then recruited a straw buyer who was promised a sum of $5,000 for his or her participation. The defendants explained to the straw buyer that the original owner would repurchase the home after a short period of time when the owner had recovered from financial difficulties. The defendants also told the straw buyers that the mortgage payments for the newly purchased properties would be paid by Monarch. The defendants then falsified the financial information in the paperwork associated with the transaction. In one of the transactions, the falsified application was submitted to one of the companies under Apolito’s control, Matrix Funding, for loan approval and then later sold to an outside mortgage company. But in all other cases, the fraudulent applications were submitted directly to outside mortgage lenders. Once the loans were approved, the mortgage lenders wired funds to Blanch’s attorney trust account. At Blanch’s direction, Palings, would then wire all or most of the proceeds to CIS as a fee or payment. In the end, three of the victim homeowners received no compensation whatsoever for the sale of their homes. Furthermore, one of those three victims suffering financial hardship was lead to believe he was refinancing his home when in reality, he sold it for a 100% loss. The other two victims received a fraction of the money they were legitimately owed. The defendants, however, all received financial compensation for each of the five transactions.  None of the resulting mortgages from these five transactions were ever paid and all of them went into default. The total fraud in these five transactions is estimated at $1 million. 

“Those who are engaged in foreclosure bailout schemes are opportunistic thieves,” said Weysan Dun. “The defendants in this matter are charged with preying on the financially weak and desperate, our lending industry, and ultimately the taxpayers.To swindle people out of the roofs over their heads is just deplorable. But we will continue working with our partners in uncovering these schemes, bringing the fraudsters to justice, and educating the public.”

Acting SAC Julio La Rosa, IRS-Criminal Investigations stated, “We will continue to work closely with our law enforcement counterparts at the FBI to investigate allegations of mortgage fraud. These types of financial crimes add to the underground economy, erode the integrity of our tax system, and threaten the financial health of our communities.”

White collar crime sentencing gets tougher in New Jersey July 27, 2009

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As a defense attorney in New Jersey, I’ve enjoyed great success in getting charges dropped a degree for sentencing purposes.  The case of State v. Lake, released today, just made this more difficult to achieve, even for white collar crime defendants as Lake is an official misconduct and bribery case. 

All you really need to know about Lake is that the Appellate Divison said “An analysis of the offense circumstances at once makes clear that this is not one of those rare cases that satisfies the interest of justice standard for a downgrade”.  Yup, rare cases.

While this does not make my job any easier, I don’t think it will impact my practice to a great extent as I have been able to pull off some amazing miracles at sentencing.  However, I’ll have to work extra hard to make sure the judges sees that my case is the rare case.  And, I can’t just say that its a non-violent offense. 
(NOTE: The status of this decision is Published.)













DOCKET NO. A-3988-07T43988-07T4








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Submitted May 18, 2009 – Decided




Before Judges Lisa, Sapp-Peterson and Alvarez.




On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Salem County, Indictment No. 06-11-00515-S.




Anne Milgram, Attorney General, attorney for appellant/cross-respondent (Jeanne Screen, Deputy Attorney General, of counsel and on the brief).




Law Offices of Edward J. Crisonino and Zucker Steinberg Sonstein & Wixted, P.A., attorneys for respondent/cross-appellant (Edward J. Crisonino, on the brief; Jeffrey C. Zucker, on the letter relying on the brief).




The opinion of the court was delivered by








After a bench trial, defendant was convicted of one count of second-degree official misconduct, N.J.S.A.and two counts of second-degree bribery, N.J.S.A.After merging one bribery count with the other, the judge sentenced defendant, pursuant to N.J.S.A.to terms appropriate to a crime one degree lower than those of which he was convicted. The judge imposed concurrent three-year terms of imprisonment for official misconduct and the merged bribery counts. He also entered an order directing that defendant forfeit his public office and be forever disqualified from holding any such office. See N.J.S.A. 2C:51-2. 2C:44-1f(2), 2C:27-2a. 2C:30-2a,


Within ten days of the imposition sentence, the State filed an appeal pursuant to N.J.S.A.contending that the court erred in imposing a sentence appropriate for a crime one degree lower. Defendant’s sentence has been stayed pending appeal. See State v. Sanders, 107 N.J. 609, 617 n.7 (1987). 2C:44-1f(2),


Defendant filed a cross-appeal. His sole argument is that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of second-degree offenses, and he should have been convicted only of third-degree official misconduct and bribery.


We agree with the State and reverse on its appeal. We reject defendant’s argument and affirm on his cross-appeal.






We set forth in some detail the factual background because it is necessary to our analysis of the issues raised on both the appeal and cross-appeal.


Defendant was the mayor of the Township of Carneys Point. That municipality operates under a form of government in which the voters elect five township committee members who exercise legislative authority and appoint a mayor from amongst themselves. The mayor’s appointment authority is subject to approval of the Township Committee.


Defendant’s term of office was scheduled to end in 2006. He was running as a Republican candidate for reelection in the November 2006 general election. Defendant was also a member of the Township’s Sewerage Authority and served as the emergency management coordinator for Salem County. Defendant had a long history in local politics at both the municipal and county levels.


In 2006, the makeup of the Township Committee was three Republicans and two Democrats. Because defendant was up for reelection, if his seat was won by a Democrat, control of the local governing body would change parties. Anthony Rullo was the Democratic candidate opposing defendant. Rullo had previously served a term on the Township Committee as a Republican. After losing his seat in the prior election, he switched his party affiliation. Rullo was also a member of the Township Sewerage Authority.


Prior to July 4, 2006, defendant approached Rullo and proposed that if Rullo would withdraw as a candidate, he would be guaranteed reappointment to the Sewerage Authority when his term expired. On July 4, 2006, defendant went to Rullo’s home and again discussed Rullo’s Sewerage Authority reappointment. Defendant also proposed that he could arrange for Rullo to obtain part-time mechanical work for the Authority, which would enable him to earn some extra money. This was the type of work Rullo had done when employed by DuPont, before his retirement. Expanding upon the proposal, defendant told Rullo he wanted him to wait until less than sixty days before the election to drop out so the ballots would already be printed and his party could not offer a replacement candidate. Thus, defendant would be able to run unopposed and would likely be assured reelection.


Rullo and his wife were raising three grandchildren due to personal difficulties of their daughter (the children’s mother). Rullo informed his campaign manager about defendant’s overtures, and his campaign manager reported the information to the Salem County Prosecutor’s Office.


On July 25, 2006, defendant again went to Rullo’s home. Defendant told Rullo he could not have the part-time job at the Sewerage Authority because to be eligible he would have to cease being a member of the Authority for at least one year. Defendant offered an alternative proposal. He said he could arrange for Rullo to be hired as the Township’s zoning and housing inspector. The person presently holding that position was out on extended medical leave. The Township was in the process of advertising to fill the position until the end of the year. Defendant again conditioned his offer on Rullo dropping out of the election race.


On August 1, 2006, Detective Sergeant Gary Sandes, then with the Official Corruption Unit of the New Jersey State Police, was assigned to investigate the allegations concerning defendant. He contacted Rullo, who described the conditional offers made by defendant. Rullo agreed to cooperate by tape recording his future conversations with defendant. Rullo made clear that he had no intention of dropping out of the election, and he agreed to report all contacts with defendant to the police.


As instructed by the police, Rullo filed an application for the zoning and housing inspector job. On August 9, 2006, Rullo recorded a conversation he had with defendant at Rullo’s home. Defendant explained that Rullo would be coached on how to conduct himself in the interview for the zoning and building inspector job and would be provided in advance with five prepared questions that would be asked at the interview. Rullo feigned concern that he had not served as a housing inspector for thirty years and had lost his familiarity with the applicable codes. Defendant assured him that he would have no problem, and, although another application had been submitted by a better qualified candidate, he assured Rullo that the other Township Committee members would go along with appointing him. Defendant also assured Rullo that he would be appointed to a full term as the zoning and housing inspector the following year as long as he performed the job reasonably for the remainder of the year.


In exchange for these assurances, defendant again asked Rullo to withdraw from the election less than sixty days before election day. In these discussions, defendant commented that his party would then continue in power for the next three years. Defendant also told Rullo that if he dropped out more than sixty days prior to the election and the Democrats were able to place a replacement candidate on the ballot, the deal would be off.


On August 30, 2006, Rullo recorded another conversation with defendant at Rullo’s home. Defendant again offered Rullo the zoning and housing inspector job for the remainder of 2006, and reappointment for the 2007 term, in exchange for his dropping out of the upcoming election sometime in mid-September. Defendant offered advice to Rullo about how he should present the withdrawal of his candidacy to other members of his party who supported him and expended party funds for his campaign. Defendant suggested, for example, that Rullo explain that he was in financial difficulty, being retired and unexpectedly raising his grandchildren, as a result of which he needed to accept employment with the Township to earn some money. Defendant also suggested that Rullo tell his party members he felt bad running against defendant. Defendant reiterated that Rullo would be coached through the interview process for the zoning and housing inspector job, and he again assured him he would be reappointed for the 2007 term as long as he did a decent job for the remainder of 2006.


Rullo told defendant that on his application, when asked what salary he expected, he simply “wrote down there whatever the, the base salary is now.” Defendant responded, “[Y]ou ain’t gonna get rich, but it’s not bad for part-time work.” He continued: “And let’s say in January I would, ah, my preference is I would, I would look to [be]cause John [the current office holder out on medical leave] won’t be there is to move you into his job title and work offa that salary.”


After the August 30, 2006 meeting, defendant and Rullo saw each other only once, at a Sewerage Authority meeting. They did not discuss anything related to defendant’s proposal. Rullo, who had never intended to drop out of the election, withdrew his application for the zoning and housing inspector job. He stayed in the election race and defeated defendant.


At trial, Rullo and Sandes were the only witnesses for the State. The recordings and corresponding transcripts of the August 9 and 30, 2006 meetings were admitted in evidence. The transcripts are part of the appellate record. Defendant did not testify and did not present any fact witnesses. He presented ten character witnesses, who attested to his upstanding character, excellent reputation in the community, and years of service in local politics.




We first address defendant’s argument that, because the State produced no evidence that the value of the benefits sought to be conferred on Rullo exceeded $200, he should have been convicted of only third-degree offenses.


The official misconduct statute provides, in relevant part:


A public servant is guilty of official misconduct when, with purpose to obtain a benefit for himself or another . . . :




a. He commits an act relating to his office but constituting an unauthorized exercise of his official functions, knowing that such act is unauthorized or he is committing such act in an unauthorized manner; . . .




. . . .




Official misconduct is a crime of the second degree. If the benefit obtained or sought to be obtained . . . is of a value of $200.00 or less, the offense of official misconduct is a crime of the third degree.




[N.J.S.A.(emphasis added).] 2C:30-2




The bribery statute provides, in relevant part:


A person is guilty of bribery if he directly or indirectly offers, confers or agrees to confer upon another, or solicits, accepts or agrees to accept from another:




a. Any benefit as consideration for a decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or exercise of discretion of a public servant, party official or voter on any public issue or in any public election; or




. . . .




c. Any benefit as consideration for a violation of an official duty of a public servant or party official; or




d. Any benefit as consideration for the performance of official duties.




For the purposes of this section “benefit as consideration” shall be deemed to mean any benefit not authorized by law.


. . . .




Any offense proscribed by this section is a crime of the second degree. If the benefit offered, conferred, agreed to be conferred, solicited, accepted or agreed to be accepted is of the value of $200.00 or less, any offense proscribed by this section is a crime of the third degree.




[N.J.S.A.(emphasis added).] 2C:27-2




Under the official misconduct statute, the benefit may be either that which defendant sought to obtain for himself or that which he sought to obtain for another. N.J.S.A.Likewise, under the bribery statute, the benefit may be either that which defendant “solicits, accepts or agrees to accept” from another or that which he “offers, confers or agrees to confer” upon another. N.J.S.A.In this case, the “benefits” for each of the crimes are both the value of the positions defendant offered to secure for Rullo and the benefit defendant sought to secure for himself in winning the election unopposed. 2C:27-2a. 2C:30-2a.


The definitional section applicable to both statutes defines “benefit” to mean “gain or advantage, or anything regarded by the beneficiary as gain or advantage, including a pecuniary benefit . . . .” N.J.S.A.A “pecuniary benefit” means a “benefit in the form of money, property, commercial interests or anything else the primary significance of which is economic gain.” N.J.S.A.The benefit need not be pecuniary. State v. Phelps, 187 N.J. Super. 364, 375 (App. Div. 1983), aff’d, 96 N.J. 500 (1984). 2C:27-1f. 2C:27-1a.


In Phelps, we held that official misconduct is a crime of the second degree and that, rather than forming a substantive element of the offense, the above-emphasized language from N.J.S.A.“carves out an exception” where the benefit obtained or sought to be obtained is of a value of $200 or less. Id. at 373-74. We concluded that the Legislature intended for courts construing the official misconduct statute to “start from the premise that the offense is of the second degree.” Id. at 375. We held that the carved out exception “is clearly pecuniary in nature” and did not apply to “a benefit not subject to pecuniary measurement.” Ibid. The reasoning in Phelps, which dealt with the official misconduct statute, leads to the same conclusion with respect to the bribery statute. Applying this reasoning, we recently affirmed a conviction for second-degree official misconduct of a volunteer firefighter who repeatedly called in false fire alarms in order to experience the joy of responding to them and possibly to give the volunteer fire department enough work to justify its existence, holding that “[b]ecause there was no pecuniary benefit, the misconduct was second degree.” State v. Quezada, 402 N.J. Super. 277, 286 (App. Div. 2008). 2C:30-2


Relying on Phelps, the trial judge found that the State’s failure to produce “direct proofs[] as to the value of any benefit that was involved in this case” did not defeat the second degree gradation of the offenses because of the distinction between benefits that are pecuniary in nature and those that are not. With respect to the latter, the presumed second-degree grade applies. Alternatively, the judge found that, if it was necessary to place a pecuniary value on the benefits intended to be conferred on Rullo, he would find as a matter of fact that the value exceeded $200 and that “no reasonable mind to the contrary could maintain a credible . . . argument.”


We agree with the judge’s analysis. Both pecuniary and non-pecuniary benefits are involved in this case. Defendant sought to obtain for himself the benefit of winning an unopposed election. Because that benefit is not subject to pecuniary measurement, the State was not required to provide evidence as to any pecuniary value with respect to it. Defendant also offered Rullo municipal jobs, both of which had the “primary significance of . . . economic gain” for Rullo. See N.J.S.A.The benefits resulting from those jobs constituted pecuniary benefit to Rullo. The trial judge recognized that, although the State offered no direct evidence to prove their monetary worth, the jobs would obviously bring Rullo a benefit of more than $200 in wages. The record contains sufficient credible evidence to support this inferential finding. State v. Johnson, 42 N.J. 146, 162 (1964). The finding is similar to the observation we made in Phelps that, because of the scope of the gambling operation involved, even if the State had the burden of proving that the benefit was of a value of over $200, the jury “could hardly have found the value to be $200 or less . . . [because] the gambling operation was quite large . . . [and] [t]he value of the benefit that defendant conferred on the operations by his inaction in permitting the operation to continue surely exceeded $200.” Phelps, supra, 187 N.J. Super. at 376 n.5. 2C:27-1f.


Therefore, under either alternative, the judge correctly found defendant guilty of second-degree official misconduct and bribery.




We now address the sentencing issue raised by the State. The State argues that the trial court erred in imposing a sentence appropriate for a crime one degree lower than that of the second-degree crimes of which defendant was convicted. We agree with the State.


We first note the aspects of the sentence that are not in dispute. Second-degree crimes carry a presumption of imprisonment. N.J.S.A.The judge found that the presumption was not overcome, as a result of which the sentence must be one of imprisonment. Defendant does not dispute this. Although the State argued in the trial court against merger of the two bribery convictions, it does not raise that issue before us, and thus acquiesces in the merger. The State acknowledged in the trial court that concurrent sentencing on all of defendant’s convictions would be appropriate, and it does not now argue otherwise. Therefore, the only issue before us is whether the judge erred by imposing a three-year sentence, within the third-degree range of three to five years, see N.J.S.A.rather than within the five to ten year range provided for second-degree crimes, see N.J.S.A.To justify the three-year sentence, the judge invoked the authority of N.J.S.A.which provides: 2C:44-1f(2), 2C:43-6a(2). 2C:43-6a(3), 2C:44-1d.


In cases of convictions for crimes of the first or second degree where the court is clearly convinced that the mitigating factors substantially outweigh the aggravating factors and where the interest of justice demands, the court may sentence the defendant to a term appropriate to a crime of one degree lower than that of the crime for which he was convicted.




The judge recognized the two-step process required by the statute. The first required an analysis of aggravating and mitigating factors. He found two aggravating factors: (4) a lesser sentence will deprecate the seriousness of the offense because it involved a breach of the public trust under chapters 27 and 30; and (9) the need for deterrence. See N.J.S.A.and (9). The judge found the presence of the following mitigating factors: (1) defendant’s conduct neither caused nor threatened serious harm; (5) the victim (Rullo) of defendant’s conduct induced or facilitated its commission; (7) defendant has no prior criminal history; (8) defendant’s conduct was the result of circumstances unlikely to recur; and (9) the character and attitude of defendant indicate he is unlikely to commit another offense. See N.J.S.A.(5), (7), (8) and (9). The judge acknowledged that mitigating factor (5) was of dubious application because the true victim here is the public. The judge found that, even without mitigating factor (5), he was clearly convinced that, upon qualitative analysis, the mitigating factors substantially preponderated over the aggravating factors. Therefore, the first component of the two-step test prescribed by N.J.S.A.was satisfied. 2C:44-1f(2) 2C:44-1b(1), 2C:44-1a(4)


Based upon our review of the record, we are satisfied that the judge’s findings as to the presence of aggravating and mitigating factors and the weight to be attributed to each of them (except as to mitigating factor (5)), are supported by substantial credible evidence in the record. Likewise, the judge’s finding of a substantial preponderance of the mitigating over the aggravating factors is amply supported by the record. As to the second component of the two-part test, that “the interest of justice demands” sentencing one degree lower, the judge found:


He’s obviously led an exemplary public life, excluding, of course, these salient events. He’s given the public — it’s so obvious, he’s given the public far more than he took. . . . [H]is private life has been equally one of charity and warmth towards his family. But not only his family . . . but also to others who perhaps, as I’ve read, are persons who he didn’t even know or didn’t know well. He served in public office with — again, excluding these events — with distinction.




The whole person concept, which is one that we’re invited to look at, does cry out for a third degree range.




The evils that were afoot in this matter did not occur. And that’s something that — I know I stated that before, but citing it as a reason now to sentence in a one degree lower needs repeating. Mr. Rullo did not get a job. He did not withdraw. The forfeiture of office is a significant penalty in and of itself, which has deterrent effect as well. Seven years, as the State suggests, is simply over the top. I don’t know how else to say it. It’s just over the top for a first offender with these facts.




. . . It’s more than necessary. It’s more than the public demands. It’s permitted for the Court to make that adjustment. There is — there is a case, [State v. Evers, 175 N.J. 355 (2003)], which suggests — perhaps holds, but certainly suggests that the whole person concept, the things that I’ve mentioned and the exemplary life that he has led throughout his public and private are factors which the Court can consider, not in overcoming the presumption of incarceration but in sentencing one degree lower.




No citizen of Salem County is going to be shocked or have a shocked conscience. I’m not going to read this tomorrow morning in one of our newspapers and say, look at this, what happened, three years, is that all? . . . .




There will be an abundance of deterrence that goes forward. Discretion in sentencing, when allowed by our law, ought to be exercised where appropriate, and this is one of those cases where I feel it is appropriate.




Accordingly, I would sentence Mr. Lake to three years New Jersey State Prison on the official misconduct; three years concurrent on the merged bribery charges.




In the seminal case interpreting the term “interest of justice” in N.J.S.A.our Supreme Court cautioned that a downgrade decision under this provision should be limited to cases in which a defendant can provide “compelling reasons” for the downgrade. State v. Megargel, 143 N.J. 484, 501-02 (1996). The reasons supporting the interest of justice prong must be “in addition to, and separate from” the mitigating factors which substantially outweigh the aggravating factors and thus satisfy the first prong. Id. at 502. 2C:44-1f(2),


Although the surrounding circumstances and the need for deterrence may be taken into account, the severity of the crime remains the single most important factor in considering whether the interest of justice demands a downgrade. Id. at 500 (citing State v. Hodge, 95 N.J. 369, 379 (1984)). Recognizing that the principles underlying the Criminal Code favor deterrence and protection of the public over rehabilitation and are designed to foster uniformity in sentencing, the Court emphasized that “[t]he focus on the offense rather than the offender is inexorable in formulating a sentence.” Ibid.


The Court held that, in evaluating the severity of the crime, trial courts must consider the nature of the circumstances pertaining to the offense. Ibid. If the surrounding circumstances of an offense make it very similar to a lower degree offense, a downgraded sentence may be appropriate. Ibid. The Court cited the following illustrative examples:


For example, a defendant who simulates having a gun by placing his hand in his pocket can be convicted of first-degree robbery. Such a crime, however, is very similar to second-degree robbery.




Although the degree of the crime is the focus of the sentence, facts personal to the defendant may be considered in the sentencing process. Courts should consider a defendant’s role in the incident to determine the need to deter him from further crimes and the corresponding need to protect the public from him. Was the defendant the mastermind, a loyal follower, an accomplice whose shared intent is problematic, or an individual who is mentally incapable of forming the necessary criminal intent?




[Id. at 500-01 (citations omitted).]




Thus, the Court made it clear that, because the focus remains on the offense and not the offender, the surrounding circumstances used as compelling reasons for a downgrade should arise from within the context of the offense itself. Ibid. The Court instructed trial courts to “state why sentencing the defendant to the lowest range of sentencing for the particular offense for which he was convicted, is not a more appropriate sentence than a downgraded sentence under section 44-1f(2).” Id. at 502.


The Court also held that the “interest of justice” standard of N.J.S.A.is not the same as the “serious injustice” standard for overcoming the presumption of imprisonment applicable to first and second-degree convictions under N.J.S.A.Id. at 499. The statutory presumption of imprisonment provides: 2C:44-1d. 2C:44-1f(2)


The court shall deal with a person who has been convicted of a crime of the first or second degree . . . by imposing a sentence of imprisonment unless, having regard to the character and condition of the defendant, it is of the opinion that his imprisonment would be a serious injustice which overrides the need to deter such conduct by others.




[N.J.S.A.(emphasis added).] 2C:44-1d




In Megargel, the Court recognized that the two statutes address “qualitatively different situations,” with N.J.S.A.being geared toward the initial determination of whether a defendant will be “in or out” of prison rather than the length of term scenario confronted by the downgrade provision of N.J.S.A.Supra, 143 N.J. at 499. Thus, the Court held that the compelling reasons required to satisfy the interest of justice for a downgrade under N.J.S.A.present a “somewhat lower standard” than the “truly extraordinary and unanticipated circumstances” required before a “serious injustice” may be found under N.J.S.A.Id. at 501-02. 2C:44-1d. 2C:44-1f(2) 2C:44-1f(2). 2C:44-1d


In Evers, the Court stated that “[i]n permitting consideration of ‘the character and condition of the defendant’ in determining whether imprisonment would be a ‘serious injustice,’ [N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1d] left ‘a residuum of power in the sentencing court not to imprison in those few cases where it would be entirely inappropriate to do so.'” Evers, supra, 175 N.J. at 389 (quoting State v. Roth, 95 N.J. 334, 358 (1984)). Yet, in Evers, the Court considered only the serious injustice standard of N.J.S.A.and was not confronted with a downgrade issue under N.J.S.A.Id. at 397. In Megargel, before offering guidance on what types of circumstances justify a downgrade in the interest of justice, the Court specifically noted that N.J.S.A.contains “no reference to the defendant’s character or condition.” Supra, 143 N.J. at 499. 2C:44-1f(2) 2C:44-1f(2). 2C:44-1d


Our reading of these cases leads us to conclude that circumstances such as a defendant’s overall character or contributions to the community should not be considered under the interest of justice prong in the determination of whether or not to downgrade a sentence pursuant to N.J.S.A.This is an offense-oriented provision. Characteristics or behavior of the offender are applicable only as they relate to the offense itself and give fuller context to the offense circumstances. See, e.g., State v. Read, 397 N.J. Super. 598, 613-14 (App. Div.) (holding that a downgrade for a juvenile who pled guilty to first-degree robbery was not warranted because, although the defendant acted as the look-out while his confederate committed the robbery, “we see no basis for characterizing defendant’s role as only secondary . . . . [and no] evidence of the kind of psychological impairment that would be relevant to this determination”), certif. denied, 196 N.J. 85 (2008). 2C:44-1f(2).


Applying these principles, we agree with the State that the trial judge did not correctly apply the interest of justice prong of the downgrade provision as interpreted by Megargel. One aspect of the judge’s error was in relying on Evers to evaluate “the whole person.” In Evers, “the propriety of downgrading the child pornography distribution charge from a second-degree to a third-degree offense for the purpose of sentencing [was] not raised in [the] appeal.” Supra, 175 N.J. at 397. Evers dealt with the “serious injustice” standard for overcoming the presumption of imprisonment, which includes the statutory criteria of giving “regard to the character and condition of the defendant.” See N.J.S.A.Both in Evers and Megargel, the Court made clear that these are two different tests for two different purposes and, because of the differing statutory language and differing purposes, the tests are not the same. Consideration of the whole person is appropriate as part of the evaluation of the “character and condition of the defendant” for purposes of determining whether the presumption of imprisonment has been overcome. However, it is not appropriate in the “interest of justice” analysis of the downgrade provision. Thus, the judge erred in considering defendant’s many years of public service, his first offender status, his acts of kindness over the years to his family and members of the public, and the like. While appropriate for consideration as mitigating factors, and therefore applicable to the first prong, they have no application to the second prong. In essence, much of the judge’s rationale supporting the second prong was a restatement of the reasons underlying the various mitigating factors. This is contrary to Megargel‘s directive that the basis for the second prong must be separate and distinct from the mitigating factors. 2C:44-1d.


The judge’s only finding under the interest of justice prong dealing with the offense itself was that “[t]he evils that were afoot in this matter did not occur.” This fact supported the judge’s finding of mitigating factor (1), that defendant’s conduct did not cause or threaten serious harm. Aside from not being separate and distinct from the facts underlying the mitigating factors, we fail to see how it is relevant that defendant failed in his attempt to subvert the election process through official misconduct and bribery. He did not “see the light” and call off the arrangement. His plan was thwarted only because the person with whom he thought he had a deal was never complicit in the arrangement and refused to go through with it. This “fact” was not properly considered in minimizing the seriousness of defendant’s crimes.


We also find no significance in the fact that defendant was required to forfeit his public office and be forever barred from holding public office. This is a statutory consequence of his criminal conduct that was imposed upon him. Besides not being related to the offense, it was not something of his doing that should reduce the penal consequences of his criminal conduct.


An analysis of the offense circumstances at once makes clear that this is not one of those rare cases that satisfies the interest of justice standard for a downgrade. Defendant’s conduct spanned several months. He was the sole and direct architect of the scheme. It could not be said that this was an isolated act of aberrant behavior in which an otherwise law-abiding person exercised poor judgment on one occasion. Defendant persisted in his conduct, geared to stealing the election and subverting the electoral process that is at the foundation of our democracy. He met repeatedly with Rullo, attempting to persuade him to participate in the scheme, and offering him public employment, for which he may not have even been qualified, at public expense, as the quid pro quo for allowing defendant to run unopposed for public office. Defendant’s conduct was deliberate, persistent over several months, and flagrant. His conduct presented no compelling circumstances to remove it from the heartland of offenses of this type, to place it in a less egregious light, and to warrant a downgraded sentence.


We therefore reverse the sentence of three years imprisonment for second-degree official misconduct and the merged second-degree bribery offenses. Ordinarily, we would remand for resentencing in the second-degree range. However, as in Megargel, the sentencing judge is no longer on the bench. See Megargel, supra, 143 N.J. at 506. As we have stated, we are satisfied from our review of the record that the judge’s finding that the mitigating factors substantially predominate over the aggravating factors is well-founded. Accordingly, as did the Court in Megargel, see ibid., we deem this an appropriate circumstance in which to exercise original jurisdiction. See R. 2:10-5. Based upon the substantial preponderance of mitigating factors, we sentence defendant at the bottom of the second-degree range to five years imprisonment for official misconduct and to a concurrent term of five years imprisonment for the merged bribery convictions. The trial court shall enter an amended judgment of conviction to that effect.


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Reversed on the State’s appeal; affirmed on defendant’s cross-appeal. The stay of sentence is vacated.


The State makes a further argument that we should consider the Court’s admonition in Megargel that courts exercise special caution before downgrading a sentence for an offense for which the Legislature has provided for enhanced punishment. See supra, 143 N.J. at 503-04. That was the case in Megargel, where the offense was first-degree kidnapping, which carried a sentence greater than first-degree crimes generally carry. Ibid. In this case, at the time defendant committed the offenses, no enhanced punishment was provided. However, effective April 14, 2007, legislation was enacted providing for a minimum mandatory term of five years imprisonment without parole for certain second-degree offenses, including bribery and official misconduct. See N.J.S.A.L. 2007, c. 49, � 6. We decline to consider this argument, as it may have ex post facto implications. 2C:43-6.5,










































   July 27, 2009 








July 27, 2009

Indictment for $1.7 million in securities fraud illustrates an important first step for attorneys July 22, 2009

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I often say that, in the context of white collar crime, the difference between a criminal case and a civil case is thin, usually blurry line.  One of the key factors that pushes a case over to the criminal side of the line is personal use of money.  In other words, if the money at issue was used solely for business purposes, it will likely be a civil case.  Likewise, as soon as you use the same money to enrich yourself, you will be looking at criminal charges.

Thus, the first thing I do in any case that could turn into a white collar crime case is to get my client’s financial records to assess their criminal exposure.  The attorney’s actions at the first sign of trouble could impact the entire case.  If this is a civil case but the State thinks otherwise, you may have to play this card now.  If there is some serious criminal exposure, trying to get a favorable resolution early on may we worth considering.

A good example of a white collar crime case where the defendant’s personal expenses will be at the heart of the State’s case is found in the press release below:

TRENTON – Attorney General Anne Milgram announced that a Bergen County man was charged today with defrauding hundreds of investors of more than $1.7 million by selling unregistered shares of stock in his startup horseshoe manufacturing company, which he claimed already had a prince from Dubai as a client.

The man allegedly stole more than $350,000 in investor funds to pay for personal expenses. Although he also spent funds in an effort to launch the company, the venture failed.

According to Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni, the Division of Criminal Justice filed a criminal complaint today in Superior Court in Bergen County charging Samuel M. Serritella, 64, of Garfield, with the crimes of securities fraud, theft by deception, misapplication of entrusted property, money laundering and misconduct by a corporate official, all in the second degree.

The charges resulted from an investigation by the New Jersey Bureau of Securities. Also today, Bureau of Securities Chief Marc B. Minor issued an order assessing a penalty of $20,000 against Serritella for violation of the New Jersey Uniform Securities Law. The Bureau Chief found that Serritella committed securities fraud and sold unregistered securities as an unregistered agent.

“This defendant sold $1.7 million in fraudulent and unregistered securities to trusting investors,” said Attorney General Milgram. “He repaid their trust by stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars of their money and leaving them with worthless shares in a failed company.”

Serritella was president, chief financial officer and chairman of International Surfacing Inc., which was based at 5 Erie Street in Garfield. It is charged that between February 2004 and May 2006, Serritella fraudulently obtained in excess of $1.7 million from more than 300 investors, most of whom were New Jersey residents, by selling them shares of International Surfacing. The shares were not registered with the Bureau of Securities as required by law, and Serritella was not registered as an agent authorized to sell securities in New Jersey.

Serritella held investment conferences where he told investors they could get in on the ground floor by purchasing shares in a company he planned to take public. He allegedly told at least one group of investors during a hotel meeting that the venture’s clients included a prince in Dubai.

Serritella allegedly deposited the investors’ funds into several bank accounts that he controlled. He allegedly misappropriated funds totaling approximately $354,720 for personal expenses. Seritella allegedly wrote checks to himself, made cash withdrawals at ATMs, paid credit card bills, and made debit card purchases using investor funds in the accounts. He used the funds to pay for such personal expenses as airline and hotel bills, tavern bills, and medical costs. He also allegedly used investor funds to make personal loans to three friends totaling $84,000.

Serittella used some funds for startup costs for the company, such as rent for a building, salaries, and payments to a company contracted to assist in manufacturing horseshoes.

“The Division of Criminal Justice is focusing on more complex white collar crime cases, including securities fraud cases such as this one,” said Director Gramiccioni. “In prosecuting this case, we are working closely with the Bureau of Securities, which thoroughly investigated the alleged fraud and thefts committed by Serritella.”

“Investors need to protect themselves by remembering that an offer which seems too good to be true is often precisely that – untrue. Investment fraud is on the rise in these difficult economic times and investments that promise ‘guaranteed results’ or offer unusually high profits should be carefully scrutinized before any investment is made,” Bureau Chief Minor said.

The Bureau of Securities investigation was conducted by Acting Chief of Investigations Rudolph Bassman. Deputy Attorney General Victoria Manning represented the Bureau in its investigation.

Serritella has been ordered to appear before Superior Court Judge Harry G. Carroll in Bergen County on Wednesday, July 29 at 10 a.m.

Four charged with unemployment fraud July 22, 2009

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Four people have been charged with stealing from unemployment in separate and unrelated cases.  This is fairly common and you see these indictments every few months.  Basically, someone goes on unemployment but then they go back to work without telling anyone.  Thus, they get paid from their job and unemployment.  Once that figure hits around$10,000 or so, the State moves to indict to make examples out of the big hitters.

Problem is, the plea offers are usually the same and trying to get the State to bend is difficult.  If word gets out that you got a better deal, everyone else will want one.  Thus, an attorney needs to quickly identify the best possible deal and decide if the client should press his or her luck rather early in the case.  Of course, this assumes you can get all of the records.

If you are charged or suspected of unemployment fraud, call me today.

Press release is below:

TRENTON – Attorney General Anne Milgram announced today that four people have been charged with cheating the State of New Jersey’s unemployment fund out of a total of $79,888.

Criminal Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni noted that the charges resulted from cooperative investigations by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the Division of Criminal Justice Major Crimes Bureau.

The Division of Criminal Justice Major Crimes Bureau obtained the following state grand jury indictments last week:

State v. Jose A. Vasquez. Vasquez, 44, of Camden, was charged in a July 17 state grand jury indictment with third-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification. Vasquez filed UI benefits claims every year from 2000 to 2005. At various times throughout those years, Vasquez earned wages working as a construction worker for Jasticon, Inc. in Medford. By failing to notify the Department of Labor and Workforce Development of the employment, Vasquez allegedly received $31,451 in UI benefits to which he was not entitled.

State v. Harvey E. Grimes. Grimes, 41, of Ewing, was charged in a July 17 state grand jury indictment with third-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification. The indictment alleges that, while collecting on three separate UI benefits claims, in 2002, 2003 and 2004, Grimes allegedly earned wages from Jersey Temporaries, Inc., a temporary employee service. It is alleged that, by failing to report the earnings to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Grimes allegedly stole $22,055 in UI benefits.

State v. Sharnell Ramseur. Ramseur, 36, of East Orange, was charged in a July 16 state grand jury indictment with third-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification for allegedly collecting $15,952 in UI benefits to which he was not entitled. The indictment alleges that, after filing for UI benefits in January 2003 and April 2004, Ramseur earned wages from Ford Motor Corp. It is further charged that Ramseur failed to report his earnings to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

State v. Karen L. Jones. Jones, 48, of Newark, was charged in a July 16 state grand jury indictment with third-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification. Jones filed for UI benefits in July 2002, July 2003 and July 2004. The indictment alleges that, while collecting on these benefits, Jones earned wages from Newark Pre-School Council, Inc., where she worked as a teacher’s assistant. Jones allegedly failed to report the earnings to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development and consequently stole $10,430 in UI benefits.

The Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner David J. Socolow said that the cases were first identified by Labor Department investigators by cross-matching employer-submitted wage information against UI benefit payments; pursuing leads from employer protests of UI benefit charges; surveying employer payroll records; and responding to alerts from concerned citizens.