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Bay Head police chief relieved of duty while investigation continues January 17, 2011

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 Police Chief Charles Grace Jr., 50, of the Bay Head Police Department was relieved of duty Saturday by Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford as part of an ongoing investigation.  Deputy Chief Michael Mohel of the Prosecutor’s Office said Grace was charged in a complaint filed by Detective Ray Gardner, also of the Prosecutor’s Office. The complaint stated that in an investigation beginning April 10, 2007, Grace unlawfully took more than $500 in money belonging with Bay Head-Mantoloking Police Benevolent Association.  Mohel has been named acting chief of police by Ford until the Borough Council can take action.  The State has not revealed the exact amount of money allegedly taken.  No word on when Grace was notified of the investigation or whether Grace has an attorney.
Grace was chief of police since 2005 and was president of the Ocean County Chiefs of Police Association in 2010.  Mohel said day-to-day operations of the department will be handled by Bay Head police officers Lt. Robert Hoffman, Sgt. First Class Geoffrey Barger and Sgt. William Hoffman, who have all been with the department for more than 20 years.  When a chief police administrator is removed from position in a town, Mohel said the prosecutor appoints someone to temporary command until the Borough Council can take further action, which should occur within  about three weeks.

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Somerset County Man Charged with Stealing Nearly $100,000 December 26, 2010

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Stephen Locrotondo, 51, of Bridgewater, was indicted on December 22, 2010 by a Union County grand jury on charges of second-degree theft by deception and second-degree issuing bad checks.  The indictment alleges that between Oct. 14 and Oct. 27, 2006, Locrotondo stole $100,000 from a friend by giving her the false impression that he would invest the $100,000 on her behalf and would provide a “good return” on her investment within two weeks.  The indictment further alleges that Locrotondo subsequently wrote his friend a personal check in the amount of $100,000, knowing that there were not enough funds in his bank account. At the same time, Loctrondo wrote the woman a check for $8,000. The woman received payment on the $8,000 check, for which there were adequate funds, but it is alleged that she never received any other payment from Locrotondo.

I realize that there are a number of facts missing from this story, but the State has to have more to show that this is a crime and not a civil case.  You have to wonder what was left out of the press release and why?

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Stafford contractor charged with stealing $600K from investors September 10, 2010

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David K. Haugland of Beachview Avenue in the Manahawkin section, was arrested at his home Wednesday morning by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, U.S. Secret Service and Stafford Police.  He has been charged with second-degree theft by deception, for allegedly defrauding investors of $600,000. 

Haugland is a building contractor with Haugland & Sons Construction, located at 297 Route 72 in West Manahawkin.  He would allegedly take money from investors for prospective homes he said he was going to build and sell, informing them via contract that he was the record owner of the properties, then fail to pay the investors back.   Nine investors, who were allegedly taken for $600,000, have been identified. They have discovered the illegal activity has been occurring since at least 2007 and authorities are looking for more possible alleged victims.

How much of this was really theft remains to be seen.  I know from my practice that the alleged victims sometimes have too much control over the investigation.  If these investors were all connected to each other, they could get together to make a business dispute seem like a criminal act.  I say that because that is what happened in one case that I had.  One person got five other people together to claim that my client took their money.  However, four of them never even asked for their money back!  Luckily, the judge dismissed the case. 

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Chimney repairman charged with fraud August 3, 2010

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Paul Katz, of Red Bank was arrested Friday and charged with theft by deception, fraud, forgery and criminal mischief. Police allege that Katz was arriving at homes to do chimney work and giving the homeowner false information on what needed to be repaired to their home.  He would also cause damage to the chimney and show the homeowner a photo of the damage to falsely charge the homeowner more money.  

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Lyndhurst Police Emergency Squad captain charged with theft May 19, 2010

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The captain of the Lyndhurst Police Emergency Squad, 30-year-old Haniel Lora, has been arrested and charged with third degree theft and fourth degree filing a false police report for allegedly using the squad’s ATM card to withdraw $5,160 from the squad’s bank account after he initially told police the card had been stolen.

According to Police Chief James O’Connor, he met with Lora on May 11 and Lora filed a report saying that the squad’s ATM card had probably been stolen and there were unauthorized withdrawals from the account.  Detectives tracked down the charges in question to ATM machines in New York City where they were able to obtain video surveillance and still photos showing Lora using the card.

Lora came back in on May 18 for an interview and then admitted he used the card to make the withdrawals. Sounds like he needs a good lawyer to work on damage control ASAP.

Story is here.

Operation Heat: Over 30 Alleged Mafia Members and Associates Indicted May 14, 2010

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New Jersey Attorney General Paula T. Dow announced the indictment today of two ruling members of the New York-based Lucchese crime family and 32 other members and associates, including alleged current and former top New Jersey capos Ralph V. Perna and Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., on first-degree charges of racketeering, conspiracy and money laundering.

“Operation Heat” uncovered an international criminal gambling enterprise that transacted billions of dollars in wagers, primarily on sporting events, and relied on extortion and violence to collect debts. The indictment also charges a former New Jersey corrections officer and a high-ranking member of the Nine Trey Gangsters set of the Bloods in an alleged alliance with the Lucchese crime family to smuggle drugs and pre-paid cell phones into East Jersey State Prison.

The indictment charges two members of the three-man ruling panel of the Lucchese crime family, Joseph DiNapoli, 74, of Scarsdale, N.Y., and Matthew Madonna, 74, of Seldon, N.Y. The indictment also charges Ralph V. Perna, 64, of East Hanover, and Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., 44, of Ventnor. Perna allegedly became top capo of the New Jersey faction of the family when Scarfo was deposed in 2007.

A warrant has been issued for Scarfo’s arrest but most of the defendants were initially charged and arrested in Operation Heat in December 2007. However, Scarfo and two other men were charged today for the first time in the ongoing investigation. The other two men are Frank Cetta, 71, of Las Vegas, Nevada, who allegedly ran the gambling operation’s Costa Rican wire room, and Gary P. Medure, 56, of New York, N.Y., a close associate of DiNapoli who allegedly managed gambling “packages,” groups of bettors who regularly gambled through the operation.

Three other men named in the indictment were arrested after the initial arrests but prior to today’s indictment. They are Michael A. Maffucci, 24, of Cedar Grove, N.J., Charles J. Bologna, 57, of Port Chester, N.Y., and Robert V. DeCrescenzo, 35, of Port Chester, N.Y. Each of them allegedly managed or assisted in the management of gambling packages.

Each of the first-degree charges of racketeering, conspiracy and money laundering carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in state prison. In addition to those charges DiNapoli, Madonna and Perna were charged with being leaders of organized crime, a second-degree offense.

Most of the defendants – including DiNapoli, Madonna, Perna, Scarfo, Cetta, Medure, Maffucci, Bologna and DeCrescenzo – were also charged with promoting gambling and possession of gambling records, both third-degree offenses.

It is alleged that DiNapoli and Madonna controlled the crime family’s gambling operations and other criminal activities from New York. Both Perna and Scarfo are alleged to have overseen the Lucchese crime family’s operations in New Jersey.

Also indicted were Perna’s three sons, Joseph M. Perna, 40, of Wyckoff, John G. Perna, 32, of West Caldwell, and Ralph M. Perna, 38, of West Caldwell. The sons, led by Joseph, allegedly managed day-to-day gambling operations under their father’s oversight. Two other men who were indicted, Michael A. Cetta, 43, of Wyckoff, and Martin Tacetta, 59, of East Hanover, the former New Jersey underboss for the family, allegedly exercised their own management control over family gambling operations. Tacetta is currently serving a life sentence in state prison as a result of a Division of Criminal Justice prosecution in the 1990s. Michael Cetta, who is Frank Cetta’s son, has close ties to the Lucchese family through marriage.

Joseph Perna, John Perna, Michael Cetta and three other defendants are charged with extortion and aggravated assault, both second-degree offenses, in connection with alleged threats and attempts to use violence against individuals who owed money or tried to take business away from the gambling operation.

The Division of Criminal Justice has seized or restrained millions of dollars in assets of the defendants alleged to be subject to forfeiture as criminal proceeds, including seven homes, 16 bank accounts, 15 vehicles, over $200,000 in cash, and numerous watches and items of jewelry. The indictment alleges that Joseph M. Perna and his wife, Roseanna Perna, 36, obtained approximately $900,000 in mortgage funds through fraudulent loan applications. The indictment further charges various tax offenses against the couple, as well as Ralph M. Perna, Michael Cetta and Vita Cetta, 41, of Wyckoff.

The investigation uncovered an international criminal gambling enterprise that, according to records reviewed by the Division of Criminal Justice, transacted an estimated $2.2 billion in wagers, primarily on sporting events, during a 15-month period.

The gambling operation involved agents or “package holders,” each of whom brought in bets from a group of gamblers. The enterprise and all of its packages involved hundreds or even thousands of gamblers. Records showed that one high-rolling gambler wagered more than $2 million in a two-month period. Those indicted include package holders as well as individuals who allegedly acted as collectors for the operation, collecting and paying out wins and losses.

The illicit proceeds allegedly were divided by the package holders and the members they worked under, such as the Pernas, Michael Cetta, Tacetta and Medure, who in turn made “tribute” payments to the New York bosses, including DiNapoli and Madonna. It is charged that collection operations at times took the form of threats or acts of violence.

The gambling operation received and processed the wagers using password-protected Web sites and a Costa Rican “wire room” where bets were recorded and results tallied.

The prison smuggling scheme allegedly involved inmate Edwin B. Spears, 36, of Neptune, and a former corrections officer at East Jersey State Prison in Woodbridge, Michael T. Bruinton, 46, of Ringoes. Spears was at East Jersey State Prison at the time of the alleged conduct. Also indicted were Spears’ brother, Dwayne E. Spears, 30, of Neptune, and Kristen A. Gilliam, 27, of Farmingdale. Another defendant, Francine Hightower, 52, of Tinton Falls, pleaded guilty on Feb. 21, 2008, to conspiring to launder money.

It is charged that Edwin Spears, an admitted “five-star general” in the Nine Trey Gangsters set of the Bloods, formed an alliance with Joseph Perna and Michael Cetta to smuggle drugs and cell phones into East Jersey State Prison through Bruinton. The alliance allegedly extended beyond smuggling. In one instance, Joseph Perna allegedly sought assistance from Spears to stop an individual associated with the Bloods from extorting money from a man with ties to the Lucchese family.

It is charged that Perna and Cetta would provide money to Dwayne Spears to acquire contraband including heroin, cocaine, marijuana and pre-paid cell phones. Dwayne Spears allegedly would give the contraband to Bruinton to smuggle into East Jersey State Prison. The drugs and cell phones were allegedly distributed to inmates who had previously placed orders through Edwin Spears. Cell phones are prohibited in prison. It is charged that the purchasers paid by sending money orders or checks to individuals including Hightower and Gilliam, who delivered the proceeds to Cetta to “re-invest” in the smuggling scheme. Samuel A. Juliano, 65, of Glen Ridge, is charged with supplying drugs for the smuggling scheme.

In addition to the first-degree charges of racketeering, conspiracy and money laundering, Bruinton, Edwin Spears, Dwayne Spears, Gilliam, Joseph Perna, Michael Cetta and Juliano are charged for the alleged smuggling operation with conspiracy (2nd degree), official misconduct (2nd degree), bribery (2nd degree), and unlawful possession of a cell phone in prison (3rd degree).

As Operation Heat proceeded it yielded evidence that was pursued by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in an investigation that culminated on Oct. 1, 2009 with the indictment of 29 defendants, including DiNapoli, Madonna and other Lucchese crime family members, alleged to have run a criminal enterprise that bribed city building inspectors, among other crimes.

In addition to the defendants already named in this press release, the indictment also charges:

John V. Mangrella, 67, of Clifton;
Alfonso “Tic” Cataldo, 68, of Florham Park;
Antonio “Curly” Russo, 73, of Bloomingdale;
Elliot Porco, 47, of Bronx, N.Y.;
Gianni Iacovo, 34, of Elmwood Park;
James Furfaro Jr., 30, of Parsippany;
John N. Turi, 31, of Clifton;
Michael T. Ramuno III, 36, of Philadelphia;
Robert A. Romano, 31, of Brick;
Ron Scrips, 46, of Staten Island, N.Y.;
Shpetim “Tim” Hani, 33, of North Haledon;
Blerim Ibraimi, 29, of Hawthorne; and
George Maiorano, 65, of Belleville.
The indictment charges the defendants as follows:

Count 1 – Racketeering – First Degree
All Defendants

Count 2 – Leader of Organized Crime – Second Degree
Joseph DiNapoli and Matthew Madonna

Count 3 – Leader of Organized Crime – Second Degree
Ralph V. Perna

Count 4 – Conspiracy – Second Degree
Joseph DiNapoli, Matthew Madonna, Ralph V. Perna, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., Joseph M. Perna, Michael Cetta, Frank Cetta, John G. Perna, Ralph M. Perna, John Mangrella, Gary Medure, Elliot Porco, Martin Taccetta, Antonio Russo, Alfonso Cataldo, Michael Ramuno III, Ronald Scripps, Gianni Iacovo, Robert Decrescenzo, Charles Bologna, James Furfaro, Robert Romano, John Turi, Michael Maffucci, George Maiorano, Blerim Ibriami, Shpetim Hani, Vita Cetta and Rosanna Perna

Count 5 – Promoting Gambling – Third Degree
Joseph DiNapoli, Matthew Madonna, Ralph V. Perna, Nicodemo Scarfo, Jr., Joseph M. Perna, Michael Cetta, Frank Cetta, John G. Perna, Ralph M. Perna, John Mangrella, Gary Medure, Elliot Porco, Martin Taccetta, Antonio Russo, Alfonso Cataldo, Michael Ramuno III, Ronald Scripps, Gianni Iacovo, Robert Decrescenzo, Charles Bologna, James Furfaro, Robert Romano, John Turi, Michael Maffucci, George Maiorano, Blerim Ibriami, Shpetim Hani, Vita Cetta and Rosanna Perna

Count 6 – Possession of Gambling Records – Third Degree
Joseph DiNapoli, Matthew Madonna, Ralph V. Perna, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., Joseph M. Perna, Michael Cetta, Frank Cetta, John G. Perna, Ralph M. Perna, John Mangrella, Gary Medure, Elliot Porco, Martin Taccetta, Antonio Russo, Alfonso Cataldo, Michael Ramuno III, Ronald Scripps, Gianni Iacovo, Robert Decrescenzo, Charles Bologna, James Furfaro, Robert Romano, John Turi, Michael Maffucci, George Maiorano, Blerim Ibriami, Shpetim Hani, Vita Cetta and Rosanna Perna

Count 7 – Attempted Theft by Extortion – Second Degree
Joseph M. Perna, John G. Perna, Michael Cetta, Gianni Iacovo, James Furfaro and Robert Romano

Count 8 – Aggravated Assault – Second Degree
Joseph M. Perna, John G. Perna, Michael Cetta, Gianni Iacovo, James Furfaro and Robert Romano

Count 9 – Possession of a Weapon for Unlawful Purpose – Third Degree
John G. Perna and Robert Romano

Count 10 – Theft by Deception – Second Degree
Joseph M. Perna

Count 11 – Falsifying Records – Fourth Degree
Joseph M. Perna

Count 12 – Theft by Deception – Second Degree
Joseph M. Perna and Rosanna Perna

Count 13 – Falsifying Records – Fourth Degree
18 months / $ 10,000
Joseph M. Perna and Rosanna Perna

Count 14 – Failure to File Tax Return – Third Degree
Joseph M. Perna and Rosanna Perna

Count 15 – Failure to Pay Gross Income Tax – Third Degree
Joseph M. Perna and Rosanna Perna

Count 16 – Failure to Pay Gross Income Tax – Third Degree
Ralph M. Perna

Count 17 – Failure to File Tax Return – Third Degree
Michael Cetta and Vita Cetta

Count 18 – Failure to Pay Gross Income Tax – Third Degree
Michael Cetta and Vita Cetta

Count 19 – Conspiracy – Second Degree
Joseph M. Perna, Michael Cetta, Edwin Spears, Samuel A. Juliano, Michael Bruinton, Dwayne Spears and Kristen Gilliam

Count 20 – Official Misconduct – Second Degree
Joseph M. Perna, Michael Cetta, Edwin Spears, Samuel A. Juliano, Michael Bruinton, Dwayne Spears and Kristen Gilliam

Count 21 – Bribery – Second Degree
Joseph M. Perna, Michael Cetta, Edwin Spears, Samuel A. Juliano, Michael Bruinton, Dwayne Spears and Kristen Gilliam

Count 22 – Unlawful Possession of Certain Electronic Devices in Prisons – Third Degree
Joseph M. Perna, Michael Cetta, Edwin Spears, Samuel A. Juliano, Michael Bruinton, Dwayne Spears and Kristen Gilliam

Count 23 – Possession of Oxycodone with Intent to Distribute – Second Degree
Samuel A. Juliano

Count 24 – Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Distribute – Second Degree
Samuel A. Juliano

Count 25 – Possession of Cocaine and Oxycodone – Third Degree
Samuel A. Juliano

Count 26 – Certain Persons Not To Have Weapons – Second Degree
Samuel A. Juliano

Count 27 – Unlawful Possession of a Weapon – Third Degree
Samuel A. Juliano

Count 28 – Unlawful Possession of a Weapon – Third Degree
Samuel A. Juliano

Count 29 – Prohibited Weapon – Third Degree
Samuel A. Juliano

Count 30 – Possession of Weapons During Commission of Certain Crimes – Second Degree
Samuel A. Juliano

Count 31 – Prohibited Weapon – Fourth Degree
Samuel A. Juliano

Count 32 – Prohibited Weapon – Fourth Degree
Samuel A. Juliano

Count 33 – Conspiracy – First Degree
All Defendants

Count 34 – Money Laundering – First Degree
All Defendants

Little Egg Harbor Township Committeeman accused of wrongfully collecting unemployment March 3, 2010

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The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office announced today that Little Egg Harbor Township Committeeman Scott Stites has been charged with one count of theft by deception in excess of $500 for allegedly obtaining unemployment benefits from November 2008 through November 2009 by fraud.  Stites is also charged with one count of making an unsworn falsification (fourth degree) because he is alleged to have negotiated an unemployment check claiming that he met all the eligibility requirements for receiving unemployment benefits.

The case was the result of a cooperative investigation conducted by the Little Egg Harbor Police Department and the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.  That along with the speed in which this was uncovered leads me to believe that this was the result of a tip to local police which may have been politically motivated.  Normally, these cases are first uncovered by Department of  Labor who decides if and when to prosecute.  If often takes quite a while for these cases to unravel.  This case didn’t.  Should be interesting.

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Two men charged in alleged used-car sales fraud February 3, 2010

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Authorities allege that Brett Golkin and Peter Schladebeck, 46, both from Colts Neck, sold 32 vehicles at their dealership, Freedom Auto Center in East Brunswick, but used the proceeds to pay personal expenses. They were charged with theft by deception and theft by failure to make the required disposition of cash received for the vehicles. 

 Manuel Sameiro, assistant Middlesex County prosecutor, said Golkin and Schladebeck sold the cars at the dealership’s two locations on Route 18 on consignment for wholesalers and some individuals from January 2008 until September 2009 when the dealership closed.  The alleged scheme was discovered after customers who paid for vehicles but did not receive titles complained to police. The wholesalers and other original owners kept the titles while waiting for Freedom to pay them.

Golkin and Schladebeck also were charged with issuing $59,289 in bad checks between May 8, 2009, and Aug. 5, 2009, to three vehicle owners who demanded payment.  An audit of the dealership’s records showed that on Oct. 15, 2008, the defendants accepted $229,000 from an investor to assist in their purchase of real estate. However, they allegedly kept the investor’s money without telling him they already owned the property.

I had a case along these lines where I represented a car dealer that took cars on consignment, received money and then gambled it away.  Of course, my client was not charged as I worked out the case before the police were involved.

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New Jersey charged with theft, fraud after Craigslist car sale February 1, 2010

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James Maltese, of Harmony Road, Middletown, New Jersey turned himself in at police headquarters on Friday after police began to look into a transaction he made with a Delaware couple who reported having trouble with a 1999 Dodge Durango moments after buying it for $2,995 on Craigslist.

Police say that the car was initially sold to someone else for $150.  That person was told by a mechanic in Keyport that the head gasket was blown. Maltese somehow obtained possession of the car and then brokered the sale online.  What really hurts Maltese is that he issued a fraudulent temporary license plate.  He also never informed the buyers of the car’s mechanical problems but there is no indication that he knew about the problems.

He was charged with theft by deception, falsifying records and engaging in the business of a vehicle dealer without a license.  The fake plate is the worst part of the case for him as otherwise, this is just a bad sale.  The good news is that the dollar amount of the loss is low.  A good attorney should be able to wrap this up pretty quickly for  him unless he has a big record.

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Man accused of identity theft and $270K loan scam January 27, 2010

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John Melchionna faces charges of theft by deception, identity theft and forgery for allegedly using money, obtained under the name of a business associate, to purchase real estate in Elizabeth. He then forged the associate’s name on mortgages to secure the loans.  He is also charged with running up about $300,000 in credit card charges between 2006 and 2008, on cards he obtained in the victim’s name.

Even though I do this for a living, I really don’t understand how this works sometimes.  I have a case just like this but the amount for fraud is probably over a million.  Does anyone care?  No.  I represent the victim and we called the police but they did nothing.  I emailed the reporter that wrote up this story to tell her about my client’s situation.   We’ll see what happens.

Story is here.