Day: September 16, 2020

Roles Admitted In International Money Laundering Conspiracy

September 16, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–A former member of Paraguay’s Congress and her husband have admitted their roles in an international money laundering conspiracy, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.

Raimundo Va, 45, pleaded guilty today before Chief Judge Freda L. Wolfson to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. His wife, Cynthia Elizabeth Tarrago Diaz, 41, pleaded guilty on Sept. 15, 2020, before Judge Wolfson to an information charging her with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

On Nov. 21, 2019, Tarrago and Va were arrested by the FBI after they arrived in Newark as part of their unlawful money laundering activities, and were charged in a criminal complaint along with a third individual, Rodrigo Alvarenga Paredes, who remains at large in Paraguay.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Until January 2019, Tarrago was a member of Paraguay’s Congress, and in late 2019 had publicly announced her intention to run for mayor of the capital district of Asunción. While in office, Tarrago and her husband, Va, agreed to accept at least $2 million in United States currency from two individuals who represented themselves to be narcotics traffickers, believing the money to be proceeds of unlawful narcotics trafficking, and to launder the funds through an international network of accounts in order to disguise the unlawful source of the proceeds. Tarrago and Va traveled to New Jersey and Florida on multiple occasions and accepted approximately $800,000 in United States currency from the purported drug traffickers, and caused those funds to be laundered through the conspiracy’s network of accounts, and ultimately transferred back to an account maintained by the purported drug traffickers. To disguise the illicit source of the funds, members of the conspiracy generated fraudulent invoices that stated legitimate business reasons for the transfers of laundered funds to the purported drug traffickers’ account. Moreover, on multiple occasions during the purported drug dealers’ meetings with Tarrago and Va, Tarrago indicated that she would be able to assist the purported drug dealers with procuring large quantities of cocaine from Paraguay at an inexpensive price.

Unbeknownst to Tarrago and Va, the currency that they accepted from the purported drug traffickers and caused to be laundered was not actually illicit drug proceeds. Rather, those funds were provided to Tarrago and Va by two undercover FBI agents as part of an extensive investigation of the money laundering network. During the investigation, the undercover agents met with Tarrago and Va in the United States on numerous occasions, and obtained substantial video and audio recordings of their interactions with Tarrago and Va, during which details of the money laundering network were discussed. The evidence obtained during the investigation revealed that Alvarenga Paredes, operating through the auspices of a money-exchange company in Paraguay, coordinated the laundering of the funds that the undercover agents provided to Tarrago and Va.

The money laundering conspiracy counts against Tarrago and Va carry a statutory maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison, and a maximum fine of the greater of $500,000 or twice the value of the funds involved in the conspiracy. Sentencing for both defendants is scheduled for Jan. 21, 2021. The investigation is continuing.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, Newark Division, Trenton Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr., with the investigation leading to today’s guilty pleas. He also thanked the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs for their assistance in the case.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys R. Joseph Gribko of the Criminal Division in Trenton and J. Brendan Day, Attorney in Charge of the Trenton Office of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The charges and allegations against Alvarenga Paredes contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


Defense counsel:
Tarrago: Andrea Bergman Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, Trenton
Va: David R. Oakley Esq., Princeton, New Jersey

Murphy Administration Announces $3.5 Million Investment in State Navigators to Assist Uninsured and Underserved New Jerseyans With ACA Health Insurance Enrollment

September 16, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Phil Murphy and Department of Banking and Insurance Commissioner Marlene Caride today announced $3.5 million in grant funding for community organizations to serve as state Navigators to provide free outreach, education, and enrollment assistance to residents shopping for health insurance during the Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment Period. Despite drastic federal cuts to the Navigator program in recent years, the Administration has more than doubled its investment since the State began operating the program last year and has taken numerous actions to improve access to health coverage. The increased investment is made possible by the State’s move to its own health insurance marketplace, Get Covered New Jersey, for the upcoming year.

The Open Enrollment Period in New Jersey will run from November 1, 2020 to January 31, 2021, which is double the six-week period held last year, a benefit of New Jersey operating a State-Based Exchange.

“Our current public health emergency has underscored the importance of our efforts to ensure that as many residents as possible have access to health coverage,” said Governor Murphy. “We made the decision to establish our own marketplace last year based on the principle that health insurance is a fundamental right. This increased investment is an extension of that belief and could not come at a more important time.”

The investment in outreach and enrollment assistance is part of the state’s transition to a State-Based Exchange, also referred to as the Marketplace, to improve access to health coverage for New Jersey’s residents. Governor Murphy signed legislation last year to establish a State-Based Exchange in New Jersey.

“Navigators are vital to reaching New Jersey’s uninsured and underinsured and connecting them to quality, affordable health coverage and available financial help,” said Department of Banking and Insurance Commissioner Marlene Caride. “We are thrilled to expand our network of community organizations that provide assistance to New Jerseyans, and ensure that our residents can get the health coverage and care they deserve. I want to thank the organizations that have committed to assisting the residents of their communities at such a critical time. We look forward to working with additional community partners as we work to get New Jersey residents covered this Open Enrollment Period and throughout the year.”

Four current Navigators have been granted a one-year extension of their grants at their current funding levels for the next year; one current Navigator was awarded expansion funding. An additional 11 organizations will be funded to serve as new Navigators to support enrollment assistance in the State-Based Marketplace. All of the organizations serving as Navigators will have the ability to assist residents remotely during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Organizations who receive funding through the grant program must comply with state and federal requirements. Grantee activities will include outreach and education year-round for 2021 coverage, including in advance of and during the Open Enrollment Period.

The following organizations were awarded funding for the 2020-2021 grant year under the New Jersey State Navigator Grant Program:

Navigator Grant AwardeeGrant Amount
AtlantiCare Health Services$196,436
Center for Family Services Inc.**$493,070
Family Resource Network*$165,835
FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties dba Fulfill*$143,527
HOPES Community Action Partnership Incorporated$158,000
HRETNJ (Health Research and Educational Trust of New Jersey)$431,191
Lakewood Resource and Referral Center$351,662
New Jersey Citizen Action Education Fund$280,717
North Hudson Community Action Corporation$150,000
Ocean Health Initiatives$147,385
Planned Parenthood of Northern, Central and Southern New Jersey, Inc.$134,288
Southern Jersey Family Medical Centers Inc$191,501
The Orange’s ACA Navigator Project (OACANP)*$200,000
University Hospital$182,203
Urban League of Hudson County*$150,258
Zufall Health Center, Inc.$170,000
*Current Navigators

** Current Navigator awarded expansion funding

In addition to state-funded Navigators, Certified Application Counselors (CACs) and Brokers will also assist consumers with health insurance enrollment. All Navigators, Certified Application Counselors (CACs), and Brokers are required to complete state training and certification to assist consumers with health insurance enrollment on the state Marketplace. Organizations interested in serving as Certified Application Counselor Designated Organizations (CDOs), which oversee CACs, and agents and brokers interested in assisting consumers with Marketplace coverage may find information on certification at under For Assisters and Brokers.

More information on health insurance options can found be at

Governor Murphy Signs Legislative Package to Strengthen the Resiliency and Preparedness of New Jersey’s Long-Term Care Industry

Legislative Package Enacts Key Recommendations from Manatt Health’s Review

September 16, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Acting on a commitment to reform and build a more resilient long-term care industry, Governor Phil Murphy today signed a legislative package to address systemic challenges, mitigate the impact of COVID-19, and strengthen preparedness for future outbreaks. The legislative package enacts several recommendations made in Manatt Health’s rapid review of the state’s long-term care facilities, including wage enhancements for frontline staff, improved response coordination, and robust data reporting procedures. The legislative package received bipartisan support.

“The residents and staff of our long-term care facilities have borne an outsized burden of this pandemic,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “While we know this has not been a tragedy unique to New Jersey, we will learn from this crisis and emerge as a national model for solving immediate challenges and building future resilience. These measures not only support our ongoing efforts to get things right for our long-term care residents, staff, and families, but also ensure we have strong measures in place to deal with bad actors in the industry who put profit before people.”

The Governor signed the following bills into law: 

A4476/S2790 (Vainieri Huttle, Greenwald, DePhillips/Cryan, Vitale) -Establishes certain requirements concerning State’s preparedness and response to infectious disease outbreaks, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

A4481/S2787 (Moen, Sumter, Quijano, Gove/Codey, Rice) – Establishes New Jersey Task Force on Long-Term Care Quality and Safety

A4482/S2758 (Tucker, Giblin, Chaparro/Cryan, Lagana) – Establishes minimum wage requirements for certain long-term care facility staff; establishes direct care ratio requirements for nursing homes; requires nursing home care rate study. 

A4547/S2813 (Vainieri Huttle, Benson, Johnson/Vitale) – Authorizes temporary rate adjustment for certain nursing facilities; appropriates $62.3 million.

“This package of bills will improve the resiliency and quality of our long-term care facilities and strengthen their emergency preparedness,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “Most importantly, they provide the recognition the Certified Nursing Assistants deserve through wage increases and career ladder opportunities.”

“We thank our partners in the Legislature for working together with us to advance our shared goal of supporting nursing home residents and the staff who work tirelessly to care for them,” Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson said. “Today’s action will deliver new Medicaid funding of $130 million – a 10 percent increase  – over the remainder of the fiscal year to nursing homes to increase wages for the frontline certified nursing aide workforce and to support facilities’ compliance with health and safety directives, including COVID-19-related infection control, PPE, cleaning, staffing, and other needs.  These are critical steps as we work across the state to continue to fight the virus and prepare for any potential second surge this fall.”

“Long-term care centers were woefully underprepared and under-resourced to respond to a global pandemic. Many nursing and veterans homes in New Jersey have been cited for inadequate infection control policies, and few had consistent direct communication with hospitals and health departments before the pandemic. The system as a whole needs to be reformed,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Chair of the Assembly Aging and Senior Services Committee. “It is also critically important that we support the certified nurse aides in long-term care centers who are on the COVID-19 front lines day in and day out. They dedicate their lives to caring for our most vulnerable, and now they put their health at risk every day they’re on the job. If there’s ever a time to enhance wages for our severely underpaid and overworked nurse aides, it’s now.”

“COVID-19 has taken an immense toll on our long-term care community. This legislation is a combination of Manatt Health’s recommendations and the Senate Health Committee’s extensive discussions with stakeholders and concerned residents,” said Senator Joseph Vitale, Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “Long-term care facilities service some of our state’s most vulnerable communities. At the onset of this pandemic our mothers, fathers and grandparents faced a compromised, exposed and impossible situation. These laws will help ensure that New Jersey does not ever let that happen again.”

“Over the past six months, nursing home workers across New Jersey have heroically risen to the challenges of COVID-19 and put their lives on the line to protect their vulnerable patients,” said Milly Silva, Executive Vice President of 1999SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. “Critically, this legislative package recognizes the essential nature of their work and the need for our state to have a stable, healthy and growing caregiver workforce.  We applaud Gov. Murphy and our legislative leadership for taking these important steps to reform the nursing home industry.”

“We applaud Governor Murphy and the NJ Legislature for passing this long-term care reform package, which makes significant and necessary improvements to protect residents and staff at New Jersey nursing homes and other long-term care facilities,” said Stephanie Hunsinger, AARP New Jersey State Director. “It is a tragedy that more than 7,100 residents and staff in New Jersey’s long-term care facilities have died due to COVID-19, and we must ensure this never happens again. These bills implement critical measures to save lives.”

“These bills are an important part of refocusing our priorities and, as a society, valuing the care delivered to New Jersey residents as they age,” said NJHA President and CEO Cathy Bennett. “That requires good policy, sufficient resources and the engagement of all stakeholders including the frail elderly, their loved ones, and the healthcare workers and long term care facilities who help care for them.”


The COVID-19 pandemic did not create the problems in long-term care; it merely exacerbated them,” said Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald. “Without adequate staffing, emergency response plans or central channels of communication with health officials, long-term care facilities were unequipped to keep residents and staff safe in the early critical days of the pandemic. Though no one could have predicted the toll COVID-19 would take, long-term care centers could have been more prepared. Going forward, a centralized command center devoted to long-term care will help us make sure these facilities have the resources they need to prepare for and respond to emergencies.”

“This necessary bipartisan legislation acts upon the lessons learned from the Covid-19 response, said Assemblyman Chris DePhillips. “In particular, the new Long Term Care Emergency Operations Center will provide greater preparation and coordination across the state in the event of a future outbreak.  Moreover, the legislation will ensure that long-term care facilities are more closely tied to the system of care in the state and have emergency plans in place to respond to a public health emergency.”

“The fatal consequences of the COVID pandemic fell the hardest on nursing homes, veterans’ homes and other long term care facilities that are home to our most vulnerable population of residents,” said Senator Joe Cryan. “It is tragically obvious that there was an absence of safeguards to prevent and respond to the outbreak. We need to use the hard lessons of this experience to help prevent anything like this from happening again. This includes preventive safeguards, action plans to contain any outbreaks and better pay for the frontline workers who care for the residents.”


In a joint statement, Assemblymembers Bill Moen, Shavonda Sumter, and Annette Quijano said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed longstanding problems in our long-term care system. Not only do we need to address staffing shortages, quality of care concerns and emergency preparedness, but we will need to assess how we can modernize an outdated system to best fit the needs of our most vulnerable residents. The work of this task force will help us reform long-term care in New Jersey, including the expansion of home and community-based services, enhancing the use of telemedicine and optimizing resident wellness and infection control.”

“Without question, our state has an obligation to ensure that those living in long-term care facilities are provided with the highest level of care to maintain their quality-of-life, while also allowing for family members to play an active role in their lives,” said Assemblywoman Dianne Gove. “To that end, I’ve supported the establishment of a Task Force on Long-Term Care Quality and Safety so that New Jersey, moving forward, can and will develop and implement more effective policies that benefit our most vulnerable citizens.”

“COVID-19 devastated our long-term care community and it pains me to hear about how helpless the residents and staff members were at the height of this pandemic,” said Senator Richard Codey. “Establishing the New Jersey Task Force on Long-Term Care Quality and Safety would allow us to develop and implement improvements across the board. Our most vulnerable residents and their caretakers deserve better and this legislation would make sure improvements are realized.”

“COVID-19 swept through our long-term care facilities with such devastating speed, nobody knew what to do or how to handle the situation,” said Senator Ronald C. Rice. “The task force will ensure we develop strict procedures and workplace safety to make sure we are adequately prepared the next time an event like this comes around.”


“Nurses in long-term care facilities help residents bathe, dress, eat, use the restroom, and manage their medical care. Though they deliver vital care to our most vulnerable, they are often underpaid and overworked,” said Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker. “Now amid a global pandemic, they are putting their own health on the line every day. They deserve to be better compensated for their essential work.” 

“There are often staffing shortages and retention issues in long-term care facilities, in part because staff are poorly paid and may need to work multiple jobs to make ends meet,” said Assemblyman Tom Giblin. “Providing pay increases will undoubtedly attract quality workers to the profession and help facilities retain their staff, which in turn will ensure residents are better cared for.”

“Direct care staff are the unsung heroes of healthcare. Like all frontline workers, they have gone the extra mile to respond to COVID-19,” said Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro. “They dedicate their lives to helping our elderly or disabled loved ones live with dignity. It’s time we paid them a dignified wage in return.”


“Nursing homes are not only battling a public health emergency; many are also facing a fiscal emergency,” said Assemblyman Dan Benson. “Without the resources to adequately pay nursing staff or enforce infection control measures, it will become even more difficult to retain nurses and keep residents and staff safe. By increasing Medicaid reimbursements, we can provide financial relief to nursing homes so that they may improve their COVID-19 response and better care for residents.”

“As we look to a potential second wave of COVID-19 in the fall, we must make sure long-term care facilities have the resources needed to mitigate the spread of the virus,” said Assemblyman Gordon Johnson. “This includes, perhaps most importantly, the heroic CNAs who care for elderly and disabled residents in long-term care facilities and often work multiple shifts at several facilities to make ends meet. Increased wages will mean current CNAs won’t have to stretch themselves thin financially, as well as help to attract new staff hires, which in turn will improve quality of care for residents.”

Two Iranian Nationals Charged In Cyber Theft And Defacement Campaign Against Computer Systems In United States, Europe and Middle East


September 16, 2020

Two Iranian nationals have been charged in connection with a coordinated cyber intrusion campaign – sometimes at the behest of the government of Iran – targeting computers in New Jersey and around the world, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.

Hooman Heidarian, a/k/a “neo,” 30, and Mehdi Farhadi, a/k/a “Mehdi Mahdavi” and “Mohammad Mehdi Farhadi Ramin,” 34, both of Hamedan, Iran, are each charged in a 10-count indictment returned Sept. 15, 2020, with: one count each of conspiracy to commit fraud and related activity in connection with computers and access devices; computer fraud – unauthorized access to protected computers: computer fraud, unauthorized damage to protected computers; conspiracy to commit wire fraud; and access device fraud; and five counts of aggravated identity theft.

“These Iranian nationals allegedly conducted a wide-ranging campaign on computers here in New Jersey and around the world,” U.S. Attorney Carpenito said. “They brazenly infiltrated computer systems and targeted intellectual property and often sought to intimidate perceived enemies of Iran, including dissidents fighting for human rights in Iran and around the world. This conduct threatens our national security, and as a result, these defendants are wanted by the FBI and are considered fugitives from justice.”

“We will not bring the rule of law to cyberspace until governments refuse to provide safe harbor for criminal hacking within their borders,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said. “Unfortunately, our cases demonstrate that at least four nations—Iran, China, Russia and North Korea—will allow criminal hackers to victimize individuals and companies from around the world, as long as these hackers will also work for that country’s government—gathering information on human rights activists, dissidents and others of intelligence interest. Today’s defendants will now learn that such service to the Iranian regime is not an asset, but a criminal yoke that they will now carry until the day they are brought to justice.”

“The indictment of two Iranian nationals charged with computer hacking, fraud, and aggravated identity theft demonstrates how the FBI continues to work relentlessly with our law enforcement partners to identify cybercriminals who seek to do harm to American citizens, businesses, and universities, regardless of where those criminals may reside and hold them accountable,” George M. Crouch Jr., Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Newark Division, said. “Mehdi Farhadi and Hooman Heidarian are now fugitives and have been added to the FBI website for charges in connection with a massive, coordinated cyber intrusion campaign. These actions demonstrate how imposing risks and consequences on our cyber adversaries will continue to be a top priority for the FBI.”

According to the indictment:

Beginning in at least 2013, the defendants were responsible for a coordinated campaign of cyber intrusions into computer systems in New Jersey and around the world. The victims included several American and foreign universities, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, a defense contractor, an aerospace company, a foreign policy organization, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), non-profits, and foreign government and other entities identified as rivals or adversaries to Iran around the world.

Heidarian and Farhadi conducted many of these intrusions on behalf of the Iranian government. The stolen data was typically highly protected and extremely sensitive, and included confidential communications pertaining to national security, foreign policy intelligence, non-military nuclear information, aerospace data, human rights activist information, victim financial information and personally identifiable information, and intellectual property, including unpublished scientific research. The defendants also often vandalized websites using the pseudonym “Sejeal” and posted messages that appeared to signal the demise of Iran’s internal opposition, foreign adversaries, and countries identified as rivals to Iran, including Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Tactics and Techniques

The defendants conducted online reconnaissance to carefully select their victims, gathering data and intelligence to determine their areas of expertise, and assessing computer networks in preparation for launching cyber-attacks. They often used information obtained at this stage in latter phases of their hacking activities to complete a picture of processes, organizational structure, and potential soft spots of victim networks. The defendants used vulnerability-scanning tools to test the victim networks and to reveal security holes.

The defendants gained and maintained unauthorized access to victim networks using various tools, including: session hijacking, where a valid computer session was exploited to gain unauthorized access to information or services in a computer system; SQL injection, in which they used malicious code to access information that was not intended to be displayed, such as sensitive government data, user details, and personal identifiers; and malicious programs installations, which allowed the defendants to maintain unauthorized access to computers.

The defendants then used key-loggers and “remote access Trojans” to maintain access and monitor the actions of users of the victim networks. They also developed a botnet tool, which facilitated the spread of malware, denial of service attacks, and spamming to victim networks. In some instances, the defendants used their unauthorized access to victim networks or accounts to establish automated forwarding rules for compromised victim accounts, whereby new outgoing and incoming emails were automatically forwarded from the compromised accounts to accounts controlled by defendants

Using these methods, the defendants stole hundreds of terabytes of data, including confidential victim work product and intellectual property, and personal identifying information, such as access credentials, names, addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, and birthdates. The defendants marketed stolen data on the black market.

In addition to stealing intellectual property and other data, the defendants, using the pseudonym “Sejeal,” replaced the publicly available contents of websites with political and other ideological content, thereby defacing websites, for the apparent purpose of projecting Iranian influence and threatening perceived enemies of Iran. The defacements featured, among other things, images of burning Israeli flags and threats forecasting the death or demise of citizens in the United States, Israel, and elsewhere.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Crouch in Newark, with the investigation leading to the charges.

The counts of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and related activity in connection with computers and access devices, unauthorized access to protected computers, and computer fraud – unauthorized damage to protected computers, each carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The counts of aggravated identity theft each carry a mandatory sentence of two years in prison. The count of access device fraud carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dean C. Sovolos of the U.S. Attorney’s Office National Security Unit, Daniel V. Shapiro, Deputy Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division, and Trial Attorney Scott McCulloch of the National Security Division.

The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Hopewell Valley Central High School Switches To Remote Learning Due to COVID-19

September 16, 2020

HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–Hopewell Valley Regional School District switches Central High School to remote learning for Thursday and Friday due to COVID-19 protocols. See official notice below:


Earlier today we notified Central High School families and staff of a confirmed COVID case.  Based on our initial discussions with the Department of Health, we believe this case is limited to Central High School. Following our District protocols, Central High School will transition to Full Remote Learning for all students on Thursday and Friday, September 17 and 18.  All after-school activities are cancelled during this time. No students or staff will be allowed in the building until Monday morning, September 21, 2020.  This will provide ample time for our staff to deep clean the building and the Department of Health to conduct contact tracing. ALL OTHER HVRSD SCHOOLS WILL REMAIN OPEN.

We need your assistance during this public health emergency to keep us all safe. Please adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Parents of all in-person students MUST complete the daily symptom form in OnCourse or on the HVRSD app.  We will continue to temperature screen students each morning. 
    • Failure to complete the daily screening will result in exclusion from school.
    • If your child has any COVID symptoms, do not send him/her to school.
    • If your child exhibits COVID symptoms while at school, he/she will be excluded for 10 days, unless cleared by a physician.
    • If your child has COVID symptoms, please contact your doctor and school nurse*.
    • If your family is quarantining due to possible exposure, please inform your school nurse*. *All information is confidential.

HVRSD Notification Protocols

Notification of a confirmed or suspected case in your child’s school:

  1. Email sent immediately from the building principal to all families in that school notifying them of a confirmed or suspected case. Personal information of the suspected or confirmed case is private and will not be shared.
  2. Email sent from the District with school closure information based on the Department of Health’s initial investigation.

Possible exposure notification:

  1. If your child has been identified as having been in contact with a confirmed or suspected case, you will be contacted by the Department of Health. Contact is defined as: within 6 feet for more than 10 minutes.
  2. If you are identified as a contact through the Department of Health tracing process, you will be contacted directly by the Department of Health with further details. 

We appreciate your assistance to keep our schools safe. 

Eight Arrested In Seaside

September 16, 2020

SEASIDE HEIGHTS, NJ (OCEAN)–On September 14, 2020, a YouTube group identified as The Nelk Boys rented the Jersey Shore House, located at 1209 Boardwalk. During the afternoon hours a small crowd of followers began to gather at the residence, a representative from the Nelk Boys requested from the Police Department one Off-Duty Police Security Officer to stand by with the group in addition to their security.

Over a short period of time, the crowd began to grow into a group of approximately 1500 people. In addition to this gathering, a NJ car club also gathered in the area of Dupont and Ocean Terrance at approximately 8:30 pm identified as Full Send NJ car club which consisted of approximately 1000 followers.

At approximately 7:30 pm outside the jersey shore house a male subject was placed under arrest for a disorderly person offense where glass bottles and rocks were thrown at officers during and after the arrest, additional officers from surrounding towns were called in to assist Seaside Heights Police with crowd control due to both locations in town being overwhelmed with disorderly person offenses.

Chief Thomas J. Boyd ordered the town to be closed off to non-resident traffic until this incident was brought under control.

Eight people were arrested during this incident and are identified as the following:

Nicolas Conner – Hackettstown NJ, Age 22 2C:33-2A Disorderly Conduct 2C:29-2A Resisting Arrest

Conner Utter – Hackettstown NJ, Age 22 2C:33-2A Disorderly Conduct

Seth Wilson – Toms River NJ, Age 20 2C:33-2A Disorderly Conduct

Jonathon Downey – Brick NJ, Age 21 2C:33-2A Disorderly Conduct

James Canas – Linden NJ, Age 19 2C:29-1 Obstruction

John Ojeda – Muniz – Linden NJ, Age18 2C:33-2A Disorderly Conduct

Adewusi Oluwatomi – Avenel NJ, Age 26 2C:33-2A Disorderly Conduct

David Dasilva – Kearney NJ, Age 21 2C:29-1 Obstruction

Officers gained complete crowd control over the crowds at approximately 12:00 am with the assistance of the following agencies: Ocean County Prosecutors Office Ocean County Sheriffs Department Bay Head PD Mantoloking PD Lavallette PD Brick PD Toms River PD Seaside Park PD Island Heights PD Berkley PD Seaside Heights Fire Department Station 44 Tri-Boro First Aid Squad

The media and the public are reminded that criminal charges are accusations only. Every criminal defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court.

Nelk Boys YouTube:

Teen Charged With Murder Waived To Adult Court

September 16, 2020

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–A judge ruled last week a Lakewood teenager charged in the October 2019 death of a man whose body was found lying in the roadway in Howell will now face those charges in adult court, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Richard W. English waived Alberto Rojas Hernandez, now 18, from family court up to adult court to face charges of first degree Conspiracy to Commit Murder, first degree Murder, third degree Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose and fourth degree Unlawful Possession of a Weapon.

Rojas Hernandez, of Joe Parker Avenue in Lakewood, is being held in the Middlesex County Youth Detention Center in North Brunswick, pending a First Appearance and Detention Hearing scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020.  Rojas Hernandez has been held in the Youth Detention Center since his arrest in October. 

Rojas Hernandez’s uncle, Juan Carlos Rivera Rojas (also known as Omar Rivera Rojas), 29 of Linden Avenue, in Lakewood was previously charged in the killing with first degree Murder.  Rivera Rojas was ordered detained pending trial on Nov. 12, 2019 by the Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Paul X. Escandon.

The Howell Township Police Department responded to a 911 call at about 3:46 a.m. on Oct. 18, 2019, reporting an unconscious male laying in Hurley Pond Road just east of Route 547.  Upon arrival, a Hispanic male was located lying face down in the roadway.  The incident was initially investigated as a fatal hit and run motor vehicle incident.  However, upon the arrival of SCART investigators it was quickly determined that his death was not the result of a hit and run event.

The man, identified as Domingo Merino Rafael, 33, of Lakewood, was unresponsive and obviously deceased. MONOC personnel responded and the victim was pronounced deceased at the scene. Rafael was taken to the Middlesex County Regional Medical Examiner’s Office where an autopsy determined the cause of death was a Homicide.

A joint investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and Howell Township Police Department determined Rojas Hernandez, Rivera Rojas and Merino Rafael traveled from Lakewood to Middlesex County on the evening of Oct. 17, 2019.  The men were returning to Lakewood in the early morning hours of Oct. 18, 2019, when the trio got into an argument that culminated with the murder of Merino Rafael.

The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Howell Township Police Department also credited the Lakewood Police Department and the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office for their assistance during the investigation.

If convicted of Murder, Rojas Hernandez faces a minimum sentence of 30 years in a New Jersey state prison without parole and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, subject to the provisions of the “No Early Release Act” (NERA) requiring him to serve 85 percent of the sentence imposed before becoming eligible for release on parole. He would also be under parole supervision for five years following his release from state prison.

The case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutors Stephanie Dugan and Tara Wilson.

Rivera Rojas is represented by Joseph Champagne, Esq. of Toms River.

Rojas Hernandez is represented by Carlos Diaz-Cobo, Esq. of New Brunswick.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.

Trenton Drug Trafficker Sentenced To 17 Years For Heroin And Firearms Offences

September 16, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–A Trenton man was sentenced today to 204 months in prison for his role as a supplier to a significant drug trafficking conspiracy that distributed more than one kilogram of heroin in Trenton and the surrounding area, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

David Antonio, a/k/a “Pop,” a/k/a “Papi,” a/k/a “Santiago Ramirez,” 32, previously pleaded guilty before Chief U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson in Trenton federal court to Count One of a third superseding indictment charging him with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin. Judge Wolfson imposed the sentence today by videoconference.

In October 2018, Antonio, and 25 other individuals were charged by criminal complaint with conspiracy to distribute heroin. On Feb. 27, 2020, a grand jury returned a 10-count third superseding indictment charging Antonio and six other defendants with conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin and various other drug and firearm offenses. Twenty-three of the 26 defendants charged in the complaint have pleaded guilty.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From October 2017 to October 2018, the defendant and others engaged in a large drug trafficking conspiracy that operated in the areas of Martin Luther King Boulevard, Sanford Street, Middle Rose Street, Southard Street, Hoffman Avenue, Chambers Street, and Coolidge Avenue in Trenton, and which sought to profit from the distribution of heroin and numerous other controlled substances. Through the interception of telephone calls and text messages pursuant to court-authorized wiretap orders, controlled purchases of heroin, the use of confidential sources of information, and other investigative techniques, law enforcement learned that conspirators Jakir Taylor and Jerome Roberts obtained regular supplies of hundreds of “bricks” of heroin from Antonio. Intercepted communications among Taylor, Roberts, Antonio, and other conspirators revealed that Taylor and Roberts agreed to obtain from Antonio, and that Antonio agreed to supply, a “motherlode” of as many as 1,400 bricks of heroin in a single delivery – equating to approximately 1.5 kilograms of heroin. Taylor told Antonio that he intended to “flood the streets” of Trenton with this large supply, and Antonio agreed to supply a sufficient amount of heroin to Taylor that would allow him to do so. In communications with Taylor, Antonio indicated that he was “filling the bags” up with heroin and fentanyl. During coordinated arrests on Oct. 25, 2018, law enforcement arrested Antonio at a residence in Trenton, and recovered more than 1.4 kilograms of heroin, in addition to a significant amount of paraphernalia used to package heroin for distribution.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Wolfson sentenced Antonio to five years of supervised release.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, Newark Division, Trenton Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr.; special agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Newark Division, Trenton Field Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Charlie J. Patterson; officers of the Trenton Police Department, under the direction of Police Director Sheilah Coley; officers of the Princeton Police Department, under the direction of Chief of Police Nicholas Sutter; officers of the Ewing Police Department, under the direction of Chief of Police John P. Stemler III; officers of the Burlington Township Police Department, under the direction of Police Director Bruce Painter; and detectives of the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Scott A. Coffina, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing. He also thanked officers of the New Jersey State Police, under the direction of Superintendent Col. Patrick J. Callahan; detectives of the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Angelo Onofri; officers of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff John A. Kemler; and members of the New Jersey State Board of Parole for their assistance in the investigation and prosecution of the case.

The government is represented by Attorney-in-Charge J. Brendan Day and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Ramey of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division in Trenton.

This case was conducted under the auspices of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and the FBI’s Greater Trenton Safe Streets Task Force, a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to enhance the identification, apprehension, and prosecution of individuals involved in gang-related activities, violent crime, and drug distribution in and around the greater Trenton area. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.

The three remaining defendants charged in this case are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

20-297 ###

Defense counsel: David Schafer Esq., Trenton