Month: September 2020

State and Local Officials Investigating Cases of Legionnaires’ Disease In Hamilton Township

September 25, 2020

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–The Hamilton Township Division of Health, working closely with the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH), has identified a potential cluster of Legionnaires’ disease cases within Hamilton Township.

Legionnaires’ disease is relatively uncommon with most cases occurring in New Jersey between the months of July and October, typically peaking in August. The cluster the Division of Health is investigating includes four Township residents with confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease, two of which have since died. The residents became ill between August 18 and August 24, 2020. Due to HIPAA and the right to privacy, specific information on each case cannot be disclosed.

“While the risk to our residents remains low, Legionnaires’ disease can be a serious illness especially for those who are older or have underlying health concerns,” stated Hamilton Township Health Officer Christopher Hellwig. “If you’re not feeling well and have respiratory illness like symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, and headache I encourage you to speak with your medical provider. Legionnaires’ disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics, and is not spread from person-to-person”

Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria. People can get Legionnaires’ disease by breathing in aerosolized water containing Legionella bacteria. Aerosolized water, also known as small droplets, can come from cooling towers (air-conditioning units for large buildings), hot tubs, cooling misters, decorative fountains, and plumbing systems.  Legionella bacteria can be found in water systems of any type, but people cannot get ill with Legionnaires’ disease by drinking water.  Home air conditioning units do not use water to cool, so these home units do not aerosolize water and are not a risk for Legionella growth.

While it is often difficult to determine the origin of the bacteria that infected the Hamilton residents, the investigation is ongoing and the Division of Health is attempting to identify potential sources of exposure. NJDOH and the Hamilton Division of Health recently collected environmental samples from selected sites. Additionally, Hamilton Township has hired an independent laboratory to conduct water sampling at various locations around the Township. NJDOH, Hamilton Division of Health, and NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) are working to identify additional sites to sample. The sample locations the Township has identified thus far are in the Mercerville section of the Township.

“NJDOH and the Hamilton Township Division of Health are working closely together to identify potential sources of Legionella exposure,” said Edward M. Lifshitz, MD, FACP, Medical Director, Communicable Disease Service, New Jersey Department of Health. “Since this is a continuing investigation, healthcare providers are urged to test patients with community-acquired and healthcare-acquired pneumonia for Legionnaires’ disease, especially among residents of Hamilton Township. This is important to ensure patients receive appropriate and timely treatment.”

Most people exposed to Legionella bacteria do not develop Legionnaires’ disease. People over the age of 50, especially those who smoke cigarettes, or those with certain medical conditions, including weakened immune systems, chronic lung disease or other chronic health conditions, are at increased risk for Legionnaires’ disease.

“Upon learning of the positive cases, and given Hamilton’s history with Legionnaire’s disease, our Health Department took swift action to investigate these cases and search not only for a common link, but for any continued possible exposure to our residents,” stated Mayor Jeff Martin. “I want to thank NJDOH and NJDEP for working with our staff to coordinate efforts to ensure our residents remain healthy.”  “The symptoms of Legionnaires’ Disease and COVID-19 can be very similar which makes it even more important that anyone experiencing these symptoms immediately contact their medical provider.” 

For more information about Legionnaires’ disease, of if you think you may have had or currently have Legionnaires’ disease make sure to speak with your medical provider. Residents can also find additional information online from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at

Arrests Made In High School Damage, Stolen Lawn Items In South Brunswick

See related MidJersey.News stories here: Police Look For Help In Finding Truck That Damaged SBHS

South Brunswick Police Seek Investigating Odd Crime Of Stealing Flowers From Front Lawns

September 24, 2020

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–Chief Raymond J. Hayducka of the South Brunswick Police Department announced today that arrests had been made in two recent cases of criminal mischief and thefts around the Township. “The damage to the high school may be over $10,000 and the thefts of items right off homeowners’ front lawns left many feeling uneasy. These cases impacted our community and with help from the community and good police work, arrests were made,” said Chief Hayducka. 

  • Police Arrest Driver in Damage to South Brunswick High School

            On Wednesday, September 23rd, South Brunswick Police sought the assistance of the public and our surrounding law enforcement agencies in identifying the individual who drove his truck on the sports fields at South Brunswick High School, causing thousands of dollars’ worth of damage. Several residents along with surrounding law enforcement agencies provided tips on the identity of the suspect responsible for the damage. On Thursday, September 24th, in collaboration with surrounding police agencies, a lead was developed. A suspect was identified and the pickup truck was located at a North Brunswick location. Detectives took David E. French age 20 of North Brunswick into custody. 

The investigation determined that French had no connection to the high school and was going off roading with his truck when he drove across the fields. French was charged with Criminal Mischief, a 3rd degree crime due to the amount of damage done to the fields. He was processed and released on a summons with a court date scheduled.

  • Overnight Landscaping Thieves Apprehended

            South Brunswick Police announced that they have brought to an end the overnight landscaping thefts that had targeted the Kendall Park neighborhoods for the past three weeks.  At least eight township residents called police to report that during evening or overnight hours, thieves entered their yards and stole solar landscaping lights, potted flowers, a bird feeder, and lawn decorations.

            As these incidents unfolded, several victims took to social media to warn others about the thieves, which, in turn, prompted additional victims to come forward. As police began to investigate these thefts, video of the actors was obtained from multiple sources, including numerous video doorbells. A description of the actors, a white male and a white female driving a white Ford Explorer Sport Track Pickup, was developed, and suspects identified.

            South Brunswick Detective Brady Shelcusky realized the vehicle described one he had seen on a previous case. He went to the suspect’s address in Franklin Township and observed several items that had been stolen from South Brunswick lawns adorning the suspect’s front lawn. Detective Shelcusky linked the homes occupants -Danielle Viszneki,  age 35 years and her fiancé James Baker age 51, to all of the thefts. The investigation uncovered that the two would drive around different neighborhoods and steal lighting, flowers, and other landscaping to spruce up their own front lawns. Detective Shelcusky collected all the stolen items and returned them to different homeowners.

Both actors were charged with Theft of Movable Property, a 4th degree offense. They were processed and released on summonses.

Protest Against A4576 And S2907 Requiring Mandatory Flu Vaccinations Held At Statehouse

Assembly 4576 and

September 24, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Over 1,000 attended a rally today at the NJ State House to protest against New Jersey Assembly Bill A4576 and matching NJ Senate S2907 Requires students and certain other children to be annually vaccinated for influenza as condition of enrollment at public and private K-12 schools, preschools, child care centers, and institutions of higher education.

Assembly 4576 Statement below, read entire A4576 bill here

Read identical NJ Senate Bill S2907 here

  This bill requires students who attend a public or private K-12 school, preschool, child care center, or institution of higher education to be annually vaccinated for influenza as a condition of enrollment and continued attendance at the school or center. 

     Commencing with the 2020-2021 school year:

     1)    a principal, director, or other person in charge of a public or private school in this State will be prohibited from knowingly admitting or retaining in grades K through 12 a child whose parent or guardian has not submitted acceptable evidence, by December 31 of the relevant school year, showing that the child has received an annual vaccination for influenza;

     2)    an executive director, administrator, or other person in charge of a preschool or child care center will be prohibited from knowingly admitting or retaining in the preschool or child care center a child whose parent or guardian has not submitted acceptable evidence, by December 31 of the relevant school year, showing that the child has received an annual vaccination for influenza; and

     3)    an administrator or other person in charge of an institution of higher education in this State will be prohibited from knowingly admitting or retaining a student who has not submitted acceptable evidence, by December 31 of the relevant school year, showing that the student has received an annual vaccination for influenza.

     Consistent with existing laws pertaining to the mandatory vaccination of children and students, the bill would provide that a child or student will be exempt from the bill’s vaccination requirements if:

     1)    a written statement is submitted to the K-12 school, preschool, child care center, or institution of higher education by a licensed physician indicating that the vaccine is medically contraindicated for a specific period of time and the reasons for the medical contraindication, which are to be valid medical reasons as determined by regulation of the commissioner.  Such statement will exempt the child or student from the vaccination for the period of time stated therein; or

     2)    a written statement is submitted to the K-12 school, preschool, or child care center by the child’s or student’s parent or guardian, if the child or student is a minor, or by the student, if the student is 18 years of age or older, explaining how the administration of the vaccine conflicts with the bona fide religious tenets or practices of the child or student, or of the parent or guardian, as the case may be, except that a general philosophical or moral objection to the vaccination will not be sufficient for an exemption to be granted on religious grounds. 

     Children attending public or private K-12 schools, child care centers, and preschools in New Jersey are already required by existing law to be vaccinated for various contagious and dangerous diseases, including diphtheria, hepatitis B, measles, meningitis, mumps, pertussis, pneumococcal disease, polio, rubella, tetanus, and varicella, as a condition of attendance at the institution.  Students of higher education are further required to verify their receipt of these vaccinations as a condition of their attendance at an institute of higher education.  Although children in New Jersey who are between six and 59 months of age and who are attending a child-care center or preschool facility are additionally required by the State Sanitary Code to receive an annual vaccination for influenza, this requirement is not codified in the statutory law.

     In March 2020, Governor Murphy issued Executive Order No. 103, which declared a public health emergency and state of emergency in New Jersey in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).  COVID-19 is a newly discovered and highly contagious pandemic-level disease that has spread quickly throughout the world, nation, and State, and against which humans have no natural immunity.  It is associated with a wide range of symptoms, including, but not limited to, fever, cough, difficulty breathing, chills, sudden loss of smell or taste, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, many of which overlap with the symptoms of seasonal influenza.  It is also possible for a person to become simultaneously infected with both COVID-19 and influenza, which may not only cause the person to experience more severe symptoms, but may also cause problems both for health care providers, in relation to their ability to provide the patient with an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment, and for administrators of schools, preschools, and child care centers, in relation to their ability to identify and appropriately respond to outbreaks occurring at those institutions.

     The vaccination of children and students for influenza will significantly reduce the number of children and students in the State who experience severe flu symptoms or a severe combination of flu and COVID-19 symptoms, will help reduce competition among flu and COVID-19 patients for similar medical resources, and will result in fewer emergency department visits and hospitalizations related to influenza, thereby enabling the State to preserve its hospital capacity and emergency and intensive care resources for patients who are infected with COVID-19 or other severe diseases and ailments.

     Preschools, child care centers, and K-12 schools, where children come into close contact with and freely mingle with each other and adult faculty and staff members, and institutions of higher education, where students often live in communal settings and come into close contact with thousands of other students, faculty, and other staff in dormitories, lecture halls, sports arenas, and other large, on-campus venues, are the types of institutions that may facilitate the quick and uncontrollable spread of COVID-19; however, because these institutions operate during flu season, it may be difficult for these institutions and for health care officials to quickly determine, for the purposes of implementing preventative and responsive measures, whether an outbreak of illness at the institution is occurring as a result of the spread of COVID-19 or influenza.  By requiring the vaccination of children and students for influenza, the State can make it easier for these institutions to identify which children or students, if any, are showing signs of COVID-19 infection.

     Because of the severe, unprecedented, and unpredictable nature of COVID-19, the fact that there is currently no vaccine or preventative treatment for COVID-19, the commonalities that exist between COVID-19 and influenza, the fact that a person may simultaneously be infected with both diseases, the fact that patients with influenza will compete with COVID-19 patients and other severely ill patients for hospital space and resources, and the unique characteristics of public and private K-12 schools, preschools, child care centers, and institutions of higher education, it is both reasonable and necessary for the Legislature to require children and students at these institutions to be annually vaccinated for influenza, as a condition of their continued enrollment and attendance at the institution, in each year going forward. 

Black Lives Matter Mural Painted On West State Street Trenton

September 24, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–A Black Lives Matter mural has been painted in front of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, 379 West State Street yesterday an event was held at 4 pm with members of the AACCNJ, Governor Phil Murphy, Reverend Al Sharpton, and more. See press release below for complete information.

The African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ) in conjunction with the State of New Jersey and the National Action Network will construct a “Black Lives Matter” mural, on Wednesday, September 23rd, at the headquarters of the AACCNJ, located at 379 West State Street, Trenton, NJ.

The live painting will commence at 10:00 a.m. and continue throughout the day, culminating in an official ceremony, scheduled for 4:00 p.m. on the front dais of the AACCNJ headquarters. The ceremony will include remarks from John E. Harmon, Sr., IOM, Founder, President & CEO, AACCNJ, The Honorable, Phil Murphy, Governor, State of NJ, The Honorable Reed Gusciora , Mayor City of Trenton, Reverend Al Sharpton, Founder, National Action Network, Rev. Dr. Steffie Bartley, Sr., Northeast Regional Director of National Action Network, and Rabbi Abe Friedman, Senior Rabbi of Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel (BZBI) in Philadelphia, PA, among others.

“We believe that simulating the Black Lives Matter murals that are happening nationwide demonstrates the support of the AACCNJ with the merits and messaging of the nationwide movement, and will provide a platform for local and state government to show their endorsement of this message – with their presence at this event.”, said John E. Harmon, Sr., IOM.

Attorney General Grewal Announces Results of New Survey Showing 239 Of New Jersey’s Law Enforcement Agencies Now Use Body-Worn Cameras

Attorney General advocates for additional police departments to deploy body-worn cameras as a tool to promote accountability, assist police, and build police-community trust

September 24, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced the results of a statewide survey of New Jersey’s law enforcement agencies that revealed that 239 of the 537 agencies surveyed now equip some or all of their officers with body-worn cameras.

The survey conducted by the Attorney General’s Office includes state, county, and local law enforcement agencies, as well as college campus police, a school district police department, and bridge police.  It does not include federal agencies.  The 239 agencies with body-worn cameras have a total of 12,195 cameras.  The survey represents a snapshot of body-worn cameras owned as of Sept. 23, 2020.  It does not include cameras that are in the process of being acquired by law enforcement agencies.

The New Jersey State Police recently completed the process of outfitting all State Troopers on road patrol with body-worn cameras.  Of the four State Police patrol units, Troop A, Troop B, and Troop C were fully outfitted with body-worn cameras by the start of July 2020.  Troop D was fully outfitted with body-worn cameras by the end of August.

The survey indicates that the number of law enforcement agencies with body-worn cameras is approaching half of the agencies in the state— specifically, approximately 45 percent of the total number of agencies. 

To see the full survey results click here.

Attorney General Grewal supports the use of body-worn cameras, but cannot mandate their statewide use unless the Legislature appropriates sufficient, reliable funding to help local police departments purchase and maintain these systems.  Police departments are welcome—and encouraged—to purchase their own body-worn camera systems if they are in a position to do so, in order to promote accountability and strengthen police-community relations.

A 2017 survey of police officers using body-worn cameras in New Jersey indicated that most were highly satisfied with the devices and viewed them as effective tools for promoting public trust, protecting officers, and gathering evidence.

“I applaud the many police departments that have embraced body-worn cameras as a critical tool for enhancing police-community relations, and I urge more to follow suit,” said Attorney General Grewal.  “The need for accountability and transparency has never been greater, as we strive to build stronger trust between police officers and the communities they serve.  Body cameras not only enhance accountability in policing, they protect the vast majority of officers who do the right thing day-in and day-out, reducing unfounded complaints.  As an objective witness to law enforcement actions, they bolster public confidence and can even help de-escalate volatile situations.”

In 2015, New Jersey implemented the following statewide policy governing the use of body-worn cameras by police departments that elect to deploy them:

Since then, Attorney General Grewal has advocated for greater transparency with respect to video footage of police use-of-force incidents.  Shortly after taking office in 2018, he issued AG Directive 2018-1, which established a policy that body- and dash-camera videos of police deadly force incidents are subject to public release, following a formal request, once the initial investigation of the incident is substantially complete, typically within 20 days of the incident.

Attorney General Grewal enhanced that policy in December 2019, as part of his Excellence in Policing Initiative by issuing the Independent Prosecutor Directive (AG Directive 2019-4,), which lays out a comprehensive process for the independent investigation of police use-of-force and death-in-custody incidents.  New disclosure rules in that directive include release of any third-party footage captured by surveillance cameras or a civilian’s smartphone and later obtained by law enforcement during the investigation.

Working with law enforcement statewide and community stakeholders, Attorney General Grewal has implemented some of the most ambitious and progressive policing reforms in the country:

  • Mandating implicit bias training for all prosecutors, state and county detectives, and state troopers. 
  • Creating a statewide Conviction Review Unit. 
  • Launching a first-in-the-nation statewide officer resiliency program. 
  • Banning chokeholds except in the most limited circumstances. 
  • Holding regular community listening sessions in all 21 counties in New Jersey. 
  • Overhauling the state’s police training programs. 
  • Building a statewide use-of-force database.

Attorney General Grewal is also undertaking a substantial rewrite of the state’s use of force policy – the first rewrite of the policy in 20 years – incorporating feedback from public listening sessions held earlier this summer. The revised policy is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

More information on the Excellence in Policing Initiative is found at this link:

BREAKING: House Fire In Hamilton Quickly Knocked Down

September 23, 2020

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–The Hamilton Township Fire Department was dispatched to the 600 Block of Paxon Avenue for a house fire at 8:41 pm. Upon arrival of the first due fire apparatus, fire crews were met with heavy fire showing in the front of the home, coming from the attached garage. The fire was also extending inside the home from the garage area. A full first alarm was called sending additional equipment to the scene.

Firefighters quickly put 2 lines in service and laid a 5″ supply line towards Flock Road to the nearest hydrant. The fire was quickly knocked down and placed under control within 15 minutes. Firefighters remained on scene for overhaul and the fire investigation. The Township Fire Marshal was still on scene investigation the fire at the time of this report. There is no word of the cause of the fire. Once additional details become available the story will be updated and corrections if any made.

In the Facebook Live Video says Flock but the fire was on Paxon Ave. It was not too far off Flock was the confusion.

Romanian National Was Sentenced Today To 33 Months In Prison For ATM Skimming In Central And North Jersey

September 23, 2020


A Romanian national was sentenced today to 33 months in prison for his role in a conspiracy to steal bank account information from thousands of customers by installing secret card-reading devices and pinhole cameras on ATMs throughout New Jersey and elsewhere, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Lucian Burulea, 34, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud. U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan imposed the sentence this afternoon in Trenton federal court.

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

Burulea admitted he was part of an ATM skimming scheme that stole bank account information by installing hidden card-reading devices on ATMs throughout northern and central New Jersey. Burulea previously acknowledged that he and his conspirators created bank cards using the fraudulently obtained account information, which they used to unlawfully withdraw large amounts of cash from various ATMs. The scheme, which involved actual and attempted losses of more than $1.5 million dollars, affected over 1,000 bank customers.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Sheridan sentenced Burulea to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $265,957 in restitution.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr.; detectives with the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone; and detectives with the Woodbridge Police Department, under the direction of Police Director Robert Hubner, with the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Shawn Barnes of the U.S. Attorney’s Office OCDETF/Narcotics Unit in Newark.


Defense counsel: John Holliday Esq., Trenton

NY Man Travels To Bordentown, NJ Intending To Meet 13 Year Old For Sex

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–A New York man was arrested today after travelling from New York to New Jersey to meet an individual, whom he believed was a 13-year old girl, for sex, U.S Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Eduardo Silva, 42, of Bronx, New York, is charged in a three-count complaint with enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity, travelling from New York to New Jersey for the purpose of engaging in unlawful sexual conduct, and sending obscene materials over the Internet. He appeared today by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Zahid N. Quraishi and was detained.

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

On Sept. 5, 2020, Silva, while using an online social media application, sent a message to an individual he believed was an underage girl, but who was actually an undercover federal agent. Silva asked whether the minor was “into older guys” and over the course of the next several days sent a series of online communications and text messages, discussing his intent to travel and engage in sexual activity. He also sent sexually explicit images of his genitals to the individual, whom he believed was a minor. On Sept. 23, 2020, Silva was arrested when he travelled to a motel in Bordentown, New Jersey, intending to meet a 13-year-old girl for sex.

The charge of using a facility of interstate commerce to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison; the charge of travel with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison; and the charge of using the internet to transfer obscene matters to an individual who had not attained the age of 16 carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The charges also each carry a maximum fine of $250,000 per count.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, Cherry Hill, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jason J. Molina in Newark, with the investigation that led to Silva’s arrest. U.S. Attorney Carpenito also thanked the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office and the Bordentown Township Police Department for their assistance in the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ray Mateo of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Trenton.

If you have information regarding the pending prosecution, or you believe you or someone you know may have been victimized by the defendant, the Department of Homeland Security requests that you contact them at 1-866-347-2423. Identified victims may be eligible for certain services and rights under federal and state law.

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


Defense counsel: Brian Reilly Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, Trenton

Police Seek Help Finding Missing Middletown Woman

September 23, 2020

MIDDLETOWN, NJ (MONMOUTH)–New Jersey State Police Seeking Public’s Assistance with Locating Missing Endangered Woman The New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit and Middletown Township Police Department are seeking the public’s assistance with locating Mary Silengo, 62, of Middletown Township, N.J.Ms. Silengo was last seen on Tuesday, September 22, at approximately 11:00 p.m. at her residence in the area of Concord Court , Middletown Township, Monmouth County. Ms. Silengo is described as a white female, 5’2″, 121 pounds, with blonde-grey hair and blue eyes. She was last seen wearing a bright pink pajama shirt, grey sweatpants, a dark-colored jacket and black boots. She left without her vehicle and cell phone. Ms. Silengo suffers from a mental illness and is in need of her medications. Anyone with information is asked to call the New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit at (609) 882-2000 ext. 2554 or Middletown Police Department at (732) 615-2100. Anonymous tips are welcome.

Police Look For Help In Finding Truck That Damaged SBHS

Update related story here: Arrests Made In High School Damage, Stolen Lawn Items In South Brunswick

September 23, 2020

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–Chief Raymond J. Hayducka of the South Brunswick Police Department announced Wednesday afternoon the department was looking for the public’s assistance with identifying the people who damaged South Brunswick High School early Tuesday morning. At 12:02 am drove onto the school grounds and rode all over the baseball, softball, and soccer field causing damage. Police released images of the truck today looking for the public’s help in identifying the driver.  “The fields that were damaged just had several thousand dollars’ worth of upgrades. Our high school baseball team never got to use the new fields because of Covid and now this. We are following several leads, but are asking anyone with information to come forward, “said Chief Hayducka.  

In addition to tips on the owner of the vehicle, police are looking for anyone in and around the high school who may have video surveillance between 11:55 pm on Monday and 12:10 am on Tuesday.

TRUCK DESCRIPTION: Black or Blue Pickup with an extended bed with a possible lift kit.

Two images of the truck on school property are being released. One image shows the coming off Stouts Lane and driving at the rear of the property near the tennis courts. The second image is the truck  further past the tennis courts at the back of the annex gym.

Anyone with information is asked to contact South Brunswick Police School Resource Detective Robert Marrese at (732) 329-4646 or (732) 329-4000 ext. 7496.

Tip information may be provided anonymously by calling Crime Stoppers of Middlesex County at 1-800-939-9600 or submitted online at  Tips may also be sent by text messaging 274637 (CRIMES) with the keyword: “midtip” followed by the tip information.

Former Long Branch Police Officer Resentenced In Fatal Pedestrian Crash

September 23, 2020

Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone announced today that a former Long Branch police officer was sentenced today to county jail as part of his sentence for striking and killing a pedestrian on September 22, 2017.

Jake Pascucci, 31, of Long Branch was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Michael A. Toto to 8 months in the county jail.

Pascucci was originally sentenced on June 28, 2018 to serve 364 days in the county jail as a condition of 5-years of probation to be served upon his release. He was also sentenced to 30 days for driving while intoxicated which was to run concurrent to the county jail time. He forfeited his public employment with the Long Branch Police Department and lost his driving privilege for three months.

That sentence was imposed after Pascucci pleaded guilty on April 3, 2018 in accordance with an agreement reached with Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Keith Abrams, to strict liability vehicular homicide in the third degree and driving while intoxicated in the death of Karen Borkowski, 66 of Stanhope.

The June 28, 2018 sentence was appealed, and the Judge stayed the custodial portion of the sentencing pending that appeal. The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court remanded the case back to Superior Court for resentencing.

Jake Pascucci is due to surrender to the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Department on Friday, September 25, 2020.

Pascucci was charged after an investigation by Detective Donald Heck of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office which determined that on September 22, 2017, the pedestrian was struck and killed by a car driven by the off-duty police officer as she attempted to cross Ocean Boulevard. Karen Borkowski was pronounced dead at the scene following the crash.

Hamilton Man Accused of Aggravated Sexual Assault Ordered Detained

September 23, 2020

Related MidJersey.News story here: Hamilton Man Arrested For Aggravated Sexual Assault

HAMILTON, NJ (MERCER)–A 26-year-old Hamilton man arrested last week and charged with sexually assaulting women at two separate gatherings at his Liberty Street residence last year was ordered detained Wednesday pending final resolution to his case.

At a hearing held Wednesday afternoon in Mercer County Superior Court, Judge Robert W. Bingham II granted Assistant Prosecutor Tim Ward’s motion to detain Eridson M. Rodriguez pending final resolution to his case.

Last week, Rodriguez was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree aggravated sexual assault and two counts of third-degree aggravated criminal sexual contact.  He is accused of having intercourse with two women, ages 19 and 20, who were intoxicated and incapacitated during gatherings at his house in March 2019 and again in May 2019.

Since his arrest, four additional victims have stepped forward and accused Rodriguez of similar crimes.  He now faces additional charges of aggravated sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual contact.

The investigation is ongoing.  Anyone with information on the case is asked to contact Detective Shari Johnson of the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit at (609) 989-6758 or Hamilton Police Detective Daniel Inman at (609) 581-4000.

Despite having been charged, all persons are presumed innocent until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Trenton Man Seriously Injured In Early Morning Hamilton Crash

September 23, 2020

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–On September 23, 2020 at approximately 2:00 am a motor vehicle crash occurred at the intersection of Klockner Rd and Kuser Rd.  A 2002 Honda CR-V driven by Auner Rauda, 43 year old male from Trenton, was traveling eastbound on Klockner Rd when for an unknown reason, he crossed over the westbound lane, left the roadway, and struck a tree at the intersection with Kuser Rd. The vehicle became engulfed in flames and Mr. Rauda was extracted from the vehicle by Officer Ryan Fratz, who was the first responding officer to arrive on scene and Kuser Rd resident John Hodnicki.  Mr. Rauda suffered serious injuries and was transported to Capital Health Regional Medical Center by ambulance.  

The crash investigation is ongoing and any witnesses are asked to contact Officer Devin Hendricksen or Officer Brian DiBiasi of the Hamilton Police Traffic Unit at (609)581-4000 or the Hamilton Police Crime Tip Hotline at (609)581-4008.

Seaside Heights Man Pleads Guilty To Aggravated Manslaughter

September 23, 2020

TOMS RIVER, NJ (OCEAN)–Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on September 23, 2020, John T. Mullen Jr., 51, of Seaside Heights, pled guilty to Aggravated Manslaughter in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4, before the Honorable Guy P. Ryan, J.S.C. At the time of his sentencing on November 30, 2020, the State will be seeking a sentence of 30 years in New Jersey State Prison, subject to the terms of the No Early Release Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2.On October 20, 2019, Manchester Township Police responded to the Surf and Stream Campground after receiving multiple 911 calls about a body lying in the entrance driveway to the campground. Upon arrival, Manchester patrol units found the body of Thomas J. Applegate, 34, of Manchester, lying in the driveway of the Surf and Stream Campground with a wound in his chest. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. A joint investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office High Tech Crime Unit, Manchester Police Department, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit determined that Mullen stabbed Mr. Applegate during the course of a drug deal, which ultimately resulted in his death. Prosecutor Billhimer commends the fine work of Supervising Assistant Prosecutor Michael Abatemarco and Assistant Prosecutor Alyssa Mandara who handled the case on behalf of the State, as well as the collaborative efforts of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office High Tech Crime Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Victim Witness Advocacy Unit, Manchester Township Police Department, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, who collectively did an outstanding job investigating and resolving this matter. “Through good old-fashioned police work, these law enforcement agencies – acting together – expeditiously solved this heinous crime and identified Mullen as the individual responsible for Mr. Applegate’s death,” Prosecutor Billhimer stated. “As a result of their tremendous teamwork, for which I am extremely grateful, this dangerous man was swiftly apprehended, and will now be required to answer for his crime with a lengthy state prison sentence. Justice for Mr. Applegate and his family will be served,” Prosecutor Billhimer concluded.

NJ State Prison, State Corrections Officer Indicted

September 23, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–A Mercer County grand jury returned an indictment Tuesday charging a state corrections officer and his accomplice with accepting bribes to smuggle contraband into New Jersey State Prison, Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo J. Onofri reported.

The three-count indictment charges Correction Officers Jamaine Russell, 27, of Deptford, and Debra Rayner, 34, of Mullica Hill, with one count each of second-degree official misconduct, second-degree bribery and third-degree financial facilitation of criminal activity.

The indictment alleges that Russell, a NJDOC employee since 2016, used his position to receive cash payments in exchange for bringing narcotics and other contraband into New Jersey State Prison in Trenton from October 2018 through November 2019.  The indictment alleges that Russell, a NJDOC employee since 2016, used his position to receive cash payments in exchange for bringing narcotics and other contraband into New Jersey State Prison in Trenton from October 2018 through November 2019.  Rayner was indicted as an accomplice to Russell’s illegal acts, and while she herself is not an employee of NJDOC, she is legally accountable for Russell’s conduct because she promoted and facilitated the commission of the crimes charged.

Russell and Rayner were charged in November 2019 following an investigation by the New Jersey Department of Corrections Special Investigations Division.  Assistant Prosecutor Rachel Cook, chief of the Economic Crime Unit, presented the case to the grand jury.

Despite having been indicted, every defendant is presumed innocent until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Continuing Coverage: Trenton 3rd Alarm Now “Fire and Suspicious Death” Investigation

Previous MidJersey.News stories here:

Victim In 3rd Alarm Trenton Fire Identified, Fire Under Investigation

Update: 3rd Alarm In 2 Family Home With “Collyer’s Mansion” Conditions Turns Fatal

3rd Alarm On Southard Street

September 23, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Trenton Fire and Suspicious Death Under Investigation On Tuesday evening, the Mercer County Homicide Task Force was called out to a working fire in the 700 block of Southard Street that began around 8:30 p.m.

When the fire was extinguished, the body of a deceased male was located inside a residence in fire debris.

The Mercer County Homicide Task Force, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Arson Unit and the Trenton Police Department continue to investigate. Anyone with information is asked to call (609) 989-6406. Information can also be emailed to

Update: 3rd Alarm In 2 Family Home With “Collyer’s Mansion” Conditions Turns Fatal

Continuing Coverage:

Victim In 3rd Alarm Trenton Fire Identified, Fire Under Investigation

Trenton 3rd Alarm Now “Suspicious Death” Investigation

Updated information from last nights MidJersey.News breaking news story: 3rd Alarm On Southard Street

September 23, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Trenton officials confirm that one person has perished in a house fire last night on Southard Street. The fire started around 8:30 pm in the 700 Block of Southard Street. First arriving firefighters found heavy fire conditions in a 2 1/2 story, 2 family home and had to fight “Collyer’s Mansion” type conditions, from hording. The fire eventually escalated to 3 alarms. Trenton officials also report one additional person was displaced. No further information is available at this time.

A “Collyer’s Mansion” is a term used by firefighters to describe a home packed with materials, trash and debris that makes for a tough firefight.

Quick Knockdown Of Machinery Fire Saves Large Commercial Printing Facility In Robbinsville

September 23, 2020

ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–At 6:55 am Robbinsville Township firefighters were dispatched to the 1st block of Applegate Drive for a building fire in a commercial building.

Mutual aid was also sent from Hamilton Township Fire Department and Hope Fire Company of Allentown-Upper Freehold. The fire was also at Robbinsville’s shift change making available an additional engine for the firefight.

When fire apparatus first arrived crews found a large industrial printing press on fire in a 190,000 square foot printing facility. Firefighters stretched a hand line and quickly extinguished the fire inside the building, perhaps saving millions of dollars and loss of jobs.

Firefighters remained on scene to help evacuate smoke from the building and overhaul the fire. The Robbinsville Township fire marshal is investigating the fire.

BREAKING: 3 Alarm Fire On Southard Street

September 22, 2020

Continuing Coverage:

Victim In 3rd Alarm Trenton Fire Identified, Fire Under Investigation

Trenton 3rd Alarm Now “Suspicious Death” Investigation

UPDATED: SEE UPDATED STORY HERE: Update: 3rd Alarm In 2 Family Home With “Collyer’s Mansion” Conditions Turns Fatal

BREAKING NEWS REPORT: Breaking news report from on scene and radio reports, if and when official information becomes available story will be updated and corrections made.

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Around 8:30 pm the Trenton Fire Department was sent to the 700 Block of Southard Street for a house fire. Upon arrival companies struck an “All Hands” sending the full first alarm and additional EMS units were also called to the scene. Fire was in a 2 1/2 story 2 family home with heavy fire conditions throughout. About 20 minutes into the fire a 2nd Alarm was called for and eventually the fire became a 3rd Alarm.

No further information was available about the fire.

Mercer County Park Commission Awarded $150,000 Grant For Restoration In Roebling Park

September 22, 2020

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have announced that the Mercer County Park Commission will be awarded a grant from the 2020 Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund for $150,000. This grant will help fund the installation of a living shoreline and public access to the waterways in Roebling Park and the Abbott Marshlands. This three-step restoration project will include constructing a 500-linear-foot living shoreline along Watson’s Creek, conducting a feasibility study for the re-introduction of freshwater mussels in the marsh and installing a user-friendly and ecologically sensitive public boat launch. This award is a result of collaboration between the Park Commission, Princeton Hydro and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary. 

Freshwater tidal marsh is one of the most ecologically valuable habitat types in New Jersey, yet it has experienced the highest percentage of loss and degradation of wetland habitat in the state. The marsh within Roebling Park in Hamilton is in the heart of the larger 3,000-acre Abbott Marshlands, the northernmost tidal freshwater wetland on the Delaware River. Approximately 309 acres of Roebling Park are freshwater tidal wetlands, and provide habitat for rare organisms such as wild rice, river otter and American eel, and a prime breeding habitat for bald eagles. 

“This grant will help further the county’s efforts to improve wetland functions and passive recreational opportunities in Roebling Park, an ecological jewel that’s located just minutes outside the City of Trenton,” said Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes. “Native plants, wildlife and the public all will benefit from the ongoing restoration in the park.”

The Park Commission is currently working with Princeton Hydro to conduct a multi-year, multi-phased restoration of these important freshwater tidal wetlands in Roebling Park. This ecosystem restoration will enhance the park’s biodiversity, restore natural tidal function, improve recreational opportunities through the eradication of Phragmites and promote a native floral community in the wetland. The installation of a living shoreline and ecologically sensitive boat launch will continue building on the overarching mission for the larger wetland restoration, which is to provide ecological uplift to the wetlands within Roebling Park, while improving ecosystem services.

“For the last several years the Park Commission has significantly increased its efforts to restore the unique ecosystems within Roebling Park,” said Park Commission Executive Director Aaron T. Watson. “This grant will now allow us to expand upon our work to date and also result in new ways for Mercer County residents to get outside and enjoy this wonderful natural resource.” The Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund aims to conserve and restore natural areas, corridors and waterways on public and private lands to support native migratory and resident wildlife and fish, and native plants; and to contribute to the social health and economic vitality of the communities in the Delaware River watershed. These grants address priorities in NFWF’s Delaware River Watershed Business Plan. The 2020 year round of funding will support 37 new or continuing conservation and restoration grants totaling $8.12 million.  The 2020 awards generated $22.08 million in match from the grantees, creating a total conservation impact of more than $30.2 million. Click here for a full list of 2020 DWCF awards.

Vote-By-Mail Drop Box Arrives In Allentown

September 22, 2020

ALLENTOWN, NJ (MONMOUTH)–An Allentown resident told MidJersey.News that around 11 pm last night a delivery crew installed a Vote-By-Mail Drop Box in front of Allentown at Borough Hall on Main Street. There are currently 17 Vote-By-Mail Drop Box locations for Monmouth County, this is the furthest west serving Western Monmouth County.

A current list of Vote-By-Mail Drop Box locations for Monmouth County can be found here.

Vote-By-Mail Drop Box Locations

Pursuant to State law, the November 3, 2020 General Election will be conducted primarily by Mail-In Ballot in New Jersey.

If you wish to place your Mail-In Ballot in a secure drop box, below are the locations throughout the County which will be available starting the week of September 15. Addresses in the list below are clickable and will bring up Google Maps.

Voters can drop their voted Mail-In Ballot into these Board of Elections Drop Boxes anywhere in the County up until 8 p.m. on November 3, 2020. You do not have to be a resident of the town where the drop box is located. Be advised that these drop boxes are under video surveillance and are monitored by the Monmouth County Board of Elections, which can be reached at 732-431-7802.

For more information about the General Election process, click here.

1Aberdeen Municipal Building1 Aberdeen Square
Aberdeen, NJ 07747
2Allentown Borough Hall8 North Main Street
Allentown, NJ 08501
3Asbury Park City Hall1 Municipal Plaza
Asbury Park, NJ 07712
City Council Chambers (Bangs Avenue Entrance)
4Borough of Belmar Municipal Building601 Main Street
Belmar, NJ 07719
5Eatontown Borough Municipal Building47 Broad Street
Eatontown, NJ 07724
Rear Entrance
6Board of Elections Office300 Halls Mill Road
Freehold, NJ 07728
Side Entrance
7Hazlet Agency – NJ Motor Vehicle Commission1374 Highway 36
Hazlet, NJ 07730
Airport Plaza
8Howell Township Municipal Building4567 Route 9 North
Howell, NJ 07731
Rear Entrance
9Long Branch City Hall344 Broadway
Long Branch, NJ 07740
10Manalapan Township Municipal Building120 County Road 522
Manalapan, NJ 07726
11Middletown Municipal Building1 Kings Highway
Middletown Township, NJ 07748
12Croydon Hall900 Leonardville Road
Leonardo, NJ 07737
13Neptune Township Municipal Building25 Neptune Boulevard
Neptune, NJ 07753
Library Entrance
14Ocean Township Town Hall399 Monmouth Road
Oakhurst, NJ 07755
15Red Bank Borough Municipal Building90 Monmouth Street
Red Bank, NJ 07701
16Rumson Borough Hall80 East River Road
Rumson, NJ 07760
17Wall Township Municipal Building2700 Allaire Road
Wall, NJ 07719

Historic Jackson Street Bridge Restoration Groundbreaking In Trenton

September 22, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Trenton had a groundbreaking event for the Jackson Street Bridge Restoration this morning. The Jackson Street Bridge was listed as a contributing element of the Mill Hill Historic District’s entry into the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.  The $880,000 project is expected to last approximately two to three months.

The New Jersey Steel and Iron Company, which completed the iron fabrication for the Jackson Street Bridge in 1888, based their plant in Trenton, and supplied iron parts for the construction of similar bridges.

Few bridges of this type are still around. The Jackson Street Bridge’s role as a pedestrian bridge has allowed it avoid significant deterioration and stand as a reminder of the Capital City’s history of economic development and innovation. 

The New Jersey Historic Trust provided $324,793 for renovations to be made to the Jackson Street Bridge and the City of Trenton contributed $557,207 to close the gap on funding costs for the program. Included in the costs of the project are repairs to the bridge’s walls, resurfacing the deck of the bridge, and painting the metal beams. 

City of Trenton Breaks Ground on Historic Jackson Street Bridge Rehab Project

Trenton, N.J. –Mayor W. Reed Gusciora today held a groundbreaking event to launch the rehabilitation of the Jackson Street Bridge, which currently connects Mill Hill Park with the Mill Hill neighborhood.

“We are proud to partner with the state on this important rehabilitation project,” said Mayor Gusciora. “Jackson Street Bridge was part of the Mill Hill Historic District’s entry into the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, and our shared investment will keep this iconic Trenton landmark functional for decades to come.”

The N.J. Historic Trust provided $324,793 for renovations made to the Jackson Street Bridge, with the City of Trenton contributing $557,207 to close the funding gap for the program. In total, the project, which is expected to last between two to three months, costs $882,000.

“Trenton residents, but especially those involved with the Old Mill Hill Society and those who live in Mill Hill, see this bridge every day,” said North Ward City Councilwoman Marge Caldwell-Wilson. “Promoting the arts and culture, preserving historical sites, and running programming for our residents to enjoy is all part of our commitment to community development.”

The N.J. Historic Trust, housed within the N.J. Department of Community Affairs, provided the Administration with $534,000 in 2018 for the completion of renovations to Douglass House, the headquarters of General George Washington during the Revolutionary War and to the Jackson Street Bridge. In particular, the Trust provided funding through the Garden State Historic Preservation Trust Fund, which has awarded $137 million in capital grants since 1990 to assist in preserving projects across New Jersey.

“On behalf of the Trust, we are proud to have supported the restoration of the Jackson Street Bridge,” said Dorothy Guzzo, Executive Director of the N.J. Historic Trust. “Maintaining the bridge and protecting the character of the Capital City historic sites can also signal economic development.”

Included in the project costs are repairs to the bridge’s walls, resurfacing the deck of the bridge, and repainting the metal beams. The triangular sloping beams, also referred to as trusses, are a product of the Jackson Street Bridge’s unique Pratt truss design. Around the country, the few Pratt truss bridges that remain are often used by vehicles and freight trains and are slowly being decommissioned due to the cost of maintaining them for non-pedestrian usage.

“Day to day, our focus is on improving residents’ quality of life, expanding employment opportunities, and serving our youth and seniors, all while preserving the culture and the history of the Capital City,” said Sam T. Frisby, Mercer County Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of the YMCA of Trenton. “As former Director of Recreation for the City of Trenton, it is intergovernmental collaboration like this that reduces the cost to Trenton residents and allows important restorations to occur.”

As project maintenance continues until November, a large covering will serve to protect the Assunpink Creek and the surrounding area while new concrete is poured, and the deck is surfaced with bituminous concrete.

“The New Jersey Steel and Iron Company fabricated the iron parts for this bridge in 1888. After 132 years of usage, this familiar site to Trentonians will finally be revitalized,” said Mayor Gusciora. “Community leaders and residents have called for this project’s completion since 2013, and we’re happy that the city can finally make it happen.”

Sayreville Man Admits Role In Area Heroin Conspiracy Distribution In Monmouth and Middlesex Counties

September 22, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–A Middlesex County, New Jersey, man today admitted that he conspired to distribute more than 100 grams of heroin as part of a conspiracy responsible for distributing significant quantities of heroin and cocaine in the Bayshore area of Monmouth and Middlesex counties, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Daniel McHugh, 50, of Sayreville, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Brian R. Martinotti via videoconference to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin. McHugh also admitted to conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute a quantity of cocaine and possessing with intent to distribute a quantity of crack cocaine.

Today’s guilty plea follows a coordinated takedown in November 2018 of 15 defendants charged by complaint with conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine. To date, 13 defendants have pleaded guilty, including supplier Gregory Gillens and lead defendant Guy Jackson. Gillens was sentenced on Sept. 8, 2020, to 10 years in prison. Jackson is awaiting sentencing.

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

From May 2017 to November 2018, McHugh and others engaged in a narcotics conspiracy that operated in the Raritan Bayshore region of Middlesex and northern Monmouth counties. Through the interception of telephone calls and text messages pursuant to court-authorized wiretap orders, controlled purchases of heroin and cocaine, the use of confidential sources of information, and other investigative techniques, law enforcement learned that McHugh regularly obtained heroin and cocaine for further distribution from Jackson. Some of the heroin distributed by the conspiracy contained fentanyl, a dangerous synthetic opioid.

On the date of his arrest, McHugh gave consent to search his residence. During that search, law enforcement recovered quantities of heroin, cocaine, and crack cocaine intended for further distribution.

The heroin conspiracy count to which McHugh pleaded guilty carries a statutory mandatory minimum term of five years in prison, a maximum of 40 years in prison, and a fine of up to $5 million. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 20, 2021.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited Special Agents of the FBI, Newark Division, Red Bank Resident Agency, Jersey Shore Gang and Criminal Organization Task Force (including representatives from the Bradley Beach Police Department, Brick Police Department, Howell Police Department, Marlboro Police Department, Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, Toms River Police Department, and Union Beach Police Department) under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr.; Special Agents of the FBI, Philadelphia Division, Scranton Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Driscoll; the New Jersey State Police, under the direction of Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent; the Matawan Police Department, under the direction of Chief Thomas J. Falco, Jr.; the Holmdel Police Department, under the direction of Chief John Mioduszewski; the Highlands Police Department, under the direction of Chief Robert Burton; the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni; the Old Bridge Police Department, under the direction of Chief William A. Volkert; the Keansburg Police Department, under the direction of Chief James K. Pigott; the Hazlet Police Department, under the direction of Chief Philip Meehan; and the Aberdeen Police Department, under the direction of Chief Richard A. Derechailo, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elisa T. Wiygul of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division in Trenton.

The charges and allegations against the two remaining defendants are merely accusations and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


Defense counsel: James R. Murphy Esq., Princeton, New Jersey

Money Announces the 2020 Best Places to Live In The U.S., As The Pandemic Prompts A Shift Away From Urban Living

NJ Towns Rank:

#16 Mount Laurel, NJ

#31 Bridgewater, NJ

September 22, 2020

Features 50 Towns and Cities With Strong Economies, Job Growth and Booming Housing Markets Despite COVID-19 Disruptions

DORADO, Puerto Rico, Sept. 22, 2020 /PRNewswire/ –Following its inaugural list of the Best Mortgage Lenders of 2020, Money – the digital destination for personal finance and news – announces its annual ranking of the Best Places to Live featuring 50 towns and cities where the economy, job growth, and housing market remained strong despite COVID-19 disruptions. This year, Money looked at towns and cities with a population of at least 25,000 and ranked the Best Places to Live putting the greatest emphasis on economic factors, like employment opportunities, as well as supply and demand for homes, cost of living, quality of schools, racial and economic diversity, and health and safety. 

Money’s No. 1 pick for Best Places to Live this year is Evans, Georgia, which is brimming with good-paying jobs thanks to its proximity to Augusta as well as affordable homes, top schools, access to arts and culture, and a diverse population, which some residents attribute to its military presence. In June, Evans residents saw a low unemployment rate of 5.2%, which was well below the 11.1% national average. Evans also had the lowest cost of living of any place with similarly high-income levels. Parker, Colorado and Meridian, Idaho landed in second and third place, respectively. Both cities topped the list because of access to high paying jobs in the booming tech sector, a healthy economy, and remarkable proximity to nature and outdoor activities.  

“This year, given the general uncertainty around where and how we’ll live, our list looks a little different,” said Prachi Bhardwaj, lead reporter of Money’s Best Places to Live. “We shifted our priorities to pay more attention to cities that aren’t just doing well now, but that show great promise and stability for the next five to ten years. We also included suburban towns situated further away from major metros and have more industry diversity than you’ve seen from our list in years past.”

Money’s Top 20 Best Places to Live include:

  1. Evans, GA
  2. Parker, CO
  3. Meridian, Idaho
  4. Rockwall, Texas 
  5. Columbia, Maryland
  6. Westfield, Indiana
  7. Syracuse, Utah
  8. Franklin, Tennessee
  9. Woodbury, Minnesota
  10. Morrisville, North Carolina
  11. Ashburn, Virginia 
  12. South Windsor, Connecticut
  13. St Peters, Missouri
  14. Chelmsford, Massachusetts
  15. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin
  16. Mount Laurel, New Jersey
  17. Woodstock, Georgia
  18. Broomfield, Colorado
  19. Abington, Pennsylvania
  20. Midlothian, Virginia

For Money’s complete list of the Best Places to Live, click here. To learn more on the methodology of the ranking, click here.  

As part of the Best Places to Live feature, the Money team continues reporting on how the pandemic has prompted more people to make the change from city living to suburban dwelling. Whether it’s because of a need for more indoor or outdoor space or a desire to invest and build wealth, Money offers readers a guide on everything you need to know about moving to the suburbs, buying a starter home, and capitalizing on record low mortgage rates. Highlights include:

  • The Ultimate Guide to Leaving the CityScores of urbanites are now leaving big cities for the suburbs. Be that as it may, the allure of a big home and a green lawn comes with extra homeowner responsibilities. What will home buyers need to know about property taxes, home maintenance, neighborhood association fees, and more?
  • Moving to a New State? Mortgage Rates Might Be Higher—How to Get the Best DealThough mortgage rates have hovered near records lows all summer, the truth is there’s no national real estate market. Mortgage rates, like home prices, vary from one place to the next—and that could mean much higher homebuying costs for some movers this fall. Money experts share insight on how to get the best deal on mortgage rates.
  • The Hassle-Free Guide to Refinancing Your MortgageMortgage rates keep falling. Freddie Mac’s widely quoted Primary Mortgage Market Survey put rates at 2.86%, the lowest rate since the company began tracking mortgage rates in 1971. Yet, some experts say refinancing right now doesn’t make sense for every homeowner. What are the questions every homeowner needs to ask to determine whether now is the right time to refinance?

International Law Enforcement Operation Targeting Opioid Traffickers on the Darknet Results in over 170 Arrests Worldwide and the Seizure of Weapons, Drugs and over $6.5 Million

Darknet Narcotics Vendors Selling to Tens of Thousands of U.S. Residents Charged, Including New Jersey in Operation Disruptor

September 22, 2020

District of New Jersey

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, the Department of Justice, through the Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement (JCODE) team joined Europol to announce the results of Operation DisrupTor, a coordinated international effort to disrupt opioid trafficking on the Darknet. The operation, which was conducted across the United States and Europe, demonstrates the continued partnership between JCODE and Europol against the illegal sale of drugs and other illicit goods and services.  Operation DisrupTor builds on the success of last year’s Operation SaboTor and the coordinated law enforcement takedown of the Wall Street Market, one of the largest illegal online markets on the dark web. 

Following the Wall Street Market takedown in May 2019, U.S. and international law enforcement agencies obtained intelligence to identify Darknet drug traffickers, resulting in a series of complementary, but separate, law enforcement investigations. Operation DisrupTor actions have resulted in the arrest of 179 Darknet drug traffickers and fraudulent criminals who engaged in tens of thousands of sales of illicit goods and services across the United States and Europe.

This operation resulted in the seizure of over $6.5 million in both cash and virtual currencies; approximately 500 kilograms of drugs worldwide; 274 kilograms of drugs, including fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, MDMA, and medicine containing addictive substances in the United States; and 63 firearms. Darknet vendor accounts were identified and attributed to real individuals selling illicit goods on Darknet market sites such as AlphaBay, Dream, WallStreet, Nightmare, Empire, White House, DeepSea, Dark Market and others. By leveraging complementary partnerships and surging resources across the U.S. government and Europol, Operation DisrupTor was used to significantly disrupt the online opioid trade and send a strong message that criminals operating on the Darknet are not beyond the reach of law enforcement. 

Operation DisrupTor led to 121 arrests in the United States including two in Canada at the request of the United States, 42 in Germany, eight in the Netherlands, four in the United Kingdom, three in Austria, and one in Sweden. A number of investigations are still ongoing to identify the individuals behind dark web accounts.

“Criminals selling fentanyl on the Darknet should pay attention to Operation DisrupTor,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.  “The arrest of 179 of them in seven countries—with the seizure of their drug supplies and their money as well—shows that there will be no safe haven for drug dealing in cyberspace.”

“With the spike in opioid-related overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize that today’s announcement is important and timely,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray.  “The FBI wants to assure the American public, and the world, that we are committed to identifying Darknet drug dealers and bringing them to justice.  But our work does not end with today’s announcement. The FBI, through JCODE and our partnership with Europol, continues to be actively engaged in a combined effort to disrupt the borderless, worldwide trade of illicit drugs. The FBI will continue to use all investigative techniques and tools to identify and prosecute Darknet opioid dealers, wherever they may be located.”

“The 21st century has ushered in a tidal wave of technological advances that have changed the way we live,” said DEA Acting Administrator Timothy J. Shea.  “But as technology has evolved, so too have the tactics of drug traffickers.  Riding the wave of technological advances, criminals attempt to further hide their activities within the dark web through virtual private networks and tails, presenting new challenges to law enforcement in the enduring battle against illegal drugs.  Operation DisrupTor demonstrates the ability of DEA and our partners to outpace these digital criminals in this ever-changing domain, by implementing innovative ways to identify traffickers attempting to operate anonymously and disrupt these criminal enterprises.”

“U.S. Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has played an integral role in Operation DisrupTor which has effectively removed opioids from our communities,” said ICE Acting Deputy Director Derek Benner.  “It has been an honor to work alongside our domestic and international law enforcement partners and pursue bad actors hiding on the Darknet.  Our trained cyber analysts and investigators have conducted undercover efforts that target dark website operators, vendors and prolific buyers of these dangerous drugs. HSI special agents employ unique investigative capabilities to trace and identify the proceeds stemming from the distribution and online sales of fentanyl and other illicit opioids. These efforts will continue to thwart a significant amount of criminal drug sale activity and deter criminals believing they can operate with anonymity on the Darknet.”

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has worked diligently for years to rid the mail of illicit drug trafficking and preserve the integrity of the mail,” said Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale.  “Most importantly, these efforts provide a safe environment for postal employees and the American public.  Today’s announcement serves as an outstanding example of the worldwide impact Postal Inspectors can make through our ever-growing partnerships with federal and international law enforcement agencies.  On behalf of the U.S. Postal Service, we offer our sincere appreciation to all of our partners in this operation who helped protect the nation’s mail, and we pledge to never relent in our pursuit of criminals seeking to exploit the U.S. mail.”

“Law enforcement is most effective when working together, and today’s announcement sends a strong message to criminals selling or buying illicit goods on the dark web: the hidden internet is no longer hidden, and your anonymous activity is not anonymous,” said Edvardas Šileris, the Head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3). “Law enforcement is committed to tracking down criminals, no matter where they operate – be it on the streets or behind a computer screen.”

The extensive operation, which lasted nine months, resulted in over dozens of federal prosecutions including:

  • The Los Angeles JCODE Task Force, in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, successfully dismantled a drug trafficking organization that used online monikers such as “Stealthgod” to sell methamphetamine and MDMA on multiple Darknet marketplaces. Investigators have linked the crew to more than 18,000 illicit drug sales to customers in at least 35 states and numerous countries around the world. During law enforcement actions in Southern California earlier this year, members of JCODE arrested five defendants and seized approximately 120 pounds of methamphetamine, seven kilograms of MDMA and five firearms. Two of the five – Teresa McGrath, 34, of Sunland-Tujunga, and Mark Chavez, 41, of downtown Los Angeles – have since pleaded guilty to narcotics-trafficking and other offenses, and each faces a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence. As the investigation continued, the Los Angeles JCODE Task Force made additional seizures, including $1.6 million in cryptocurrency, 11 pounds of methamphetamine and 14 pounds of pills pressed with methamphetamine. Andres Bermudez, 37, of Palmdale, California, who allegedly was a main supplier of methamphetamine to the “Stealthgod” crew, was charged last week with a narcotics-trafficking offense that carry a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence. He is considered a fugitive.
  • Arden McCann, 32, of Quebec, Canada, was charged with conspiring to import drugs into the United States and money laundering conspiracy, in a four-count indictment returned by a grand jury in Atlanta, Georgia. According to court documents, the defendant is alleged to have imported alprazolam, fentanyl, U-47700, and fentanyl analogues such as carfentanil, furanyl fentanyl, 4-fluoroisobutyryl fentanyl, acryl fentanyl, and methoxyacetyl fentanyl into the United States from Canada and China. The superseding indictment alleges that fentanyl analogues the defendant imported into the United States resulted in a non-fatal overdose in April 2016, and fentanyl the defendant imported into the United States resulted in an overdose death in December 2016.
  • Khlari Sirotkin, 36, of Colorado; Kelly Stephens, 32, of Colorado; Sean Deaver, 36, of Nevada; Abby Jones, 37, of Nevada; and Sasha Sirotkin, 32, of California, were charged with drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracy, in a 21-count indictment returned by a grand jury in Cincinnati, Ohio. According to court documents, the defendants are alleged to be members of one of the most prolific online drug trafficking organizations in the United States and allegedly specialized in the manufacturing and distribution of more than one million fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills and laundered approximately $2.8 million over the course of the conspiracy. The pressed fentanyl pills, along with heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine, were shipped to the Southern District of Ohio and throughout the country. FBI, DEA, FDA, HSI and USPIS agents seized 2.5 kilograms of fentanyl; 5,095 pressed xanax; 50 suboxone; 16.5 grams of cocaine; 37 grams of crystal meth; 12 grams of black tar heroin; an industrial pill press; 5,908 pounds of dried marijuana with an estimated street value of $9 million; $80,191 in cash, 10 firearms and one pound of fentanyl.
  • The FBI Washington Field Office’s Hi-Tech Opioid Task Force, in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, successfully thwarted a firebomb attack plot involving explosives, firearms, the Darknet, prescription opioid trafficking, cryptocurrency, and sophisticated money laundering. William Anderson Burgamy, 33, of Hanover, Maryland, and Hyrum T. Wilson, 41, of Auburn, Nebraska, pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Virginia to charges related to a conspiracy to use explosives to firebomb and destroy a competitor pharmacy in Nebraska. Burgamy, who is not a pharmacist, operated as the Darknet vendor NeverPressedRX (NPRX) since at least August 2019. Wilson, who was a licensed pharmacist, illegally mailed to Burgamy over 19,000 dosage units of prescription medications, including opioids, from his pharmacy in Nebraska. Burgamy illegally sold prescription drugs through his Darknet vendor account to customers nationwide, and claimed at one point that he made nearly $1 million total. Burgamy and Wilson agreed that Burgamy and another individual would carry multiple firearms during the attack operation and use explosives, specifically Molotov cocktails enhanced with Styrofoam as a thickening agent, to burn the victim pharmacy down in furtherance of their drug trafficking scheme. Law enforcement agents seized thousands of opioid pills, eight unsecured firearms, including two loaded AR-15 assault rifles with high capacity magazines, and over $19,000 cash. Prior to Burgamy’s arrest in April 2020, which uncovered and thwarted the firebombing plot, Burgamy and Wilson fully intended on the attack occurring after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
  • Aaron Brewer, 39, of Corsicana, Texas, was charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance and distribution of a controlled substance in a two-count indictment returned by a grand jury in the Northern District of Texas. According to court documents, the defendant allegedly sold cocaine, heroin, and other drugs via the dark web. He allegedly accepted payment in cryptocurrency, primarily bitcoin, and then shipped the drugs to customers’ addresses through the U.S. mail and other shipping services.  Following Mr. Brewer’s arrest on July 2, agents with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and FBI Dallas Field Office seized roughly 650 grams of black tar heroin, cocaine, and OxyContin, two computers, and more than $870 in postage stamps, as well as a ledger outlining 757 drug shipments sent to 609 unique addresses between December 2019 and March 2020.

An indictment and criminal complaint merely alleges that crimes have been committed. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Operation DisrupTor was a collaborative initiative across JCODE members, including the Department of Justice; Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS); U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP); Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN); Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF); Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and Department of Defense (DOD). Local, state and other federal agencies also contributed to Operation DisrupTor investigations.  The investigations leading to Operation DisrupTor were significantly aided by essential support and coordination by the Department of Justice’s multi-agency Special Operations Division, the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section, and Organized Crime and Gang Section, the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the National Cyber Joint Investigative Task Force (NCJITF), Europol and its Dark Web team and international partners Eurojust, Austrian Federal Investigation Bureau (Bundeskriminalamt), Cyprus Police (Αστυνομία Κύπρου), German Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt), Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Portuguese Judicial Police (Polícia Judiciária), Dutch Police (Politie), Swedish Police (Polisen), the British National Crime Agency, Australia’s Western Australia Police Force and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.

Federal prosecutions are being conducted in more than 20 Federal districts, including: the Central District of California, the Eastern District of California, the Northern District of California, the Southern District of California, the District of Colorado, the District of Columbia, the District of Connecticut, the Middle District of Florida, the Southern District of Florida, the Northern District of Georgia, the District of Hawaii, the Western District of Missouri, the District of New Jersey, the Western District of North Carolina, the Northern District of Ohio, the Southern District of Ohio, District of Oregon, the Western District of Pennsylvania, the Northern District of Texas, the Eastern District of Virginia, the District of the Virgin Islands and the Western District of Washington.

JCODE is an FBI-led Department of Justice initiative, which works closely with the DEA-led, multi-agency, Special Operations Division to support, coordinate and de-conflict investigations targeting for disruption and dismantlement of the online sale of illegal drugs, especially fentanyl and other opioids. Additionally, JCODE targets the trafficking of weapons and other illicit goods and services on the internet. Operation DisrupTor illustrates the investigative power of federal and international partnerships to combat the borderless nature of online criminal activity.

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen Delivers Remarks at Announcement of Results of Operation Disruptor

Good morning.  I am pleased to be joined today by FBI Director Christopher Wray, DEA Acting Administrator Timothy Shea, ICE Acting Deputy Director Derek Benner, and Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale.

This morning, the Department is joining its partners in the United States and Europe to announce the results of Operation DisrupTor.  Operation DisrupTor is the United States Government’s largest operation to date targeting criminal activity on the Darknet, particularly opioid trafficking.  Over the past months, the United States and its partners across the globe have worked together to deal a powerful blow to this criminal underworld. 

The trafficking of opioids is a national crisis of daunting proportions, which poses a major danger to the American people.  It is devastating our communities and our families.  According to the CDC, over 67,000 people in the United States died of a drug overdose in 2018.  That’s over 1,000 people dead each week – 1,000 lost parents, children, friends, and family members.  That is more deaths than occur from car accidents.  For Americans under the age of 50, drug overdoses are now among the leading causes of death.

For an increasing number of young addicts, opioids are purchased not from local dealers, but from pushers operating online.  Hiding behind anonymizing software known as Tor, a new sort of drug kingpin now is able to reach more buyers than ever before, through online marketplaces peddling every sort of illicit good and service imaginable.  These “Darknet marketplaces” have grown in popularity at an alarming rate and allow drug traffickers to openly advertise and take orders from anywhere in the world.  The Darknet invites criminals into our homes, and provides unlimited access to illegal commerce.

Operation DisrupTor is the Department’s latest effort to combat the scourge of opioid trafficking on the Darknet.  Activities here resulted in almost 120 arrests and the seizure of over 270 kilograms of drugs, including 17 kilograms of lethal fentanyl and 96 kilograms of methamphetamine.  Additionally, U.S. law enforcement worked in conjunction with counterparts in Europe and Canada on this investigation, which resulted in more than 50 additional arrests.

Operation DisrupTor was coordinated by the Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement team, also known as JCODE.  Cases were worked in more than 20 different U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country.  The operation was supported by numerous components at Main Justice, including the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section, and the Department’s Office of International Affairs.  Among the cases:

  • Law enforcement in the Southern District of Ohio shut down one of the most prolific online drug trafficking organizations in the United States, which operated using the moniker “Pill Cosby.”  Members of the group were charged with manufacturing and distributing over one million fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills. 
  • Here in the District of Columbia, a grand jury charged a Costa Rican pharmacist who knowingly supplied large amounts of drugs to a dark web trafficker, sending a strong message that unscrupulous doctors and pharmacists who fuel the opioid epidemic will be held accountable – even if they operate overseas.
  • The Eastern District of Virginia prosecuted the narcotics vendor “NeverPressedRX,” who was so intent on securing his online criminal enterprise that he conspired to use explosives to firebomb and destroy a competitor pharmacy.
  • Law enforcement in the Central District of California, successfully dismantled a drug trafficking organization that used online monikers such as “Stealthgod” to sell methamphetamine and MDMA on multiple Darknet marketplaces.  Investigators have linked the crew to more than 18,000 illicit sales to customers in at least 35 states and in numerous countries around the world.
  • In the Northern District of Georgia, an investigation into the murder of an elderly couple found brutally murdered in their home led investigators to a man who used the Darknet to purchase sensitive information stolen from numerous elderly victims, including the murdered couple.

A number of additional investigations are still ongoing.

There will be no safe haven for drug dealing in cyberspace.

Today’s announcement is very much a success story in international law enforcement cooperation, as crime on the Darknet is truly a global problem that requires global partnership.  However, the global nature of the threat also means that foreign countries who fail to act can easily become safe harbors for criminals who seek to pump lethal, addictive drugs into the United States from abroad.  The Department cannot and will not allow criminals to operate with impunity.

This Operation marks a significant milestone in the fight against crime on the Darknet.  But there is more to do, and more to come.  Keeping the American people safe is the Department’s highest priority.  The Department will not relent in our efforts to combat this evil plaguing our society, and we will bring to justice those who seek to profit from the destruction of human lives.

Court Documents:

Central District of California

Eastern District of California

  • United States v. Hunter Secrest, Case No. 2:20-cr-130: Information

Southern District of California

  • United States v. Bloom and Davis, Case No. 20-mj-2669: Complaint 

District of Colorado

  • United States v. Hugues Bellevue, Case No. 1:20-cr-00090-REB:  Indictment

District of Columbia

District of Connecticut

Southern District of Florida

  • United States v. Michael Sequeira, Case No. 20-20001-Cr-Cooke (SDFL): Indictment.

Northern District of Georgia

  • United States v. Arden McCann Case No. 1:20-CR-084-UNA: Indictment

Western District of Missouri

  • United States v. Nash, Case No. 4:20-cr-00148: Indictment

District of New Jersey

Western District of North Carolina

  •  United States v. Anthony Byrnes, Case No. 3:20-CR-192: Information

Southern District of Ohio

  • United States v. Khlari Sirotkin et al, Case No. 1:19-CR-136: Indictment

Western District of Pennsylvania

 Northern District of Texas

  •  United States v. Aaron Brewer, Case No. 3:20-cr-0295-M: Indictment

Eastern District of Virginia

Western District of Washington 

  • United States v. Armstrong, Case No. 2:19-CR-00243-JCC: Information

TWW Launches Two-Year Project to Paint Fire Hydrants, Color Coding Them to Indicate Flow Rate for Fire Suppression

September 22, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Trenton Water Works will be painting 3,501 fire hydrants in its five-municipality service area over the next 24 months, weather permitting.

“We are improving the quality of TWW’s fire hydrants for effective fire suppression,” said Michael Walker, Chief of Communications and Community Relations. “We’ve been inspecting fire hydrants for operability and flow rate over the last few months, and we now plan to vary their color to indicate how quickly water flows from them to fire personnel and emergency responders.”

TWW personnel will strip hydrants of old layers of paint, and then apply primer and two fresh coats. Color codes to indicate flow volume in gallons per minute are as follows: Light Blue: 1,500 gallons per minute; Green: 1,000-1,499 gallons per minute; Orange: 500-999 gallons per minute; Red: less than 500 gallons per minute. 

TWW personnel must have direct access to the hydrants. We are therefore asking residents to please remove any plantings or decorations that might be obscuring local hydrants. Hydrants should never be blocked, hidden, or decorated, as this interferes with emergency access.

“We ask that residents not paint or decorate fire hydrants, which prevents fire personnel from knowing a hydrant’s flow rate during an emergency,” added Walker.

If you have questions about TWW’s hydrant paint project, including reporting hydrants that have been knocked over or are not functioning properly, please call TWW’s Construction and Maintenance at (609) 989-3222.

AG Grewal, Consumer Affairs Announce Penalties for Consumer Protection Violations Related to COVID-19

Violations Include Price Gouging and False Claims in Advertising and Sale of PPE, COVID-19 Antibody Tests, and Other Items 

Local violators in the story below:

Compare Foods Super Market, 847 Roebling Avenue, Trenton,$1,250 

Bravo Supermarket, Inc., 1567 E. State Street, Trenton,$5,750 

Performance Supply LLC, 3 Westbrook Way, Manalapan,$12,500 

Exxon Gas, 2000 Route 66 East, Neptune 

September 21, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division of Consumer Affairs today announced actions against a dozen merchants for consumer protection violations related to COVID-19, with penalties totaling tens of thousands of dollars. Among those subject to enforcement actions are two North Jersey businesses that allegedly made false or unsubstantiated claims in the sale of COVID-19 antibody tests and a Monmouth County business that was selling face masks at as much as six times the manufacturer’s retail prices. 

These actions are the latest of many taken by the Division to address the unprecedented number of consumer complaints and referrals received during the current public health emergency.   

To date, the Division has sent 1,884 cease and desist letters to retailers suspected of price gouging and other unconscionable business practices during the coronavirus pandemic, and issued 110 subpoenas seeking additional information in its investigations of alleged violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.  

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, we made clear that we would take a tough stand on price gouging and other abuses of New Jersey consumers,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Enlisting the help of residents to report unconscionable practices works. Most businesses are following the law. For those that are not, these actions are a reminder that the penalties for violations are significant.” 

The Notices of Violation (NOVs) filed in this latest round of enforcement actions carry individual penalties ranging from $500 to $12,500, depending on the severity and number of violations.   

The single largest civil penalty was assessed against Performance Supply LLC, for allegedly making false and misleading statements in advertising N95 mask respirators for sale to personnel from the New York City Office of Citywide Procurement. The Division alleges that the company’s quote misleadingly suggested the company is an authorized dealer or distributor for 3M Company and offered to sell seven million face masks that retailed between $1.02 and $1.31 for $6.05 and $6.35 each. 

Two businesses were cited for making false or unsubstantiated claims in the sale of COVID-19 antibody tests. Hudson Drug of Cresskill was assessed $3,000 in civil penalties for advertising that the COVID-19 antibody tests it sold were suitable for at-home use, contrary to the manufacturer’s instructions. Retro Fitness of Rockaway was assessed a $2,000 civil penalty for allegedly making unsubstantiated claims related to antibody testing made available to club members via a health and wellness center affiliated with the club. 

“The Division is working tirelessly during this pandemic to protect consumers from threats to their health in the form of unsubstantiated claims and predatory pricing on personal protective equipment,” said Acting Director Paul R. Rodríguez. “We are committed to reviewing and investigating every complaint to ensure that merchants operate responsibly and refrain from unscrupulous behaviors, including violating our price gouging laws, at a time when many New Jerseyans are facing significant financial hardship.”  

New Jersey’s price-gouging law, which took effect on March 9 upon Governor Murphy’s declaration of a state of emergency, prohibits excessive price increases during a declared state of emergency and for 30 days after its termination. A price increase is considered excessive if the new price is more than 10 percent higher than the price charged during the normal course of business prior to the state of emergency, and the increased price is not attributable to additional costs imposed by the seller’s supplier or additional costs of providing the product or service during the state of emergency. 

Price-gouging and other consumer fraud violations are punishable by civil penalties of up to $10,000 for the first violation and $20,000 for the second and subsequent violations. Violators may also be required to pay consumer restitution, attorney’s fees, and investigative fees, and will be subject to injunctive relief. 

The following merchants received NOVs and were assessed civil penalties for alleged price gouging on essential items such as bottled water, rice, face masks and disinfectant spray: 

The following merchants received NOVs and were each assessed $500 in civil penalties for their alleged failure to post selling prices for merchandise such as bottled water, toilet paper and sanitizers, a violation of the Merchandise Pricing Statute: 

Consumers who suspect consumer fraud violations, or believe that businesses have unfairly increased their prices in response to COVID-19, are encouraged to file complaints online to report specific details related to the increased prices. Photographs of items being sold, their price, and receipts can now be uploaded to our new price gouging complaint form. 

*          *          * 

The mission of the Division of Consumer Affairs, within the Department of Law and Public Safety, is to protect the public from fraud, deceit, misrepresentation and professional misconduct in the sale of goods and services in New Jersey through education, advocacy, regulation and enforcement. The Division pursues its mission through its 51 professional and occupational boards that oversee 720,000 licensees in the state, its Regulated Business section that oversees 60,000 NJ registered businesses, as well as through its Office of Consumer Protection, Bureau of Securities, Charities Registration section, Office of Weights and Measures, and Legalized Games of Chance section. 

Robbinsville Senior Center Re-Opens To Non-Profit Organizations On A Limited Basis Effective Immediately

September 21, 2020

ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–On Friday, September 18, Mayor Dave Fried signed an Executive Order 2020-59 re-opening the Senior Center multi-purpose room and adjoining bathrooms on a limited basis to non-profit organizations effective immediately.

Organizations using the multi-purpose room will be required to complete a COVID-19 waiver and agree to abide by all rules and regulations promulgated by the State of New Jersey and Township of Robbinsville regarding indoor activities during the declared State of Emergency and Public Health Emergency, including face coverings and proper social distancing.

As part of the order, a sanitization fee of $75 per use shall be paid by each organization for each separate use of the multi-purpose room. This fee shall be used to cover the Township’s costs to clean and sanitize the room after each use.Reservations and approvals are required to both enter the Senior Center and to take part in outdoor activities. Please contact Renee Burns at (609) 259-1567 or

On March 16, 2020, the Township of Robbinsville proclaimed a Local Disaster Emergency and closed the Senior Center to the public due to the global outbreak of COVID-19, which has affected the health, safety, and/or welfare of people around the world.

Although a State of Emergency and Public Health Emergency continue to exist in the State of New Jersey, and a Local Disaster Emergency continues to exist in Robbinsville, great strides have been made in terms of lowering the infection rate, along with the understanding and treatment COVID-19. This has allowed for the easing of restrictions put in place by the State to “flatten the curve.”

The easing of those restrictions has allowed the Township to reopen the Senior Center Multi-Purpose Room on a limited basis, and provide limited outdoor activities beneath the Bocce Pavilion to Senior Center members (limited to 15 persons per class) beginning Monday, September 21.

WHEREAS, Coronavirus disease 2019 (“COVID-19”) is a contagious, and at times fatal, respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus; and
WHEREAS, on March 9, 2020, pursuant to Executive Order No. 103, the Governor of the State of New Jersey declared the concurrent invocation of both a State of Emergency pursuant to N.J.S.A. App.A.:9-33 et seq. and a Public Health Emergency as contemplated by N.J.S.A. 26:13-1 et seq.; and
WHEREAS, on March 13, 2020, pursuant to my Executive Order No. 2020-34, the Township suspended all Senior Center activities beginning Friday, March 13, 2020; and
WHEREAS, on March 16, 2020, pursuant to Executive Order No. 104, Governor Murphy directed several actions, with limited exceptions, designed to enhance the practice of “social distancing” to prevent community spread of COVID-19; and
WHEREAS, on March 16, 2020, the Township of Robbinsville proclaimed a Local Disaster Emergency by reason of the serious conditions which existed or would continue to exist in the Township of Robbinsville due to the global outbreak of COVID-19 which has affected the health, safety, and/or welfare of the people; and
WHEREAS, although a State of Emergency and Public Health Emergency continue to exist in the State of New Jersey and a Local Disaster Emergency continues to exist in the Township of Robbinsville, great strides have been made in understanding and treating COVID-19 that have allowed for the easing of restrictions put in place by the State to “flatten the curve”; and
WHEREAS, the easing of the restrictions put in place by the State has provided the Township an opportunity to reopen the Senior Center on a limited basis and provide limited outdoor activities to the Township’s Senior Center members; and
David Fried, Mayor 2298 Route 33, Robbinsville, NJ 08691
(609) 259-3600 ext. 1102
WHEREAS, it is the Township’s belief that these activities can be provided in a safe manner and in accordance with the State’s rules and regulations currently in effect;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, David Fried, Mayor of the Township of Robbinsville, Mercer County, hereby order and direct for following:

  1. The Township of Robbinsville shall reopen the Senior Center on a limited basis beginning Friday, September 18, 2020.
  2. Organized outdoor activities provided for members of the Senior Center will begin the week of September 21, 2020, utilizing the Senior Center’s Bocce Court.
  3. Organized outdoor activities shall be limited to fifteen (15) individuals per class.
  4. Participants in the organized outdoor activities will be required to complete a COVID-19 waiver and agree to abide by all rules and regulations promulgated by the State of New Jersey and Township of Robbinsville regarding outdoor activities during the declared State of Emergency and Public Health Emergency.
  5. Indoor use of the Senior Center shall be limited to use of the multi-purpose room and adjoining bathrooms by non-profit organizations only.
  6. Organizations using the multi-purpose room will be required to complete a COVID-19 waiver and agree to abide by all rules and regulations promulgated by the State of New Jersey and Township of Robbinsville regarding indoor activities during the declared State of Emergency and Public Health Emergency.
  7. A COVID-19 cleaning/sanitization fee, in the amount of $75.00 per use, shall be required to be paid by each organization for each separate use of the multi-purpose room. This fee shall be used to cover the Township’s costs to clean and sanitize the multi-purpose room after each organization’s use of same.
  8. This Order shall take effect immediately and shall remain in effect until such time as I modify or rescind same.

DATED September 18, 2020

Fatal Accident On Garden State Parkway In Holmdel

September 20, 2020

HOLMDEL, NJ (MONMOUTH)— NJSP Spokesperson, Trooper Charles Marchan told MidJersey.News that NJ State Police responded to a motor vehicle accident involving a pedestrian at 9:48 p.m. last night on the Garden State Parkway southbound local lanes M.P 115.9, Holmdel Township, Monmouth County.

Based on a preliminary investigation, a Cadillac was stopped and unoccupied on the right shoulder. Pedestrian John Carroll was outside of the vehicle. A Jeep entered the right shoulder striking pedestrian Carroll and the Cadillac. As a result of the accident Carroll suffered fatal injuries.

Deceased- John Carroll, 60 year old male of Belmar, New Jersey.

Driver of the Jeep suffered no injuries- Pedro A. Carlo, 41 year old male of Hopelawn, New Jersey.

The accident is currently still under investigation and there is no further information available at the moment.

Recovery Advocates Of America’s 8th Annual 5k Run/Walk For Recovery

September 20, 2020

WEST WINDSOR, NJ (MERCER)–Recovery Advocates Of America’s 8th 5k Annual Run / Walk held at Mercer County Park yesterday. There was a great turn out of support for the event.

This year, our 5K Run/Walk for Recovery fundraising goal is $100,000. All proceeds from the event will go directly into sustaining and expanding RECOVERY ADVOCATES C.A.R.E. Program that is now endorsed by Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri and the State of New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, and our new education/prevention and awareness program throughout all New Jersey High Schools.

Substance use disorder has become a national epidemic. During the ongoing global pandemic, drug overdoses and substance abuse relapses have increased over 20% and we can’t stress how important your support is during such a critical time. Please join us in celebrating recovery and supporting those who are also fighting for their lives in the continuous struggle with alcoholism and addiction.

OnScene News Photos by: Brian McCarthy, OnScene News

OnScene News Photos by: Brian McCarthy, OnScene News