TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Around 3:45 pm this afternoon a shooting occurred in the 500 Block of Lamberton Street. Unofficial reports say that this may have been a robbery gone bad. The person was transported by private vehicle to the Trauma Center at Capital Health Regional Medical Center. Sources say the man was shot at least 2 times in the legs. The Shooting Response Team was investigating.
This is a Breaking News report, if and when public information becomes available the story will be updated with official information. This is what we know from on scene reporting.
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Assemblyman Ron Dancer’s bill permitting full-time, year-round farm employees to reside in facilities that board horses is headed to the governor’s desk after passing the Assembly today.
“Farm employees often need more access to the horses they care for,” said Dancer (R-Ocean). “They will be able to take better care of these animals if they can live on the premises.”
The bill (A2768) would amend the Right to Farm Act to allow housing for equine-related farm employees as long as it is in a separate area or level from the horses, has its own ventilation system and meets all uniform construction code standards, including fire ratings. The Right to Farm Act protects responsible commercial farms from public and private nuisance actions and unduly restrictive municipal regulations.
“Taking care of a horse is one of the most demanding and worthwhile jobs one could do,” said Dancer. “The horse industry is important to New Jersey’s economy, and we must keep this industry thriving.”
New Jersey has more horses per capita than any other state in the nation. The United States Equestrian Team is headquartered in Gladstone, New Jersey.
The Senate unanimously passed the bill (S1245) on July 30.
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–An Ocean County, New Jersey, man has been arrested on charges that he distributed and possessed images and videos depicting child sexual abuse, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.
Andrew Ramey, 34, of Brick, New Jersey, is charged by criminal complaint with one count of distribution of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. He was arrested Nov. 13, 2020, by special agents of the Department of Homeland Security, appeared by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lois H. Goodman and was detained without bail.
According to documents filed in this case:
From March 13, 2020, through June 8, 2020, Ramey distributed material containing images of child sexual abuse and child pornography, via the BitTorrent Network, a publicly available online peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing network of linked computers. Users must download P2P software, which is widely available for free on the Internet. The software allows the user to place files into a designated “shared” folder on his or her hard drive, from which other BitTorrent users can then download those files directly to the “shared” folders of their own computers. Users can then search, select, and directly download, those files.
Law enforcement used investigative software to access the BitTorrent Network and downloaded video files containing child pornography from a device or devices assigned to an IP address at Ramey’s residence. On Nov. 13, 2020, law enforcement searched Ramey’s residence and found multiple images and videos containing images of child sexual abuse, as well as BitTorrent software, on a mobile phone belonging to Ramey.
In a prior federal prosecution in New Jersey in 2018, Ramey was convicted of one count of possession of child pornography. The distribution charge is punishable by a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years in prison and a statutory maximum penalty of 40 years in prison, along with a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the gross pecuniary gain or loss caused by the offense, whichever is greater. The possession charge carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison and a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, along with a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross pecuniary gain or loss, whichever is greater.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations Atlantic City, under the direction of Newark Special-Agent-in-Charge Jason J. Molina; detectives of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer; the Brick Police Department, under the direction of Chief James Riccio; and the Mount Laurel Police Department, under the direction of Chief Stephen Riedener, with the investigation leading to today’s arrest.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander E. Ramey of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Trenton.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Defense counsel: Lisa J. Van Hoeck Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, Trenton
Firm’s Shareholder Recognized by the Mercer County Bar Association
November 16, 2020
LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–TheMercer County Bar Association(MCBA) has named Stark & Stark Shareholder Denise Mariani, Esq., its 2020 Professional Lawyer of the Year Award recipient. Ms. Mariani, a resident of Lawrenceville, accepted the award at the MCBA’s virtual meeting on Nov. 10.
As the Chair of the Stark & Stark Nursing Home Negligence Litigation group, Ms. Mariani specializes in representing the families of residents and patients who, through negligence or abuse, have died or been seriously injured in a long-term care facility. She has been a member of the Mercer County Bar Association for more than 25 years, serving as president in 2009 after many years as a Trustee, Officer and Chair of the Community Projects Committee. Her early activity in the MCBA earned her the Young Lawyer of the Year Award in 2003. She has also served on the Mercer County Bar Foundation board.
“The Mercer County Bar Association has been near and dear to my heart since my very first membership meeting as a law clerk in 1992,” said Ms. Mariani. “It was always clear to me that professionalism defines the members of this organization so to receive this award is an enormous honor to me. I am proud to be a part of this association and couldn’t be more grateful to accept this award.”
The Professional Lawyer of the Year Awards are presented in cooperation with county bar associations throughout the state to attorneys who are respected by colleagues for their character, competence and exemplary professional behavior.
Stark & Stark Managing Shareholder Michael G. Donahue, Esq., commented, “Denise’s consummate professionalism and dedication to defending the rights of those who experience neglect or abuse in nursing homes are tremendous assets to her clients and Stark & Stark. Our entire firm congratulates Denise on this well-deserved honor!”
About Stark & Stark:
Since 1933, Stark & Stark has developed innovative legal solutions to meet our clients’ needs. More than 100 attorneys, 30 practice areas, and a philosophy of putting the law to work for our clients is the basis from which we build and maintain our practice. Boasting one of the oldest law practices in New Jersey, Stark & Stark offers a full range of legal services for businesses and individuals. After more than 85 years, our attorneys continue to deliver practical, efficient solutions to clients in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and throughout the United States. Our attorneys are supported by a staff in excess of 200, all of whom are dedicated to providing the highest level of service to each client. Visit www.stark-stark.com for more information.
NEWARK, NJ –An Ohio man who was out on bail for allegedly committing a bank robbery in the Chicago area and who is charged in New Jersey with seven bank robberies or attempted bank robberies will make his initial court appearance by videoconference today, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Tyler O’Toole, 23, of Cleveland, Ohio, was arrested in Queens, New York, on November 14, 2020. He is charged by complaint sworn out in the District of New Jersey on Nov. 4, 2020, with five counts of bank robbery and two counts of attempted bank robbery and is scheduled to have his initial appearance by videoconference this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph A. Dickson.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
O’Toole was arrested in Glenview, Illinois, on Aug. 20, 2020, and charged in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois with bank robbery. O’Toole was released on bail and placed on home detention with electronic location monitoring.
On Sept. 24, 2020, O’Toole removed his monitoring device, stole his mother’s blue 2018 Hyundai Elantra, and drove away. He later robbed, or attempted to rob, the following New Jersey banks:
Date Bank Location:
Oct. 8, 2020
Morris Plains, New Jersey
Oct. 8, 2020
Pompton Plains, New Jersey
Oct. 22, 2020
Aberdeen, New Jersey
Oct. 22, 2020
Bank of America
East Windsor, New Jersey
Oct. 27, 2020
Lawrence Township, New Jersey
Oct. 27, 2020
Mount Holly, New Jersey
Oct. 30, 2020
Runnemede, New Jersey
*attempted bank robbery
At each bank, O’Toole presented a note demanding cash from bank tellers. For example, during the Oct. 27, 2020, robbery of the Chase Bank in Lawrence Township, O’Toole handed the teller a manila envelope which stated:
• This is a robbery. Comply and Nobody gets hurt. • Give me 20’s 50’s 100’s • NO Trackers or Ink Packs • Put Money in THIS Envelope • Be fast, Act Normal
Each bank robbery or attempted bank robbery charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI’s Violent Crimes/Interstate Theft Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark, with the investigation leading to the charges. He also thanked the FBI’s Westchester, County, New York Safe Streets Task Force; the Camden County, Monmouth County and Morris County prosecutor’s offices; and the Morris Plains Boro, Pompton Plains, Aberdeen Township, East Windsor Township, Lawrence Township, Mount Holly Township, Runnemede Borough, Medford, and Gloucester Township police departments for their assistance.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan W. Romankow of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Violent Crimes Unit in Newark.
The charges and allegations in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–An investigation conducted by the Mercer County Homicide Task Force and the Trenton Police Department concluded last week with the arrest of two Trenton men for the May 2019 murder of Taquan Ellerbe, Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo J. Onofri announced today.
Bryant Coon, 20, of Trenton, and an 18-year-old Trenton male are each charged with one count of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, one count of second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon and one count of first-degree conspiracy. Coon was arrested Friday afternoon in Trenton by the U.S. Marshals NY/NJ Regional Fugitive Task Force. The prosecutor’s office has filed a motion to detain him. While now 18, the second defendant in the case is charged on a juvenile petition because of his age at the time the murder was committed and, therefore, his name is being withheld. The prosecutor’s office will seek to try him as an adult. He was served with his charges last week and is already detained pending trial on unrelated charges.
At approximately 5:30 p.m. on May 22, 2019, Trenton police received several 911 calls reporting a male shot at 74 Bellevue Avenue. A Shot Spotter activation was also received for six rounds at the same location. Officers arrived on scene and located the victim behind 80 Bellevue Avenue suffering from numerous gunshot wounds. The victim, identified as Ellerbe, 18, was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead a short time later.
An initial investigation of the crime scene revealed .40 caliber and .45 caliber shell casings in front of the area of 74-76 Bellevue Avenue, as well as glass that was consistent with broken glass from an automobile. Information gathered at the scene revealed an older model blue Buick with a temporary registration tag drove down Bellevue Avenue toward Calhoun Street with two individuals wearing masks inside. As Ellerbe exited a residence onto Bellevue Avenue, the passenger of the blue Buick shot at Ellerbe. The Buick then continued down Bellevue Avenue toward Calhoun Street. After Ellerbe was struck, he ran to the rear of 80 Bellevue Avenue where he was found by responding Trenton Emergency Medical Services.
Shortly after the shooting, a blue Buick Park Avenue with a temporary registration tag was located abandoned at the rear of Bessemer Alley. The Buick appeared to have a gunshot to the rear windshield with shattered glass that was consistent with glass located at the shooting scene on Bellevue Avenue. Inside of the Buick, paperwork was located for the juvenile defendant, along with two cell phones. A review of one of the phones revealed numerous photographs of Coon as well as several of Coon with the juvenile defendant. Several images depicted Coon and the juvenile defendant with firearms. The phone number of the second cell phone found was a registered contact number for Coon with the court.
Homicide task force detectives reviewed video surveillance footage from the area and observed a blue Buick Park Avenue with a temporary license plate affixed to the rear of the vehicle in the area near the time of the homicide. The blue Buick drives up Calhoun Street, turns onto Pashley Avenue, turns onto N. Willow Street, and ultimately toward Bellevue Avenue during the timeframe of the shooting. Detectives were able to track the Buick’s vehicle identification number and also obtain reports that Coon was seen earlier that day driving a Buick Park Avenue.
Despite having been charged, every defendant is presumed innocent until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Fraud Allegedly Cost NJ Transit over $15 Million; Four Individuals Also Named as Defendants
November 16, 2020
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced today that the State has intervened in a whistleblower lawsuit against Academy Bus, LLC (Academy), which advertises itself as the nation’s largest private transportation company, as well as related entities and individuals. The Attorney General’s complaint alleges the defendants defrauded New Jersey Transit (NJT) out of more than $15 million by vastly underreporting the number of scheduled bus trips that the company missed and charging fees for hours and miles driven for bus trips that never happened.
Filed in state Superior Court in Essex County, the lawsuit alleges that Academy engaged in an “extensive multi-year, multi-million-dollar fraud” by failing to report tens of thousands of missed bus trips between April 2012 and December 2018. The case is the highest dollar-value whistleblower lawsuit in which the State has intervened.
The Attorney General’s complaint further alleges that Academy’s fraud also “caused the riding public to suffer because Academy missed tens of thousands of bus trips on busy Hudson and South Hudson service area bus lines. Riders were delayed if not stranded.”
Those two service areas primarily cover the Hudson County waterfront, serve riders in such towns as Bayonne and Jersey City, and include the heavily used Route 119 line for commuters traveling to and from New York City.
“Most of us know how frustrating it can be to wait for a bus that doesn’t show up on time or never appears at all,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Our complaint against Academy Bus alleges that one reason for those late and missing buses has been a pervasive, multi-year fraud by Academy that not only cost riders their time but also cost NJ Transit many millions of dollars. With this lawsuit, we are seeking justice for the riding public as well as New Jersey taxpayers.”
Academy operates seven NJT bus routes in the Hudson and South Hudson service areas. The seven NJT routes Academy handles involve approximately 175,000 bus trips each year. Academy bills NJT approximately $12 million annually for its services, while NJT retains all bus fares that Academy collects along the routes.
Under its contract with NJT, Academy was required to report the number of bus trips that were missed for each bus route on a monthly basis. An individual “trip” is when a bus travels from one end-point of a route to the other end-point of a route. NJT would then deduct an assessment for each missed trip.
Academy also charged NJT contractually-agreed upon fees for miles and hours driven along bus routes it handled for the agency. Academy could not charge fees for hours and miles driven for buses that did not run.
The complaint announced today alleges that Academy overcharged NJT in at least two ways. First, by underreporting to NJT the number of bus trips it had missed for each month, Academy fraudulently avoided millions of dollars of missed trip deductions from the monthly invoices. Second, Academy fraudulently billed NJT for miles and hours driven for buses that had not actually run.
The Attorney General’s complaint describes how Academy’s internal records tracked two sets of numbers – the real number of missed bus trips (which Academy labeled “RN”) and an adjusted set of false numbers, which was always significantly lower and which Academy eventually reported to NJT.
The Attorney General’s complaint quotes from text messages between Academy employees where they communicated about how much they would reduce the “RN”/real numbers before sending them to NJT.
In one instance, according to text messages quoted in the complaint, one employee proposed reducing the real number of missed trips for September 2018 from over 1800 to just 700. Another responded: “Bro bro. It’s 1800 missed, really – we are gambling with this huh?” Academy eventually reported 804.5 missed trips to NJT for that month, allegedly defrauding NJT by failing to report over 1000 missed trips.
According to the complaint, the gap between the “real number” of missed trips and the number actually reported to NJT shrunk during periods when Academy knew NJT was actively monitoring Academy’s performance.
The complaint alleges that Academy may have missed so many trips because it was shifting drivers from the NJT routes it covered to its more profitable charter bus routes.
According to the complaint, one witness who worked as a dispatcher for Academy reported telling Academy’s President and CEO Francis Tedesco that diverting drivers would cause missed trips on NJT routes. Tedesco allegedly responded: “I don’t care about NJ Transit.”
In addition to Hoboken-based Academy and its affiliated corporate entities Academy Lines, LLC; Academy Express, LLC; Number 22 Hillside, LLC; and No. 22 Hillside Corporation, the complaint announced today names as defendants: Thomas F.X. Scullin, the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for all of the corporate defendants; Frank DiPalma, the Controller of each of the corporate defendants; Antonio Luna, formerly an assistant manager at Number 22 Hillside, LLC and/or No. 22 Hillside Corporation, and now a part-time dispatcher; and Edward Rosario, a general manager at Number 22 Hillside, LLC and/or No. 22 Hillside Corporation.
With this complaint, Attorney General Grewal has intervened in a qui tam action filed against Academy by a former Academy Terminal Manager Hector Peralta, who worked at Academy and 22 Hillside for 14 years.
The New Jersey False Claims Act allows private parties, or relators, such as Mr. Peralta, to file lawsuits on behalf of New Jersey for violations of the False Claims Act, and to share in any recovery. The False Claims Act provides that the Attorney General may intervene in such an action.
The complaint alleges two counts under New Jersey’s False Claims Act and one count of Unjust Enrichment, seeking treble damages, maximum civil penalties, attorneys’ fees, and costs, and disgorgement of any unlawfully obtained payments from NJT.
The State is represented in the Academy Bus matter by Deputy Attorney General and Section Chief Lara Fogel, Deputy Attorney General and Assistant Section Chief Kenneth Levine, Deputy Attorney Generals Eric Boden and Dana Vasers, all from the Government & Healthcare Fraud Section of the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group, and Assistant Attorneys General Jeremy Hollander and Janine Matton of the Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group.
WEST WINDSOR, NJ (MERCER)–At 5:04 pm, West Windsor Police and Fire & Emergency Services were detailed to the parking lot at 700 Freedom Boulevard (Freedom Village) on a report of a Serious Motor Vehicle Crash Involving a Pedestrian, who was pinned underneath a vehicle. The pedestrian was safely extracted from underneath the 2015 Chevrolet Impala by her husband, Good Samaritans, and the driver prior to First Responders arriving at the scene. The pedestrian was transported to Capital Health Systems at Fuld Trauma where she was listed in Critical but Stable Condition with serious injuries to her torso and upper extremity.
The Initial Investigation under Traffic Sgt. Bal, Traffic Officer McQuade, Investigating Traffic Officer Sabatino, and Det. W. Jones revealed the following; the pedestrian had been prancing in the parking lot of 700 Freedom Boulevard. The victim’s husband was standing on the sidewalk capturing video of her festive movements via his cellular device. The victim lied down on her back in the main area of travel for vehicular traffic and continued her dancing/writhing motions. The 2015 Chevy turned into the Freedom Boulevard parking lot. The Chevy driver’s attention was drawn to the victim’s husband who began waving directly at the driver from the sidewalk area and distracted him. The Chevy ran over the victim and stopped immediately with the victim pinned underneath.
The Crash is still under investigation. If anyone has pertinent information into this incident please contact Traffic Officer Sabatino at (609) 799-1222 or Sabatino@westwindsorpolice.com.