Day: February 22, 2022

Mercer County Proposed 2022 Budget Calls for Flat Tax Levy

February 22, 2022

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)– Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes has presented to the County Board of Commissioners his administration’s proposed 2022 budget, a $358 million spending plan that stays within the state-mandated 2-percent cap and would result in no increase to the tax levy.

Mr. Hughes on Feb. 22 presented an overview of his administration’s budget proposal to the commissioners, who will review the document over the coming weeks before voting on its adoption.

Of the total budget, $269 million would be collected through property taxes, the same levy as last year.

“This document represents our effort to provide the best possible government in the most cost-effective manner to the taxpayer,” Mr. Hughes said. “The ongoing pandemic has tested us as never before. While we may have changed the way we deliver some services, I am proud of the fact that we have continued to provide resources our residents expect, and I applaud the creativity of our county workforce, including this board, for their flexibility.”

A resident’s actual tax rate will rise or fall depending on his or her municipality once the county rate is equalized to reflect the difference between municipal property assessments and property market values.

The budget proposes that $6.5 million of the County’s surplus be used, leaving a $33 million balance, along with $22 million from the federal American Rescue Plan fund to “help offset the enormous expenditures incurred during the unprecedented pandemic response,” Mr. Hughes said. The spending plan “reflects our continued response to the challenges brought by the pandemic and the toll it has taken on the health of our residents, as well as our county finances, and as a result of our responsible planning, we can propose a budget that is considerate of our taxpayers and offers relief by holding the line,” Mr. Hughes added.

Update: Trenton Urban Blight Reduction Campaign Demolishes Infamous JoJo’s Steakhouse, Relic of the Tony Mack Scandal

Old Steakhouse reduced to a pile of rubble

February 22, 2022

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Mayor W. Reed Gusciora today announced that Trenton has nearly completed demolitions on a row of derelict properties on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. – including the infamous JoJo’s Steakhouse from the Tony Mack corruption scandal – as part of its sweeping urban blight reduction program that was announced in September 2021.

As of Feb. 22, 2022, Trenton’s Department of Housing and Economic Development (HED) has approximately 125 properties – ranging from active construction to collecting proposals – underway for demolition. Since the start of 2022, HED has submitted five demolition proposals comprising 66 properties. These efforts are part of Mayor Gusciora’s blight reduction plan, which seeks to improve public safety and encourage redevelopment by eliminating abandoned properties that are beyond repair and all too often become fire hazards and locations for criminal activity.

The most recent project on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard includes the former business owned by Joseph Giorgianni, a/k/a “Jo Jo,” who was convicted and sentenced for his role in a bribery scheme involving former Mayor Tony Mack, among other charges. According to federal prosecutors, the steakhouse was one of the locations where the defendants planned the corrupt activity.

“This effort is about cultivating a brighter future for Trenton,” said Mayor Gusciora. “What better way to show that then by razing a relic of one of the most corrupt eras in Trenton history. Now this area can finally be repurposed for the benefit of the surrounding community, whether it’s green space, safe housing, or new business opportunities.”

Trenton recently launched, which outlines completed demolitions, current projects, and sites under review. A new reporting tool can be found at the bottom-right of the page or accessed directly at

Users can report crumbling roofs, squatters, illegal activity, fire hazards, vermin, or other conditions that make a neglected property dangerous to nearby homeowners, children, and pedestrians. The properties will then be evaluated by HED inspectors for consideration in upcoming rehabilitation, demolition, or redevelopment efforts.

Demolitions on more than 20 properties on Fountain Ave, Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Wilson St, North Clinton Ave, Frazier St, and Stuyvesant Ave are nearing completion. Next up is cleanup for the six properties on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd that will be demolished this week, followed by the first 15 properties of a demolition and remediation plan targeting nearly 30 properties on Sanford St. The city also has proposals out for more than two dozen properties on Chambers St, Tyrell Ave, and Bond Street.

HED uses two parallel tracks for demolitions: imminent hazards and long-term strategic demolitions of city-owned properties. Imminent hazards are evaluated and taken down on a case-by-case basis according to their immediate threat to nearby residents and property. Strategic demolitions are targeted based on several factors:

  • Proximity to attractive development areas
  • History of complaints from residents, subcode officials, and first responders
  • Cost effectiveness due to location near properties of similar condition
  • Location within ‘hot zones’ of historically high abandonment

Yesterday’s story here:

Serious Crash in Hamilton Township

February 22, 2022

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–Hamilton Police say that on February 22, 2022 at approximately 12:00 p.m., a 2004 Suzuki GSX motorcycle operated by Xavier Zayas 39 years old of Hamilton NJ traveling west on S. Broad St. attempted to pass a 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander on the right, as the Mitsubishi was making the right turn on to Gropp Ave. The motorcycle struck the passenger side of the vehicle and veered off the roadway into a grove of trees.  Mr. Zayas was transported to Capital Health Regional Medical Center with serious injuries. The operator of the Mitsubishi Outlander, Marta Ortiz 70 years old of Hamilton NJ refused medical assistance at the scene.  

The crash is under investigation by Officer K. McDonald and Officer J. Galant. Any witnesses are asked to please contact the Hamilton Police Traffic Unit at (609)581-4000.

Information may also be left anonymously on the Hamilton Police Crime Tip Hotline at 609-581-4008

Illinois Man Arrested in $300K Drug Bust on Route 130 in Hamilton Township; Fentanyl and Heroin Seized

February 22, 2022

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–A two-month investigation into narcotics distribution in the Trenton area has culminated with the arrest of an Illinois man and the seizure of $300,000 in heroin and fentanyl, Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo J. Onofri reported.

On Thursday, February 17, 2022, as part of an ongoing investigation, members of the Mercer County Narcotics Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations and the FBI were conducting surveillance in a parking lot on Route 130 in Hamilton Township.  As a result of the investigation and surveillance, detectives detained Job Carranza-Ocampo without incident and located two kilograms of heroin in the bed of his Ford F-150 pickup truck.  A kilogram of fentanyl was located on the ground behind his truck.

A search of Carranza-Ocampo, 31, of Melrose Park, Illinois, revealed $467 in cash.  Carranza-Ocampo was charged with numerous narcotic-related offenses, including first- and second-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance with the intent to distribute.  The prosecutor’s office has filed a motion to detain him pending trial.

According to Prosecutor Onofri, the street value of the confiscated fentanyl is approximately $100,000 and the heroin is approximately $200,000.

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

Manalapan Man Charged with Stealing $176K from 10 Victims via Investment Scheme

February 22, 2022

FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH) – A Manalapan resident has been arrested and charged with stealing more than $175,000 from 10 victims who had entrusted him to invest large sums of money on their behalf, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced Tuesday.

Jeffrey Loretta, 60, is charged with one count of second-degree Theft, three counts of second-degree Misapplication of Entrusted Property, and seven counts of third-degree Misapplication of Entrusted Property.

An investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office’s Financial Crimes and Public Corruption Unit revealed that the 10 alleged victims gave Loretta a combined total of slightly more than half a million dollars at various times between January 2020 and February 2021, in exchange for promises that the funds would be responsibly invested. On several occasions, the investigation revealed, Loretta provided multiple victims with inaccurate and false gains figures, inducing them to reinvest additional money.

Instead, Loretta lost nearly $200,000 of the funds via bad investments and spent more than $175,000 of the funds on himself, taking out thousands of dollars at a time in ATM withdraws and making checks out to himself, payable in cash.

Loretta turned himself in to authorities on Friday and was released pending a first appearance to take place in Monmouth County Superior Court.

If convicted of a second-degree crime, Loretta would face up to 10 years in state prison.

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

This case has been assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Lawrence Nelsen, Director of the Financial Crimes and Public Corruption Unit.

Trenton Man Sentenced to Life in Prison without Parole

February 22, 2022

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–A Trenton man was recently sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the May 2019 murder of Maurice Rowe, Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo J. Onofri announced. 

Hamilton Morgan, was sentenced by Mercer County Superior Court Judge Darlene Pereksta on February 17.  A jury found Morgan guilty of all counts in August 2021.  After the conviction, the state moved for mandatory extended-term sentencing under New Jersey’s Three Strikes Law.  Judge Pereksta also sentenced Morgan to concurrent terms of 10 years on the firearms possession charge and the certain persons not to possess a weapon charge.

Just after 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 7, 2019, a Trenton Police Street Crimes Unit was responding to an unrelated call on Hoffman Avenue when they heard shots fired.  Detectives John Carrigg and Stephen Szbanz observed a large group of people at the corner of Stuyvesant and Hoffman avenues and the suspect, later identified as Morgan, fleeing the scene with a gun.  The detectives pursued Morgan on foot down an alley and were able to take him into custody on Ellsworth Avenue.  A handgun was located and an additional loaded magazine was found on Morgan’s person.

The victim was identified as 30-year-old Maurice Rowe of Trenton.  He was shot multiple times and pronounced dead at the scene. 

Administrative Assistant Prosecutor Stacey M. Geurds and Assistant Prosecutor Narline Casimir prosecuted the case for the state.  Administrative Assistant Prosecutor Kathleen M. Petrucci represented the state at sentencing.

East Windsor Township Sponsors Gun Safety Program Free Gun Lock Distribution

February 22, 2022

EAST WINDSOR, NJ (MERCER)–Mayor Janice S. Mironov announced that East Windsor Township is sponsoring a Gun Safety Program, through which gun locks will be distributed free of charge to any East Windsor resident.  The program commences March 1 and will run through the end of March.

According to Mayor Mironov, “This is a pro-active initiative, geared to promote and provide improved gun safety.  These locks if properly used by lawful gun owners can help prevent accidental deaths or injuries in the home, as well as deaths and injuries caused by the intentional misuse of guns.” 

Mayor Mironov added, “The use of gun locks is a no-brainer, which keeps guns out of the hands of children and helps prevent unnecessary tragedies.  We hope that programs such as this will remind and educate lawful gun owners about their important responsibility to handle firearms safely and to store them in a secure manner.”

Township residents can obtain free safety locks at the Township police/court facility located at 80 One Mile Road, by contacting Detective Brian Gorski at (609) 448-5678, ext. 236.

The gun locks are made available to the Township at no cost, through Project ChildSafe.  Project ChildSafe is the nation’s largest firearms safety program, and is sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

New Jersey Woman Hiking in New Hampshire Rescued

February 22, 2022

LINCOLN, NEW HAMPSHIRE–A Jersey City woman was rescued from a hiking trail in Lincoln, New Hampshire on Sunday. New Hampshire Fish and Game report that At 4:30 p.m. on February 20, 2022 the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department was notified of a hiker in distress on the Liberty Springs Trail in Lincoln. The hiker was not able to continue descending the trail and a companion with her called 911 for help. The hikers were only planning a day hike and did not have the equipment to spend the night. Conservation Officers and volunteers with the Pemigewasset Valley Search and Rescue team responded to mount a rescue effort as darkness approached.

At 5:56 p.m. a Conservation Officer met the hiker, who was slowly hiking down, about one mile from the trailhead. The distressed hiker was identified as Aleeza Shaikh, 26, from Jersey City, NJ. A group of Good Samaritan hikers also descending the trail had come across Aleeza, who was laying in the trail at the time, and provided her help to start moving again. Aleeza was able to hike the rest of the way down the trail with minor assistance, accompanied by a small rescue party. She reached the Liberty Springs parking lot without further incident at 7:00 pm. Due to the inaccurate planning and inadequate equipment of the hiker, the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department will be recommending that she be billed for this preventable rescue.

Hiking in the White Mountains can be extremely challenging and quickly become dangerous, even deadly, especially in winter conditions. People often underestimate the time required to complete a mountain hike in snowy and icy conditions. It is also easy to be deceived by trail distances, as hiking 4 miles on flat ground does not require nearly as much energy as hiking 4 miles in steep terrain. Conservation Officers would like remind everyone to plan for a safe hike and give plenty of time. Always bring dedicated lights, even on a day hike. For information please visit for more information.