Day: August 29, 2022

Family Escapes Injury As Car Drives Onto Active Railroad Line In Point Pleasant Beach

August 29, 2022

POINT PLEASANT BEACH, NJ (OCEAN)–Luckily, a family escaped severe injuries when their vehicle turned on to an active NJ Transit line in Point Pleasant Beach this evening near West Atlantic Avenue and Route 35. The NJ Transit rail line was shut down and New Jersey Transit Police responded to the scene. No additional details are available about the incident.

Photos by: Jersey Shore Fire Response

Two Minor Injuries Reported In NJ Turnpike Crash In Robbinsville

August 29, 2022

ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–The Robbinsville Township Fire Department and Captial Health EMS were requested by NJ State Police to respond to a crash with injuries at mile post 64 south bound outer lanes at 3:16 p.m. Upon arrival two people were treated on scene then transported to a local hospital with reported minor injuries. No additional details are available about the accident.

Suspicious Death Investigation In Florence Township, Burlington County

FLORENCE TOWNSHIP, NJ (BURLINGTON)–The Florence Township Police Department and the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office are investigating the death of a woman whose body was discovered late this afternoon inside a residence in the 200 block of Birch Hollow Drive in Florence Township. The death is considered to be suspicious.  

No arrests have been made. There is no reason for members of the general public to fear for their safety based upon this incident. No further information is expected to be released tonight.  

Treasury Announces Gas Tax Rate Will Decrease by 1.0 Cent Effective October 1, 2022

Don’t Spend All The Savings In One Place

August 29, 2022

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–After a thorough review of fuel consumption statistics and consultation with the Legislative Budget and Finance Officer, the Department of the Treasury announced on Monday that New Jersey’s gas tax rate will decrease by 1.0 cent per gallon beginning October 1 to comport with the 2016 law that requires a steady stream of revenue to support the State’s Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) program.

“Because actual consumption in Fiscal Year 2022 was moderately above our projections made last August, and consumption in the current fiscal year is projected to be slightly above last fiscal year’s levels, our analysis of the formula dictates a 1.0 cent decrease this coming October,” said State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio. “We are pleased that this dedicated funding stream continues to provide billions of dollars across the state to support our critical transportation infrastructure needs.”

Under the 2016 law (Chapter 57) enacted prior to the Murphy Administration, New Jersey’s TTF program is required to provide approximately $16 billion over eight years to support critical infrastructure improvements to the state’s roadways and bridges. In order to ensure the State has the funds necessary to support these projects, the law dictates that the Petroleum Products Gross Receipt tax rate must be adjusted accordingly to generate roughly $2 billion per year.  

What is generally called the “gas tax” or the “highway fuels tax” is actually two separate taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel – the Motor Fuels tax and the Petroleum Products Gross Receipts (PPGR) tax.

Under the formula explicitly outlined in the 2016 law, the PPGR tax rate will decrease on October 1, 2022 from 31.9 cents to 30.9 cents for gasoline and from 35.9 cents to 34.9 cents for diesel fuel. When combined with the Motor Fuels Tax, which is fixed at 10.5 cents for gasoline and 13.5 cents for diesel fuel, the total tax rates that motorists will pay for gasoline and diesel fuel will be 41.4 cents and 48.4 cents, respectively.

Background on Chapter 57 & calculation of tax rate formula

Under P.L. 2016, Chapter 57, a statutory formula determines how much the PPGR tax rate is to be adjusted annually in order to meet the Highway Fuels Revenue Target. The Highway Fuels Revenue Target is required to be reviewed annually each August by the Treasurer, in consultation with the Legislative Budget and Finance Officer (LBFO). This process just concluded, with Treasurer Muoio and LBFO Thomas Koenig consulting on consumption data and revenue collections.

In order to calculate whether a change in the PPGR tax rate is necessary to achieve the Highway Fuels Revenue Target, the statutory formula requires Treasury to first look at the baseline Highway Fuels Revenue Target, which is the amount of revenue collected from the taxation of highway fuels (gasoline and diesel fuel) when the law first went into effect in FY2016. 

The PPGR rate may be adjusted annually for the following two reasons:

  •          to correct for the prior fiscal year’s revenue shortfall or surplus in meeting the FY2016 baseline Highway Fuels Revenue Target; and
  •          to correct for whether projected highway fuels consumption in the current fiscal year will be above or below FY2016 consumption levels.

When necessary, the PPGR rate is adjusted:

  •          higher (lower) if revenues last fiscal year were below (above) the revenue target for that year;
  •          higher (lower) if consumption for the current fiscal year is projected to be lower (higher) than FY2016 consumption levels.

FY2023 Rate Calculation

Treasury applied the above formula based on the following revenue numbers:

  •          Highway fuels revenue collections in FY2022 are projected to exceed the FY2021 Highway Fuels Revenue Target by $43.1 million.
  •          Additionally, the actual surplus for FY2021 ended up being $2.5 million higher than the $58.8 million surplus that was projected last August. (Highway fuels consumption for the month of June must be estimated every year because the actual data is not available in time for the annual rate review.)
  •          Based on the consultation between the State Treasurer and the Legislative Budget and Finance Officer during the review period in August 2022, the Highway Fuels Revenue Target for FY2023 is $1.902 billion = $1.948 billion (FY 2016 baseline) – $43.1 million (FY 2022 surplus) – $2.5 million (FY 2021 adjustment).

Supporting Statistics

Last year, Treasury estimated that consumption of gasoline and diesel fuel in FY2022 was projected to decline by 9.3 percent from pre-pandemic levels in FY 2019 and 14.3 percent from the FY2016 baseline consumption level when the law was established.

However, because of better than expected recovery, consumption of gasoline and diesel fuel in FY2022 only declined by 7.5 percent from pre-pandemic levels in FY 2019 and 12.5 percent from the FY2016 baseline consumption level.

Because actual consumption in FY2022 was above projections, the PPGR tax rate did not need to be increased to make up for any shortfall in highway fuel revenue collections from the prior fiscal year. 

While consumption of gasoline and diesel fuel in FY2023 is projected to be 12.2 percent lower than FY 2016 levels since many workers will continue to work from home, it is expected to be above FY2022 levels.

As a result, the FY2023 PPGR tax rate will be lower than in FY2022 because there is no shortfall in prior fiscal year collections, but it will continue to be above the original 22.6 cent tax rate.

Treasury also noted that only legislative action can change the statutory formula and any new statutory change would still need to secure reliable annual revenues for the Transportation Trust Fund. 

MidJersey.News file photo from June 12, 2022 in Robbinsville, NJ

Health Officials Investigate Cases of Legionnaires’ Disease in Hamilton Township,Urge Precautions to Reduce Risk of Legionella Growth in Homes and Buildings

Water samples collected from more than half of the homes served by Trenton Water Works identified the presence of Legionella, including in samples of the cold-water entering homes.

August 29, 2022

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP-TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Two cases of Legionnaires’ disease were recently reported in August 2022 from the section of Hamilton Township, Mercer County, served by Trenton Water Works (TWW). Two additional cases were reported, respectively in April 2022 and December 2021. Of the four, one individual has died.

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia that people can get after breathing in aerosolized water (small droplets of water in the air) containing Legionella bacteria. You cannot get Legionnaires’ disease by drinking water that has Legionella. Less commonly, people can get sick when water containing Legionella is aspirated into the lungs while drinking (“goes down the wrong pipe”).

The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) receives approximately 250–350 reports of Legionnaires’ disease each year throughout New Jersey. Public health departments routinely conduct disease surveillance to identify suspected clusters or outbreaks. When an outbreak is identified, impacted individuals are notified so they are aware of steps they can take to reduce their risk of Legionnaires’ disease.  

The Hamilton Township Division of Health continues to work closely with NJDOH to investigate these cases. This is part of a larger ongoing investigation to determine potential sources of Legionella contributing to the higher burden of Legionnaires’ disease in Hamilton Township. Health officials continue to conduct surveillance for Legionnaires’ disease in other municipalities served by TWW. 

As part of these ongoing efforts, the Hamilton Township Division of Health and NJDOH recruited 20 homeowners from Hamilton Township to voluntarily have their homes tested for Legionella. Water samples collected from more than half of the homes served by TWW identified the presence of Legionella, including in samples of the cold water entering homes. It is possible for Legionella to enter buildings and homes when receiving treated drinking water. However, health officials are concerned about the number of homes with Legionella in areas serviced by TWW. There is concern that Legionella may be present in other buildings and homes in the area, particularly in the areas of Hamilton Township served by TWW. 

Hamilton Township and NJDOH are partnering with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and TWW to investigate factors that may be promoting the growth of Legionella bacteria and to evaluate actions that can be taken to reduce Legionella in the system. Investigators are also assessing if the other municipalities served by TWW are impacted.

“I want to thank Hamilton’s Division of Health, NJDOH, and NJDEP for their joint and thorough investigation into the causes of Legionnaire’s disease here in Hamilton,” said Mayor Jeff Martin. “This has been an issue for many years and their tireless work will hopefully reveal a cause for the high number of cases here in the Township – specifically those in the TWW service area.”

NJDOH recommends that all homeowners and building owners follow best practices to maintain their household and building water systems. However, health officials are especially urging residents and business owners in Hamilton Township served by TWW to take actions to reduce the risk of Legionella growth in their household and building plumbing. Recommendations for homeowners and building owners are available below. 

It is not known whether individuals with Legionella detected in their home are more likely to develop Legionnaires’ disease, but there is no safe amount of Legionella, and individuals at increased risk for Legionnaires’ disease are especially urged to follow best practices for home plumbing system maintenance and safe uses of water.  

It is rare for a healthy person exposed to Legionella to become sick with Legionnaires’ disease. However, people who are 50 years or older, especially those who smoke, 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.

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, and headaches, which are similar to symptoms caused by other respiratory infections, including COVID-19. Legionnaires’ disease can be fatal but is treatable with antibiotics. It is important that anyone who thinks they have symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease contact their health care provider and seek medical evaluation. 

The Hamilton Township Division of Health and NJDOH want to remind healthcare providers to maintain a high index of suspicion for Legionnaires’ disease when evaluating patients for community-acquired and healthcare-associated pneumonia, especially among residents of Hamilton Township. This is important to ensure patients receive appropriate and timely treatment. Appropriate testing for Legionnaires’ disease includes use of the urinary antigen test and collection of a lower respiratory specimen.

“There are simple precautions that residents can take to help protect themselves – such as regularly flushing water at their taps, cleaning their showerheads, and maintaining their water heaters,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Tina Tan. “Additionally, home and car air-conditioning units do not use water to cool the air, so they are not a risk for Legionella growth.”’

According to NJDOH, residents, particularly those at high risk, can follow recommended steps to decrease the risk of Legionella exposure and best practices to limit the growth of Legionella in household water systems and devices:

  • Avoid high-risk activities. If you are at an increased risk for Legionnaires’ disease, consider avoiding hot tubs, decorative fountains, power washing, or similar activities, which may generate increased amounts of aerosols or mist. A conversation with your healthcare provider may help you assess your individual level of risk based on underlying health conditions and co-morbidities. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you consider installing specialty biological 0.2-micron filters on your showerhead if you are severely immunocompromised, reside in Hamilton Township, and receive water from Trenton Water Works.
  • Maintain in-home medical equipment. If using medical equipment that requires water for use or cleaning such as non-steam generating humidifiers, CPAP or BiPAP machines, nasal irrigation devices such as Neti Pots, and attachments for nebulizers, follow manufacturer’s instructions for use and maintenance. This often includes using sterile water instead of tap water in the device. 
  • Clean and/or replace your showerheads and faucet aerators (screens) per manufacturer’s instructions whenever buildup is visible. This is particularly important if you haven’t cleaned your showerheads or faucet aerators recently. Cleaning might require you to remove the showerhead and hose and soak in a solution (such as white vinegar or a bleach solution) to remove buildup. If using chemicals, follow instructions found on the back of the bottle for safe use. 
  • Keep your water heater set to a minimum of 120°F. This temperature will reduce Legionella growth and avoid potential for scalding (hot water burns). Setting the heater to a higher temperature may better control Legionella growth, especially if you have household members at increased risk for Legionnaires’ disease. However, if the temperature is set to greater than 120°F, make sure you take extra precautions to mix cold and hot water at the faucet and shower to avoid scalding. If you have household members at increased risk of scalding, such as young children or older adults, you may consider installing a thermostatic mixing valve. A mixing valve allows your water to be stored at a higher temperature within your water heater to help kill bacteria while eliminating concerns with water being too hot at sinks or showers. If you decide to install a mixing valve, be sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions for routine cleaning and maintenance to avoid bacteria growth within the valve. Consider consulting with a licensed plumbing professional and ensure you are following your local codes and ordinances for home plumbing repairs.
  • After cleaning showerheads and faucet aerators and increasing the temperature of the water heater, thoroughly flush the water at each tap (e.g., sink, showerhead) for 20 minutes. Try to minimize exposure to splashing and mist generation, for example, by leaving the room while the water is running.
  • Conduct routine flushing. Sinks and shower taps that are not used often can increase the risk of Legionella growth in other areas of the home. Let your faucets and showers run for at least three minutes when they have been out of use for more than a week. Minimize exposure to splashing and mist generation, for example, by leaving the room while the water is running. Additionally, you may consider flushing your water following any water disruption to your home, such as low pressure or discoloration, resulting from a water main break or nearby hydrant flushing. 
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for maintaining your water heater and expansion tank, including periodic flushing, draining, and removal of sediment. If manufacturer’s instructions are unavailable, seek advice from a licensed professional.
  • Clean and/or replace all water filters per manufacturer’s instructions. All whole-house (e.g., water softeners) and point-of-use filters (e.g., built-in refrigerator filters) must be properly maintained. 
  • Drain garden hoses and winterize hose bibs. Detach and drain the hose, shut the water valve off inside the home, and drain the pipe when not in use for the season. 
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for maintaining your hot tub. Ensure disinfectant levels (e.g., chlorine) and maintenance activities (e.g., cleaning, scrubbing, replacing the filter and water) are followed. For more information, be sure to review CDC’s recommendations for residential hot tub owners found here:
  • Operate and maintain your indoor and outdoor decorative fountains according to manufacturer’s instructions to limit your exposure to Legionella. Household members at increased risk for Legionnaires’ disease should avoid exposure to decorative fountains. If manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and maintenance are not available, minimum cleaning frequency recommendations can be found in CDC’s Legionella Control Toolkit available at: Controlling Legionella in Decorative Fountains (PDF).
  • Remove, shorten, or regularly flush existing dead legs. Plumbing renovations can lead to the creation of dead legs, a section of capped pipe that contains water but has no flow (or is infrequently used). For future renovations, ensure your plumber avoids creating dead legs. 


  • Complete this quick yes/no worksheet to determine if your building, or certain devices in your building, need a Water Management Program. Resources to help you develop a Water Management Program and for Legionella control in common sources of exposure are available at NJ Department of Health’s Legionella
  • Store hot water at temperatures above 140°F and ensure hot water in circulation does not fall below 120°F (or at highest temperature allowable by local regulations and codes). Install thermostatic mixing valves as close as possible to fixtures to prevent scalding while permitting circulating hot water temperatures above 120°.
  • Clean and maintain water system components. This includes devices such as thermostatic mixing valves, aerators, showerheads, hoses, filters, water heaters, storage tanks, and expansion tanks, regularly per manufacturer instructions.
  • Flush hot and cold water at all points of use (faucets, showers, drinking fountains) at least weekly to replace the water that has been standing in the pipes. Healthcare settings and facilities that house vulnerable populations should flush at least twice a week.
  • Remove dead legs or, where unavoidable, make them as short as possible. Where a dead leg (a section of pipe capped off with little or no water flow) cannot be avoided, it should be flushed regularly to avoid water stagnation. This may require the installation of a drain valve.
  • Monitor water quality parameters such as temperature, disinfectant residuals, and pH regularly. Adjust frequency of monitoring based on stability of values. For example, increase frequency of monitoring if there is a high degree of measurement variability. Pay particular attention to water quality parameters following a water disruption event, such as low pressure or discoloration, resulting from a water main break or nearby hydrant flushing
  • Safely operate and conduct regular maintenance of cooling towers to protect staff, visitors, and the adjacent community from exposure to Legionella. Use a Water Management Program to establish, track, and improve operation and maintenance activities. 
  • Follow recommendations from the NJ Department of Health when reopening your facility following a prolonged shutdown or reduced operation due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Recommendations are available at:


Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia (lung infection) caused by Legionella bacteria. Legionella is a type of bacteria found naturally in freshwater environments such as lakes and streams and becomes a health concern when it enters and grows inside human-made water systems. People can get Legionnaires’ disease by breathing in aerosolized (small droplets) water containing Legionella. Aerosolized water can come from plumbing systems and devices such as cooling towers (part of the cooling system for large buildings), hot tubs, cooling misters, and decorative fountains. Less commonly, people can get sick by aspiration of tap water containing Legionella. This happens when water accidently goes into the lungs while drinking (“goes down the wrong pipe”). People at increased risk of aspiration include those with swallowing difficulties. Home A/C units do not use water to cool, so these home units do not aerosolize water and are not a risk for Legionella growth. Legionnaires’ disease is generally not spread person to person. Additional information regarding Legionnaires’ disease and Legionella can be located at NJDOH’s website.

Acting AG Platkin Announces the Indictment of Eight Individuals Allegedly Operating a Prostitution and Human Trafficking Ring in Central Jersey

Victims Include Minor and Women Held Against Their Will 

August 29, 2022

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced today that eight defendants were indicted on first-degree racketeering and conspiracy charges in connection with a prostitution and human trafficking ring they allegedly operated in Mercer and Monmouth counties. During a four-month investigation, detectives from the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) discovered that the defendants ran prostitution houses, where, in exchange for money from patrons, the defendants exposed a minor and at least two women held captive against their will to repeated sexual assaults.

The 20-count indictment, obtained by the Division of Criminal Justice Human Trafficking Unit on August 5, 2022, also charges various defendants with numerous other crimes related to the criminal enterprise – including human trafficking, promoting prostitution, sexual assault, and money laundering.

The charges stem from “Operation Hudson House” an investigation by the NJSP Missing Persons and Human Trafficking Unit that identified victims being shuttled between two houses of prostitution – one on Hudson Street in Trenton and a second on Prospect Street in Asbury Park – where men purchased poker chips entitling them to select a female for sexual activity for a specific period of time. The investigation also identified a third house on Woodland Street in Trenton that was used as the hub of the operation.

“Forcing anyone – let alone a minor – to perform sexual acts for money is a despicable crime and a brutal abuse of power targeting the most vulnerable victims,” said Acting Attorney General Platkin. “I commend the work of the investigators and prosecutors who put an end to the sexual violence brought upon a minor and women held captive out of greed, and thank the advocates and service providers who now begin the hard work of helping these survivors live past their trauma.”

“This was a well-organized operation with every defendant taking part in the despicable crimes against these victims,” said Director Pearl Minato. “The charges they face reflect the roles they played and we intend to prosecute them fully for their unlawful conduct. Human trafficking is an affront on human dignity that will not be tolerated in New Jersey.”

“Human trafficking victims are subjected to irreprehensible physical and emotional abuse because of the manipulation and fear-based tactics used by their perpetrators,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “This investigation shows our dedication to use every resource at our disposal to bring these criminals to justice and dismantle operations that create life-long, damage to victims. We remain committed to working with our partners to aggressively target these offenders but remind everyone to remain vigilant and report these heinous crimes to law enforcement.”

Charged in the criminal enterprise operated between December 16, 2021 and May 11, 2022 are:

Paulino “Pablo” Macolas-Aguirre, 43, of Trenton. As the alleged “boss” of the criminal enterprise, Macolas-Aguirre was responsible for recruiting/luring the female victims to the operation and allegedly gave orders to the workers as to which house each woman should be assigned and when they should be relocated to another house. He was also allegedly responsible for paying the workers and victims at the end of each week, and created and distributed business cards to ensure a steady stream of customers to his enterprise.

Charges – First-degree: conspiracy, racketeering, human trafficking (3 counts), promoting prostitution of a child under 18. Second-degree: facilitating human trafficking (2 counts), sexual assault. Third-degree: promoting prostitution, endangering the welfare of a child, money laundering (3 counts).

Laura Macolas-Aguirre45, of Asbury Park, sister of Paulino Macolas-Aguirre; Edy Villeda-Estrada, 39, of Asbury ParkDaniel Camara-Bonito 55, of Trenton. Alleged employees of the criminal enterprise who were tasked with managing the houses of prostitution. Their responsibilities included permitting customers inside the houses, taking money from the customers and providing them access to the victims.

Charges – First-degree: conspiracy, racketeering, human trafficking, promoting prostitution of a child. Second-degree: facilitating human trafficking. Third-degree: promoting prostitution, endangering the welfare of a child, money laundering. Camara-Bonito is also charged with second-degree conspiracy and hindering apprehension (2 counts) and third-degree witness tampering.

Efran Melo-Castillo, 30, of Trenton. An alleged employee of the criminal enterprise responsible for driving the females to houses and outcall services. He was also allegedly responsible for obtaining necessities, such as food and other supplies for the houses and allegedly paid various expenses of the enterprise, including rent to landlords for the houses, at the direction of Macolas-Aguirre.

Charges – First-degree: conspiracy, racketeering, human trafficking, promoting prostitution of a child. Second-degree: facilitating human trafficking (2 counts). Third-degree: promoting prostitution, endangering the welfare of a child, money laundering.

Daniel Handerson Camara-Perico, 31 of Trenton and Jose G. Camara-Perico, 30, of Trenton, sons of Camara-Bonito. Alleged employees of the criminal enterprise responsible for driving the victims to houses and outcall services, collecting proceeds from the houses and providing the money to Macolas-Aguirre. The pair allegedly monitored operations at the houses via a surveillance system accessible via a phone app.

Charges – D. Camara Perico – First-degree: conspiracy, racketeering, human trafficking, promoting prostitution of a child. Third-degree: promoting prostitution, endangering the welfare of a child.

Charges – J. Camara-Perico – First-degree: conspiracy, racketeering, human trafficking. Second-degree: facilitating human trafficking. Third-degree: promoting prostitution, money laundering.

Daniela Camara-Perico, 29, of Trenton, daughter of Camara-Bonito and girlfriend of Macolas-Aguirre. She allegedly engaged in witness tampering of the juvenile victim in an attempt to insulate the enterprise’s workers from criminal exposure.

Charges – First-degree: conspiracy, racketeering. Second-degree: conspiracy, hindering apprehension. Third-degree: witness tampering.

On January 21, 2022 NJSP detectives conducted surveillance at the Hudson Street house from 5 pm to 9:30 pm and during that time observed approximately 10 men enter the residence through the rear door and then exit approximately 15 to 20 minutes later. At approximately 9:30 pm, a male locked the gate to the residence. Later that night, members of the State Police T.E.A.M.S. Unit, K-9 Unit, Crime Suppression Central Unit, Trenton Police Department, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) executed a search warrant on the house. Inside, officers found the residence to be fortified, specifically with a high-level padlock on the gate leading to the alley to the rear door, a 2×4 wood plank across the entrance door, and a sophisticated surveillance system.

Villeda-Estrada and Camara-Bonito were both located inside the house and placed under arrest.  The 17-year-old juvenile victim was also located in the residence, where she was assigned to a main level bedroom. The bedrooms in the house each contained a bed, a bedside table equipped with a bottle of rubbing alcohol, paper towels, condoms and lubricant, a trash can and a chair. With the exception of suitcases in the closet and a bicycle in the juvenile’s bedroom, the bedrooms contained no personal effects. During the search, numerous items were seized, including cash and notebook ledgers containing the names of victims, followed by numbers next to each day of the week, suspected to be the number of prostitution clients that each victim saw on a given day.

Through various investigative means, detectives identified Macolas-Aguirre as the alleged ringleader of the human trafficking operation and determined that he was operating out of multiple locations in Trenton and Asbury Park.

On Wednesday, May 11, detectives from the New Jersey State Police Missing Persons & Human Trafficking Unit, Trenton Police Department, Asbury Park Police Department, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Fugitive Unit and the Division of Criminal Justice executed search warrants at various residences in Trenton and Asbury Park, including Macola-Aguirre’s primary residence on Bridge Street in Trenton. As a result, two additional female victims were located. Detectives also obtained evidence of prostitution, including cash and ledgers believed to be an account of the number of prostitution clients the women saw each day.

Paulino Macolas-Aguirre, Laura Macolas-Aguirre, Efran Melo-Castillo and Jose Camara-Perico were arrested on May 11, during the execution of the search warrants. Following detention hearings, all defendants have been ordered detained pending trial. Daniel Camara-Perico and Daniela Camara-Perico were not present and are fugitives to date.

Deputy Attorney General Heather Hausleben is prosecuting the case for the DCJ Specialized Crimes Bureau, Human Trafficking Unit, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Valerie Butler, Bureau Chief Erik Daab, and Deputy Director Derek Nececkas

The investigation was conducted by the New Jersey State Police Missing Persons & Human Trafficking Unit, Trenton Police Department and Asbury Park Police Department.

The first-degree human trafficking charge carries a sentence of 20 years without parole to life in state prison and a mandatory fine of not less than $25,000. The mandatory fine is for direct victim services, and deposited into the “Human Trafficking Survivor’s Assistance Fund.” The charge of promoting organized street crime carries a sentence of 15 to 30 years in state prison, consecutive to the sentence for any underlying crime. The other first-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000. Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000, and Second-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Acting Attorney General Platkin, Colonel Callahan, and Director Minato urge anyone who suspects that individuals are engaged in sex- or labor-related human trafficking to confidentially report such activity by calling the Division of Criminal Justice’s 24-hour NJ Human Trafficking Hotline 1-855-END-NJ-HT. In addition, members of the public who suspect improper contact by persons communicating with children on the Internet or possible exploitation or sexual abuse of children can contact the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Tipline at 888-648-6007.

Defense Attorneys 

For Macolas-Aguirre: George Somers, Esq.

For Villeda-Estrada: Nicole Carlo, Esq.

For Camara-Bonito: Antonio Martinez, Esq.

For Jose G. Camara-Perico: Jennifer L. Gottschalk, Esq.

For Daniel Handerson Camara-Perico: Unknown

For Daniela Camara-Perico: Unknown

For Melo-Castillo: Louis A. Mangione, Jr., Esq.

For Macolas-Aguirre: Kevin A. Holleran, Esq.

At Long Last: NJDOT and Legislative Leaders Announce Route 129 Pedestrian Safety Improvement project in Trenton

First-in-the-nation technology part of plan to reduce red light running crashes

This comes after the latest serious hit and ron crash at Lalor and Route 129, the “Most Dangerous Intersection in America”

August 29, 2022

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, together with New Jersey 15th Legislative District representatives Senator Shirley K. Turner, Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, and Assemblyman Anthony S. Verelli, today announced the start of a Pedestrian Safety Improvement project along the Route 129 corridor in the City of Trenton, Mercer County.

The project includes both short-term improvements and long-term solutions to improve safety for both pedestrians and cyclists at three signalized intersections on Route 129, at Lalor Street, Cass Street, and Hamilton Avenue. 

Initial short-term improvements will include a first-in-the-nation Red Clearance Extension system. This smart, predictive technology detects the speed of a vehicle approaching an intersection and automatically adjusts traffic signal changes. Additional improvements include revising the traffic signal timing at each intersection to provide pedestrians more time to cross, adding signal backplates to increase visibility, and installing upgraded, advanced warning signs over the roadway to replace ground-mounted signs. A project to make more extensive safety enhancements to these intersections is currently in the early stages of design.

“NJDOT’s commitment to communities is the driving force behind the Route 129 Pedestrian Safety Improvement project,” NJDOT Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said. “By working closely with the community and employing innovative crash mitigation technology, we can make these intersections safer for the motoring public, pedestrians, and cyclists.”

“Unfortunately, Route 129 has been a dangerous blight on our capital city and now the Lalor Street intersection has been named one of the most unsafe in the country,” said Senator Shirley K. Turner.  “For nearly 30 years, our city residents have lived with a highway that bifurcates Trenton with heavy traffic that threatens the health and safety of residents who live in the area and puts the lives of pedestrians and cyclists at risk.  The safety improvements are being prioritized to minimize the hazardous conditions to prevent future serious injuries and fatalities.”

“These improvements are long overdue. One life taken is too many. Over the past decade, fatalities have increased along Route 129. These road infrastructure improvements will save lives,” said Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson. “Whether you walk, bike, or drive, the goal is to reach your family, friends, and destination safely.  It’s my mission to improve the quality of life in our communities through public policy by focusing on and investing in people.”

“One of government’s key functions is making sure that all its citizens can live and thrive safely within their community.” said Assemblyman Anthony S. Verrelli. “These first-in-the-nation technological improvements will ensure that pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists alike have safe and equal access to Route 129. Nobody should have to risk their life when they leave their home, whether they have the privilege of owning a motor vehicle or not. I applaud NJDOT for helping move Trenton and New Jersey forward into a future where walkable communities and motor vehicles need not be at odds with each other but coexist as one.”