Day: June 8, 2023

Robbinsville Township Council Adopts 2023 Municipal Budget

June 8, 2023

ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–“I’m extremely proud of everyone who worked hard on this budget,” Council President Debbie Blakely said. ” It was not an easy year to say the least. We had to work with the aftermath of the pandemic, inflation, and tweaking several areas to give what we could to the school district in a year when we had to raise taxes ourselves. It was hard. That said, our department heads, Office of Administration, Mayor Dave Fried and this council came together to prepare a good budget that will continue to offer high quality services and keep our residents safe.”

One of the more significant changes Council proposed and ultimately adopted since the budget was presented was modifying the Shared Services Agreement between the Township and Robbinsville School District.
In March, Ms. Blakely and Councilman Mike Cipriano met with school officials at the request of Superintendent Brian Betze to discuss the many financial challenges the district, as well at the Township, were facing this budget year, particularly with the school being denied millions in expected State aid. Once Council received the budget from the Mayor, it listened to feedback from the School District, the community, and safety professionals in an effort to revise the funding formula of that Shared Services Agreement.

Although the proposed municipal budget already featured a tax increase of 3.7 cents per every $100 of assessed value, upon weighing the concerns of the residents and the district, Council adopted a budget utilizing $152,000 more from the Township’s surplus to help with the district’s shortfall. The now 3.8 cent municipal tax increase amounts to approximately $144 per year, per household.

“We are counting on the school district to use those funds to restore a full-time teaching position at the elementary level, as well as restoring courtesy bussing for Town Center East,” Council Vice President Mike Todd said. “This alteration of the initial budget proposal will have a direct and positive impact for all residents in our community and maximize the safety and educational opportunities for students.”

The $152,000 contribution from the Township allows the district to redirect funds previously earmarked for School Resource Officers (SROs) to other areas of need, specifically busing and teaching positions. 

The new proposed tax rate of 57.7 cents (from 57.6) is applied to every $100 of assessed value based on the current average assessed value of a home in Robbinsville, which is $379,400.  A penny in Robbinsville Township tax rate is worth $267,128.71. The total budget is $26,638,576.32.

Allentown, NJ, Woman Charged in Fraudulent Mortgage Scheme

Secured $840k home with bogus documents

June 8, 2023

BORDENTOWN CITY, NJ (BURLINGTON)–Burlington County Prosecutor LaChia L. Bradshaw and Bordentown City Police Chief Shaun Lafferty announced that an Allentown, New Jersey woman has been charged with providing fraudulent documents to obtain a mortgage, and attempting to use a fraudulent $76,000 check to cover the closing costs of the real estate transaction.

Sydne Phillips, 32, was charged with two counts of Theft by Deception (Second Degree), Identity Crime – Impersonation (Second Degree) and two counts of Forgery (Third Degree).

She was taken into custody June 1 and lodged in the Atlantic County Justice Facility in Mays Landing pending a detention hearing in Superior Court. The case will be prepared for presentation to a grand jury for possible indictment.

The investigation began in January after a representative of a Bordentown City title company approached police with a fraudulent check in the amount of $76,652.79 that had been provided at closing by Phillips.

The investigation, which is continuing, revealed that the check was part of a scheme that allowed Phillips to secure a mortgage on an $840,000 house on Cannonball Court in Allentown, (UPPER FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP) New Jersey. She is also accused of forging multiple documents, using the identity of a relative, providing fraudulent tax income forms for that relative, and providing fraudulent bank account statements. She was taken into custody at the residence she is accused of illegally obtaining.

The investigation was conducted by the Prosecutor’s Office and the Bordentown City Police Department, with assistance from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office. The lead investigators are BCPD Detective Justin Lewandowski and BCPO Detective Michele Ragone.

Phillips is being prosecuted by Assistant Prosecutor Assistant Prosecutor Andrew R. McDonnell, supervisor of the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office Financial Crimes Unit.

All persons are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Note: The Allentown mailing address provides service in parts of Upper Freehold Township.

Burlington Prosecutor’s Office Press Release

Sydne Phillips, 32, was charged with two counts of Theft by Deception (Second Degree), Identity Crime – Impersonation (Second Degree) and two counts of Forgery (Third Degree).

Trenton Drug-Trafficking Organization Leader Sentenced To 10+ Years In Prison

June 8, 2023

TRENTON, N.J. – A Mercer County, New Jersey, man was sentenced today to 130 months in prison for his role as the leader of a Trenton drug-trafficking organization responsible for the distribution of heroin in the Trenton area, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.

Robert M. Gbanapolor, 36, of Trenton, previously pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp to a superseding indictment charging him with one count of conspiracy to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin; one count of possession with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin; and one count of distribution and possession with intent to distribute a detectable amount of heroin.

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

From June 2018 through May 2019, Gbanapolor and others engaged in a heroin trafficking conspiracy in the areas of Stuyvesant, Hoffman, and Highland avenues in Trenton, as well as in the area of Barbary Road in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Gbanapolor obtained regular bulk supplies of heroin from Duane Paulino-Escalera, whom Gbanapolor referred to as “Papi.” Gbanapolor, in turn, distributed this heroin for profit to other members of the drug-trafficking organization, who distributed the heroin in and around Trenton. Paulino-Escalera pleaded guilty in January 2020 and was sentenced on May 7, 2021, to five years in prison.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Shipp sentenced Gbanapolor to four years of supervised release.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, New Jersey Division, Camden Resident Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Cheryl Ortiz; and task force officers of the Trenton Police Department, under the direction of Police Director Steve Wilson, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing. He also thanked detectives and officers of the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Christine A. Hoffman; detectives and officers of the Gloucester Township Police Department, under the direction of Chief David Harkins; members of the N.J. State Police, under the direction of Col. Patrick J. Callahan; detectives and officers of the Bordentown Township Police Department, under the direction of Chief Brian Pesce; and special agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Bryan Miller.

This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at:

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric A. Boden, Attorney in Charge of the Trenton Office, and Michelle Gasparian, Chief of the Organized Crime/Gangs Unit in Newark.


Defense counsel: Mark W. Catanzaro Esq., Mt. Holly, New Jersey

Seaside Heights Man Charged In Connection With DUI Collision In Wall

June 8, 2023

FREEHOLD – An Ocean County man has been arrested and criminally charged with being responsible for an alcohol-fueled motor-vehicle collision that left a woman and her son injured in Wall Township earlier this year, Monmouth County Prosecutor Raymond S. Santiago and Wall Township Police Chief Sean O’Halloran jointly announced Thursday. 

Kevin Christian, 41, of Seaside Heights is charged with second- and third-degree Aggravated Assault.

At approximately 8 p.m. on Friday, March 17, 2023, members of the Wall Township Police Department responded to a two-vehicle collision on State Highway 138 East, in the area of the on- and off-ramps for State Route 18. At that location, the officers encountered the two involved vehicles: a van driven by Christian and an SUV driven by a 44-year-old female resident of Toms River (Ocean County). Both drivers and the woman’s 9-year-old son, who had sustained a serious head injury, were then taken to a local hospital for medical treatment.

An investigation conducted by the Monmouth County Serious Collision Analysis Response Team (SCART), the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Fatal Accident Investigation Unit, and the Wall Township Police Department revealed that Christian had been driving southbound on the Route 18 off-ramp onto Highway 138 eastbound when he lost control of his vehicle, careened across a grass median, and collided with the SUV. The investigation also determined that Christian’s blood-alcohol level was more than triple the legal limit at the time of the crash.

It was also discovered that Christian was operating the vehicle with a suspended license. In addition to the criminal charges against him, he was issued summonses for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, reckless driving, driving with a suspended license, delaying traffic, and failure to maintain a lane.

Christian was arrested by members of the Wall Township Police Department on Wednesday, June 7, with the assistance of members of the Neptune Township Police Department, and transported to the Monmouth County Correctional Institution (MCCI) pending a first appearance and detention hearing to take place in Monmouth County Superior Court.

This case is being prosecuted by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Joseph Cummings of the Major Crimes Bureau.

Anyone who witnessed the collision or may have information pertaining to this matter is still being asked to contact MCPO Detective Brian Boryszewski at 800-671-4400 or Wall Township Police Department Capt. Chad Clark or Sgt. Andrew Baldino at 732-449-4500.  

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all the trial rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and New Jersey State Law.

Allentown’s Underground Railroad Station

Robbins Sisters – 30 South Main Street, Allentown, NJ

June 8, 2023

By Thomas K. Robbins

ALLENTOWN, NJ (MONMOUTH)–The Allentown Messenger article published on March 3rd 1904 described a “certain house on Main Street, not now in existence, was once a “station” of the “underground railroad” whose purpose was to house men, women, and children on their journey north to freedom in Canada. Those helping would bring the escapees to the house during the night and conceal them the following day until nightfall, when they moved to the next station. When they reached a village near Perth Amboy, they would board a steamboat to New York.

The article also recounts a story by a witness to these events when she was a child and states: “She had been spending the day at the house referred to, and about dark had the occasion to go to the cellar while rendering assistance to one of the ladies. Passing through a through a door in a partition, there was found a partly furnished room, and at a table were six negroes eating their supper. She little knew at the time that the people before her were fugitive slaves, and it was not till years afterward that she learned that what had then been seen was one of the methods of operating the so called ‘underground railroad’ in the days of African slavery.”

A Messenger Press article published in 1918 told of the family residing in this house.  Under the headline “Some Interesting Local History”, the article described the old house as occupied by a “a Quaker family by the name Robbins. Included in the household were several daughters, the last survivor Aunt Sallie, a “maiden lady.”  The sisters knitted clothes for the refugees, since they were wearing rags when they arrived.

We can pinpoint the house using the description of houses from an Allentown Messenger article published on February 4th, 1904 that details who lived along Main Street in the 1830s.  The article states: “The old frame gristmill stood a little to the north of the present mill, and Henry Ford’s brick dwelling was occupied by Louis Steward, one of the heirs of the mill property. Where now is Dr. Johnson’s home was an old red house where lived the family of Mrs. Letitia Steward. Next to that was a general store conducted by Stout and Flak, and then came the residences of Misses Robbins, on the site of the Worden building. William Imlay was occupying the old homestead, and his neighbor, Joseph Robbins, was in the tailor business in the old building next door.” The building currently located at 30 Main Street is the Worden building, also known as the Dr. Framer Annex, which was completed in 1872.  The Robbins Sisters’ house was demolished sometime prior to the Worden building being constructed.

An 1850 United States census record documents the occupants as William V. Robbins, Ruth Robbins, Sara Robbins, Beulah Robbins, and Lydia Ford.  Their neighbors toward the north were the Imlays and next to the Imlays were Joseph and Elizabeth Robbins.  Their neighbors toward the south were Mary Page who married to Timothy Page a descendant of Aaron Robins, son of Daniel Robins, Sr., the first settler by that name to the area.  Aaron had owned the plantation immediately north of Allentown in 1706 and his granddaughter, Margert, married Joseph Page, Timothy’s father. 

William, Ruth and Sarah were the children of Vanroom Robbins and Tabitha Ford.  Vanroom, a descendant of Benjamin Robbins, brother to Aaron, had eleven children including William, Ruth, Lydia, Sarah, Patience, Hannah, Mary, Elizabeth, Ann, Benjamin, and Vanroom, Jr. 

Hannah married John Dickson; Patience married Nathaniel Cafferty; and Mary married William Rogers. The maiden sisters were Ruth, and Sarah, plus Lydia, Elizabeth, and Ann who passed away prior to 1850.  Lydia died in 1849; Elizabeth in 1848 and Ann in 1839.  They are interred in the Crosswicks Methodist Cemetery at Crosswicks. Whether they were all involved with the station remains a mystery but the Aunt Sallie mentioned in the article could have been Sarah since Sallie is a nickname for Sarah.

Many articles had mentioned the sisters but only the 1918 article identifies one of the sisters.  The witness to this fact is unknown, but future research may someday identify her.

Photos and images provided:

Wildfire Smoke Continues To Blanket The Area

NJDEP Issues Unhealthy Air Alert Though Friday 11:59 p.m.

June 8, 2023

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Smoke from Canadian wildfires that has created some apocalyptic looking skies the past few days, continues to blanket the area and is expected to continue through Friday.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has issued Air Quality Action Day for Thursday, June 8, 2023, and is being upgraded to the Unhealthy category statewide. In addition, this alert has been extended to Friday, June 9th at 11:59 pm.

The National Weather Service in Mount Holly reported the highest concentrations of smoke should be dissipating through the morning hours and into the afternoon across the region. However late this evening, we anticipate the haze and smoke to become more dense.

The Federal Aviation Administration reported reduced visibility from wildfire smoke will continue to impact air travel today. We will likely need to take steps to manage the flow of traffic safely into New York City, DC, Philadelphia and Charlotte.

METAR Data for the following as of 12:00 Eastern Time:

Newark Liberty Airport KEWR: 2.5 Miles visibility smoke, haze, broken clouds.

Trenton Mercer Airport KTTN: 3 Miles visibility haze and clear sky.

North East Philadelphia Airport KPNE: 4 Miles visibility, haze and clear sky.

McGuire Air Force Base KWRI: 3 Miles visibility haze and broken clouds.

Philadelphia International Airport KPHL: 3 Miles visibility haze and scattered clouds.

Atlantic City International Airport KACY: 2.5 Miles visibility and haze

The Air Quality Action Day for Thursday, June 8th is being upgraded to the Unhealthy category statewide. In addition, this alert has been extended to Friday, June 9th at 11:59 pm.  

Wildfire smoke creates tiny particles in the air that can be harmful to your health. Levels of these tiny particles will remain in the unhealthy category through the daytime hours today due to the wildfire smoke from eastern Canadian wildfires. As the weather pattern shifts, the smoke plume is forecast to slowly begin to dissipate, however fine particle concentrations are still expected to remain elevated in the unhealthy for sensitive groups (USG) category through the evening on Friday night. 

What does this mean?
Some members of the general public may experience health effects, while members of sensitive groups, including those with heart or lung disease, the elderly, and the young, may experience more serious health effects. All individuals should limit strenuous activities and the amount of time active outdoors especially in the evening hours. In addition, ozone is forecast to reach the low moderate category as sunny skies, light winds, and warm temperatures are forecast for the Garden State.

See resources on how to protect yourself on poor air quality days below:

Should any new developments occur, the forecast on will be updated accordingly. recursos en Español.

If you have to travel and need a mask, New Jersey Transit is offering courtesy N95 masks at Customer Service offices in Newark Penn Station, Hoboken, Secaucus, Trenton, Camden & Atlantic City (Bus & Rail Terminals).