Day: July 7, 2023

Fatal Hit And Run Reported In South River

July 7, 2023

SOUTH RIVER, NJ (MIDDLESEX)-Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone and Chief Mark Tinitigan of the South River Police Department are seeking the public’s assistance in the investigation of a hit and run.  

Today, July 7, 2023, at 4:21 p.m., South River police responded to the intersection of Whitehead Avenue and Russell Avenue following the report of a hit and run. Upon their arrival, authorities located the victim, a 14-year- old boy, who was struck by a white work van while riding his bicycle. The victim was transported to the hospital where he ultimately succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased.

The investigation is active and continuing. Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Kenneth Nale of South River Police Department at (732) 254-9002 X123 or Sergeant Jonathan Berman of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at (732) 745-4328.

Unified Command continues response to fire aboard motor vessel Grande Costa D’Avorio at Port Newark

July 7, 2023

By: U.S. Coast Guard

PORT NEWARK, New Jersey — The Unified Command consisting of The Coast Guard, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Newark Fire Department, and Gallagher Marine Systems is continuing its response to the fire aboard the vessel at Port Newark, Friday. 

The Unified Command, response personnel and assisting agencies continue to ensure the safety of the public and first responders, conduct fire suppression, protect the environment, and minimize any economic and operational activities in the port area.

As of Friday evening, marine fire fighting specialists are actively conducting fire suppression. Fire fighting efforts are being supported by fire agencies through the Port of New York and New Jersey region, both pierside and on the water. The fire is still contained to the upper decks of the vessel.

The vessel continues to list to the starboard side due to water build up from firefighting activities, but remains stable. Salvage teams are working to remove water from the vessel and counter the list resulting from the fire fighting activities.

Air monitoring continues to be a top priority and the Unified Command has deployed three air monitoring devices, proximate to the ship, to monitor air quality at the incident site. There are additional air monitoring devices setup on the west side of Corbin Street to measure air quality over one mile away from the vessel. Additional air monitoring equipment and staff are scheduled to be deployed to the west side of Newark Airport, Saturday, to ensure a greater range of air quality testing.

At this time, there are no reports of waterway pollution. Response personnel are testing water samples as fire fighting efforts continue.

A security zone is being enforced by the Coast Guard within the Port Newark channel. The Port of New York and New Jersey remains open with limited restrictions. The Port Newark Channel from Berth 18 inward is closed.

A formal investigation will be conducted to identify what caused the fire and subsequent fatalities and all parties at the federal, state, and local levels as well as the owners are working closely together during this process.

Support the families of FF Acabou & FF Brooks

The Newark Firefighters Union mourns the loss of our brothers Augusto (Augie) Acabou and Wayne (Bear) Brooks Jr., who bravely dedicated their lives to keeping the people of Newark safe. We come together today to support the Acabou and Brooks families in their time of profound grief. Augie and Bear served the city with bravery, courage, and honor. As a community, we can rally around their families, offer our support, and alleviate some of the financial burdens they face. That is why the Newark Firefighters Union has established this GoFundMe campaign to raise funds directly benefiting the Acabou and Brooks families. All donations will be split equally, 50/50, between the two families. This is the only fundraising campaign connected to the family. Please join us in supporting our brothers’ families. Together, we can honor the memory of our brave firefighters and offer a tangible expression of our thanks to their loved ones. No contribution is too small. Thank you for your support.

FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS for Newark Firefighters Augusto Acabou and Wayne Brooks, Jr. Firefighter Augusto Acabou’s viewing will take place WEDNESDAY, July 12, 2023 from 4pm-8pm at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, 89 Ridge Street (off Clifton Avenue), Newark, NJ The Funeral Mass will take place THURSDAY, July 13, 2023 at 10am at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, 89 Ridge Street (off Clifton Avenue), Newark, NJ Firefighter Wayne Brooks, Jr’s viewing will take place THURSDAY, July 13, 2023 from 4pm-8pm at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, 89 Ridge Street (off Clifton Avenue), Newark, NJ The Funeral Mass will take place FRIDAY, July 14, 2023 at 10am at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, 89 Ridge Street (off Clifton Avenue), Newark, NJ

Fennelly Associates Negotiates $2.95M Sale of 10,000-Square-Foot East Windsor, N.J. Medical Office Building

July 7, 2023

EAST WINDSOR, NJ (MERCER)–Fennelly Associates, one of New Jersey and Pennsylvania’s most experienced and successful independent full-service commercial real estate service providers, announces they have negotiated the sale of a single-tenant, long-term leased 10,000-square-foot medical office building located at 59 One Mile Road in East Windsor, N.J. for $2.95M.  Fennelly Associates President Jerry Fennelly, SIOR, and Corporate Real Estate Specialist Patrick Dintrone, SIOR, represented the seller and Frank Gunsberg of Colliers International represented the buyer in the transaction.

Located just off Route 130 less than two miles from Exit 8 on the New Jersey Turnpike, 59 One Mile Road is a two-story medical office building featuring 47 parking spaces. The building’s ideal location and favorable local demographics make it a perfect home for an office of Schweiger Dermatology, the largest dermatology practice in the region, with over 90 offices and more than 300 healthcare providers throughout New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Long-term leased to a credit-grade tenant, the buyer recognized 59 One Mile Road as a favorable long-term investment to satisfy a 1031 exchange requirement and worked closely with Fennelly Associates to negotiate a purchase.

“The opportunity to acquire a fully-leased medical office building in the heart of the dynamic Mercer County market is rare,” said Fennelly. “In such a competitive market, it’s critical for sellers to work with an experienced team who can seamlessly and efficiently bring a property to the market and secure the highest fair market value.” 

“We Check For 21” Campaign In East Windsor

July 7, 2023

EAST WINDSOR, NJ (MERCER)–Mayor Janice S. Mironov and Council Member Peter Yeager, Coordinator of the East Windsor Municipal Alliance for the Prevention of Substance Abuse, surrounded by local Township liquor license holders, issued a Proclamation recognizing Alcohol Awareness Month and kicking off the East Windsor “We Check for 21” initiative aimed at deterring underage drinking.  As part of the Township “We Check for 21” Campaign, liquor license holders are required to sign the “We Check for 21” Pledge as a condition of receiving their liquor license renewal.  The Pledge affirms each liquor license holder’s strong support of East Windsor Township’s “We Check for 21” Program.  Various resource and informational materials and paraphernalia were distributed for use at these establishments.

Mayor Mironov publicly praised the license holders in attendance for their demonstrated interest and concern for this important community goal:  Bonnibel Burgess of TGI Friday’s;  Adam Jahsag of Exit 8 Lounge;  Rajvinder Nijjar of Ami & Sami, Inc.;  Pat O’Brien of Hightstown Elk’s #1955 B.P.O.E.;  Chintu Papaiya of East Windsor Bowl & Recreation Center;  Brian Quigley of City Streets Café;  Ranga Reddy of Windsor Liquors;  Ryan Storrie of KRS License Holdings, LLC, and Amal Wright of Holiday Inn of East Windsor and Legends Bar and Grille.      

Mayor Mironov stated,  “The Township supports and is proud to promote the ‘We Check for 21’ Program, along with our licensed business partners, which is designed to heighten the awareness and prevention of underage drinking within all of our communities.  There are many serious impacts to underage drinking, including many young drivers under 21 who are involved in automobile accidents have blood alcohol levels above the legal limit.  The ‘We Check for 21’ Program is an excellent vehicle to bring together municipal government leaders, young people, parents, key community and school leaders, policy makers and local businesses toward a common positive community effort.  We appreciate and call on all businesses and citizens to become more aware of and more involved in efforts to reduce underage drinking and enhance safety in our community.”

Mayor Janice S. Mironov issues Proclamation recognizing Alcohol Awareness Month and thanks local liquor license holders for their participation in the 2023 “We Check for 21” campaign.  Pictured (from left to right) are:  (front row)  Chintu Papaiya, owner, East Windsor Bowl & Recreation Center;  Pat O’Brien, Secretary, Hightstown Elk’s #1955 B.P.O.E.;  Mayor Janice S. Mironov;  Amal Wright, manager, Holiday Inn of East Windsor and Legends Bar and Grille;  Rajvinder Nijjar, owner, Ami & Sami Inc.;  Bonnibel Burgess, manager, TGI Friday’s; (back row)  Council Member John Zoller;  Council Member Peter Yeager, Coordinator of the East Windsor Municipal Alliance for the Prevention of Substance Abuse;  Ranga Reddy, owner, Windsor Liquors;  Brian Quigley, owner, City Streets Café;  Ryan Storrie, KRS License Holdings, LLC, and Adam Jahsag, General Manager, Exit 8 Lounge. 

Hightstown Man Charged With Attempted Murder, Sexual Assault, Kidnapping And Home Invasion In Piscataway

July 7, 2023

Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone and Captain Michelle Pilch, Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the Piscataway Police Department announced today that a Hightstown man has been charged in connection with a home invasion that occurred on Thursday afternoon, July 6, 2023.  

On Thursday, July 6, 2023, at 1:24 P.M., authorities responded to a residence in Piscataway after receiving a 911 call reporting an assault. Upon their arrival the Piscataway Police Department located the victim, an adult female, who had sustained injuries and was transported to the hospital for treatment.  

An initial investigation by the Piscataway Police Department revealed that the victim was sexually assaulted. Further investigation by Detective Sean Morelli of the Piscataway Police Department and Detective Daniela Castro of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victim’s Unit determined that Justin Surofsky, 26, of Hightstown was the assailant.  

On Thursday, July 6, 2023, Surofsky was arrested in East Windsor without incident and charged with two counts of first-degree Aggravated Sexual Assault, first- degree Criminal Attempt-Murder, second-degree Burglary, third-degree Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact, second-degree Kidnapping, third-degree Criminal Restraint, second-degree Aggravated Assault, and first-degree Robbery. Surofsky presently is lodged at the Middlesex County Adult Correctional Center pending the results of a pre- trial detention hearing in Superior Court.  

The investigation is active and continuing. Anyone with information or surveillance footage is asked to call Detective Morelli of the Piscataway Police Department at (732) 562-2355 or Detective Castro of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at (732) 745-3652.  

As is the case with all criminal defendants, the charges against Surofsky are merely accusations, and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Justin Surofsky, 26, of Hightstown. On Thursday, July 6, 2023, Surofsky was arrested in East Windsor without incident and charged with two counts of first-degree Aggravated Sexual Assault, first- degree Criminal Attempt-Murder, second-degree Burglary, third-degree Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact, second-degree Kidnapping, third-degree Criminal Restraint, second-degree Aggravated Assault, and first-degree Robbery. Surofsky presently is lodged at the Middlesex County Adult Correctional Center pending the results of a pre- trial detention hearing in Superior Court.  

Point Plesant Borough High School Substitute Teacher Charged With Endangering The Welfare Of A Child And Witness Tampering

July 7, 2023

Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on July 7, 2023, Matthew Marinelli, 23, of Point Pleasant Borough, was charged with Endangering the Welfare of a Child and Witness Tampering in connection with incidents that occurred in April and May of 2023.  

An investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit determined that Marinelli – while employed as a substitute teacher at Point Pleasant Borough High School – sent nude photographs of himself and engaged in communications that were sexual in nature with a student in one of his classes.  The communications were made through internet messaging applications.  The investigation also revealed that after being terminated from his employment at the high school, Marinelli contacted the victim multiple times asking that she deny having contact with him, and to delete any communications and photographs he had sent to her.  

On July 7, 2023, Detectives from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office High Tech Crime Unit, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit executed a court-authorized search warrant at Marinelli’s residence.  As a result, Detectives seized multiple electronic devices that Marinelli possessed at the residence.  Marinelli was taken into custody and transported to the Ocean County Jail, where he is currently lodged pending a detention hearing.  

“I would encourage parents to have a conversation with their children if they had Mr. Marinelli as a substitute teacher at Point Pleasant Borough High School.  If anyone has additional information regarding Mr. Marinelli or this investigation, please contact Detective Jason LaRaia of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office at 732-929-2027, extension 3758,” Prosecutor Billhimer stated.   

Prosecutor Billhimer acknowledges the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office High Tech Crime Unit, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, for their collaborative efforts in connection with this investigation.    

The charges referenced above are merely accusations and the press and public are reminded that all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. R.P.C. 3.6(b)(6).

U.S. Army Financial Counselor Charged With Defrauding Gold Star Families

July 7, 2023

A Monmouth County, New Jersey, financial counselor with the United States Army and major in the U.S. Army Reserves who allegedly defrauded two dozen Gold Star families has been indicted, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced today.

Caz Craffy, a/k/a “Carz Craffey,” 41, of Colts Neck, New Jersey, is charged by indictment with six counts of wire fraud and one count each of securities fraud, making false statements in a loan application, committing acts furthering a personal financial interest, and making false statements to a federal agency.

Craffy is expected to make his initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Tonianne J. Bongiovanni at the Trenton Federal Courthouse.

“Stealing from Gold Star families whose loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation is a shameful crime,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “As alleged in the indictment, the defendant in this case used his position as an Army financial counselor to defraud Gold Star families, steal their money, and enrich himself. Predatory conduct that targets the families of fallen American service members will be met with the full force of the Justice Department.”

“The families of our fallen service members have laid the dearest sacrifice on the altar of freedom,” U.S. Attorney Sellinger said. “These Gold Star families deserve our utmost respect and compassion, as well as some small measure of financial security from a grateful nation. They must be off-limits for fraudsters. But, as the indictment alleges, this defendant took advantage of his role as an Army financial counselor to prey upon these families, using lies and deception to steer their investments in a way that would make him money. There is no room for those who seek to rip off families of fallen servicemembers to make a buck. We will use every means at our disposal to ensure that those who defraud military families are held accountable.”

“Those who prey on the family members of fallen soldiers, will be sought out and held accountable,” said Special Agent in Charge Joel Kirch, Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division, Northeast Field Office. “The hard work, long hours, and dedication of our partners within the Task Force, from the United States Attorney’s Office, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, and our own investigative analyst, resulted in this investigation’s swift resolution.”

“The families of service members who lost their lives while serving their country deserve to be treated with compassion, dignity and respect by individuals entrusted to assist them in obtaining survivor benefits,” said James R. Ives, Principal Deputy Director of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the law enforcement arm of the DoD Office of Inspector General. “Today’s announcement reflects DCIS and our law enforcement partners’ steadfast commitment to holding accountable those who use their official positions to take advantage of grieving military families.”

“Gold Star families are given a title no one would choose because it means they’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice for this country,” said Special in Charge James E. Dennehy of the Newark FBI. The soldier, sailor, marine or airman they loved died during a time of conflict – defending this nation. They are given money and assistance to help ease the burden that comes with losing their loved one, however no amount of money can replace what they’ve lost. We allege Craffy took advantage of his position and defrauded families already going through a tremendous amount of suffering.”

“Craffy disgraced the position he was entrusted in to care for our nation’s military families when he allegedly took advantage of them during a vulnerable time of grief,” said Homeland Security Investigations Newark Special Agent in Charge Ricky J. Patel. “No family, especially our Gold Star families, should have to face further heartache after a loved one’s death by having their financial security ripped out from under them by fraudsters.”

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court: When a member of the Armed Services dies during active duty, his or her surviving beneficiary, now a member of a Gold Star family, is entitled to a $100,000 death gratuity and the soldier’s life insurance of up to $400,000. These payments are disbursed to the beneficiary in a matter of weeks or months following the servicemember’s death. To assist the beneficiaries in this time of need, the military provides a number of services to the servicemember’s family, including the assistance of a financial counselor.

From November 2017 to January 2023, Craffy was a civilian employee of the U.S. Army, working as a financial counselor with the Casualty Assistance Office. He was also a major in the U.S. Army Reserves, where he has been enlisted since 2003.

Craffy was responsible for providing general financial education to the surviving beneficiaries. He was prohibited from offering any personal opinions regarding the surviving beneficiary’s benefits decisions. Craffy was not permitted to participate personally in any government matter in which he had an outside financial interest. However, without telling the Army, Craffy simultaneously maintained outside employment with two separate financial investment firms.

Craffy used his position as an Army financial counselor to identify and target Gold Star families and other military families. He encouraged the Gold Star families to invest their survivor benefits in investment accounts that he managed in his outside, private employment. Based upon Craffy’s false representations and omissions, the vast majority of the Gold Star families mistakenly believed that Craffy’s management of their money was done on behalf of and with the Army’s authorization.

From May 2018 to November 2022, Craffy obtained more than $9.9 million from Gold Star families to invest in accounts managed by Craffy in his private capacity. Once in control of this money, Craffy repeatedly executed trades, often without the family’s authorization. These unauthorized trades earned Craffy high commissions. During the timeframe of the alleged scheme, the Gold Star family accounts had lost more than $3.4 million, while Craffy personally earned more than $1.4 million in commissions, drawn from the family accounts.

The wire fraud and securities fraud charges are each punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison. The charge of submitting a false statement on a loan application is punishable by a maximum of two years in prison. The charges of acts affecting a personal interest and false statements to a federal agent are each punishable by five years in prison. All counts but the securities fraud count are also punishable by a maximum fine of either $250,000 or twice the gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greatest. The securities fraud count is punishable by a maximum fine of either $5 million or twice the gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greatest.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also filed a civil complaint against Craffy today based on the same and additional conduct. Craffy has been permanently prohibited from association with any member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. (FINRA).

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Kirch; special agents of DCIS, under the direction of Principal Deputy Director Ives; special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Dennehy; and special agents of Homeland Security Investigations Newark, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Patel with the investigation leading to the indictment. He also expressed appreciation for the Securities and Exchange Commission, under the direction of Gurbir S. Grewal, Director, Division of Enforcement, and FINRA, under the direction of Acting Head of Enforcement Christopher J. Kelly.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Martha K. Nye of the Criminal Division in Trenton, and Carolyn Silane of the Criminal Division in Newark.

The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.23-198 Defense counsel: Mark Berman Esq., Fair Lawn, New Jersey.

Grand Jury Indicts New Jersey Department of Corrections Police Officer with Official Misconduct

July 7, 2023

TRENTON – A state grand jury last week voted to indict New Jersey Department of Corrections Correctional Police Officer Giuseppe Mandara with one count of second-degree official misconduct in connection with an August 23, 2019 physical altercation with a resident at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center (ADTC) Special Treatment Unit (STU) in the Avenel section of Woodbridge. 

The indictment alleges that Mandara abandoned his equipment, including keys and radio, and thereafter used excessive or unlawful force against the resident. His actions are alleged to have been in violation of New Jersey Department of Corrections policies, procedures and training for New Jersey Correctional Police Officers. 

Several days after the altercation, the resident suffered a fatal stroke. Among other evidence presented, the grand jury heard testimony from the state medical examiner about the cause of the stroke and manner of death. The grand jury declined to initiate homicide charges for any involved individuals. The investigation is ongoing and no further information is being released at this time. 

The death in custody was investigated by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and presented to the grand jury in accordance with Directive 2019-4, the “Independent Prosecutor Directive,” issued in 2019. In July 2021, OPIA issued standard operating procedures (“SOPs”) to ensure these grand jury presentations are conducted in a neutral, objective manner, and with appropriate transparency regarding the process, consistent with the Independent Prosecutor Directive. 

Official misconduct in the second degree carries a statutory mandatory minimum, five-year period of parole ineligibility. The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law. 

A 2019 law, P.L. 2019, c. 1, requires the Attorney General’s Office to conduct investigations of a person’s death during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody. It requires that all such investigations be presented to a grand jury to determine if the evidence supports the return of an indictment against the officer or officers involved. 

A conflicts check was conducted pursuant to the Independent Prosecutor Directive and no actual or potential conflict of interest was found involving any individual assigned to the investigation. Prior to presentation to the grand jury, the investigation was reviewed by OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher in accordance with the policies and procedures established for these presentations in the SOPs. 

The Independent Prosecutor Directive is on the Attorney General’s website at this link: 

Further information about how fatal police encounters are investigated in New Jersey under the directive is found at this link:

Defense attorney For Giuseppe Mandara: Stuart Alterman, Esq.

Governor Murphy Toughens Laws Against Auto Theft

Continues the Work of the Administration to Combat Auto Theft

July 7, 2023

LONG BRANCH, NJ (MONMOUTH) – Governor Phil Murphy today signed a series of bills to continue the fight to combat auto theft in New Jersey. The four bills strengthen the criminal penalties associated with auto theft, with a particular focus on persistent, repeat offenders and large-scale automobile trafficking networks.

“Every person should be able to feel safe and secure in the communities they call home. That is why over the past year we have taken serious steps to crack down on the troubling rise in auto thefts,” said Governor Murphy. “Today’s comprehensive bill signing is an additional step in the right direction. I am grateful to our legislative leaders for recognizing the seriousness of this issue and for taking swift action to bring these bills to my desk. Together, we will continue to work with our partners in law enforcement to keep New Jerseyans safe.”

“More than 1 million vehicles are stolen across the U.S. every year. In New Jersey, we are focused on reducing those numbers and this incredibly comprehensive package of bills will give law enforcement the means to do just that,” said Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin. “Thank you to Gov. Murphy and the Legislature for recognizing the need to give our law enforcement officers and agencies these additional tools. Working with our partners at the local, state and federal level, we are in a greater position to cut the number of vehicle thefts and better protect our residents.” 

A4930/S3390 expands criminal penalties related to the illegal use of motor vehicle master keys. Motor vehicle master keys are key fobs or computer programs that have the ability to operate the locks or start a motor vehicle. Under the bill, individuals who knowingly possess one of these devices or programs for unlawful purposes or advertise these devices or programs knowing that such items are commonly used for unlawful purposes will be guilty of a fourth-degree crime. These provisions do not apply to law enforcement personnel, insurance organizations, or leasing business entities.

A4931/S2284 establishes the crimes of theft of a motor vehicle and receiving a stolen motor vehicle as separate statutory provisions resulting in either a second- or a third-degree crime, depending on the value of the car. Additionally, the bill provides for extended sentences for certain persistent motor vehicle offenders. If an individual has been convicted on two or more prior, separate occasions of carjacking theft, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, or receiving stolen property that is a motor vehicle, then that individual may be subject to an extended term of imprisonment upon request of the prosecutor. 

A5034/S3006 expands the crime of “leader of auto theft trafficking network” by amending the definition of said “leader” to include persons who conspire with others as participants to engage for profit or to commit other criminal activity in a scheme or course of conduct to unlawfully take, dispose of, distribute, bring into, or transport motor vehicle or motor vehicle parts as stolen property. The bill also establishes that the “participant in auto theft network” will result in a third-degree crime.

A5189/S3777 eliminates the presumption of pretrial release for defendants charged with certain motor vehicle theft offenses if the defendant was arrested or convicted of a prior motor vehicle theft offense within the 90-day-period preceding the charge. Under the bill, the presumption of pretrial release would not apply to an eligible defendant charged with theft of or unlawful taking of a motor vehicle or receiving stolen property where the property involved is a motor vehicle if on one or more prior and separate occasions during the 90-day-period preceding the charge, the defendant was arrested for or convicted of theft of or unlawful taking of a motor vehicle; receiving stolen property where the property involved is a motor vehicle; or a crime under any statute of the United States, this State, or any other state that is substantially equivalent to any of the crimes listed above.

In the past year, the Murphy Administration has taken several steps to address the problem of auto thefts.

Earlier this year, the Governor signed S249/A2210, making it more difficult for bad actors to sell stolen catalytic converters to scrap yards and making it easier for law enforcement to identify, locate, and prosecute violators. Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin also announced in April 2023 that 34 law enforcement agencies in 21 counties and the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) will receive grant funding to acquire or expand automated license plate recognition (ALPR) technology across the state, building on Governor Murphy’s 2022 $10 million investment in the technology to reduce violent crime and auto theft in New Jersey through the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) State Fiscal Recovery Fund.

Auto theft measures taken in the last year have proven to be successful, resulting in a 10 percent decrease in auto thefts from January through May of this year compared to that same period last year, and a 10 percent decrease in auto thefts for the last four months of 2022 compared to those same months in 2021.

In the recently signed Fiscal Year 2024 budget, $2 million more was allocated to increase the investment in statewide pretrial services, which will expand social service offerings and on-ramps to programming support for people awaiting trial.

The primary sponsors of these bills, which passed unanimously in both houses, were Senator Gopal, Senator Lagana, Senator Sarlo, Senator Codey, Senator Bucco, Assemblyman Tully, Assemblywoman Swain, Assemblyman Atkins, Assemblywoman Speight, Assemblywoman Flynn, and Assemblyman Thomson.

“The rate of auto-thefts over the past two years threatens the property and safety of New Jersey residents and places an added strain on law enforcement,” said Senator Vin Gopal. “It’s crucial we take decisive and creative action to deter car thieves while also providing additional support to the law enforcement departments and our prosecutors’ offices who are already working hard to curb this disturbing trend.”

“In New Jersey, the vast majority of residents depend on their cars to get back and forth to work, to get their kids to school, or to go wherever they need to be. These bills offer new ways of thinking, and new ways of attacking the car theft problem in our state, by focusing resources on several fronts, and, when necessary, strengthening laws to make would-be perpetrators think twice before stealing another person’s automobile,” said Senator Joseph Lagana.

“Car thefts and related crimes are an ongoing threat to the safety and security of diverse communities throughout the state,” said Senator Paul Sarlo. “This legislation will work to crack down on offenders, prevent thefts, and take down the criminal networks of car thieves.”

“In recent years, our communities have been plagued with the crimes of car thefts, with the thefts primarily being done by repeat offenders,” said Senator Richard Codey. “These are sophisticated, well-financed, well-organized business operations, more or less corporations. If we want to get serious about busting up these operations and making headway on car thefts, we must go after the captains of these rings, and not merely be content with arresting the teen-age perpetrators who may be in their service.”

“I am pleased that Governor Murphy signed this bipartisan legislation to address the epidemic of motor vehicle thefts in New Jersey. This law sends a powerful message that if you commit the crime, you will be caught and you will serve time,” said Senator Minority Leader Anthony M. Bucco. “Unlawful activities related to car thefts and stolen car parts have rapidly increased throughout the state since 2020. With the signing of this legislation, we are enacting a plan to hold auto theft traffickers and their criminal networks accountable for their heinous crimes.”

“Since the onset of the pandemic, our State has seen the most significant increase in auto thefts to date,” said Assemblyman Christopher Tully. “New Jersey residents deserve immediate protection, which is why we have taken steps to develop smart, sensible policies that safeguard our residents and their property while punishing those responsible. The measures being signed into law today will strengthen our laws and keep our neighborhoods safe.”

“The majority of families in New Jersey rely on their cars to get where they need to go, be it for work, school or leisure. That is why it is critical to respond to the recent surge in car thefts with thoughtful, effective policies that will stop repeat offenders who lead car theft trafficking networks,” said Assemblywoman Lisa Swain. “These new laws take aim at car theft rings that for too long have preyed upon New Jersey communities, clearly sending the message that actions have consequences.”
“The uptick in car thefts throughout the state has created serious cause for concern among law enforcement officers and New Jersey families,” said Assemblyman Reginald Atkins. “People deserve to feel safe and secure in their communities, but that isn’t possible when the threat of property theft looms over them. By updating our laws, we are addressing technological advances that aid in these crimes and giving our courts the tools needed to put an end to car thefts.”

“Over the past few years, law enforcement officers throughout New Jersey have felt the added strain caused by car thefts and our residents have worried that their property could be the next target,” said Assemblywoman Shanique Speight. “I am proud to sponsor legislation being signed into law today. This is a start to ending car thefts and giving New Jersey families peace of mind.”

“This new law thoughtfully targets the car theft crisis occurring throughout New Jersey communities by providing the necessary support law enforcement has called for to address the ‘catch and release’ policies that have enabled car theft rings to flourish,” said Assemblywoman Vicky Flynn. “Tackling the rise in car thefts was one of the first issues I took on as a member of the Legislature, so it is particularly rewarding to see this bill signed into law. Protecting the hardworking people of New Jersey and their property is a commitment I will continue to honor as I celebrate this significant step toward a safer tomorrow.”

“Empowering the courts to close the door on repeat car thieves will help put an end to the crime cycle in New Jersey,” said Assemblyman Ned Thomson. “In order to provide residents the peace of mind they deserve and protect them from falling victim to career criminals, New Jersey must take a tougher approach. The signing of this law demonstrates how both sides of the aisle can come together to prioritize public safety and ensure the justice system holds these offenders accountable.” 

“Car thefts are a personal and sometimes violent attack on an innocent victim,” said Peter Andreyev, Executive Vice President, New Jersey State PBA. “The bills signed today will allow law enforcement to target the leaders of these theft rings and make sure that repeat offenders are properly adjudicated. On behalf of the New Jersey State PBA, I would like to thank Governor Murphy and the bill sponsors for their support on this serious public safety issue.”

“I commend the Governor and Legislature for taking swift action to combat this very important bipartisan issue,” said Long Branch Mayor John Pallone. “In Long Branch public safety is our primary responsibility and with these laws in place, it gives our law enforcement officers the ability to protect and serve our town and ensure auto theft offenders are brought to justice”

“I applaud the Senate and the Governor for approving the set of bills that will greatly enhance the safety and security of residents,” said Mine Hill Mayor Sam Morris. “These bills will help crack down and bring accountability to those who prey on the public.  The legislation goes far toward beating the technical and skilled car thieves advanced technology. Good job to everyone involved.”

“New Jersey is plagued by an epidemic of auto theft. I commend the legislature for taking action and the governor for signing these bills into law,” said Mount Arlington Mayor Michael Stanzilis. “I urge the public to help stem the tide of auto theft by locking their cars and not leaving the keys and key fob in their automobiles.”

“I would like to thank our Legislature for passing these package of bills and to Governor Murphy for signing this important legislation to help combat the out of control auto theft crimes in our State,” said Jefferson Mayor Eric F. Wilsusen. “As a retired Deputy Chief of Police, I know these new laws will give our law enforcement a few more tools in their toolbox better control auto theft that has affected all our communities throughout New Jersey.”

“Kudos to our legislators and to our Governor for passing and signing this critical legislation into law which is long overdue,” said East Hanover Mayor Joseph Pannullo. “It is essential for both law enforcement officers and prosecutors who can now better work together to make all of us safer.”

“These bills aptly address our ongoing concerns for our municipality’s public safety,” said Millburn Mayor Maggee Miggins. “We find the unanimous approvals very meaningful and we are grateful to both the Governor and the Legislature.”

“The auto thefts have reached epidemic proportions. It cannot be addressed solely in the communities where the thefts are occurring, it must be addressed from the cities where the young are recruited, to suburbs where the cars are stolen to the final destination of the vehicles,” said Madison Mayor Robert H. Conley. “This series of bills does exactly that. As a mayor in a community that has been hit with the rash of thefts, these bills are the support we need. I thank the legislature for their overwhelming support for the bills and for Governor Murphy for signing them into law.”

“I believe these bills, once they become law, will assist law enforcement and prosecutors in trying to curb the theft of autos and auto parts,” said Totowa Mayor John Coiro.

“I thank Governor Murphy and our State Legislature for recognizing and working to address a problem in a bipartisan way that Mayors and local police departments have been combatting for a while,” said Hamilton Township Mayor Jeff Martin. “Repeat offenders, and those profiting off their crimes, will now face far more significant penalties for their choices and be less likely to be released on bail to continue to commit these crimes.”

“I want to thank Governor Murphy for taking these important steps towards strengthening auto theft prevention laws,” said Prospect Park Mayor Mohamed Khairullah. “This is one issue where Republicans and Democrats alike are united and gives our law enforcement community the necessary resources to stop auto thefts, protect our residents and ensure public safety in our town and every town across the state.”

“It’s no secret that communities across New Jersey have been struggling to combat widespread auto thefts for years,” said Morris Township Mayor Mark Gyorfy. “I applaud the passage of these bipartisan measures by our state lawmakers and thank Governor Murphy for his support to strengthen law enforcement’s ability to stem this concerning trend and make communities like Morris Township safer for all residents.”

“As Mayor, representing the Montville Township Committee, we support legislation that has a positive impact on crime,” said Montville Mayor Matt Kayne. “Auto theft continues to be occurring at a high incident rate. These bills are a positive step forward in the effort to fight auto theft. I support these bills and want to thank our lawmakers for this body of work.”

“The bills that Governor Murphy is signing is a big step in assisting Law Enforcement in combating the on-going crime of auto theft,” said Montville Police Chief Andrew Caggiano. “These bills give law enforcement the ability to specifically ensure that the repeat offenders committing auto theft are not automatically released through pretrial release and are held accountable after conviction.  As the Chief of Police for the Montville Township Police Department, I support these bills and applaud our legislators for their efforts”

“Auto theft has become a major concern across the State of New Jersey.  It’s an issue we hear about from residents every single day,” said Woodland Park Mayor Keith Kazmark. “I thank Governor Murphy and the State Legislature for working on and signing this series of bills to address this important issue.  Safety must be our number one priority, without it we have no quality of life.”

“Over the past few years, we have witnessed a rise in auto thefts, an issue that is not subject to just one community in our state,” said Ewing Mayor Bert Steinmann. “I am grateful to Governor Murphy and the state legislature for their continued efforts to support us as we work to combat this epidemic here in Ewing.”

“The bipartisan measure from Trenton to raise the stakes for major crime rings who focus on auto theft is welcome news to all communities across New Jersey,” said Mendham Borough Mayor Christine Glassner. “Law enforcement officials now have a powerful new tool to combat auto theft and bring criminal accountability to the leaders of these pyramid crime schemes and throw them in prison where they belong. In addition to supporting our cops working the streets and prosecutors who use the full scope of their authority to reduce violent and costly crimes in our state, all New Jerseyans can appreciate this important step to fight crime by our leaders in Trenton.”

“I applaud Governor Murphy for signing the bills sponsored by Senators Codey, Bucco, Sarlo, Lagana and Gopal.  Stiffening the consequences for actors who commit these crimes is paramount to giving municipalities and law enforcement the upper hand in combating auto theft.    It is refreshing to witness our state legislators collaborate for the betterment of our residents regardless of party affiliation,” said Roseland Mayor James Spango. “The statewide auto theft issue affects all municipalities and NJ residents and puts the safety of the public and police at risk everyday.  Harsher penalties for those committing these crimes will improve the quality of life for all of us.”

“I want to thank Governor Murphy and the Legislature for working together in a bipartisan effort to address this critical issue affecting not just Long Hill but towns across New Jersey,” said Long Hill Mayor Scott Lavender. “These laws will empower our law enforcement officers and prosecutors to effectively protect our communities and ensure criminals are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law”

Photos: Rich Hundley III/Governor’s Office

Two Women Sentenced To State Prison For Endangering The Welfare Of A Child

July 7, 2023

BRICK TOWNSHIP, NJ (OCEAN)–Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on July 7, 2023, the Honorable Lisa A. Puglisi, J.S.C., sentenced Helecia Morris, 41, of Brick Township, to eight years New Jersey State Prison (NJSP), and Donna Jung, 57, of Lehigh Acres, Florida, to seven years NJSP, both having previously been found guilty of Endangering the Welfare of a Child in connection with incidents that occurred between April 1, 2015 and January 9, 2016 in Brick Township.  Additionally, Judge Puglisi sentenced Morris to four years NJSP in connection with an unrelated charge of Theft, and eighteen months NJSP for an unrelated charge of Shoplifting.  These sentences will run concurrent to one another but consecutive to Morris’ sentence for Endangering the Welfare of a Child.  Jung and Morris were found guilty of Endangering on May 25, 2023, following a week-long jury trial before Judge Puglisi.  Morris and Jung were remanded to the Ocean County Jail at that time pending sentencing. 

On January 9, 2016, Officers from the Brick Township Police Department and representatives from the Division of Child Protection and Permanency responded to a residence on Queen Ann Road in reference to a wellness check on Morris’s biological eight-year old son.  Responding Officers found the child locked in his room in abhorrent conditions.  The room also reeked of urine.  The eight year-old male child and two other minor children were removed from the residence.  They were taken to Hackensack Meridian Ocean University Medical Center in Brick Township to be medically evaluated. All three children were subsequently placed in foster care. 

An investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victim’s Unit and the Brick Township Police Department revealed that the eight year-old male victim was locked in his room day and night by Morris and Jung.  He was not allowed to use the bathroom in the residence and was excluded from socializing with the rest of the family.  The room contained no bed, no furniture, no lights, and no toys.  On January 11, 2016, Detectives executed a court-authorized search warrant on the residence, and Morris and Jung were arrested.  Morris and Jung were transported to the Ocean County Jail and subsequently released on bail.

Prosecutor Billhimer commends the diligence and dedication of Senior Assistant Prosecutor Mara Brater who ably and skillfully tried the case on behalf of the State. The Prosecutor likewise extends his gratitude to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Victim Witness Advocacy Unit, Brick Township Police Department, Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, and Division of Child Protection and Permanency, for their combined and collective efforts ultimately resulting in guilty verdicts – and now Morris’ and Jung’s state prison sentences.