Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office determined that Saal was soliciting an inmate who he believed was being released from jail in the near future to commit a murder which would exonerate Saal, for $15,000.
October 27, 2022
NORTH BRUNSWICK – PLAINSBORO, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone announced today that a man was charged in connection with a murder for hire plot.
In August of 2019, Kenneth Saal, 30, formerly of Lindenwold, in Camden County, was charged with murdering Carolyn Byington, 26, of Plainsboro, in her apartment when she went home for lunch. Saal was Byington’s coworker. Plainsboro Police responded to Byington’s home after they were asked by her other coworkers to do a wellness check on her. When police arrived on scene at approximately 5:57 pm, they found Byington, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
Saal was later indicted for first-degree murder, burglary in the second degree, endangering an injured victim, hindering one’s own apprehension, burglary, and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, all third-degree crimes. The indictment also includes charges of stalking and tampering with evidence, both fourth-degree crimes. Saal is scheduled for trial in December of 2022 for the above crimes.
The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office received a letter on or about October 13, 2022, alleging that Saal was conspiring to commit a copycat murder to create doubt about his guilt.
An investigation by Detective Walter Kelley of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office determined that Saal was soliciting an inmate who he believed was being released from jail in the near future to commit a murder which would exonerate Saal, for $15,000.
Saal was charged with first-degree conspiracy to commit Murder, second-degree conspiracy to tamper with a witness, and second-degree conspiracy to hinder his own prosecution. Saal is being housed at the Middlesex County Adult Correctional Center and is scheduled for a detention hearing in Middlesex County Superior Court on Friday, October 28, 2022.
The investigation is active and continuing. Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Kelley of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at (732) 745-3330.
As is the case with all criminal defendants, the charges against Saal are merely accusations and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Investigation by NJSP and ATF Led to Seizure of Five Handguns and an Assault Weapon
Barrett R. Griffin, III, 33, of North Brunswick, NJ, was sentenced to an aggregate term of 11 years in prison, including a period of 6.8 years of parole ineligibility
September 27, 2022
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)– Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin today announced that a Middlesex man was sentenced to 11 years in state prison for illegally transporting handguns into New Jersey for unlawful sale. The conviction stems from an investigation by the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that led to the seizure of five handguns and an assault rifle transported to New Jersey from Georgia.
Barrett R. Griffin, III, 33, of North Brunswick, NJ, was sentenced to an aggregate term of 11 years in prison, including a period of 6.8 years of parole ineligibility, in a hearing before Superior Court Judge Mark P. Tarantino in Burlington County on September 9, 2022. Griffin pleaded guilty on July 18, 2022 to second-degree transporting firearms into the state for unlawful sale or transfer and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.
“Keeping illegal weapons out of our state and off our streets is paramount to public safety,” said Acting Attorney General Platkin. “We are aggressively targeting those responsible for the proliferation of guns and gun violence in our communities, and that includes gun traffickers who illegally transport weapons into our state and put them in the hands of criminals.”
“The prison sentence handed down to this defendant sends a clear message that we have zero tolerance for gun trafficking in New Jersey,” said Director Pearl Minato, of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We will continue to work with law enforcement partners throughout New Jersey and beyond to stop the illegal flow of firearms into our state and hold accountable all those who profit from it.”
Griffin was arrested earlier this year following an investigation by NJSP and the ATF. During the course of the investigation, a motor vehicle stop was made on the car Griffin was driving on the New Jersey Turnpike in Mount Laurel, NJ on February 7, 2022. Following a search of the vehicle, detectives seized five handguns, one assault rifle, and four large capacity ammunition magazines from the vehicle’s trunk.
Deputy Attorney General Karen M. Bornstein prosecuted the case for the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Cassandra Montalto and Bureau Chief Lauren Scarpa Yfantis.
The investigation was conducted by the New Jersey State Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Fatima Agosto, Esq., Burlington County Public Defender’s Office.
NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–Rotary Club of Plainsboro, North & South Brunswick, held its Annual Changing of the Guard ceremony and inducted new office bearers for the rotary year 2022-2023.
Outgoing President of the club Blisse Vakkalagadda presented various projects that the club completed during her presidency. Blisse along with Sudharani Kankanala, had also played a pivotal role as mentors of the Interact club of North Brunswick and helped organize various meaningful service projects. During Blisse’s presidency, the club also did some impactful international service projects.
District Governor John Shockley, Past DG Dr. Tulsi Maharjan and Kalpana Patel, President, Rotary Club of Robbinsville-Hamilton, NJ, were in attendance for the changing of the guard ceremony.
DG John Shockley conducted the oath ceremony for the incoming President Vijay Garg and his team for the year 2022-2023. During his acceptance remarks, Vijay Garg said that he is looking forward to working with the team and continuing doing various community projects aligned with the Rotary International causes. “I am excited and honored to accept the role,” said Vijay.
Vijay is a successful Entrepreneur, Past North-East President of IT Serve, Board Member of TiE, GOPIO and other social organizations. Vijay with his community reach and leadership skills will help the club in taking up bigger projects and extending its reach.
The Executive Team 2022-23 consists of Sanjeev Dixit as Secretary, Sanjay Pagidimarri as Treasurer, Venkat Jagarlamudi as President-Elect, Ganesh Madda as the Foundation Chair, Jaydip Sen as PR Chair, Suresh Pannala as Membership Chair, Sudharani Kankanala as Service Project Chair, Srinivas Gattu as Fundraising Chair and Sunil Nambiar as International Projects Chair.
The changing of the guard ceremony was well attended by the Rotary Club members, Rotary Interact Club members, families, and prospective members. Representatives from organizations like ITServe, IBA, SMEC joined and discussed collaboration on future Community Service Projects.
The club which is also celebrating its 20th charter Anniversary this year, recognized six senior members, Suresh Pannala, Sunil Nambiar, Rajeev Mehta, Nishit Mehta, Mahalingam Narayanan and Darshan Doshi, who completed over twelve years of service as dedicated and passionate Rotarians.
About Rotary Club of Plainsboro, North & South Brunswick, NJ
In 2002 a few prominent people from the Community, living in Plainsboro, South Brunswick, North Brunswick, and surrounding areas decided to charter a new Rotary Club in Central New Jersey with the intention of serving the local and international community. The club started out with three active members and rapidly grew to about more than 25 members living in various parts of the state. Although the club is open to people of all race, color, and religion, most of the current members are people of Indian Origin.
Since its inception, the Rotary Club of Plainsboro, North & South Brunswick has proudly sponsored several local and international charitable projects. For more information, visit PlainsboroRotary.org.
LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP, NJ (OCEAN)–Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on July 8, 2022, Michael Klimowicz, 32, of North Brunswick, was sentenced by the Honorable Guy P. Ryan, P.J.Cr.P, to seven years New Jersey State Prison as a result of his previously entered guilty plea to Possession of Marijuana in a Quantity Greater than Five Pounds but Less than Twenty-Five Pounds with Intent to Distribute in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5a(1) and N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5b(10), in connection with an arrest that occurred in Long Beach Township on January 27, 2019. Klimowicz pled guilty to the charge before Judge Ryan on April 12, 2022.
An investigation by the Long Beach Township Police Department revealed that a residence in the Holgate section of Long Beach Township was being utilized by Klimowicz to store and distribute narcotics. In furtherance of the investigation, Detectives executed a court-authorized search warrant on the subject residence on January 27, 2019. As a result, Detectives seized roughly 11.5 pounds of Marijuana, additional quantities of other illegal narcotics, and approximately $9,300 in United States currency. Klimowicz was arrested at the residence without incident; he was transported to the Ocean County Jail, and later released as a consequence of New Jersey Bail Reform.
Prosecutor Billhimer acknowledges the diligent efforts of Supervising Assistant Prosecutor Kristin Pressman who handled the case on behalf of the State, as well as the Long Beach Township Police Department Patrol Division, Long Beach Township Police Department Detective Bureau, Long Beach Township Police Department K-9 Unit, and Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office High Tech Crime Unit, for their collective assistance in connection with this investigation leading to Klimowicz’s apprehension and now his state prison sentence.
EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–Around 1:34 p.m. firefighters responded to the New Jersey Turnpike Inner Roadway in the area mile post 81.1 for a fully involved vehicle fire. When firefighters arrived, they found a pickup truck with a snowplow well involved and quickly extinguished the fire. No further information is available at this time.
NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone and Chief Joseph Battaglia of the North Brunswick Township Police Department announced today that a woman has been charged in connection with a fatal collision that resulted in the death of two nine-year-old children as well as serious injuries to others.
On Thursday, November 25, 2021, at approximately 11:53 P.M., authorities responded to the southbound lane of Route 130 near the on-ramp to Route 1 in North Brunswick Township following the report of a serious crash involving a marked Old Bridge Police patrol vehicle and a Honda Accord. Upon their arrival, authorities located Yokauri Batista-Alcantara, 31, of New Brunswick, and two children at the scene. Batista-Alcantara and the juveniles were transported from the scene to a nearby hospital where the juveniles were pronounced dead.
Authorities also located two Old Bridge Township police officers and an in-custody civilian passenger at the scene. The officers and the passenger were transported to a nearby hospital where they were treated for their injuries.
An initial investigation by Detective Jonathan Berman of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office determined the two police officers were transporting the in-custody passenger to the Middlesex County Adult Correction Center in North Brunswick Township when Batista-Alcantara drove the wrong way down the on-ramp and struck the police vehicle. At this time, reckless driving and alcohol consumption are believed to be contributing factors.
On Friday, November 26, 2021, Batista-Alcantara was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree aggravated manslaughter, two counts of second-degree vehicular homicide, two counts of second-degree
endangering the welfare of a child, two counts of aggravated assault, and one count of fourth-degree assault by auto.
Batista-Alcantara is presently lodged at the Middlesex County Adult Correction Center where she is being held pending a pre-trial detention hearing in Superior Court.
As is the case with all criminal defendants, the charges against Batista- Alcantara are merely accusations and she is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The investigation is active and continuing. Anyone with information or video footage of the area is asked to call Detective Jonathan Berman of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at (732) 745-4328.
NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–The Attorney General’s Office is conducting an investigation of a fatal vehicle collision that occurred on November 25, 2021 in North Brunswick, N.J. Two children sustained fatal injuries. The decedents’ identities are not being released at this time.
According to the preliminary investigation, the fatal incident occurred on November 25, 2021 at 11:35 p.m. at the intersection of Route 1 and Route 130 in North Brunswick, N.J. Two vehicles were involved in a collision. The first vehicle was operated by a civilian driving on the wrong side of the highway, and also contained two children. The second vehicle was a marked Old Bridge Police Department vehicle driven by an Old Bridge police officer, and which contained a second Old Bridge police officer and a civilian. Both children in the civilian vehicle died from injuries sustained in the crash. Both officers and the civilian within the police vehicle sustained injuries.
This investigation is being conducted pursuant to Attorney General Directive 2019-4, which implements the statutory requirement that the Attorney General’s Office conduct the investigation of any death that occurs during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody, and which establishes clear standards and procedures for conducting such investigations. Per Section II.H.3 of the Directive, the investigation will be bifurcated, with the AG’s Office investigating the conduct of the officers involved in the collision, and the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office investigating the conduct of any other parties that may be responsible.
The investigation is ongoing and no further information is being released at this time.
NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone and Chief Joseph Battaglia of the North Brunswick Police Department announce today that a man has been sentenced for his role in causing a serious crash that left multiple people injured on August 8, 2020.
An investigation by Patrolman Jason Zier of the North Brunswick Police Department and Detective Jonathan Berman of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office determined that on August 8, 2020, at approximately 8:50 pm Christopher L. Mertens, 42, of Monmouth Junction was driving while intoxicated. The investigation determined Mertens, accompanied by his two young children, was travelling southbound on Route 1 at a high speed when he rear ended a 2003 Chevrolet Blazer causing it to roll over and catch on fire.
The driver of the Blazer, a nineteen-year-old man, sustained burn injuries and was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. The sole passenger of the Blazer, a twenty-one-year-old woman, along with Mertens’ children were also transported from the scene for medical treatment.
On August 9, 2020, Mertens was arrested and charged with second- degree aggravated assault, second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, third-degree assault by auto, third-degree endangering another person by knowingly engaging in conduct which creates a substantial risk of death, three counts of fourth-degree assault by auto, and fourth-degree obstruction.
On October 27, 2021, following sentencing arguments from Assistant Prosecutor Keith Abrams and Assistant Prosecutor Kaitlyn Poggi, the Honorable Craig Corson, J.S.C. sentenced Mertens to eleven years in state prison on one count of second-degree aggravated assault, two counts of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, one count of third-degree aggravated assault, and one count of fourth-degree causing serious bodily injury. Mertens must serve 85% of his sentence, approximately nine-and-a- half years, before he is eligible for parole. Upon his release, Mertens will be subject to an eight-year loss of license.
Heavy rains from Tropical Storm Henri flooded the area overnight with up to eight inches of rain in the Central New Jersey area. Many people traveling on flooded roadways were trapped in the vehicles and needed to be rescued.
Hightstown Fire Company reported responding to at least 10 incidents with the majority being water rescues. Hightstown firefighters rescued eight civilians who were trapped in their vehicles or relocated to the roof of their vehicles due to flood waters.
The National Weather Service reported that 4 to 8 inches of rain fell from the storm and that Middlesex and Mercer Counties were particular hard hit.
Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone announced today that six County residents have been arrested for their possession of material depicting the sexual exploitation or abuse of children.
On May 13, 2021, officers of the East Brunswick, Edison, Highland Park, Monroe, New Brunswick, North Brunswick, Perth Amboy, and Sayreville Police Departments along with detectives of the New Jersey State Police and the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office executed search warrants at six residences across the County.
The investigation resulted in the following arrests:
Edison was arrested and charged for second-degree Using a File-sharing Program to Store Items Depicting the Sexual Exploitation or Abuse of Children, second-degree Possession with the Intent to Distribute Child Pornography, and first-degree Possession of Child Pornography after having been found to be in possession of 100,000 items of material depicting the sexual exploitation or abuse of children.
Hongpeng Zheng, 24, of New Brunswick was arrested and charged for second-degree Distribution of Child Pornography, third-degree Possession of Child Pornography, and second-degree Using a File-sharing Program to Store Items Depicting the Sexual Exploitation or Abuse of Children.
Ali Armas-Iriarte, 58, of Highland Park was arrested and charged for third-degree Possession of Child Pornography, second-degree Possession with the Intent to Distribute Child Pornography, and second-degree Using a File-sharing Program to Store Items Depicting the Sexual Exploitation or Abuse of Children.
Jeff Caramella, 21, of the Parlin section of Sayreville was arrested and charged for third-degree Possession of Child Pornography.
James Walden, 50, of North Brunswick was arrested and charged for third-degree Possession of Child Pornography.
A juvenile, 17, of Monroe was charged for third-degree Possession of Child Pornography.
Additionally, on May 6, 2021, Kenneth Godfrey, 41, of Woodbridge Township was also arrested and charged with third-degree Possession of Child Pornography.
On May 10, 2021, a juvenile, 14, of Edison was also charged for second-degree Possession of Child Pornography.
All of the aforementioned individuals were arrested and charged following separate investigations by Detective Daniel Lojek and Detective Stephanie Redline of the Internet Crimes Against Children Unit of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, which revealed the individuals possessed material depicting the sexual exploitation or abuse of children. Presently, the investigations appear to be unconnected and the individuals are unknown to one another.
Nie is presently lodged at the Middlesex Adult Correction Center pending a pre-trial detention hearing in Superior Court. The remaining defendants individuals are likewise lodged at the Middlesex Adult Correction Center pending their initial appearances in Superior Court this afternoon.
The investigations are active and continuing. Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Lojek at (732) 745-5924 or Detective Redline at (732) 867-1496 .
As is the case with all criminal defendants, the charges against Zheng, Nie, Armas-Iriarte, Caramella, Walden, Godfrey, and the juveniles are merely accusations and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty or, as in the case of the juveniles, adjudicated delinquent.
ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–As we reported Saturday on the Colonial Pipeline that runs though New Jersey and supplies gasoline, diesel fuel and aircraft fuel to the eastern part of the country has announced that the entire pipeline should be operational by noon today. There is no need to hoard gasoline or other fuel and disrupt the local supply chain as seen and reported in other parts of the country.
Locally the pipeline runs though Burlington, Mercer County, Middlesex County on its way to Linden, New Jersey and was shut down to a ransomware cyber attack.
System Restart and Operational Update #2 Update: Thursday, May 13, 4:40 p.m.
Colonial Pipeline has continued to make substantial progress in safely restarting our pipeline system. We can now report that we have restarted our entire pipeline system and that product delivery has commenced to all markets we serve.
Following this restart, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal. Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during this start-up period. Colonial will move as much gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel as is safely possible and will continue to do so until markets return to normal.
This would not have been possible without the commitment and dedication of the many Colonial team members across the pipeline who worked safely and tirelessly through the night to get our lines up and running. We are grateful for their dedicated service and professionalism during these extraordinary times.
See update below from the Colonial Pipeline:
Update: Thursday, May 13, 9 a.m.
Colonial Pipeline has made substantial progress in safely restarting our pipeline system and can report that product delivery has commenced in a majority of the markets we service. By mid-day today, we project that each market we service will be receiving product from our system. The green segments on this map are operational, meaning product delivery has commenced. Blue lines will be operational later today.
This would not have been possible without the commitment and dedication of the many Colonial team members across the pipeline who worked safely and tirelessly safely through the night to get our lines up and running. We are grateful for their dedicated service and professionalism during these extraordinary times.
Colonial Pipeline Company, founded in 1962, connects refineries – primarily located in the Gulf Coast – with customers and markets throughout the Southern and Eastern United States through a pipeline system that spans more than 5,500 miles. The company delivers refined petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, home heating oil, and fuel for the U.S. Military. Colonial is committed to safety and environmental stewardship across its operations.
Colonial Pipeline is the largest refined products pipeline in the United States, transporting more than 100 million gallons or 2.5 million barrels per day. Colonial transports approximately 45 percent of all fuel consumed on the East Coast, providing refined products to more than 50 million Americans.
Specifically, Colonial transports various grades of gasoline, diesel fuel, home heating oil, jet fuel, and fuels for the U.S. military through a pipeline system. The system is connected refineries in the Gulf Coast and in the Northeast. The majority of the system is underground, with tankage and other facilities at key receipt, storage and delivery points.
Related MidJersey.news coverage on Colonial Pipeline incident here:
ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MECER)–As reports were coming in of gas stations running out of gas in the south east United States from the hoarding of gasoline and other fuel products the Colonial Pipeline announced the restart of of the pipeline after a ransomware cyber attack. The company states that it may take several days for the delivery supply chain to return to normal. See press releases from Colonial Pipeline below for the latest updates.
Wednesday, May 12, 5:10 p.m.
Colonial Pipeline initiated the restart of pipeline operations today at approximately 5 p.m. ET.
Following this restart, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal. Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during the start-up period. Colonial will move as much gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel as is safely possible and will continue to do so until markets return to normal.
As we initiate our return to service, our primary focus remains safety. As part of this startup process, Colonial will conduct a comprehensive series of pipeline safety assessments in compliance with all Federal pipeline safety requirements.
This is the first step in the restart process and would not have been possible without the around-the-clock support of Colonial Pipeline’s dedicated employees who have worked tirelessly to help us achieve this milestone. We would also like to thank the White House for their leadership and collaboration, as well as the Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, FBI, PHMSA, FERC and other federal, state and local agencies for their ongoing support.
We will continue to provide updates as restart efforts progress.
Tuesday, May 11, 5:15 p.m.
Colonial Pipeline continues to make forward progress in our around-the-clock efforts to return our system to service, with additional laterals operating manually to deliver existing inventories to markets along the pipeline. Markets experiencing supply constraints and/or not serviced by other fuel delivery systems are being prioritized. We are collaborating with the Department of Energy (DOE) to evaluate market conditions to support this prioritization.
Since our pipeline system was taken offline, working with our shippers, Colonial has delivered approximately 967,000 barrels (~41 million gallons) to various delivery points along our system. This includes delivery into the following markets: Atlanta, Ga., Belton and Spartanburg, S.C., Charlotte and Greensboro, N.C., Baltimore, Md., and Woodbury and Linden N.J.
Additionally, in preparation for our system restart, we have taken delivery of an additional 2 million barrels (~84 million gallons) from refineries for deployment upon restart.
Consistent with our safety policies and regulatory requirements, Colonial has increased aerial patrols of our pipeline right of way and deployed more than 50 personnel to walk and drive ~ 5,000 miles of pipeline each day.
Actions taken by the Federal Government to issue a temporary hours of service exemption for motor carriers and drivers transporting refined products across Colonial’s footprint and actions taken by several Governors to lift weight restrictions on tanker trucks should help alleviate local supply disruptions. This is in addition to the Reid Vapor Pressure wavier issued today by the U.S. EPA that will also help alleviate supply constraints in several states serviced by our system. We would like to thank the White House for their leadership and collaboration in resolving this matter as well as the DOE, PHMSA, FERC and other federal agencies for their ongoing support.
Our primary focus remains the safe and efficient restoration of service to our pipeline system, while minimizing disruption to our customers and all those who rely on Colonial Pipeline. We will continue to provide updates as restoration efforts progress.
Related MidJersey.news coverage on Colonial Pipeline incident here:
Move slider to 3:41 for President Joe Biden’s remarks on the Colonial Pipeline.
May 10, 2021
Update — Monday, May 10, 12:25 p.m.
Colonial Pipeline continues to dedicate vast resources to restoring pipeline operations quickly and safely. Segments of our pipeline are being brought back online in a stepwise fashion, in compliance with relevant federal regulations and in close consultation with the Department of Energy, which is leading and coordinating the Federal Government’s response.
Restoring our network to normal operations is a process that requires the diligent remediation of our systems, and this takes time. In response to the cybersecurity attack on our system, we proactively took certain systems offline to contain the threat, which temporarily halted all pipeline operations, and affected some of our IT systems. To restore service, we must work to ensure that each of these systems can be brought back online safely.
While this situation remains fluid and continues to evolve, the Colonial operations team is executing a plan that involves an incremental process that will facilitate a return to service in a phased approach. This plan is based on a number of factors with safety and compliance driving our operational decisions, and the goal of substantially restoring operational service by the end of the week. The Company will provide updates as restoration efforts progress.
We continue to evaluate product inventory in storage tanks at our facilities and others along our system and are working with our shippers to move this product to terminals for local delivery. Actions taken by the Federal Government to issue a temporary hours of service exemption for motor carriers and drivers transporting refined products across Colonial’s footprint should help alleviate local supply disruptions and we thank our government partners for their assistance in resolving this matter.
Our primary focus continues to be the safe and efficient restoration of service to our pipeline system, while minimizing disruption to our customers and all those who rely on Colonial Pipeline. We appreciate the patience of the traveling public and the support we have received from the Federal Government and our peers throughout the industry.
The FBI confirms that the Darkside ransomware is responsible for the compromise of the Colonial Pipeline networks. We continue to work with the company and our government partners on the investigation.
REGIONAL EMERGENCY DECLARATION UNDER 49 CFR § 390.23 No. 2021-002
ALABAMA, ARKANSAS, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DELAWARE, FLORIDA, GEORGIA, KENTUCKY, LOUISIANA, MARYLAND, MISSISSIPPI, NEW JERSEY, NEW YORK, NORTH CAROLINA, PENNSYLVANIA, SOUTH CAROLINA, TENNESSEE, TEXAS, AND VIRGINIA
In accordance with the provisions of 49 CFR § 390.23, the Regional Field Administrators for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Eastern, Southern, and Western Service Centers hereby declares that an emergency exists that warrants issuance of a Regional Emergency Declaration and an exemption from Parts 390 through 399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety (FMCSRs), except as otherwise restricted in this Emergency Declaration. Such emergency is in response to the unanticipated shutdown of the Colonial pipeline system due to network issues that affect the supply of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other refined petroleum products throughout the Affected States. This Declaration addresses the emergency conditions creating a need for immediate transportation of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other refined petroleum products and provides necessary relief. Affected States and jurisdictions included in this Emergency Declaration (“Affected States”) are: Alabama, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
By execution of this Emergency Declaration, motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance to the emergency in the Affected States in direct support of relief efforts related to the shortages of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other refined petroleum products due to the shutdown, partial shutdown, and/or manual operation of the Colonial pipeline system are granted relief from Parts 390 through 399 of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations except as restricted herein.
This Emergency Declaration provides for regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations while providing direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts transporting gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other refined petroleum products into the Affected States during the emergency from shortages due to the shutdown, partial shutdown, and/or manual operation of the Colonial pipeline system. Direct assistance terminates when a driver or commercial motor vehicle is used in interstate commerce to transport cargo or provide services not in support of emergency relief efforts related to the shortages of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other refined petroleum products due to the shutdown, partial shutdown, and/or manual operation of the Colonial pipeline system in the Affected States, or when the motor carrier dispatches a driver or commercial motor vehicle to another location to begin operations in commerce. (49 CFR § 390.23(b)). Upon termination of direct assistance to emergency relief efforts related to the shortages of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other refined petroleum products due to the shutdown, partial shutdown and/or manual operation of the Colonial pipeline system in the Affected States, the motor carrier and driver are subject to the requirements of 49 CFR Parts 390 through 399, except that a driver may return empty to the motor carrier’s terminal or the driver’s normal work reporting location without complying with Parts 390 through 399. When a driver is moving from emergency relief efforts to normal operations a 10-hour break is required when the total time a driver operates conducting emergency relief efforts, or a combination of emergency relief and normal operation, equals 14 hours.
All other applicable safety requirements remain in place and will be enforced by the FMCSA. Specifically, nothing contained in this Emergency Declaration shall be construed as an exemption from the controlled substances and alcohol use and testing requirements (49 CFR Part 382), the commercial driver’s license requirements (49 CFR Part 383), the financial responsibility (insurance) requirements (49 CFR Part 387), the hazardous material regulations (49 CFR Parts 100-180), applicable size and weight requirements, or any other portion of the regulations not specifically authorized pursuant to 49 CFR § 390.23.
Motor carriers or drivers currently subject to an out-of-service order are not eligible for the relief granted by this declaration until they have met the applicable conditions for its rescission and the order has been rescinded by FMCSA.
In accordance with 49 CFR § 390.23, this declaration is effective immediately and shall remain in effect until the end of the emergency (as defined in 49 CFR § 390.5) or until 11:59 P.M. (ET), June 8, 2021, whichever is earlier. FMCSA intends to continually review the status of this Emergency Declaration and may take action to modify or terminate the Emergency Declaration sooner if conditions warrant.
Taft Kelly, Regional Field Administrator Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Eastern Service Center
Darrell L. Ruban, Regional Field Administrator Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Southern Service Center
Scott G. Hernandez, Regional Field Administrator Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Western Service Center
Related MidJersey.news coverage on Colonial Pipeline incident here:
On May 7, 2021 Colonial Pipeline Company learned it was the victim of a cybersecurity attack and has since determined that the incident involved ransomware. Quickly after learning of the attack, Colonial proactively took certain systems offline to contain the threat. These actions temporarily halted all pipeline operations and affected some of our IT systems, which we are actively in the process of restoring.
Leading, third-party cybersecurity experts were also immediately engaged after discovering the issue and launched an investigation into the nature and scope of this incident. We have remained in contact with law enforcement and other federal agencies, including the Department of Energy who is leading the Federal Government response.
Maintaining the operational security of our pipeline, in addition to safely bringing our systems back online, remain our highest priorities. Over the past 48 hours, Colonial Pipeline personnel have taken additional precautionary measures to help further monitor and protect the safety and security of its pipeline.
The Colonial Pipeline operations team is developing a system restart plan. While our mainlines (Lines 1, 2, 3 and 4) remain offline, some smaller lateral lines between terminals and delivery points are now operational. We are in the process of restoring service to other laterals and will bring our full system back online only when we believe it is safe to do so, and in full compliance with the approval of all federal regulations.
At this time, our primary focus continues to be the safe and efficient restoration of service to our pipeline system, while minimizing disruption to our customers and all those who rely on Colonial Pipeline. We appreciate the patience and outpouring of support we have received from others throughout the industry.
Related MidJersey.news coverage on Colonial Pipeline incident here:
BREAKING NEWS REPORT: This is a breaking news report from radio reports, on scene information, and sources. Once official information is available, the post will be updated.
TRENTON (MERCER)– A police pursuit involving multiple jurisdictions occurred late Thursday night following a carjacking of a Jeep Compass in Trenton.
Trenton Police called the pursuit around 10:00 pm, after a reported carjacking in the city. State Police joined the chase once the suspect vehicle got onto I-195. The vehicle continued to flee Eastbound on I-195 to Route 537 in Jackson, where he turned back around and went Westbound. The suspect exited I-195 into Hamilton, where he fled down Klockner Road and got onto Route 130. The pursuit continued on Route 130 Northbound to South Brunswick, where the suspect then turned around again, going South on Route 130. The suspect was reported to be armed with a gun. The vehicle reached speeds of 130 miles per hour while running red lights, and reportedly crashed into a few State Police troop cars during the pursuit.
The chase finally came to an end at about 11:03 pm in front of the A&M Market on Route 130 in Robbinsville. One male was taken into custody and transported to the hospital.
Vehicle drove though several towns including, Trenton, Hamilton Township, Robbinsville Township, Upper Freehold Township, Millstone Township, Jackson Township, East Windsor, Cranbury, South Brunswick, North Brunswick.
This is a developing story. Check back for more info.
ROBBINSVILLE-HAMILTON TOWNSHIPS, NJ (MERCER)–In response to a wave of complaints regarding poor service and unfair consumer pricing by Optimum/Altice USA, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) has found sufficient cause to investigate Optimum/Altice USA and convene a public hearing on March 16, 2021.
The BPU said in a February 17 order it had:
“reviewed the various complaints, municipal government official resolutions and requests for Board investigation and intervention in this matter, and HEREBY FINDS that there is sufficient cause to convene a proceeding to afford the municipal officials and Altice customers the opportunity to voice their concerns about the services received from Altice; as well as afford the company the opportunity to respond to these concerns before determining what corrective action may be warranted and should be taken in this matter.”
The Board designated Commissioner Mary-Anna Holden as the Presiding Officer. Holden “is authorized to rule on all motions that arise during the proceedings and modify any schedules that may be set as necessary to secure a just and expeditious determination of the issues.”
The public hearing will be held virtually. Information concerning participation in the public hearing will be posted on the BPU website. Attorneys for the Townships of Robbinsville and Hamilton filed dual letters to Lawanda Gilbert, Director of the BPU Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications, requesting an investigation into the under performing utility in August, 2020.
In addition to Hamilton and Robbinsville, the order lists the boroughs of Dunellen and Sayreville, along with the Townships of Green Brook, Howell, Jackson, Montville, North Brunswick and Piscataway. The BPU received complaints and resolutions from at least 10 municipalities and several state legislators concerning various issues their residents and constituents cited alleging inadequacy and lack of service provided by Altice USA. In the complaints, the municipal and legislative officials cited: “Frequent and lengthy service disruptions (across all services), inconsistent connections and fluctuating Internet speeds, long telephone wait times, poor customer service, and an inability to get a satisfactory response to these issues from the company both before and after the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The letters detail just 11 examples from the hundreds of complaints received by the respective municipal offices at Robbinsville and Hamilton over the past several months citing poor customer service, unstable Internet connections, insufficient network capacity and allegations of price-gouging.
“It is the duty of Optimum (Altice USA) as a utility to furnish safe, adequate and proper service for its customers … and they have failed in that duty,” Robbinsville Township Mayor Dave Fried said last summer. “We should not have to continuously pressure this provider to do its job.”
Hamilton Township Mayor Jeff Martin also received a flood of complaints regarding Optimum/Altice USA (formerly Cablevision) and requested the BPU immediately commence an investigation into the services being provided to both Robbinsville and Hamilton pursuant to powers vested in the Board.
“Having reliable cable and internet service has never been more of a necessity than this year has proved it to be,” Martin said. “Both municipalities’ residents have experienced similar, unacceptable issues and a lack of timely remediation from Optimum. Mayor Fried and I will fight for our residents by partnering together on this issue and hope that by doing so it will provide for a stronger likelihood of these concerns being taken seriously by the State. “
NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX) — Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone and Chief Joseph Battaglia of the North Brunswick Township Police Department announced today that two juveniles have been charged with the shooting death of Mark Atkins, 18, of Plainfield.
Since the shooting on February 3, 2021, two male juveniles, both 17 and of North Brunswick, have both been charged with one count of murder, one count of conspiracy to commit murder, and one count of possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose. One juvenile has been taken into custody. The other has yet to be apprehended
On February 3, 2021, at approximately 7:30 P.M., authorities responded to Marc Drive following reports of a shooting. Upon their arrival, officers located one of the male juveniles who had sustained a non-fatal gunshot wound. Upon further investigation, officers later found Atkins who had sustained multiple gunshot wounds and was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
The investigation is active and continuing. Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Errol McCalla of the North Brunswick Police Department at (732) 247-0922 ext. 311 or Detective Sean Sullivan of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at (732) 745-4060.
As is the case with all defendants, the charges against the juveniles are merely accusations and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
NORTH BRUNSWICK (MIDDLESEX): Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone and Chief Joseph Battaglia of the North Brunswick Township Police Department announced today that authorities are investigating a fatal shooting at the Renaissance Glen Apartments.
On February 3, 2021, at approximately 7:30 P.M., authorities responded to Marc Drive following reports of a shooting. Upon their arrival, officers located a male juvenile, 17, of North Brunswick who had sustained a non-fatal gunshot wound. Upon further investigation, officers later found Marc Atkins, 18, of Plainfield who had also sustained multiple gunshot wounds and was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
The investigation is active and continuing. Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Errol McCalla of the North Brunswick Police Department at (732) 247-0922 ext. 311 or Detective Sean Sullivan of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at (732) 745-4060.
Team coverage by: Dennis Symons, Tyler Eckel, and Brian McCarthy
PLAINSBORO, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–Firefighters, EMS, and police with over 50 pieces of apparatus took part in a hospital worker appreciation event tonight at UPenn Princeton Medical Center. Hosted by Plainsboro Fire Department and Police, many agencies came through to show their support for hospital workers.
Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, and even the Grinch showed up to show their support riding in the fire department’s ladder towers and were able to see hospital employees though the windows of the hospital.
This is a partial list of those participated:
Plainsboro Fire, Plainsboro EMS, Plainsboro Police Department, West Windsor Police Department, Princeton University Pubic Safety, Kingston Fire Company, Monmouth Junction Fire Comapny, Kendal Park Fire Comapny, Hightstown Fire Department, Little Rocky Hill Fire Company, Griggstown Fire Company, Middlesex County Hazmat, Princeton Plasma Physics Lab Fire Department, South River Fire Department, Monroe Fire Company – 51, Lawrenceville Fire Company -23, North Brunswick Fire Company #1, North Brunswick Fire Comnpany #2, North Brunswick Fire Company #3, New Jersey State Forest Fire Service, NJSP Aviation Unit, East Windsor Rescue Squad, Princeton Rescue Squad, Mercer County Fire Coordinator, Hopewell Fire Department – 52
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Phil Murphy today ordered that the U.S. and New Jersey flags be flown at half-staff at all state buildings and facilities on Monday, November 23, 2020, in honor of U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Richard Asey Samaroo, who tragically passed away while on active duty in South Korea.
Samaroo was a resident of North Brunswick. “Senior Airman Samaroo was taken from us far too soon, at the young age of 21,” said Governor Murphy. “Richard served his community, his state, and his country with honor and distinction. Tammy and I would like to express our deepest condolences to Senior Airman Samaroo’s family, friends, and colleagues during this time.”
Rico Samaroo passed away while on active duty at Osan Air force Base in South Korea. He was 21 years old.
Rico was born in Guyana and came to the United States in 2003. He resided in New Brunswick, Parsippany, Flemington and Northampton Pennsylvania before moving back to North Brunswick where he has lived since.
He attended Livingston Park Elementary, Linwood Middle School and North Brunswick High School where he graduated class of 2017 with honors. He soon after enlisted in the United States Air Force. Rico completed his basic training at Lackland Airforce Base in Texas then completed his military schooling at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas. Rico served in Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany for two years and Osan Air Force Base in South Korea since May of 2020.
He was the recipient of the National Defense Service Medal, The Global War on Terror Medal, the M-16 Expert Qualifying Medal and the Air Force Training Ribbon.
He was predeceased by his Grandfather Albert Samaroo.
Rico is survived by his parents Richard and Bibi Samaroo, a sister Zhane Samaroo, His grand parents along with many aunts, uncles, cousins, extended family and friends.
Friends and family may visit from 5-9 MP on Thursday evening at the Gleason Funeral Home 1360 Hamilton Street in Somerset. A brief funeral ceremony will take place on Friday morning at 8:30 AM at the funeral home. Burial will follow at Brig. General William C. Doyle Veteran Cemetery in Wrightstown, NJ. Due to cemetery restrictions, graveside services at the cemetery will be by direct invitation from the family.
Please know due to the COVID-19 outbreak we must limit capacity inside the funeral home. Face coverings must be worn at all times and social distancing must be observed.
We also ask you please enter the funeral home, pay your respects to the deceased and the family, then please take your leave so others may come inside.
By request of the family, please do not send flowers.
We thank you for your understanding in this matter.
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Phil Murphy today signed legislation (A1649), which protects the home addresses and telephone numbers of judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers from public disclosure. The bill, known as “Daniel’s Law,” is named in honor of Daniel Anderl, the late son of U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas. Daniel fell victim to a senseless act of gun violence committed by an individual who had compiled a dossier of personal information about Judge Salas, including the judge’s home address.
“This is a renewed commitment to ensure our judiciary, prosecutors, and members of law enforcement who answer the call of justice can do so without fear for their personal safety, or that of their loved ones,” said Governor Murphy. “By shielding the home addresses and private contact information for those who serve on the bench and enforce our laws, we are demonstrating that in the face of unspeakable tragedy, New Jersey responds not with thoughts and prayers, but with concrete action.”
“My husband, Mark, and I would like to thank Governor Murphy and all the men and women of the New Jersey State Legislature for enacting this trailblazing legislation,” said U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas. “We hope this law can be a steppingstone to improving the security of my sisters and brothers who serve as federal judges throughout the country. Nobody should be forced to endure the kind of pain my family has experienced ever again. Together we can work to ensure that all members of the judiciary (federal, state, and municipal courts) can perform their duties without fear of retribution or harm. Daniel used to say, ‘Mom, I love talking with you.’ I know Daniel is listening now, and he is smiling down on us today because he knows that with this bill signing, we are doing our part to ensure that his death will not be in vain.”
The bill amends the Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”) to exclude from the definition of a government (i.e., public) record the portion of any document which discloses the home address of any active or retired 1) judge, 2) prosecutor or 3) law enforcement officer.
Further, the bill prohibits government agencies, individuals and businesses from knowingly publishing on the internet, or otherwise making available, the home address or unpublished home telephone number of any active or retired judge or any active or retired prosecutor.
The bill also enables any active or retired judge, prosecutor, or law enforcement officer whose home address or unpublished telephone number is disclosed on the internet or otherwise made available to the public, or whose immediate family member’s name, home address, or unpublished phone number is disclosed on the internet or otherwise made available to the public, to request that the information be removed. The government agency, individual or business would be required to remove the information within 72 hours of receiving such a request in writing.
“Daniel Anderl’s tragic death reminds us that the disclosure of personal information can leave judges and family members vulnerable to threats and violence,” said Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. “We are grateful to the Governor and the Legislature for taking this important step to provide common sense protections for active and retired judges and their families, along with others in the justice system, in the hope that a future tragedy can be prevented.”
“Judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers all play vital roles in keeping the public safe, but in doing so, they often jeopardize their own safety, becoming targets of vengeful criminals or litigants,” said Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal. “We need to protect them as they protect all of us. This commonsense law will go a long way to ensure the privacy and security of these public servants and their families.”
“To everyone who played a role in getting this done, I thank you. However, our work does not end here. We must extend these privacy protections nationwide, so that no one lives through what Judge Salas and her husband lived through,” said U.S. Senator Bob Menendez. “We are living in a time of endless vitriol, rising hate crimes, and increased personal attacks. And while we may not be able to eliminate hatred from someone’s heart, we can take action to better protect the men and women of our federal bench. That’s why I am proud to see Governor Murphy sign Daniel’s Law here in New Jersey– and why I remain committed to the passage of the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act in Washington.”
“No person who takes on the responsibility of serving as a federal judge should ever have to live in fear that they or their family could be targeted by someone who is able to easily access their personal information,” said U.S. Senator Cory Booker. “Judge Salas and her husband, Mark, have gone through something that no parent should ever have to endure. I am grateful for the leadership of Governor Murphy, Senator Cryan, and Assemblywoman Quijano as we honor the memory of Daniel with a commitment that this should never happen again.”
Primary sponsors of A1649 include Assemblymembers Annette Quijano, Yvonne Lopez, Craig Coughlin, and Ralph Caputo, and Senators Joe Cryan, Nicholas Scutari, Nellie Pou, and Bob Smith.
“Making tough decisions is part of the job for judges and prosecutors. Sometimes these decisions aren’t popular, and they become a target. It’s frightening to think that disgruntled individuals may be able to find their home addresses and personal phone numbers readily available at the touch of a button.” said Assemblymembers Quijano, Lopez, Coughlin and Caputo in a joint statement. “Our hearts continue to break for Judge Salas and her family. The goal of this bill is to better protect the privacy of judges and prosecutors by prohibiting their personal addresses and contact information from being shared online without their consent.”
“This law will honor the legacy of Daniel Anderl and respect the loving memories of his family,” said Senator Joe Cryan, a former Union County Sheriff who oversaw courthouse security in Union County. “This was a tragic act of violence targeted at a respected judge and her family because the gunman was able to locate their home address. It was also an attack on the justice system that was felt by everyone who serves or has served in law enforcement. They devote their lives to the safety of the public – they should be kept safe as well.”
“We must act to protect our public officials and their families from potential attacks,” said Senator Nicholas Scutari, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The targeting of Judge Salas at her private residence by a gunman, resulting in the tragic death of her son and the serious wounding of her husband, underscores the need for us to do more to protect our judges and their families. Domestic terrorism is a very real threat in today’s society. Not long ago, a gunman attempted to take the life of then-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, another gunman opened fire at a congressional softball game and, most recently, there was the foiled plot to kidnap and murder the governor of Michigan. This is a vital first step in ensuring the safety of our public officials in New Jersey.”
“Judges and other court officers who serve our legal system deserve to be protected from any possible attack or retaliation for merely performing their sworn duties. What happened to Judge Esther Salas, and her family, and in particular the fatal shooting of her son, Daniel, in his own home, must never happen again,” said Senator Nellie Pou. “This law, restricting access to home addresses of judges and others who work in our court system will add a needed layer of protection for these public servants.”
“As a representative and resident from Middlesex County, I was shocked, heartbroken and angered by the home attack on Judge Salas and her family, which left her husband critically wounded and ended in the death of her son, Daniel,” saidSenator Bob Smith. “The Salas family are among my constituents, so it is important for me that I am a part of any action we take in response to this horrific incident. We have to do more to protect our judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officers from violent retaliation, especially in a time when people are actually planning physical violence against civil servants.”
“This measure takes the steps necessary to obscure details about judges that could put them and their families at risk,” said Senator Robert Singer. “There is so much information exchanged online, and a reckless post or an innocuous comment can, in the wrong hands, be dangerous. Enacting this law will help increase security for judges our legal system relies on.”
HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–In an update to a story MidJersey.News posted yesterday, Cineworld the parent company of Regal Cinemas had confirmed at 7:00 this morning that there will be temporary closing of 536 Regal Cinemas in the U.S. due to COVID-19. This will include several theaters in New Jersey.
The company said in a press release:
In response to an increasingly challenging theatrical landscape and sustained key market closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cineworld confirms that it will be temporarily suspending operations at all of its 536 Regal theatres in the US and its 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse theatres in the UK from Thursday, 8 October 2020.
As major US. markets, mainly New York, remained closed and without guidance on reopening timing, studios have been reluctant to release their pipeline of new films. In turn, without these new releases, Cineworld cannot provide customers in both the US and the UK – the company’s primary markets – with the breadth of strong commercial films necessary for them to consider coming back to theatres against the backdrop of COVID-19. These closures will impact approximately 45,000 employees. Cineworld will continue to monitor the situation closely and will communicate any future plans to resume operations in these markets at the appropriate time, when key markets have more concrete guidance on their reopening status and, in turn, studios are able to bring their pipeline of major releases back to the big screen.
Cineworld’s main priorities remain the safety of customers and employees, cash preservation and cost reduction. As noted in its Interim Results announced on 24 September 2020, Cineworld is assessing several sources of additional liquidity and all liquidity raising options are being considered.
Mooky Greidinger, CEO of Cineworld, commented: “This is not a decision we made lightly, and we did everything in our power to support safe and sustainable reopenings in all of our markets – including meeting, and often exceeding, local health and safety guidelines in our theatres and working constructively with regulators and industry bodies to restore public confidence in our industry. We are especially grateful for and proud of the hard work our employees put in to adapt our theatres to the new protocols and cannot underscore enough how difficult this decision was, Cineworld will continue to monitor the situation closely and will communicate any future plans to resume operations in these markets at the appropriate time, when key markets have more concrete guidance on their reopening status and, in turn, studios are able to bring their pipeline of major releases back to the big screen.”
Regal Cinemas in MidJersey.News coverage area are:
Regal Commerce Center & RPX 2399 US-1, North Brunswick Township, NJ 08902
Regal Independence Plaza & RPX 2465 S Broad St, Hamilton Township, NJ 08610
Regal Burlington 250 Bromley Blvd, Burlington Township, NJ 08016
HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–It appeared to be “business as usual” this afternoon and tonight at Regal Cinemas 12 & RPX in the Independence Plaza on S. Broad Street.
Last night Variety Magazine published and article stating that Cineworld, Regal Cinemas parent company would shuttering all venues in the U.S. and U.K. The shuttering would happen since the James Bond film “No Time to Die” release date was pushed back to April 2021.
Since that time Cineworld has responded via Twitter “We can confirm we are considering the temporary closure of our U.K. and US cinemas, but a final decision has not yet been reached. Once a decision has been made we will update all staff and customers as soon as we can.”
It appears that the even if they do close their doors Cineworld’s Tweet points out that it would be “temporary” and (hopefully) not permanent. The entertainment industry is already struggling due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and the delay of a major new release will be another blow to the movie industry.
Regal Cinemas in MidJersey.News coverage area are:
Regal Commerce Center & RPX 2399 US-1, North Brunswick Township, NJ 08902
Regal Independence Plaza & RPX 2465 S Broad St, Hamilton Township, NJ 08610
Regal Burlington 250 Bromley Blvd, Burlington Township, NJ 08016
We shared this tweet on MidJersey.News Twitter Account from the editor of Varity Magazine early this morning and Cineworld Cinemas (owner of Regal Cinemas) responded to the press in a following Tweet on their account. The Tweets are below:
NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–On September 16th 2020, it was discovered that damage had been done to the Police Officers Memorial Monument that sits just North Brunswick Police Headquarters. It was apparent that the damage was purposeful, as all electrical lighting for the Memorial had been stomped and damaged. The damage is believed to be a few thousand dollars. The subsequent investigation led to the arrest of Edwin Marroquin, 21, of New Brunswick. He was charged with several charges and is awaiting Court proceedings. The damage will be repaired by North Brunswick PBA Local 160 the caretakers of the Memorial. *All arrestees are to be considered innocent until proven guilty in Court.
Six Charged in New Jersey in $100 Million Telemedicine Scheme; Three Men Admit Guilt in Unrelated Frauds
September 30, 2020
NEWARK, NJ — Six individuals have been charged in New Jersey for their roles in a massive nationwide prescription medication and durable medical equipment telemedicine scheme, and three others admitted their roles in three other health care fraud cases. The announcements are part of a federal law enforcement effort to crack down on health care fraud nationwide.
U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito, District of New Jersey, announced charges against six people: Mark Belter, 46, of North Ridgeville, Ohio; David C. Laughlin, Jr., 46, of Buckeye, Arizona; Stephen Luke, 52, of Phoenix, Arizona, were charged by complaint with conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute. In a separate complaint, Ethan Welwart, 32, of North Brunswick, New Jersey; William “Ben” Welwart, 66, of Staten Island, New York; and Elan Yaish, 51, of Tel Aviv, Israel, also were charged with conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute for their roles in the same scheme. Ethan Welwart, William Welwart, and Yaish had their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge James B. Clark III on Sept. 3, 2020, and Belter, Laughlin, and Luke had their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leda Dunn Wettre on Sept. 10, 2020.
Attorney for the United States Rachael A. Honig, District of New Jersey, announced guilty pleas from three defendants in three cases:
Andrew McCubbins, 39, of Draper, Utah, the owner of a telemedicine company, pleaded guilty by videoconference on Sept. 24, 2020, before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty to an information charging him with one count each of conspiring to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud, and conspiring to defraud the United States in connection with a scheme to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute.
Christian Mohases, 38, of Santa Ana, California, pleaded guilty by videoconference on Sept. 24, 2020, before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty to an information charging him with one count of conspiring to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiring to defraud the United States in connection with a scheme to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute.
Luis Roa, 51, of Santiago, Chile, pleaded guilty by videoconference on Sept. 24, 2020, before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty to an information charging him with one count of conspiring to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiring to defraud the United States in connection with a scheme to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute.
The announcements are part of a nationwide federal law enforcement effort to combat telemedicine fraud, prescription fraud and durable medical equipment fraud. As part of this effort, the Department of Justice is announcing today the largest amount of alleged fraud loss ever charged – $4.5 billion in allegedly false and fraudulent claims submitted by more than 86 criminal defendants in 19 judicial districts around the country – related to nationwide schemes involving telemedicine: the use of telecommunications technology to provide health care services remotely.
Belter et al.
Beginning in January 2016 and continuing for more than three years, the six defendants exchanged kickbacks and bribes with each other and others. Belter, who owned and operated a marketing company in Ohio called Health Pain Solutions, identified Medicare beneficiaries and targeted them for specific prescription medications or durable medical equipment (DME) like braces. He then sent the beneficiaries’ information to Laughlin and Luke, who owned RediDoc. Belter paid Laughlin and Luke kickbacks for each signed prescription and doctor’s order for those beneficiaries that Laughlin and Luke collected from doctors under contract with RediDoc. Laughlin and Luke in turn paid those doctors kickbacks for each prescription and doctor’s order they signed. Laughlin and Luke transmitted the prescriptions to Apogee, a pharmacy owned and run by Ethan Welwart, William Welwart, and Yaish, and doctor’s orders to DME providers, who submitted claims for reimbursement to Medicare and other insurers. Ethan Welwart, William Welwart, and Yaish at Apogee subsequently paid Belter kickbacks from the reimbursements they received, in exchange for Belter’s actions in originating the beneficiaries’ claims.
After identifying target beneficiaries, Belter or his employees telephoned them, purportedly to obtain their medical history and consent to receive medications or DME. The purpose of these calls was so that Belter could record the conversations with the beneficiaries and convince them to try certain medications or DME. Belter had no medical licenses or training.
Belter purposely did not tell the beneficiaries what doctor would prescribe the medication or DME. The conspirators believed that the beneficiaries may not consent to receive medication or DME from an unknown doctor. In an email to William Welwart and another Apogee employee on Jan. 15, 2018, Belter wrote that, when he called beneficiaries, he did not provide specifics: “I think you might lose some people [beneficiaries] when you mention a Doctor name they have never heard of.”
After obtaining the beneficiary’s medical history and purported consent, Belter transmitted a beneficiary intake form, the recorded call, and a pre-filled prescription for medication or DME order to Laughlin and Luke at RediDoc. Under a contract, Belter paid Laughlin and Luke a fee of approximately $95 for each prescription that RediDoc obtained from one of its contracted doctors; $100 for each DME order; and $115 for a prescription and a DME order.
RediDoc recruited and contracted with doctors around the country to sign prescriptions and DME orders. RediDoc paid its contracted doctors anywhere from $7 to $30 per “consultation,” depending on whether they prescribed medication, DME, or both. For example, according to one RediDoc contract, RediDoc agreed to pay a doctor $15 per “consultation” by telephone with no prescription; $20 per “consultation” resulting in a medication prescription or DME order; and $30 per “consultation” resulting in a medication prescription and DME order. RediDoc had similar contracts with doctors across the country and paid them over $5.5 million during the scheme.
The defendants and other conspirators caused the submission of false and fraudulent claims to health care benefit programs, including Medicare, in excess of $100 million for prescription medication and DME.
The charge of conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute is punishable by a potential penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greater.
The government is represented in this case by Senior Trial Counsel Jason S. Gould and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nicole Mastropieri and Hayden Brockett of the Health Care Fraud Unit in Newark, as well as Senior Trial Counsel Barbara Ward of the Asset Recovery and Money Laundering Unit in Newark.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaints are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
McCubbins owned and operated a telemedicine company based in Utah that purported to provide health care services through health care professionals to Medicare beneficiaries. McCubbins and others paid kickbacks and bribes to various parties in exchange for referrals and orders for medically unnecessary genetic cancer screening tests (CGX Tests) for Medicare beneficiaries, ultimately leading to approximately $89 million in Medicare payments.
In order to generate referrals of Medicare beneficiaries to the telemedicine company, McCubbins and others paid kickbacks and bribes to individuals operating call centers targeting Medicare beneficiaries for CGX Tests. Once the telemedicine company received the referrals, health care professionals acting on its behalf wrote medically unnecessary orders for CGX Tests for the Medicare beneficiaries. McCubbins bribed medical doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants to prescribe the CGX Tests for Medicare beneficiaries. These health care professionals wrote medically unnecessary orders for CGX Tests without performing legitimate medical consultations and after only cursory telephonic interactions with the Medicare beneficiaries. In addition, the Telemedicine Company also bribed doctors to purportedly “supervise” nurses and other health care professionals in order to legitimize the their prescriptions for CGX Tests. In reality, however, the supervising physicians had no legitimate clinical or collaborative relationship with the health care professionals they claimed to supervise.
Mohases and his conspirators owned and operated multiple call centers through which they obtained doctors’ orders for DME, namely orthotic braces, and patient referrals for genetic CGX tests for Medicare beneficiaries. Mohases and his conspirators provided these orders and referrals in exchange for bribes from certain companies that provided the braces and performed the CGX Tests, ultimately leading to approximately $8.5 million in Medicare payments for medically unnecessary DME and CGX Tests.
Mohases and his conspirators obtained the DME orders and CGX Test referrals through the use of marketing call centers and telemedicine companies. Mohases used telemedicine companies to generate DME orders that were medically unnecessary because they were generated without any legitimate physician-patient relationship and without complying Medicare’s telemedicine requirements. In order to conceal the kickback arrangements, Mohases and his conspirators entered into sham contracts that made it appear that they were providing legitimate services. Mohases generated false invoices to match the sham contracts and to conceal the kickback scheme.
Roa and his conspirators owned and operated multiple call centers through which they obtained doctors’ orders for DME, namely braces, and patient referrals for CGX tests for Medicare beneficiaries. Roa and his conspirators provided these orders and referrals in exchange for bribes from certain companies that provided the braces and performed the CGX tests, ultimately leading to approximately $6.9 million in Medicare payments for medically unnecessary DME and CGX tests.
Roa and his conspirators obtained the DME orders and CGX test referrals through the use of marketing call centers and telemedicine companies. Roa used telemedicine companies to generate DME orders that were medically unnecessary because they were generated without any legitimate physician-patient relationship and without complying with Medicare’s telemedicine requirements. In order to conceal the kickback arrangements, Roa and his conspirators entered into sham contracts that made it appear that they were providing legitimate services. Roa generated false invoices to match the sham contracts and to conceal the kickback scheme.
The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross profit or loss caused by the offense, whichever is greater. The charge of conspiracy to commit health care fraud is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross profit or loss caused by the offense, whichever is greater. The charge of conspiracy to violate the federal Anti-Kickback Statute is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross profit or loss caused by the offense, whichever is greater.
The government in the cases against McCubbins, Mohases and Roa is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sean M. Sherman, J. Stephen Ferketic, and Ryan O’Neill of the Opioid Abuse Prevention & Enforcement Unit, and Senior Trial Counsel Ward.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito and Attorney for the United States Honig credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch. Jr. in Newark; the Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Scott J. Lampert; the U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Leigh-Alistair Barzey; and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Christopher F. Algieri with the ongoing investigations.
NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–On Saturday, September 26th, at approximately 10:03 pm, a 9-1-1 call was received from a caller that located an injured unresponsive male on Corporate Road. Units arrived moments later and discovered that severely injured male in the roadway. Despite all efforts, the male was later pronounced dead at the scene from those injuries. The man’s four wheeler/ATV was located in brush a short distance away by Officers. The incident is under investigation by our Department’s Traffic Safety Bureau, and appears at this time to be a tragic single vehicle (ATV) event leading to the drivers death. The victim has been identified as Charlie Madera, 31, of North Brunswick. Anyone with any information is asked to contact Traffic Officer Jason Vallese at 732-247-0922 x318
KENDALL PARK – SOUTH BRUNWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–Daniel Mark Anderl had just celebrated his 20th birthday.
A lifelong Catholic and the only child of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas and defense attorney Mark Anderl, Daniel Anderl gave his life to protect his mother and father, taking the shooter’s first bullet directly to the chest, when a man holding a package on their front door step opened fire into the family’s home on July 19.
“All of us here remember when we heard of the horrific news of Danny’s death and how he died,” said Father Robert G. Lynam, pastor of St. Augustine of Canterbury Parish, Kendall Park, where the family are parishioners. “Jesus said ‘there is no greater love, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (Jn. 15:13) – Danny did that. There is no question in my mind, from Mark’s testimony to me, that Daniel offered his life for his father and his mother.”
Speaking during his homily to those gathered in the church and those watching the private livestream of the Sept. 26 funeral Mass from a nearby tent, set up in order to respect social distancing measures and situated just steps away from the parochial Catholic school where Daniel Anderl spent eight years of his childhood, the pastor said that “faith is a gift.”
Since the day of their son’s death, “it has been the gift of faith that has sustained Esther and Mark. It has been the shining example of Daniel’s faith and selfless love that has sustained all of us,” he said.
As he arrived at the hospital that day, as Mark was in the operating room, the pastor said that he saw Daniel’s mother become “Mary at the foot of the cross.”
“In the blessing of Daniel’s body that night, in that room, it was Jesus being taken down from the cross,” he said. “On that night, I shared with Esther, ‘there is a woman here with us. Her name is Mary, the mother of Jesus. She knows your pain. She knows your sorrow,’” he said.
Reassuring the mourners present, Father Lynam said, “Mary is here with us. She knows faith; she knows sorrow; she knows pain, but she always knows Easter joy. Allow Mary to embrace you, as a mother, with a gift of love and the gift of her faith.”
The day after his death, Daniel Anderl’s school friends, together with Father Lynam, gathered to pray in the church, in the place where he was baptized into the Catholic faith as an infant and would later go on to celebrate his other sacraments.
Together, they shared stories about the life and friendships they had with Daniel Anderl and lit a candle in his memory, which burned on the altar for weeks until a funeral Mass could take place.
Looking toward the back of the church and then glancing again at the candle, Father Lynam said he would often see the candle’s reflection in the glass at the back of the church as he celebrated Mass and remember, “that is the light of Danny that is burning brightly now in heaven – there’s no question about that.”
As Daniel Anderl’s friends were praying in the church that day, the day after his death, his parents were in the hospital and “Esther received communion along with her family who were in her room,” said Father Lynam.
“Mark, who was in intensive care, was able to receive a small piece of the host and then he shared those powerful words to me: ‘I have forgiven the shooter,’” he said, echoing the wounded father’s words to those present.
In the past weeks, St. Peter was in the Gospels. The pastor shared how Jesus asked Peter the same question three times: do you love me? The question came as a gift of absolution for Peter, after he had already denied Jesus three times.
“Esther shared, when we had a moment at one of the Masses to quietly, privately bring an intention for the Mass, that as Jesus forgave Peter three times, she said to me, ‘I have forgiven the shooter three times and many more times since then,” he said. “Mark and Esther, there by the grace of God, you were and are able to say those powerful words.”
With a distant gaze of past reflection, Father Lynam fondly remembered his interactions with the family at parish Masses.
“Esther is a great listener when I preach. She is there with me, as is Mark, and Daniel would be walking around doing ushering and greeting people. Constantly walking, walking, walking,” he said, gesturing around the church and drawing laughter from the mourners.
The weekly Masses since with his family and friends “have truly been the Road to Emmaus,” he said, referencing the passage in the Gospel of Luke in which Jesus walks with two disciples, mourning the loss of Jesus, as they journey down the road to Emmaus.
“They were filled with sorrow, doubt, and questions. They were depressed. Has that not been our experience over the past weeks and even now as we gather today in prayer?” said Father Lynam. “He comes to them in their time of need. He comes to us now in our time of need.”
The funeral Mass for Daniel Anderl came just days after the New Jersey State Assembly unanimously passed A.B. 1649 on Thursday, legislation known as “Daniel’s Law,” that would bar the online posting of judges’ and prosecutors’ home addresses or phone numbers.
The church and outdoor tent were filled with family and friends, dignitaries and Church leaders, among them Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York; Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen, who celebrated the Mass; New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez; New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal; and President John Garvey of Catholic University of America, along with countless others.
Addressing Daniel Anderl’s parents, Cardinal Dolan said, “how often have we heard you say, since that Good Friday through which you traveled, that ‘we couldn’t have done it without our faith. Our faith is what has seen us through.’”
“We know one of the essentials of that faith is that God brings good out of evil and this is an unmitigated evil, but the Lord can bring good from evil,” said Cardinal Dolan. “Esther and Mark, the whole world bowed its head in prayer when they heard the sad news about Danny and the whole country has been inspired by his selfless act of sacrifice as he reminded them of Jesus on the cross. So, you see, God has already brought some good out of this.”
Daniel Anderl was remembered for having “lived his Catholic faith,” his life a witness of selfless love and steadfast faith. He was known to spend time in prayer in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, receive the gift of God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, and attend daily Mass at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he would have been a junior this year.
It is his “great gift of faith” that leaves his loved ones behind both heartbroken and inspired, said Bishop Checchio.
“Esther and Mark, you raised such a lovely young man and the whole world can see what was in his heart by his actions,” said the bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen. “We’re so indebted to you and the good work you did, the love you brought him up with in your home, and the good work and cooperation of this parish, St. Augustine of Canterbury School, Saint Joseph High School and Catholic University of America.”
After sharing his own words of sorrow, Bishop Checchio read a letter sent to him by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio, or liaison between the Holy Father and the United States, on behalf of Pope Francis.
In the letter, Archbishop Pierre said he wished to express the spiritual closeness and paternal affection of the Holy Father and “convey his profound solidarity and assurances of prayer to Daniel’s parents and all those affected by this tragedy.”
“Conscious of the wound inflicted on your entire community, His Holiness also prays that all will be affirmed in their resolve to bring an end to senseless violence and to work for justice, healing and peace,” the letter read. “Upon Daniel’s family, his friends and all who mourn him, the Holy Father cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and strength in the Risen Lord.”
Also adding his own sentiments in the letter, Archbishop Pierre said he joined those in mourning “in giving thanks to Almighty God for young Daniel’s outstanding witness of faith and exemplary Christian life. Commending his soul to the infinite mercy of God, I also renew my fervent prayer that the faithful may be confirmed in charity, consoling one another with the hope in the Lord’s promise of the Resurrection.”
Once finished reading the letter, Bishop Checchio addressed those present, often seen comforting one another and wiping away their tears, one last time by saying, “Indeed, Esther, Mark and dear friends, it is only being gathered here around the altar of the Lord, being near the Lord and near our Mother, who experienced such violence in their own lives too, that we can work for that same healing, peace and justice of which the Holy Father wrote.”
NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–The entire Township of North Brunswick is mourning today the death of Police Director Kenneth McCormick. Ken’s quick smile, sharp wit, intense integrity, unwavering compassion and dedication to family, friends, coworkers and officers made him a hero to those he knew and those he led.
Director McCormick was hired in September 1982 and graduated with the 38th Police Basic Training Class of the Middlesex County Police Academy. He was promoted to Sergeant in 1995 and then to Lieutenant in 2003. In 2004, while still a lieutenant, Ken was named the Director of Public Safety. He retired in 2008 but returned in 2009 to continue his public service as the Director of the Department of Public Safety.
The hallmarks of Ken’s tenure as Police Director were foresight, compassion and caring for the men and women of the department, and a dedication toward justice. Director McCormick leaves a legacy of ingenuity and integrity and his imprint upon our Township will be felt for generations to come.
Visitation will be held on Tuesday, September 8th from 4:00 – 8:00 p.m. at Our Lady of Peace Church on Route 130 Funeral Services will be held on Wednesday, September 9th at 11:00 a.m. on the Great Lawn at Community Park on Route 130. Interment will be at Van Liew Cemetery on Georges Road.
NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone and Director Kenneth P. McCormick of the North Brunswick Police Department announced today that a driver has been charged with causing a serious crash and injuring multiple people in the Township last night.
Christopher L. Mertens, 40, of the Monmouth Junction section of South Brunswick, was arrested and charged today with aggravated assault in the second degree, endangering the welfare of a child in the second degree, assault by auto in the third degree, endangering another person by knowingly engaging in conduct which creates a substantial risk of death in the third degree, three counts of assault by auto in the fourth degree, and obstruction of the administration of law in the fourth degree.
Patrolman Jason Zier of the North Brunswick Police Department and Detective Jonathan Berman of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office determined that on Saturday, August 8, 2020, at approximately 8:50 pm on Route 1 South just south of Route 130, Mertens was driving a 2018 Infiniti Coupe, accompanied by his two young children, traveling on Route 1 South at a high rate of speed while intoxicated. Mertens rear ended a 2003 Chevrolet Blazer causing it to roll over and catch on fire.
The driver of the Blazer, a 19-year old male from Chesterfield, New Jersey was taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, and then was transferred to St. Barnabas Hospital for the burns he sustained in the crash. His passenger, a 21-year-old woman from Suffern, New York was treated and released from Robert Wood Johnson. Mertens’ children were also taken to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital.
The investigation is active and is continuing. Anyone with information is asked to call Patrolman Zier of the North Brunswick Police Department at (732) 247-0922 ext. 316, or Detective Berman of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at (732) 745-4328.
As is the case with all criminal defendants, the charges against Mertens are merely accusations and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.