FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH) – The office manager of a Tinton Falls-based construction company has been criminally charged with swindling her employer out of more than $2.2 million over the course of seven years, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced Monday.
Donna Cook, 52, of Farmingdale is charged with second-degree Theft, third-degree Forgery, and third-degree False Uttering.
An investigation initiated by the Tinton Falls Police Department that ultimately grew to also involve members of the MCPO Financial Crimes and Public Corruption Bureau was launched several months ago, and it soon determined that starting in 2015 and continuing into 2021, Cook allegedly stole company funds by writing herself unauthorized checks.
The investigation further determined that Cook had allegedly forged the signature of a company principal for the unauthorized checks, some of which were made payable to cash. The total yearly payouts ranged in value from a little more than $75,000 to nearly $475,000, and were used by Cook for personal expenses.
Cook was served with the charges via summons late last week and released on her own recognizance pending a first appearance to take place in Monmouth County Superior Court on Tuesday, February 15. The case is being prosecuted by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Kristen Anastos. Attorney information for Cook was not immediately available.
If convicted on the second-degree offense, Cook would face up to 10 years in state prison. Despite the aforementioned pending charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.
A Monmouth County, New Jersey, man today admitted falsely labeling as “Toys” a package containing 10 live rhinoceros iguanas that was destined for Hong Kong, Acting U.S Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.
Jason Ksepka, 44, of Farmingdale, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Zahid Quraishi in Trenton federal court to an information, charging him with one count of violating the Lacey Act by falsely labeling an international shipment of wildlife.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
On Nov. 7, 2017, Ksepka shipped a package via U.S. Priority Mail Express from the U.S. Post Office in Lambertville, New Jersey. The package contained 10 live rhinoceros iguanas and was destined for Hong Kong. Defendant Ksepka falsely described the contents of the package as “Toys” and the sender as “Luke Jacobs” on a U.S. Postal Service International Shipping Label and Customs Form that accompanied the package. On Nov. 8, 2017, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Inspectors intercepted the package at the mail facility at John F. Kennedy International Airport and recovered the rhinoceros iguanas from inside the package.
Ksepka was paid $500 by an individual to falsely label the package and ship it to Hong Kong. One year prior to the shipment, the same individual had paid Ksepka $500 to ship approximately 10 additional rhinoceros iguanas to Hong Kong.
Ksepka has agreed, as part of his plea agreement, to pay a fine of $1,000 to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Lacey Act Reward Fund.
The charge to which Ksepka pleaded guilty carries with it a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 25, 2022.
Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, under the direction of Resident Agent in Charge Sean Mann, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen P. O’Leary of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Government Fraud Unit in Newark.
Defense counsel: Linda Foster Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, Newark
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–FARMINGDALE, NJ (MONMOUTH)–A state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Charles Tsakiris, 38, of Farmingdale, N.J., who was fatally shot by an officer of the Howell Township Police Department on October 18, 2019. As required by statute, all fatal police encounters must be presented to a grand jury. According to available evidence, including video from a body worn camera and the statement of a civilian witness, Mr. Tsakiris advanced at the officer with a knife after the officer responded to a 911 call reporting a stabbing.
The fatal police encounter was investigated by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and presented to 16 to 23 New Jersey residents called to serve on the grand jury in accordance with Directive 2019-4, the “Independent Prosecutor Directive” issued by the Attorney General in 2019. In July 2021, OPIA issued standard operating procedures (“SOPs”) to ensure that these grand jury presentations are conducted in a neutral, objective manner, and with appropriate transparency regarding the process, consistent with the Independent Prosecutor Directive. The investigation of this officer-involved shooting included interviews of witnesses, collection of forensic evidence, review of body worn camera footage, and autopsy results from the medical examiner. After hearing testimony and evidence from the investigation, the grand jury concluded its deliberations yesterday, Aug. 30, and voted “no bill,” meaning a majority of grand jurors found the actions of the officer who shot Mr. Tsakiris were justified and no charges should be filed against him.
According to the investigation, at approximately 10:45 p.m. on Oct. 18, 2019, Lt. Anthony DeMatteo of the Howell Township Police Department responded to a call of a reported stabbing at the home of Mr. Tsakiris on Walnut Street in Farmingdale. When Lt. DeMatteo arrived, he placed his medical bag on the front steps and knocked on the door. Mr. Tsakiris opened the door with a knife in his hand. Lt. DeMatteo backed away as Mr. Tsakiris advanced on him with the knife. Lt. DeMatteo gave repeated verbal commands to Mr. Tsakiris to back up. When Mr. Tsakiris did not comply with the commands and continued to advance toward Lt. DeMatteo, Lt. DeMatteo discharged his firearm, fatally wounding Mr. Tsakiris.
Aid was given to Mr. Tsakiris by officers arriving on scene as well as emergency medical personnel. Mr. Tsakiris was pronounced dead at the scene at approximately 11:02 p.m. An autopsy determined that the cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds.
Teresa Oshel, 40, who also resided at the house, was found deceased in a bathroom from stab wounds. A third individual at the residence, Jeffrey Tsakiris, 36, was taken to the hospital where he was treated for stab wounds and later released.
A 2019 law, P.L. 2019, c. 1, requires the Attorney General’s Office to conduct investigations of a person’s 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. 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.
After considering the facts, evidence, and testimony from the OPIA investigation, the state grand jury found the actions of the officer were justified. An officer may use deadly force in New Jersey when the officer reasonably believes it is immediately necessary to protect the officer or another person from imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm.
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.
At the conclusion of these investigations, pursuant to the Independent Prosecutor Directive and SOPs, OPIA determines whether any principal should be referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency for administrative review in accordance with the AG’s Internal Affairs Policy & Procedures. OPIA monitors any resulting review and takes such actions as are necessary to ensure that the review is completed in a timely fashion, and that appropriate actions are taken based on the results of the review.
The Independent Prosecutor Directive is posted on the Attorney General’s website at this link:
FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–As you may be aware, this year’s November General Election in New Jersey is being conducted primarily by mail-in ballots, per State mandate. On November 3, 2020, Election Day, limited polling locations will be open for voting on paper provisional ballots only, except for disabled voters.
Voters across Monmouth County are receiving their mail-in ballots this week and are encouraged to contact the County Clerk’s Election Office at 732-431-7790, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with any questions about the delivery of their ballots.
Due to this unprecedented change in our election process, Monmouth County Clerk Christine Giordano Hanlon has provided a comprehensive webpage on MonmouthCountyVotes.com, explaining this year’s election process.
In addition, our office has provided video tutorials, including an animated step-by-step video informing Monmouth County voters of how to properly complete and return their mail-in ballots. The tutorial also explains how the paper ballots are reviewed and verified by the Monmouth County Board of Elections.
The video can be viewed on our Facebook and YouTube pages. We encourage you to share this important information with your friends and neighbors.
Election Hotline Established to Secure Election Integrity
To help ensure free and fair elections in Monmouth County, the County Election Offices and Prosecutor’s Office have established an election hotline. To report any issues of voter fraud or misconduct in Monmouth County, residents can call the County Prosecutor’s Office hotline at 855-786-5878.
“Our democratic system of government depends on free and fair elections and, as such, election integrity and security is important to all of us,” said County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni and County Clerk Christine Giordano Hanlon. “For these reasons, our offices are working together to further safeguard the electoral process.”
Upcoming Dates and Voter Deadlines
Monday, October 12th: All County Offices closed in observance of Columbus Day
Tuesday, November 3rd at 8 p.m.: Close of the polls; Deadline to deliver mail-in ballot by U.S. Postal Service mail, Drop Box, or in-person to the County Board of Elections at 300 Halls Mill Road in Freehold or at assigned Polling Place.
ALLENTOWN, NJ (MONMOUTH)–An Allentown resident told MidJersey.News that around 11 pm last night a delivery crew installed a Vote-By-Mail Drop Box in front of Allentown at Borough Hall on Main Street. There are currently 17 Vote-By-Mail Drop Box locations for Monmouth County, this is the furthest west serving Western Monmouth County.
Pursuant to State law, the November 3, 2020 General Election will be conducted primarily by Mail-In Ballot in New Jersey.
If you wish to place your Mail-In Ballot in a secure drop box, below are the locations throughout the County which will be available starting the week of September 15. Addresses in the list below are clickable and will bring up Google Maps.
Voters can drop their voted Mail-In Ballot into these Board of Elections Drop Boxes anywhere in the County up until 8 p.m. on November 3, 2020. You do not have to be a resident of the town where the drop box is located. Be advised that these drop boxes are under video surveillance and are monitored by the Monmouth County Board of Elections, which can be reached at 732-431-7802.
For more information about the General Election process, click here.
UPPER FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP, NJ (MONMOUTH)–At 6:46 am the Hope Fire Company of Allentown and the Millstone Township Fire Department responded to I-195 west bound in the area of mile marker 13.4 for a severe accident.
According to NJ State Police spokesman Philip Curry, Mario Shehata, 30 of Jackson was killed in the crash while operating a Honda Civic eastbound on 195.
The Honda Civic crossed the center median and struck an Acura which was going westbound. The driver of the Acura was Richard Carter, 37 ,of Farmingdale according to an update on Thursday from NJ State Police.
The westbound lanes were completely closed just before 8 a.m., for the accident investigation, creating a multi-mile delay approaching the crash scene. The left lane was reopened about 11:45 a.m.
Curry said that cause of the crash remains under investigation.