TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–The New Jersey State Police have arrested Lawrence Priester, 39, of Morrisville, PA, Deniece Reeves, 26, of Browns Mills, N.J., Rosa Lind, 36, and Tyran Kelsey, 35, both of Trenton, N.J., for drug offenses and money laundering during an investigation that led to the seizure of $150,000 worth of narcotics and stamps linked to two fatal and one non-fatal overdose.
During a four-month investigation, detectives with the New Jersey State Police Crime Suppression Central Unit and the Opioid Enforcement Task Force (OETF) began investigating the distribution of narcotics in and around the City of Trenton. Through various investigative means, detectives determined that Priester was involved in narcotics trafficking in Pennsylvania and in the Trenton area of New Jersey. Additionally, detectives were able to identify narcotics mills located in Bucks County, PA and in Trenton, N.J. where Priester was allegedly packaging heroin and fentanyl for distribution.
On Tuesday, March 16, 2021, detectives with the Crime Suppression Central Unit, Opioid Enforcement Task Force, along with members of the Trenton Police Department SWAT, West Windsor Police Department, agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and detectives from the Bucks County Prosecutor’s Office executed search warrants in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Evidence seized as a result of the search warrants included approximately $150,000 worth of narcotics and more than $5,000 cash.
During execution of a search warrant in Trenton, detectives seized several different stamps used to brand packaged narcotics. Drug traffickers market their “brand” of drug by ink-stamping the outside of a wax fold with a unique image, word, or phrase such as “Facebook,” “187,” and “Completed” which are examples of stamps that were recovered. “Facebook” has been linked to two fatal overdoses in New Jersey and “187” has been linked to one non-fatal overdose in New Jersey.
Lawrence Priester was arrested on March 16, 2021 at a residence in Pennsylvania and charged with the following:
• Maintaining/ Operating a CDS production facility
• Possession of drug paraphernalia
• Possession of heroin and fentanyl with intent to distribute
Rosa Lind was arrested on March 16, 2021 at a residence in Trenton and charged with the following:
• Maintaining/ Operating a CDS production facility
• Possession of drug paraphernalia
• Possession of heroin and oxycodone with intent to distribute
Tyran Kelsey was arrested on March 16, 2021 after a motor vehicle stop in Trenton and charged with the following:
• Possession of heroin with intent to distribute
• Money laundering
Deniece Reeves was arrested on March 16, 2021 following a motor vehicle stop in Trenton and charged with the following:
• Possession of heroin with intent to distribute
• Money laundering
Kelsey and Reeves were lodged at the Mercer County Jail pending detention hearings. Lind was released pending a future court date. Priester was lodged at Bucks County Jail. The case is being prosecuted by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice.
“Through their innovative strategies, the State Police have dismantled over 40 opioid mills over the last two years and arrested nearly 370 suspects involved in criminal activity. In the process, they have seized over $12 million worth of dangerous opioids and more than $3 million in illegal drug proceeds, while recovering 165 firearms used in furtherance of drug activity,” said Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal. “They have undoubtedly saved lives and improved communities, but the State Police’s enforcement efforts are only one part of our fight against the opioid epidemic, which also focuses on prevention and treatment strategies. I commend the State Police and all of the law enforcement partners that contributed to this operation.”
“Oftentimes massive, bulk seizures make the headlines, but the most vital component of a narcotics trafficking network is the processing mill. Through collaboration with our partners, we were able to identify and assist with shutting down a Pennsylvania mill producing brands of narcotics linked to fatal and non-fatal overdoses here in New Jersey,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “The opioid epidemic recognizes no borders, jurisdictions, or state lines, which is why we will continue to work together with our partners across the river to shut down processing mills and bring those responsible to justice.”
“Drug dealers don’t stop at state borders, and neither do we, thanks to our highly effective law enforcement partnerships both inside and outside New Jersey,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “I commend all of the agencies in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that worked together to take down these alleged interstate drug traffickers.”
To date, the OETF has conducted 168 enforcement operations and seized more than 843,862 individual doses of packaged opioids valued at $4,219,310, more than 82 kilograms of raw heroin valued at $4,920,000, more than 30 kilograms of fentanyl valued at $1,500,000, more than 51,000 fentanyl-based pills valued at $510,000, more than 42 kilograms of cocaine valued at $1,512,000, more than $3,424,430 in U.S. currency, and 165 firearms. The OETF has also disrupted or dismantled 39 fully operational opioid packaging facilities, four fully operational fentanyl pill pressing operations, and arrested 370 suspects during this time.
Charges are mere accusations, and the accused are considered innocent until proven guilty.
Robbinsville Township Police Department is assisting with the investigation.
On March 5, 2021 Keith Johnson from Yardley PA, W/M 32 yrs. old was arrested and charged with Burglary, Theft, Receiving Stolen Property, and related crimes. It is believed that Johnson is responsible for over 1000 reported offenses. The investigation is continuing as more information is developed.
BUCKINGHAM TOWNSHIP, PA (BUCKS) –In mid-February 2020 Buckingham Township began to experience overnight thefts from unlocked vehicles. Several of these thefts occurred between the hours of 3:00 am and 6:00 am. Surveillance video from these thefts was obtained and the actor was seen wearing a “gaiter” type mask, dark sweatpants, gloves, and carrying a satchel. Over the next months many Bucks County municipalities were also experiencing the same type of thefts with the same actor being caught on surveillance video. Information on these thefts was shared with police departments in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It was found that ten municipalities in New Jersey had similar overnight thefts from vehicles. A cooperative effort between several agencies was formed with Law Enforcement from both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. State, County, and Local agencies worked together in attempting to identify the suspect(s) from these incidents. Countless hours were invested in stopping these crimes. These thefts continued through August of 2020 in thirteen (13) Bucks County Municipalities. Some of these cars were parked in garages, where the suspect entered the dwellings with intent to access the vehicles inside.
Information was developed that led to the execution of two (2) search warrants, the last one being at Johnson’s residence in Yardley. Currency, handbags, gift cards, and dozens of other pieces of property were seized as a result of the search warrant.
On March 5, 2021 Keith Johnson, W/M 32 yrs. old was arrested and charged with Burglary, Theft, Receiving Stolen Property, and related crimes. It is believed that Johnson is responsible for over 1000 reported offenses. The investigation is continuing as more information is developed. The arrest of Johnson was made possible with the cooperation of many law enforcement agencies including but not limited to: The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, The Buck’s County District Attorney’s Office, Robbinsville Police Department, Newtown Township Police Department, Central Bucks Regional Police Department, Yardley Borough Police Department, Lower Makefield Township Police Department, and Bedminster Township Police Department.
Anyone with information related to this case is asked to contact Detective Tim Johnson at 215-794-8813.
Photos by: Dennis Symons, Tyler Eckel and Brian McCarthy
EWING TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–Today Air Force One touched down with President Trump for a campaign rally that was held in Newtown, PA near Washington Crossing. The event was held at “Keith House – Washington’s Headquarters” where he delivered remarks on “Making America Great Again, Again”
Security was tight, roads were shut down in the area including I-295. Detours were in the area until the rally was complete and the President was on his way to his next scheduled stop in Reading, PA.
Air Force One Touches Down at Trenton-Mercer County Airport today for a campaign rally in Pennsylvania:
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Saturday October 17, 2020 is National Move Over Day.
Under New Jersey’s “Move Over” law, drivers are required to reduce their speed and change lanes when approaching an authorized emergency vehicle, tow truck or highway maintenance, emergency service or sanitation vehicle that is displaying flashing, blinking or alternating emergency lights.
Unfortunately, law enforcement, emergency workers and tow truck operators continue to be struck and injured or killed while aiding others on the side of the road because a passing vehicle did not sufficiently slow down and move over.
When you see flashing lights on the side of the road, slow down, and if it’s safe, MOVE OVER. If you make the move, others will follow.
Marc K. Castellano was born on July 15, 1980 in Lakewood, New Jersey and lived in Jackson until he moved to Howell, New Jersey in 2004. He was a graduate of Jackson Memorial High School in 1998 and received a Jackson PBA scholarship that year. He received his associate’s degree from Ocean County College in 2000, a Bachelor of Science degree from Rutgers University in 2003 and a Master’s degree at Farleigh Dickinson University in 2010. Marc was a two-year starter at middle linebacker from 1996-1997 and a team captain during his senior year for the Jackson Memorial High School football team.
Trooper Castellano enlisted in the New Jersey State Police on September 24, 2004, as a member of the 136th Class and was assigned to the Troop “C” Tactical Patrol Unit #1 at the time of his death. His service with the New Jersey State Police was characterized by loyalty, fearless performance of his duty and faithful and honorable devotion to the principles of the New Jersey State Police.
Trooper Castellano died as a result of injuries received while in the performance of duty.
At approximately 10:00 am on Sunday, June 6, 2010, Trooper Castellano was walking along the shoulder of Interstate 195 West near the Exit 31 ramp in Howell Township. He was searching for an alleged armed occupant of an abandoned vehicle that was connected to an ongoing investigation when he was struck by a passing motorist. He was taken to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, New Jersey, where he died several hours later from his injuries.
Trooper Castallano served 5 years and 8 months with the New Jersey State Police.
He is survived by his parents, a brother, his wife and two children. Trooper Castellano was 29 years old.
New Jersey Statute 39:4-92.2
Procedure for motorist approaching certain stationary vehicle.
1. a. The operator of a motor vehicle approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle as defined in R.S.39:1-1 that is displaying a flashing, blinking or alternating red or blue light or, any configuration of lights containing one of these colors, shall approach the authorized emergency vehicle with due caution and shall, absent any other direction by a law enforcement officer, proceed as follows:
(1) Make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the authorized emergency vehicle if possible in the existing safety and traffic conditions; or
(2) If a lane change pursuant to paragraph (1) of subsection a. of this section would be impossible, prohibited by law or unsafe, reduce the speed of the motor vehicle to a reasonable and proper speed for the existing road and traffic conditions, which speed shall be less than the posted speed limit, and be prepared to stop.
b. The operator of a motor vehicle approaching a stationary tow truck as defined in section 1 of P.L.1999, c.396 (C.39:3-84.6) that is displaying a flashing amber light, a stationary highway maintenance or emergency service vehicle that is operated by the State, an authority or a county or municipality and displaying flashing yellow, amber, or red lights, or a stationary sanitation vehicle displaying a flashing amber warning light pursuant to section 1 of P.L.2011, c.3 (C.39:3-54.27) shall approach the vehicle with due caution and shall, absent any other direction by a law enforcement officer, proceed as follows:
(1) Make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the tow truck, highway maintenance or emergency service vehicle, or sanitation vehicle if possible in the existing safety and traffic conditions; or
(2) If a lane change under paragraph (1) of subsection b. of this section would be impossible, prohibited by law or unsafe, reduce the speed of the motor vehicle to a reasonable and proper speed for the existing road and traffic conditions, which speed shall be less than the posted speed limit, and be prepared to stop.
c. A violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of not less than $100 and not more than $500.
October 7, 2020 (updated at 2:30 to add additional press release about another Postal Service fraud below original story)
NEWARK, NJ — A U.S. Postal Service (USPS) mail carrier from Hudson County was arrested today for discarding mail, including 99 general election ballots sent from the County Board of Elections and intended to be delivered to West Orange residents, from his assigned routes in Orange and West Orange, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Nicholas Beauchene, 26, of Kearny, New Jersey, is charged by complaint with one count of delay, secretion, or detention of mail and one count of obstruction of mail. He is scheduled to appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor in Newark federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Approximately 1,875 pieces of mail – including 627 pieces of first class, 873 pieces of standard class, two pieces of certified mail, 99 general election ballots destined for residents in West Orange, and 276 campaign flyers from local candidates for West Orange Town Council and Board of Education – were recovered from dumpsters in North Arlington and West Orange on Oct. 2, 2020, and Oct. 5, 2020. The mail had been scheduled to be delivered on Sept. 28, Oct. 1, and Oct. 2, 2020, to addresses on certain postal routes in Orange and West Orange. On the delivery dates for which mail was recovered, Beauchene was the only mail carrier assigned to deliver mail to the addresses on the recovered mail.
The recovered mail was placed back into the mail stream for delivery to its intended recipients. Copies of the recovered mail were made and retained as evidence.
The delay of mail charge is punishable by a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The obstruction of mail charge is punishable by a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the USPS-Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Matthew Modafferi, Northeast Area Field Office, with the investigation leading to today’s arrest. He also thanked the North Arlington Police Department, under the direction of Scott Hedenberg, for their assistance.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara F. Merin of the Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.
The charge and allegations in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
In another case of Postal Worker Issues. 2nd press release of the day on the Postal Service:
BERGEN COUNTY POSTAL EMPLOYEE ARRESTED FOR BANK FRAUD AND MAIL THEFT
NEWARK, N.J. – A U.S. Postal Service (USPS) employee was arrested today for stealing mail and committing bank fraud, including stealing checks sent through the mail and fraudulently depositing those checks without authorization, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Juan Torres, 27, of Hackensack, New Jersey, is charged by complaint with one count of bank fraud and one count of mail theft. He is scheduled to appear/appeared this afternoon via videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From November 2019 to Jan. 11, 2020, certain checks addressed to third-party victims and mailed to addresses on postal routes in Hackensack, Leonia, and Maywood, New Jersey, were stolen on or about the same dates that Torres was delivering mail on those routes and subsequently were fraudulently deposited by Torres, in New Jersey and elsewhere, into a bank account that he controlled.
The bank fraud charge is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. The mail theft charge is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents with the U.S. Postal Service – Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Matthew Modafferi, Northeast Area Field Office, and postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge James Buthorn, with the investigation leading to today’s arrest. He also thanked special agents of IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael Montanez, and the Office of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Andrew McKay, for their assistance.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elaine K. Lou of the Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
WASHINGTON, DC — Today, the Department of Justice, through the Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement (JCODE) team joined Europol to announce the results of Operation DisrupTor, a coordinated international effort to disrupt opioid trafficking on the Darknet. The operation, which was conducted across the United States and Europe, demonstrates the continued partnership between JCODE and Europol against the illegal sale of drugs and other illicit goods and services. Operation DisrupTor builds on the success of last year’s Operation SaboTor and the coordinated law enforcement takedown of the Wall Street Market, one of the largest illegal online markets on the dark web.
Following the Wall Street Market takedown in May 2019, U.S. and international law enforcement agencies obtained intelligence to identify Darknet drug traffickers, resulting in a series of complementary, but separate, law enforcement investigations. Operation DisrupTor actions have resulted in the arrest of 179 Darknet drug traffickers and fraudulent criminals who engaged in tens of thousands of sales of illicit goods and services across the United States and Europe.
This operation resulted in the seizure of over $6.5 million in both cash and virtual currencies; approximately 500 kilograms of drugs worldwide; 274 kilograms of drugs, including fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, MDMA, and medicine containing addictive substances in the United States; and 63 firearms. Darknet vendor accounts were identified and attributed to real individuals selling illicit goods on Darknet market sites such as AlphaBay, Dream, WallStreet, Nightmare, Empire, White House, DeepSea, Dark Market and others. By leveraging complementary partnerships and surging resources across the U.S. government and Europol, Operation DisrupTor was used to significantly disrupt the online opioid trade and send a strong message that criminals operating on the Darknet are not beyond the reach of law enforcement.
Operation DisrupTor led to 121 arrests in the United States including two in Canada at the request of the United States, 42 in Germany, eight in the Netherlands, four in the United Kingdom, three in Austria, and one in Sweden. A number of investigations are still ongoing to identify the individuals behind dark web accounts.
“Criminals selling fentanyl on the Darknet should pay attention to Operation DisrupTor,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. “The arrest of 179 of them in seven countries—with the seizure of their drug supplies and their money as well—shows that there will be no safe haven for drug dealing in cyberspace.”
“With the spike in opioid-related overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize that today’s announcement is important and timely,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The FBI wants to assure the American public, and the world, that we are committed to identifying Darknet drug dealers and bringing them to justice. But our work does not end with today’s announcement. The FBI, through JCODE and our partnership with Europol, continues to be actively engaged in a combined effort to disrupt the borderless, worldwide trade of illicit drugs. The FBI will continue to use all investigative techniques and tools to identify and prosecute Darknet opioid dealers, wherever they may be located.”
“The 21st century has ushered in a tidal wave of technological advances that have changed the way we live,” said DEA Acting Administrator Timothy J. Shea. “But as technology has evolved, so too have the tactics of drug traffickers. Riding the wave of technological advances, criminals attempt to further hide their activities within the dark web through virtual private networks and tails, presenting new challenges to law enforcement in the enduring battle against illegal drugs. Operation DisrupTor demonstrates the ability of DEA and our partners to outpace these digital criminals in this ever-changing domain, by implementing innovative ways to identify traffickers attempting to operate anonymously and disrupt these criminal enterprises.”
“U.S. Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has played an integral role in Operation DisrupTor which has effectively removed opioids from our communities,” said ICE Acting Deputy Director Derek Benner. “It has been an honor to work alongside our domestic and international law enforcement partners and pursue bad actors hiding on the Darknet. Our trained cyber analysts and investigators have conducted undercover efforts that target dark website operators, vendors and prolific buyers of these dangerous drugs. HSI special agents employ unique investigative capabilities to trace and identify the proceeds stemming from the distribution and online sales of fentanyl and other illicit opioids. These efforts will continue to thwart a significant amount of criminal drug sale activity and deter criminals believing they can operate with anonymity on the Darknet.”
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has worked diligently for years to rid the mail of illicit drug trafficking and preserve the integrity of the mail,” said Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale. “Most importantly, these efforts provide a safe environment for postal employees and the American public. Today’s announcement serves as an outstanding example of the worldwide impact Postal Inspectors can make through our ever-growing partnerships with federal and international law enforcement agencies. On behalf of the U.S. Postal Service, we offer our sincere appreciation to all of our partners in this operation who helped protect the nation’s mail, and we pledge to never relent in our pursuit of criminals seeking to exploit the U.S. mail.”
“Law enforcement is most effective when working together, and today’s announcement sends a strong message to criminals selling or buying illicit goods on the dark web: the hidden internet is no longer hidden, and your anonymous activity is not anonymous,” said Edvardas Šileris, the Head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3). “Law enforcement is committed to tracking down criminals, no matter where they operate – be it on the streets or behind a computer screen.”
The extensive operation, which lasted nine months, resulted in over dozens of federal prosecutions including:
The Los Angeles JCODE Task Force, in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, successfully dismantled a drug trafficking organization that used online monikers such as “Stealthgod” to sell methamphetamine and MDMA on multiple Darknet marketplaces. Investigators have linked the crew to more than 18,000 illicit drug sales to customers in at least 35 states and numerous countries around the world. During law enforcement actions in Southern California earlier this year, members of JCODE arrested five defendants and seized approximately 120 pounds of methamphetamine, seven kilograms of MDMA and five firearms. Two of the five – Teresa McGrath, 34, of Sunland-Tujunga, and Mark Chavez, 41, of downtown Los Angeles – have since pleaded guilty to narcotics-trafficking and other offenses, and each faces a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence. As the investigation continued, the Los Angeles JCODE Task Force made additional seizures, including $1.6 million in cryptocurrency, 11 pounds of methamphetamine and 14 pounds of pills pressed with methamphetamine. Andres Bermudez, 37, of Palmdale, California, who allegedly was a main supplier of methamphetamine to the “Stealthgod” crew, was charged last week with a narcotics-trafficking offense that carry a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence. He is considered a fugitive.
Arden McCann, 32, of Quebec, Canada, was charged with conspiring to import drugs into the United States and money laundering conspiracy, in a four-count indictment returned by a grand jury in Atlanta, Georgia. According to court documents, the defendant is alleged to have imported alprazolam, fentanyl, U-47700, and fentanyl analogues such as carfentanil, furanyl fentanyl, 4-fluoroisobutyryl fentanyl, acryl fentanyl, and methoxyacetyl fentanyl into the United States from Canada and China. The superseding indictment alleges that fentanyl analogues the defendant imported into the United States resulted in a non-fatal overdose in April 2016, and fentanyl the defendant imported into the United States resulted in an overdose death in December 2016.
Khlari Sirotkin, 36, of Colorado; Kelly Stephens, 32, of Colorado; Sean Deaver, 36, of Nevada; Abby Jones, 37, of Nevada; and Sasha Sirotkin, 32, of California, were charged with drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracy, in a 21-count indictment returned by a grand jury in Cincinnati, Ohio. According to court documents, the defendants are alleged to be members of one of the most prolific online drug trafficking organizations in the United States and allegedly specialized in the manufacturing and distribution of more than one million fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills and laundered approximately $2.8 million over the course of the conspiracy. The pressed fentanyl pills, along with heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine, were shipped to the Southern District of Ohio and throughout the country. FBI, DEA, FDA, HSI and USPIS agents seized 2.5 kilograms of fentanyl; 5,095 pressed xanax; 50 suboxone; 16.5 grams of cocaine; 37 grams of crystal meth; 12 grams of black tar heroin; an industrial pill press; 5,908 pounds of dried marijuana with an estimated street value of $9 million; $80,191 in cash, 10 firearms and one pound of fentanyl.
The FBI Washington Field Office’s Hi-Tech Opioid Task Force, in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, successfully thwarted a firebomb attack plot involving explosives, firearms, the Darknet, prescription opioid trafficking, cryptocurrency, and sophisticated money laundering. William Anderson Burgamy, 33, of Hanover, Maryland, and Hyrum T. Wilson, 41, of Auburn, Nebraska, pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Virginia to charges related to a conspiracy to use explosives to firebomb and destroy a competitor pharmacy in Nebraska. Burgamy, who is not a pharmacist, operated as the Darknet vendor NeverPressedRX (NPRX) since at least August 2019. Wilson, who was a licensed pharmacist, illegally mailed to Burgamy over 19,000 dosage units of prescription medications, including opioids, from his pharmacy in Nebraska. Burgamy illegally sold prescription drugs through his Darknet vendor account to customers nationwide, and claimed at one point that he made nearly $1 million total. Burgamy and Wilson agreed that Burgamy and another individual would carry multiple firearms during the attack operation and use explosives, specifically Molotov cocktails enhanced with Styrofoam as a thickening agent, to burn the victim pharmacy down in furtherance of their drug trafficking scheme. Law enforcement agents seized thousands of opioid pills, eight unsecured firearms, including two loaded AR-15 assault rifles with high capacity magazines, and over $19,000 cash. Prior to Burgamy’s arrest in April 2020, which uncovered and thwarted the firebombing plot, Burgamy and Wilson fully intended on the attack occurring after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
Aaron Brewer, 39, of Corsicana, Texas, was charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance and distribution of a controlled substance in a two-count indictment returned by a grand jury in the Northern District of Texas. According to court documents, the defendant allegedly sold cocaine, heroin, and other drugs via the dark web. He allegedly accepted payment in cryptocurrency, primarily bitcoin, and then shipped the drugs to customers’ addresses through the U.S. mail and other shipping services. Following Mr. Brewer’s arrest on July 2, agents with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and FBI Dallas Field Office seized roughly 650 grams of black tar heroin, cocaine, and OxyContin, two computers, and more than $870 in postage stamps, as well as a ledger outlining 757 drug shipments sent to 609 unique addresses between December 2019 and March 2020.
An indictment and criminal complaint merely alleges that crimes have been committed. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Operation DisrupTor was a collaborative initiative across JCODE members, including the Department of Justice; Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS); U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP); Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN); Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF); Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and Department of Defense (DOD). Local, state and other federal agencies also contributed to Operation DisrupTor investigations. The investigations leading to Operation DisrupTor were significantly aided by essential support and coordination by the Department of Justice’s multi-agency Special Operations Division, the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section, and Organized Crime and Gang Section, the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the National Cyber Joint Investigative Task Force (NCJITF), Europol and its Dark Web team and international partners Eurojust, Austrian Federal Investigation Bureau (Bundeskriminalamt), Cyprus Police (Αστυνομία Κύπρου), German Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt), Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Portuguese Judicial Police (Polícia Judiciária), Dutch Police (Politie), Swedish Police (Polisen), the British National Crime Agency, Australia’s Western Australia Police Force and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.
Federal prosecutions are being conducted in more than 20 Federal districts, including: the Central District of California, the Eastern District of California, the Northern District of California, the Southern District of California, the District of Colorado, the District of Columbia, the District of Connecticut, the Middle District of Florida, the Southern District of Florida, the Northern District of Georgia, the District of Hawaii, the Western District of Missouri, the District of New Jersey, the Western District of North Carolina, the Northern District of Ohio, the Southern District of Ohio, District of Oregon, the Western District of Pennsylvania, the Northern District of Texas, the Eastern District of Virginia, the District of the Virgin Islands and the Western District of Washington.
JCODE is an FBI-led Department of Justice initiative, which works closely with the DEA-led, multi-agency, Special Operations Division to support, coordinate and de-conflict investigations targeting for disruption and dismantlement of the online sale of illegal drugs, especially fentanyl and other opioids. Additionally, JCODE targets the trafficking of weapons and other illicit goods and services on the internet. Operation DisrupTor illustrates the investigative power of federal and international partnerships to combat the borderless nature of online criminal activity.
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen Delivers Remarks at Announcement of Results of Operation Disruptor
Good morning. I am pleased to be joined today by FBI Director Christopher Wray, DEA Acting Administrator Timothy Shea, ICE Acting Deputy Director Derek Benner, and Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale.
This morning, the Department is joining its partners in the United States and Europe to announce the results of Operation DisrupTor. Operation DisrupTor is the United States Government’s largest operation to date targeting criminal activity on the Darknet, particularly opioid trafficking. Over the past months, the United States and its partners across the globe have worked together to deal a powerful blow to this criminal underworld.
The trafficking of opioids is a national crisis of daunting proportions, which poses a major danger to the American people. It is devastating our communities and our families. According to the CDC, over 67,000 people in the United States died of a drug overdose in 2018. That’s over 1,000 people dead each week – 1,000 lost parents, children, friends, and family members. That is more deaths than occur from car accidents. For Americans under the age of 50, drug overdoses are now among the leading causes of death.
For an increasing number of young addicts, opioids are purchased not from local dealers, but from pushers operating online. Hiding behind anonymizing software known as Tor, a new sort of drug kingpin now is able to reach more buyers than ever before, through online marketplaces peddling every sort of illicit good and service imaginable. These “Darknet marketplaces” have grown in popularity at an alarming rate and allow drug traffickers to openly advertise and take orders from anywhere in the world. The Darknet invites criminals into our homes, and provides unlimited access to illegal commerce.
Operation DisrupTor is the Department’s latest effort to combat the scourge of opioid trafficking on the Darknet. Activities here resulted in almost 120 arrests and the seizure of over 270 kilograms of drugs, including 17 kilograms of lethal fentanyl and 96 kilograms of methamphetamine. Additionally, U.S. law enforcement worked in conjunction with counterparts in Europe and Canada on this investigation, which resulted in more than 50 additional arrests.
Operation DisrupTor was coordinated by the Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement team, also known as JCODE. Cases were worked in more than 20 different U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country. The operation was supported by numerous components at Main Justice, including the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section, and the Department’s Office of International Affairs. Among the cases:
Law enforcement in the Southern District of Ohio shut down one of the most prolific online drug trafficking organizations in the United States, which operated using the moniker “Pill Cosby.” Members of the group were charged with manufacturing and distributing over one million fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills.
Here in the District of Columbia, a grand jury charged a Costa Rican pharmacist who knowingly supplied large amounts of drugs to a dark web trafficker, sending a strong message that unscrupulous doctors and pharmacists who fuel the opioid epidemic will be held accountable – even if they operate overseas.
The Eastern District of Virginia prosecuted the narcotics vendor “NeverPressedRX,” who was so intent on securing his online criminal enterprise that he conspired to use explosives to firebomb and destroy a competitor pharmacy.
Law enforcement in the Central District of California, successfully dismantled a drug trafficking organization that used online monikers such as “Stealthgod” to sell methamphetamine and MDMA on multiple Darknet marketplaces. Investigators have linked the crew to more than 18,000 illicit sales to customers in at least 35 states and in numerous countries around the world.
In the Northern District of Georgia, an investigation into the murder of an elderly couple found brutally murdered in their home led investigators to a man who used the Darknet to purchase sensitive information stolen from numerous elderly victims, including the murdered couple.
A number of additional investigations are still ongoing.
There will be no safe haven for drug dealing in cyberspace.
Today’s announcement is very much a success story in international law enforcement cooperation, as crime on the Darknet is truly a global problem that requires global partnership. However, the global nature of the threat also means that foreign countries who fail to act can easily become safe harbors for criminals who seek to pump lethal, addictive drugs into the United States from abroad. The Department cannot and will not allow criminals to operate with impunity.
This Operation marks a significant milestone in the fight against crime on the Darknet. But there is more to do, and more to come. Keeping the American people safe is the Department’s highest priority. The Department will not relent in our efforts to combat this evil plaguing our society, and we will bring to justice those who seek to profit from the destruction of human lives.
US Supreme Court Press Office and NJ Governor’s Office:
Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died this evening surrounded by her family at her home in Washington, D.C., due to complications of metastatic pancreas cancer. She was 87 years old. Justice Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Clinton in 1993. She was the second woman appointed to the Court and served more than 27 years. She is survived by her two children: Jane Carol Ginsburg (George Spera) and James Steven Ginsburg (Patrice Michaels), four grandchildren: Paul Spera (Francesca Toich), Clara Spera (Rory Boyd), Miranda Ginsburg, Abigail Ginsburg, two step-grandchildren: Harjinder Bedi, Satinder Bedi, and one great-grandchild: Lucrezia Spera. Her husband, Martin David Ginsburg, died in 2010.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. said of Justice Ginsburg: “Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature. We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her — a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”
Justice Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, New York, March 15, 1933. She married Martin D. Ginsburg in 1954. She received her B.A. from Cornell University, attended Harvard Law School, and received her LL.B. from Columbia Law School. She served as a law clerk to the Honorable Edmund L. Palmieri, Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, from 1959–1961. From 1961–1963, she was a research associate and then associate director of the Columbia Law School Project on International Procedure. She was a Professor of Law at Rutgers University School of Law from 1963–1972, and Columbia Law School from 1972–1980, and a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, California from 1977–1978. In 1971, she was instrumental in launching the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, and served as the ACLU’s General Counsel from 1973–1980, and on the National Board of Directors from 1974–1980. She was appointed a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1980. During her more than 40 years as a Judge and a Justice, she was served by 159 law clerks.
While on the Court, the Justice authored My Own Words (2016), a compilation of her speeches and writings.
A private interment service will be held at Arlington National Cemetery.
Statement from Governor Murphy on the Death of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
“Justice Ginsburg was a woman whose career became an inspiration to countless young women and girls across our nation, and around the globe.
“Justice Ginsburg dedicated her life and career not only to the premise of equal justice and equity under the law, but also to the most basic premise that, regardless of gender, or race, or religion, or orientation, or identity, or nationality and ethnic heritage, we all must commit to fight for the things that we care about.
“Before she became a national figure, she was a pioneering professor at Rutgers-Newark School of Law, and her time there would correspond with an influx of women into the law school, where, no doubt, she would greatly influence them and their careers. She was a tireless advocate at the ACLU, fighting for gender equality at the Women’s Rights Project.
“In her final years at Rutgers, she served as the advisor to the Women’s Rights Law Review – and, in the words of a former editor, ‘She went where other people wouldn’t go. She took a leap. Once she came on board, everything fell into place. We felt empowered.’
“For nearly three decades, we have been treated to Justice Ginsburg’s singular expertise. We have been made a better nation, and a better people, through her reasoned approach and sharp-minded opinions.
“Justice Ginsburg summed up her life’s principles the following way: ‘Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.’ For those who study the law, even her dissents have moved the law in the right direction.
“My sincere hope is that her life and work continue to draw good people, with true and honest intentions to move us forward, to careers in the law and the pursuit of justice.
“Last year, I had the distinct honor of presenting Justice Ginsburg with The Golden Pea on behalf of MARCHENLAND Berlin. Tammy and I, and our daughter, Emma, will never forget the time she spent with us. She was an American icon.”
Statement from Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal on the Death of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
“We mourn the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a trailblazing jurist and crusader for women’s rights and equal protection for all under the Constitution, whose jurisprudence will impact as well as inform our democracy for generations to come.
Justice Ginsburg’s unflagging pursuit of justice, her incisive opinions and dissents, and her principled progressivism have inspired, and will continue to inspire, all of us who cherish our society as a nation based on the rule of law.
While we can never repay what she has gifted us, we can honor her legacy by continuing her tireless fight for a more inclusive world. Our nation has come so far in equality and in justice, and we owe so much of this progress to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Rest In Peace, RBG.”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice, was born in Brooklyn, New York, March 15, 1933. She married Martin D. Ginsburg in 1954, and has a daughter, Jane, and a son, James. She received her B.A. from Cornell University, attended Harvard Law School, and received her LL.B. from Columbia Law School. She served as a law clerk to the Honorable Edmund L. Palmieri, Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, from 1959–1961. From 1961–1963, she was a research associate and then associate director of the Columbia Law School Project on International Procedure. She was a Professor of Law at Rutgers University School of Law from 1963–1972, and Columbia Law School from 1972–1980, and a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, California from 1977–1978. In 1971, she was instrumental in launching the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, and served as the ACLU’s General Counsel from 1973–1980, and on the National Board of Directors from 1974–1980. She was appointed a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1980. President Clinton nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and she took her seat August 10, 1993.
CAPE MAY, NJ (CAPE MAY)–Governor Phil Murphy today signed legislation (A3201), which designates the Howell House on Lafayette Street in Cape May, New Jersey as the official New Jersey Harriet Tubman Museum. The Governor participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony today for the museum. The Howell House is owned by the Macedonia Baptist Church. In 2018, the church gave Robert, Zach, and Cynthia Mullock permission to renovate the house into a museum honoring Harriet Tubman. Harriet Tubman has a special connection to Cape May, having spent a significant amount of time during the 1850s in the area, gathering funds to support her work through the Underground Railroad. The museum will inform current and future generations of the great sacrifices and efforts that Tubman made on her mission to save enslaved African-Americans and bring them to the free North. The museum opened virtually on June 19, 2020, a date recognized as “Juneteenth” and recently designated an official State holiday in New Jersey.
“It gives me great pride in announcing that the Howell House in Cape May is now the official Harriet Tubman Museum of New Jersey,” said Governor Murphy. “Harriett Tubman’s extraordinary efforts helped establish and run the Underground Railroad, and her fearless actions during her lifetime led to the freedom of many. I am proud of the role that New Jersey and Cape May were able to play in her mission to free Black men, women, and children from slavery. This is just one small step in acknowledging the plight and struggle of the Black community, and we will continue to recognize and fight against all forms of racism.”
“Harriet Tubman was arguably the most well-known activist and abolitionist in US history. Her intellect, determination and iron will saved the lives of many enslaved Americans. She is our North Star. When we fight for equality, we think of her name,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, who serves as Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs. “This museum, which is dedicated to her legacy, will now officially ensure that her name will forever be revered and honored in New Jersey history.”
“Our work here in Cape May for the last two years has been dedicated to preserving and creating a space worthy of magnifying Harriet Tubman’s life, and the life of so many luminaries who worked with her or followed in her footsteps in the struggle for racial and social justice.” said Cynthia Mullock, Executive Director of the Harriet Tubman Museum. “Among our many supporters was the Murphy administration. In particular, we want to thank Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver, Secretary of State Tahesha Way, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the New Jersey State Historical Commission, and the grant programs through the Cape May County Department of Tourism, as well as the State’s neighborhood preservation program.
Primary sponsors of A3201 include Assemblymembers Carol A. Murphy, Gordon M. Johnson, and Antwan L. McClellan, and Senators Ronald L. Rice, Michael L. Testa, and Shirley K. Turner.
“Harriet Tubman was a hero who not only freed herself, but returned to the South over a dozen times to lead at least 70 other slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad. Despite personal health problems and the threat of enslavement or death if caught, she courageously risked her own life in order to rescue others from slavery,” said Assemblywoman Carol Murphy and Assemblyman Gordon Johnson in a joint statement. “It is a source of pride for our state that such an inspirational figure spent time in Cape May, earning money to support her Underground Railroad operations. Cape May is further connected to these historical efforts with countless escaped slaves having passed through the town on their way to freedom and the area having served as a center of abolitionist activity. This museum will honor her legacy and recognize our state’s connection to an important movement, while simultaneously preserving this historic building. It’s only fitting that we recognize Howell House as the official New Jersey Harriet Tubman Museum.”
“I am excited and proud that Harriet Tubman is being honored and that there is a dedicated place here in New Jersey where people can go to learn more about this extraordinary woman who truly is an American hero”, said Assemblyman Antwan McClellan. “The more we learn about the Underground Railroad and the dangers faced, the more we understand the heroic, brave actions of the men and women who worked to abolish slavery.”
“Harriet Tubman was fiercely committed to equality for all people, black or white, male or female,” said Senator Michael Testa. “Through her tireless persistence, this determined woman helped bring about two historic society advancements that changed American society forever – she personally helped lead dozens of southern slaves to freedom in the north, and she was instrumental in the women’s suffrage movement.”
“Harriet Tubman was an abolitionist, a hero and a conductor of the Underground Railroad that ran through New Jersey. I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this recognition. Ever since they began renovating the Howell House, there has been mounting excitement around the new museum, even being highlighted as one of the most anticipated museum openings of 2020 by the Smithsonian Magazine,” said Senator Shirley Turner. “On the date of their opening, the formal designation is a small token of our gratitude for the work their team has done to memorialize Harriet’s time in New Jersey, and educate us on its significance.”
Keith Ritson, 40, of Bayville, New Jersey, and Frank Alario, M.D., 63, of Delray Beach, Florida, are charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, as well as individual acts of health care fraud and wire fraud. Both men are charged with a second conspiracy to wrongfully obtain and disclose patients’ individually identifiable health information. Alario is additionally charged with making false statements in a health care matter, and Ritson faces additional charges of conspiring to commit money laundering and substantive counts of money laundering.
September 10, 2020
CAMDEN, NJ –A federal grand jury has returned a 16-count indictment charging a physician and pharmaceutical sales representative with defrauding New Jersey state health benefits programs and other insurers out of more than $2.5 million by submitting fraudulent claims for medically unnecessary prescriptions, as well as unlawfully obtaining and disclosing individually identifiable patient health information protected by HIPAA, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Keith Ritson, 40, of Bayville, New Jersey, and Frank Alario, M.D., 63, of Delray Beach, Florida, are charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, as well as individual acts of health care fraud and wire fraud. Both men are charged with a second conspiracy to wrongfully obtain and disclose patients’ individually identifiable health information. Alario is additionally charged with making false statements in a health care matter, and Ritson faces additional charges of conspiring to commit money laundering and substantive counts of money laundering.
The cases are assigned to U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler in Camden. The indicted defendants are expected to make their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ann Marie Donio in Camden federal court via videoconference on Sept. 10, 2020.
According to the indictment:
Compounded medications are specialty medications mixed by a pharmacist to meet the specific medical needs of an individual patient. Although compounded drugs are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they are properly prescribed when a physician determines that an FDA-approved medication does not meet the health needs of a particular patient, such as if a patient is allergic to a dye or other ingredient.
The conspirators recruited individuals to obtain very expensive and medically unnecessary compounded medications from a Louisiana pharmacy, Central Rexall Drugs Inc. (Central Rexall). The conspirators learned that certain compound medication prescriptions – including pain, scar, antifungal, and libido creams, and vitamin combinations – would be reimbursed by insurance providers in amounts in the thousands of dollars for a one-month supply.
The conspirators also learned that some New Jersey state and local government and education employees, including teachers, police officers, and state troopers, had insurance coverage for these particular compound medications. An entity referred to in the indictment as the “Pharmacy Benefits Administrator” provided pharmacy benefit management services for the State Health Benefits Program, which covers qualified state and local government employees, retirees, and eligible dependents, the School Employees’ Health Benefits Program, which covers qualified local education employees, retirees, and eligible dependents, and other insurance plans. The Pharmacy Benefits Administrator would pay prescription drug claims and then bill the State of New Jersey or the other insurance plans for the amounts paid.
In the first charged conspiracy, Ritson recruited individuals with prescription drug benefits administered by the Pharmacy Benefits Administrator to receive unnecessary compound medication prescriptions, which Alario signed without examining, speaking with, or establishing a physician-patient relationship with the patient. Alario sent a form to Central Rexall’s compliance program in which he falsely attested that he saw and spoke with patients in person and established a physician-patient relationship prior to prescribing Central Rexall medications. Ritson and Alario earmarked established patients of Alario’s medical practices who had insurance that covered the expensive compound medications. Alario prescribed the medications not for the patient’s need or request, but for the benefits he and Ritson stood to gain. The scheme caused the Pharmacy Benefits Administrator to pay over $2.5 million for the fraudulent prescriptions. For his role in the scheme, Ritson received a percentage of the amount that Central Rexall received from the Pharmacy Benefits Administrator for the medications, and Alario benefitted by receiving free meals, entertainment, travel, and other remuneration from Ritson.
The indictment also charges Ritson and Alario with a separate scheme to wrongfully obtain and disclose individually identifiable patient health information for their own personal gain and commercial advantage. As a sales representative not affiliated with Alario’s medical practices, Ritson should not have had access to patients’ confidential information. However, since only certain insurances covered the compound medications promoted by Ritson, the defendants accessed patient files and other identifying information to ascertain patients’ insurance coverage. On at least one occasion, Ritson and Alario jointly accessed patient information on an office computer for the purpose of determining insurance coverage for the medications. Ritson also had access to parts of Alario’s office where patient information was stored or could be heard and observed, including employee-restricted areas with medical files, fax machines, and computers. Ritson was also frequently present in exam rooms during patient appointments with Alario for the purpose of promoting the compound medications, at which time Alario commonly introduced Ritson to his patients as his “nephew” or gave the impression that Ritson was affiliated with the medical practice. By being present during the patient exams, Ritson had access to patients’ medical files and protected health information.
The health care fraud and wire fraud conspiracy count carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison; each wire fraud count carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison; each health care fraud count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison; the false statement count and the conspiracy to wrongfully obtain or disclose individually identifiable patient health information count each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison; and the money laundering charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. All of the offenses are also each punishable by a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greater.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited agents of the FBI’s Atlantic City Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark; IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael Montanez in Newark; and the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, New York Region, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael C. Mikulka, with the investigation leading to the indictment. He also thanked the Division of Pensions and Financial Transactions in the State Attorney General’s Office, under the direction of Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and Division Chief Aimee Nason, for its assistance in the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christina O. Hud and R. David Walk Jr. of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Camden.
The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Defense counsel: Alario: Kevin Marino Esq., Chatham Township, New Jersey Ritson: Eric Kanefsky Esq., Newark
A Camden County, New Jersey, man was charged today for detonating an explosive device at a local business and unlawfully possessing unregistered destructive devices and a short-barreled rifle, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Dwayne A. Vandergrift Jr., 35, of Gloucester City, New Jersey, is charged by complaint with malicious use of explosives, unlawful possession of two destructive devices, and unlawful possession of a short-barreled rifle. Vandergrift will make his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen M. Williams at a later date.
According to the complaint:
During the early morning hours of Aug. 26, 2020, Vandergrift placed an explosive device on the front door of a local gym near his home in Gloucester City. Security camera footage recorded Vandergrift fleeing the area moments before the device exploded, badly damaging the front door and shattering its glass. On Aug. 28, 2020, federal and local law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Vandergrift’s home and found substantial quantities of bomb making materials, numerous weapons, including an unregistered short barreled rifle, several tactical vests outfitted with body armor and loaded 30-round ammunition magazines, and a marijuana grow operation containing approximately 85 marijuana plants. Upon examining Vandergrift’s personal computer devices, investigators discovered that he had recently researched how to construct and utilize various explosive devices, including pipe and pressure cooker bombs. Vandergrift was arrested by local authorities on Aug. 28, 2020, and charged by the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office. He is presently in custody on those charges.
The malicious use of explosive charge carries a maximum prison term of 20 years and a maximum fine of $250,000. The charges for possession of the unregistered destructive devices and short-barreled rifle carry maximum prison terms of 10 years each and maximum fines of $250,000.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents and task force officers of the FBI’s South Jersey Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Driscoll and the FBI’s Philadelphia Joint Terrorism Task Force, with the investigation leading to today’s arrest. He also thanked officers of the Gloucester City Police Department, under the direction of Police Chief Brian Morrell; the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Jill S. Mayer; the Camden County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff Gilbert L. Wilson; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Newark Field Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Charlie J. Patterson; the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, under the direction of Director Jared Maples; Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jason Molina; and the New Jersey State Police, under the direction of Col. Patrick J. Callahan.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gabriel J. Vidoni of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division in Camden.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
William J. Owens was shot by police after firing a handgun at one of two women he took hostage at the facility on Jan. 14, 2019
After analyzing all of the facts and circumstances, Director Eicher concluded that the use of force by each of the seven officers was justified under the law. The facts and circumstances reasonably led them to believe their actions were immediately necessary to protect the hostage and others from death or serious bodily harm.
September 2, 2020
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–In compliance with the Attorney General’s Independent Prosecutor Directive on Police-Use-of-Force Investigations, this public statement is being issued on the findings of an investigation into the fatal police-involved shooting that occurred on Jan. 14, 2019 at a United Parcel Service (“UPS”) facility in Logan Township, N.J. Among other findings, the investigation determined that the civilian who was killed, William J. Owens, was shot by officers after firing a handgun at one of two female employees he took hostage.
Under the Attorney General’s Independent Prosecutor Directive, the use of deadly force by multiple law enforcement officers was investigated by the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA). As a result of the investigation, OPIA Director Thomas J. Eicher determined that presentation of the officer-involved shooting to a grand jury was not required under the directive because the undisputed facts indicate the use of force was justified under the law and the incident occurred before the effective date of the law that requires all police shootings that result in death to be presented to the grand jury. The investigation included numerous witness interviews, reviewing the available video footage of events leading to the shooting, but which did not include the shooting itself, forensic analysis of the scene, and other evidence.
William J. Owens, 39, of Sicklerville, N.J., was shot by seven members of the Gloucester County SWAT Team outside the UPS Mail Innovations facility on Birch Creek Road in Logan Township, Gloucester County. Law enforcement officers, including members of the SWAT Team, had responded to the facility on reports that a gunman had taken two women hostage.
The events leading up to the shooting began at approximately 8:30 a.m., when Owens, a former employee at the UPS facility, went to locate a female employee with whom he previously had a relationship (“Hostage 1”). Owens approached Hostage 1 outside the UPS facility and followed her into the building, armed with a silver 9mm handgun. Once inside, he grabbed Hostage 1, fired the gun into the air, and announced that he was taking her hostage. Owens then pistol-whipped a male security guard while continuing to hold onto Hostage 1. He said he was going to kill Hostage 1, and he threatened to “kill everyone in this building.”
Owens continued to hold Hostage 1 at gunpoint. A short time later, Owens took a second female employee (“Hostage 2”) hostage at gunpoint. Owens pointed his gun at various other people, saying he would kill everybody there and didn’t care. Owens fired at least two additional shots while inside the building, causing employees to flee in terror.
Police were called, arrived, and created a secure perimeter. While police tried to negotiate with him by phone, Owens walked the two hostages around inside the building, subjecting them to continuous abuse and torment. Owens brutally kicked and pistol-whipped Hostage 1 numerous times and terrorized both hostages throughout the lengthy standoff. He pointed his gun at the heads of both hostages repeatedly. He also struck Hostage 2. He continued to make threats, vowing to kill the hostages, police officers, and others.
Police entered the vast facility in an attempt to end the standoff, but were unsuccessful. When Owens realized police were entering the building, he again threatened the lives of the two hostages as well as police officers. He stated that the police would have to kill him. Police negotiated with Owens for several hours in an unsuccessful attempt to get him to release the hostages, put down his gun, and surrender peacefully. The standoff lasted from approximately 8:30 a.m. until approximately 11:55 a.m., when the hostages were able to escape from Owens.
Hostage 1 – who was bleeding from the savage beatings she endured – ran out of the UPS facility through an employee entrance that opened onto a parking area. She was closely followed by Owens, who had his gun pointed in her direction. Owens fired his weapon at her as she ran away toward police officers. The seven SWAT team officers saw Owens chasing the woman, gun extended. After Owens fired, all seven officers discharged their weapons, firing numerous rounds at Owens and fatally wounding him. Emergency medical personnel were already on the scene, but no medical treatment was provided because it was clear that Owens was deceased and life-saving measures would not be effective. No other person was shot during the incident.
Of the seven shooting officers, five were armed with .223 rifles and two, with 9mm sub-machine guns. Owens’ autopsy revealed 29 wounds. The gun used by Owens was found next to his body and was matched to the following casings and projectiles: one spent shell casing found in the car he drove; three spent shell casings found inside the UPS facility; one spent shell casing found inside the gun that lay next to him; and one projectile found inside the UPS facility. No camera captured the shooting by police. However, limited video footage of Owens moving about the interior of the UPS facility was captured by security cameras.
This matter was reviewed by Director Eicher in accordance with the AG’s Independent Prosecutor Directive on Police Use-of-Force Investigations. After analyzing all of the facts and circumstances, Director Eicher concluded that the use of force by each of the seven officers was justified under the law. The facts and circumstances reasonably led them to believe their actions were immediately necessary to protect the hostage and others from death or serious bodily harm. 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.
The names of the seven law enforcement officers who fired at Owens are not being released because threats were made against the officers involved under circumstances that indicate releasing their identities could jeopardize their safety.
A law enacted in January 2019 requires that the Attorney General’s Office 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. This deadly force investigation preceded enactment of that law. It was therefore conducted in accordance with the Independent Prosecutor Directive, issued in 2006 and strengthened in 2015, which establishes strict procedures for conducting such investigations. The directive provides that unless the undisputed facts indicate the use of force was justified under the law, the circumstances of the incident must be presented to a grand jury, composed of 23 civilians, for its independent review.
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Furthering its efforts to protect the public from sexual misconduct and abuse in professional settings, the Division of Consumer Affairs (“the Division”) today announced that the New Jersey Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy (“the Board”) has permanently revoked the license of a massage therapist who engaged in inappropriate and unwanted sexual contact with a female client during a massage session at a Hand and Stone spa in Somers Point.
John R. Popper, 48, of Little Egg Harbor is permanently barred from working as a massage therapist in New Jersey under a Final Order filed by the Board this week. Popper is the third massage therapist this year — and the ninth in the last 12 months — to have his license revoked by the Board as a result of sexual misconduct in the workplace.
Concerns about unwanted sexual contact in professional settings have prompted the Division, under the direction of Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, to undertake a sweeping review of how its 51 professional boards address allegations involving sexual misconduct and abuse by its licensees and applicants to ensure that boards uniformly adopt best practices and enforce their rules. The boards oversee approximately 720,000 active licensed professionals, from accountants and doctors to plumbers, veterinarians, and massage therapists.
The review, which is currently underway, is evaluating how boards screen applicants for licenses, approach investigations of alleged misconduct and discipline and engage with complainants who report abuses by a licensee or applicant. “No client or patient should ever have to fear for their personal safety while interacting with a licensed professional in this state,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We are committed to ensuring that all our professional boards hold licensees to the same strict standards, and act swiftly to address allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse involving licensees. By revoking the licenses of massage therapists who prey on their clients, the Board is carrying out its duty to protect the public.”
“When you see a massage therapist you put your trust in their hands,” said Paul R. Rodríguez, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “Therapists who violate that trust can cause real and long-lasting damage to their victims and are a danger to our community. We are pleased that the Board, through its actions, is sending a message that this kind of conduct will not be tolerated.”
Popper is the latest massage therapist disciplined for inappropriately touching a client. On July 31, 2020, the Board voted unanimously to permanently revoke Popper’s license, effective immediately, after Popper was criminally convicted of harassment by offensive touching in Somers Point Municipal Court for placing his hand on a client’s vagina during a massage. Popper was originally charged with criminal sexual contact but the charge was downgraded to harassment, a disorderly persons offense, and remanded to municipal court. The Board accepted the State’s argument that Popper’s license should be revoked on the grounds that, among other things, he engaged in professional misconduct and committed a crime of moral turpitude.
In a Final Order filed on Aug. 25, 2020, the Board concluded that Popper’s conduct was “so egregious and morally reprehensible, and so fundamentally at odds with anything that we would expect of a massage therapist that nothing short of permanent revocation would be sufficient to protect the public health, safety and welfare.”
Since July 2019, the Board has revoked the licenses of eight other massage therapists for sexual misconduct.
Asad Aliyev – License permanently revoked on July 25, 2020, for allegedly touching a female client inappropriately during a massage therapy session at a Hand and Stone spa in Allendale.
Aaron Coile – License revoked on January 28, 2020, for allegedly inappropriately touching a female client during a massage therapy session at the Sage Body and Mind spa in Voorhees.
Premkumar Perumal – License permanently revoked on October 22, 2019, for allegedly touching a female client inappropriately during a massage therapy session at a Hand and Stone Massage & Facial Spa in Clark. Perumal also allegedly inappropriately touched another female client while working at a Massage Envy in Hoboken.
Magdy Masek – License permanently revoked on October 22, 2019, for allegedly inappropriately touching a female client during a massage therapy session at a Massage Envy in Piscataway.
Frank Giordano – License permanently revoked on September 24, 2019, for allegedly touching two female clients inappropriately during massage therapy sessions at Alternative Bodyworks in Nutley.
Michael Egan – License permanently revoked on September 19, 2019, for allegedly inappropriately touching a female client during a massage therapy session at a Massage Envy in Closter.
Leonardo Drittij – License permanently revoked on September 18, 2019, for allegedly touching a female client inappropriately, engaging in a conversation of an intimate sexual nature with her, and failing to drape her properly during a massage therapy session at a Massage Envy.
Jonathan Higgins – License permanently revoked on July 16, 2019, for allegedly inappropriately touching a female client during a massage therapy session at a Hand and Stone Massage & Facial Spa in Brick. Higgins has been charged with sexual assault in connection with that alleged incident.
In addition to taking disciplinary action against licensees for alleged sexual contact with clients, the Board has adopted new rules to help prevent and detect sexual misconduct and abuse in the industry. Those rules, among other things:
Require massage therapists to notify the Board of criminal, civil, administrative, and employment actions against them. Every licensee is required to notify the Board within 10 days of action against the licensee by criminal authorities, including an arrest, indictment, or conviction; within 10 days of the licensee being named in a civil, criminal, or administrative proceeding involving misconduct relating to his or her practice; within 10 days of disciplinary action by any state licensing authority; and within 10 days of action against the licensee by an employer based on client care concerns.
Require massage therapists to report misconduct by others. Every licensee is required to report any incident or series of incidents that the licensee believes may violate the applicable statutes and rules, including violations by other massage therapists of the rules relating to sexual misconduct. Additional reporting requirements apply if a licensee possesses information indicating that another licensee or healthcare professional presents an imminent danger to the public or any individual.
Protect minors from abuse. For clients under the age of 18, licensees need to obtain written consent of the client’s parent or legal guardian before providing massage or bodywork services. For clients under the age of 16, the client’s parent or legal guardian would need to be in the room while the services are provided.
Investigators with the Enforcement Bureau within the Division of Consumer Affairs conducted investigations in these cases. Deputy Attorney General Daniel Hewitt, of the Professional Boards Prosecution Section within the Division of Law, represented the State in the Popper matter. Deputy Attorney General Roman Guzik, of the Consumer Affairs Counseling Section within the Division of Law, represented the State in the other matters. Clients who believe that they have been treated by a licensed massage therapist in an inappropriate manner can file a complaint online by visiting the State Division of Consumer Affairs website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200 to receive a paper complaint form by mail. * * *The mission of the Division of Consumer Affairs, within the Department of Law and Public Safety, is to protect the public from fraud, deceit, misrepresentation and professional misconduct in the sale of goods and services in New Jersey through education, advocacy, regulation and enforcement. The Division pursues its mission through its 51 professional and occupational boards that oversee 720,000 licensees in the state, its Regulated Business section that oversees 60,000 NJ registered businesses, as well as its Office of Consumer Protection, Bureau of Securities, Charities Registration section, Office of Weights and Measures, and Legalized Games of Chance section.
Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India “The unfortunate demise of Pandit Jasraj Ji leaves a deep void in the Indian cultural sphere. Not only were his renditions outstanding, he also made a mark as an exceptional mentor to several other vocalists. Condolences to his family and admirers worldwide. Om Shanti.”
Indian Classical Music today, is one of the greatest gifts of India to the world.
And a blessed few, much beyond their fame and fortune, have devoted their lives to bolster this claim far and wide.
While renowned instrumentalists have done it through their chosen instruments, like the Sitar and the Sarod, Pandit Jasraj has done it through that one God-gifted instrument: His Voice.
Pandit Jasraj’s achievements are beyond compare more so because vocal music is the most intimate and direct medium according to India’s musical treatise and tradition. And almost beyond belief is also the fact that he has carved out his monumental global following without depriving his many million domestic admirers. He has been passionately loyal to his soil, while his music has scaled ethereal heights all over the planet. He has single-handedly paved the way for Indian vocal classical music to resonate across the world.
Humble Beginnings Born in a family of outstanding musicians over four generations, Pandit Jasraj was initiated into music by his revered father, Pandit Motiram, until the age of three, when his father passed away. Thereafter he underwent intensive tutelage under his elder brother and Guru, Pandit Maniram. Later, along his turbulent path of hard-earned maturity, he was guided by his spiritual Guru Maharaja Jaiwant Singh.
Unique Musical Attributes Blessed with a soulful and sonorous voice, which traverses masterfully over all four and a half octaves, Jasraj’s vocalizing is characterized by a harmonious blend of the classic and opulent elements projecting traditional music as an intense spiritual expression, at once chaste and yet densely coloured. This gives his music a unique and sublime emotional quality, reaching out to the very soul of the listener. Perfect diction, clarity in sur (musical notes), and gayaki (creative musical progression), command in all aspects of laya and rhythm, depth of composition and an unmistakable interplay between notes and words to evoke the desired mood and emotion, are the hallmark of Panditji’s music. This sensitivity, added to the pure classical approach, has given his singing a lyrical quality, the quintessential of the Mewati tradition of singing.
Pandit Jasraj the Guru….Mentor As a mentor and guru, Pandit Jasraj has already presented to the world an impressive number of illustrious disciples whom he has nurtured and trained in accordance with India’s rich tradition of the Guru-Shisya Parampara, the ideal teacher-student relationship. Today, his frontrunner disciples too are zealously carrying the flag of Indian music to every corner of the world.
NEW YORK, NY–After major public outcry that the “Tribute in Light” over Lower Manhattan on September 11 was canceled the 9/11 Memorial & Museum had decided to move forward with the event see notice below:
With gratitude to our Chairman Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo we will be moving forward with Tribute in Light.
As noted in the original post the SBA Sergeants Benevolent Association will be organizing the “Tribute In Light” this year: (bumped to the top so you can find it easier)
MIDDLETOWN, NJ (MONMOUTH)–The Mayor of Middletown sent a letter to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum to express deep disappointment and outrage against the decision not to have the “Tribute in Light” in New York City this year. Middletown Township lost 37 members of the community on 9/11. The mayor called not having the lights a disgrace and is disgusted that the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Board has cancelled the largest visible tribute to those who made the greatest sacrifice for our country.
Middletown Mayor Tony Perry states that Middletown, NJ would host the lights if New York City does not want to.
Union Beach, NJ has also stated they will host beams of light from their waterfront.
Personal Facebook statement from Al Lewandowski Borough of Union Beach Councilman: Ok so NYC can’t do the lights because it’s not safe… So starting on Friday September 11 at 7pm till 10 pm and Saturday the 12th same time Union Beach will keep their PROMISE. We’ll have the beams in the air from our waterfront. More to follow on this event. We would like to thank our Union Beach Recreation with this tribute. Never Forget!
NYC Sergeants Benevolent Association
NYC Belongs to the People, The Lights Will Go On…
Ed Mullins, the President of the 13,000 member NYC Sergeants Benevolent Association, announced today that the SBA will host a Tribute in Light on the evening of September 11, 2020. This is in response to the city canceling the annual commemoration of the 9/11 terrorist attacks because of COVID-19 concerns.
“Mayor de Blasio has once again failed to represent the people of this city with his inability to provide a viable alternative to this sacred annual event,” said Mullins.
“He allowed mass protests and riots in the city with no concerns whatsoever about the pandemic. He has shown time and again that he has no allegiance to crime victims in this city, whether they are killed in street encounters or by terrorists.
“The 9/11 attacks was an act of war on our nation, and the Tribute in Light remembrance paid tribute to the nearly 3,000 innocent victims who were murdered that day, as well as all of the people that continue to die from 9/11 related ailments and illnesses. These victims include members of the NYPD, PAPD, FDNY and other First Responders, as well as all of the people who went to work that day and died for our country.
“The mayor won’t find a way to honor these heroes, but the SBA will pay tribute to all of the fallen victims by arranging for a Tribute in Light. A twin beam of light will shine on the evening of 9/11. The men and women of the Sergeants Benevolent Association will make sure of that.
“The mayor might have a short and selective memory, but the members of the NYPD will NEVER FORGET the sacrifice of every person who lost their life that fateful day.”
NEW YORK CITY FIREFIGHTERS SLAM CANCELLATION OF 9/11 LIGHT OBSERVANCE
9/11 Survivors Call for Reversal of Decision to Cancel Towers of Light
NEW YORK, NY: FDNY-Uniformed Firefighters Association President Andrew Ansbro released the following statement slamming the decision by the 9/11 Museum to cancel the 9/11 Tribute Lights that have brightened the sky above downtown Manhattan for 18 consecutive years in memorial of the lives lost on September 11, 2001:
“New York City Firefighters stand united in opposition to the cancellation of the annual Towers of Light. The first responders and New Yorkers who have lived through September 11, 2001, and now persevered through the coronavirus pandemic, are feeling betrayed. I haven’t spoken to a single tradesman that isn’t ready and willing to work — especially, to complete the honor of lighting the sky on the anniversary of the darkest day in American history. These are more than light beams displayed once a year — they are beams of solace for a still-grieving nation and the literal embodiment of ‘never forget.’
“The Towers of Light have been, and will always be, a symbol showing that New York City and this country can not be kept down, and will stand strong and proud in the face of any tragedy or disaster. It shines to the heavens as a reminder of those we have lost. There has been no time where this message is more relevant and poignant.
“To remove this display this year, of all years, is an indication that the museum does not understand the value, or the importance, of the sacred duties in which they have been entrusted. These lights are a symbol that brings about raw emotion from all New Yorkers, especially those who lost loved ones and responded that day. I call upon the museum to reverse their decision, or risk becoming a new source of loss as New Yorkers look above to an empty sky as we hope to emerge from these dark times. The Uniformed Firefighters Association is an organization of action and we will not stand by. We are prepared to take action if the decision is not reversed,” said Andrew Ansbro, President, Uniformed Firefighters Association.
The ceremonial “Towers of Light” that shine from NYC in tribute to those lost on 9/11 are an iconic symbol of hope. Because Tunnel to Towers is fully committed to the idea that we must NEVER FORGET, the Foundation is doing everything in its power to make sure that the Towers of Light will once again be illuminated. Read more: https://tunnel2towers.org/911-reading-names/
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced charges against five new defendants in the investigation of an alleged straw donor scheme that previously resulted in charges against an attorney, Elizabeth Valandingham. The charges stem from a corruption investigation by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) that led in December 2019 to five former public officials and political candidates being charged with taking bribes.
Valandingham, 47, of Morristown, N.J., was charged on June 17, 2020 with false representation for government contracts and misconduct by a corporate official, both second-degree offenses. The charges relate to alleged conduct between 2012 and 2017 at the law firm where she worked.
It is alleged that Valandingham and an unnamed co-conspirator recruited straw donors in a scheme to make illicit campaign contributions on behalf of the law firm, often in excess of the contribution limits, and to avoid disclosure of those contributions. Straw donors are individuals who contribute to a candidate but are unlawfully reimbursed by another person or entity, in this case the law firm. Under New Jersey Election Law, it is illegal for a person to reimburse another person for a political contribution or to give or lend another person money to make a contribution to a specific candidate.
The straw donors recruited in the scheme involving Valandingham – including the five individuals charged yesterday – allegedly would routinely write checks on their personal checking accounts and in their own names to various candidates and political committees, while being contemporaneously reimbursed with cash deposits directly into their checking and/or savings accounts. During the course of the scheme, the straw donors collectively contributed and were reimbursed in cash for approximately $239,000 worth of donations.
“New Jersey’s campaign finance and pay-to-play laws are designed to ensure that law firms and other contractors cannot purchase an unfair advantage in the competition for public contracts by making undisclosed or overly large campaign contributions,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We are determined to hold individuals accountable if they seek to distort the political process and public contracting by making illegal contributions through the type of straw donor scheme alleged here.”
Each of the following straw donors allegedly made tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to various candidates and party committees only to be reimbursed by the law firm with cash deposits into one or more of his or her bank or financial accounts. Each was charged yesterday by complaint-summons with fourth-degree concealment or misrepresentation of contributions.
Vanessa Brown, 40, of West Caldwell, N.J.
Christopher Brown, 37, of West Caldwell, N.J.
Ricardo Balanzateguimaldo, 40, of Bogota, N.J.
Erin O’Reilly, aka Erin DeMauro, 41, of Lincoln Park, N.J.
Suzanne P. Gayet, 63, of Boonton, N.J.
Valandingham was previously charged in connection with her role in preparing and submitting annual proposals to municipalities for the law firm to be awarded public contracts for legal services. In submitting proposals through which the firm successfully secured such contracts, she allegedly deliberately failed to disclose local political contributions the firm made during the prior year. The municipalities required that such contributions be disclosed as part of the public contracting process, but Valandingham allegedly failed to disclose the contributions made by the straw donors and instead indicated the firm made no reportable political contributions. Valandingham was charged specifically in connection with proposals for contracts in Bloomfield and Mount Arlington.
For further details on the charges against Valandingham, please see the prior news release:
The defendants initially charged in the OPIA investigation – former Jersey City School Board President Sudhan Thomas, former State Assemblyman and Bayonne mayoral candidate Jason O’Donnell, former Morris County Freeholder John Cesaro, former Mount Arlington Councilman John Windish, and former Morris County freeholder candidate Mary Dougherty – face charges of second-degree bribery in official and political matters for allegedly taking thousands of dollars in bribes from a cooperating witness in the form of campaign contributions. In return, they allegedly promised the cooperating witness – a tax attorney – that they would vote or use their official authority or influence to hire or continue to hire his law firm for lucrative government legal work.
For further details on the bribery charges, please see the prior news release:
Valandingham and the defendants charged as straw donors are charged in connection with conduct that is not directly related to the bribery allegations against those other five defendants.
The investigation is being conducted by the OPIA Corruption Bureau, under the leadership of OPIA Director Thomas Eicher. Deputy Attorneys General John A. Nicodemo and Anthony Robinson are prosecuting the cases, under the supervision of Corruption Bureau Chief Peter Lee and Counsel to the Director Anthony Picione.
Fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Attorney General Grewal created the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability in September 2018 to combat corruption and strengthen public confidence in government institutions. In December 2019, the Attorney General issued a directive codifying OPIA and making it a permanent part of the Attorney General’s Office. That directive established the OPIA Corruption Bureau as the lead office within the Department of Law & Public Safety for the investigation and prosecution of state criminal violations involving corruption and abuse of public trust.
OPIA has a toll-free Tipline 1-844-OPIA-TIPS for the public to report corruption. The AG’s Office has an Anti-Corruption Reward Program that offers a reward of up to $25,000 for tips leading to a conviction for a crime involving public corruption. Information is posted at: http://nj.gov/oag/corruption/reward.html.
August 11, 2020 update: According to the Hopewell Township Police the person from yesterday’s water search was found and is ok.
BREAKING NEWS REPORT: From on scene reports, radio reports and witnesses, if and when official information is made available story will be updated.
HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP (MERCER)-LAMBERTVILLE-WEST AMWELL, NJ (HUNTERDON)–A kayak was found unoccupied in the Delaware River just south of the “wing dam” in the rapids located in West Amwell just south of Lambertville around 2:30 pm. Fire and rescue units from both New Jersey and Pennsylvania responded to the scene those included Hopewell Township, Lambertville, West Amwell, in NJ, New Hope, PA and others from the area. Rescue boats searching south of the wing dam launched at Fireman’s Eddy Boat Ramp just off of Route 29 in the D&R Canal State Park.
Units searching by boat reported over the radio finding a “debris field” of items from the kayak but after searching for hours no person was found. Areas north and south of the wing dam were searched.
No other information is available at this time about the search.
NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone announced that a Paterson woman has been sentenced to serve 6 years in prison for causing the death of an 80-year-old man in a crash shortly after midnight on September 22, 2018.
Elizabeth Gomez, 44, of Paterson, was sentenced yesterday to serve 6 years in a New Jersey state prison. Superior Court Judge Colleen M. Flynn ordered that the defendant must complete 85 percent of the term before she can be eligible for parole.
In addition, the Judge ordered that Gomez is subject to a 10-year loss of license to begin upon her release from prison.
The sentence was imposed after Gomez pleaded guilty on December 23, 2019, in accordance with a plea agreement with Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Keith Abrams, to second degree vehicular homicide and driving while intoxicated which caused the death of Wen-Fu Lin, 80, of East Brunswick.
Gomez was charged following an investigation by Officer Jason Zier of the North Brunswick Police Department and Detective David Abromaitis of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office which determined that in the early morning hours of September 22, 2018, Gomez, who was intoxicated, was driving a 2007 BMW X3 on Route 1 near Fashion Plaza Drive when she ran a red light and crashed into a 2016 Chevrolet Malibu causing the death of the driver and injuring his passenger.
The winds from Tropical Storm Isaias have created problems with trees and wires throughout every town in the area, do not travel unless necessary.
Roads closed, multiple Power outages, blown transformers, live wires burning, trees and debris in the roadway with multitude of other problems are some of the things first responders are dealing with at this hour.
Emergency Management and Police Departments remind that 9-1-1 is for emergency use only. Restrict travel due to many trees, wires and debris in roadways and do not cross barricades.
Millstone Township reports: All residents should shelter in place. Many trees down throughout the Township and many roads are closed. Windsor Road/Perrinville; Rochdale Ave ; Rising Sun Tavern ; Agress Road/Bittner Road; Bittner Road/Millstone Road; Backbone Hill Road/Schoolhouse to White Birch; Sweetmans Lane near Stillhouse Rd; Mercy Mount Rd; Bessie Court.
Governor Murphy and Colonel Callahan Advise New Jerseyans to Prepare for Hurricane Isaias
TRENTON – Governor Phil Murphy and Colonel Patrick Callahan today advised New Jerseyans to prepare for the impact of Hurricane Isaias. Additionally, a tornado watch has been issued throughout the state. The Office of Emergency Management will continue to monitor the conditions of the hurricane and are working with counties to address any storm-related needs.“As Hurricane Isaias continues to move throughout our state, we encourage all residents to take necessary precautions to stay safe and secure,” said Governor Murphy. “Our main concern is public safety, and our emergency response team is prepared to help New Jerseyans with any needed assistance during this time.”New Jersey State Police Superintendent and State Director of Emergency Management Colonel Patrick Callahan stressed the importance of connecting the public with reliable information sources to further assist them in their individual preparedness plans.“Events such as Superstorm Sandy have taught us that awareness and preparedness saves lives. We encourage everyone to stay connected and be prepared,” said Colonel Callahan. “Make time with your family to build a kit, a go-bag, and create a communication plan. Tune in, log-on, opt-in, ‘like’ or ‘follow’ state, county, local and federal agencies for credible disaster-related information such as alerts and warnings; situational awareness updates; and where to find help. Personal connections matter, too. After you’ve completed your household preparedness activities, be a good neighbor and lend a hand to someone who may need assistance.”A list of New Jersey’s County Offices of Emergency Management, with social media and local alert system links, may be found on our newly redesigned New Jersey Office of Emergency Management Website: www.ready.nj.gov.NJOEM also recommends specific emergency preparedness actions:Make an emergency kit: Emergency kits will allow individuals and families to survive several days without access to food, water or electricity. Emergency kits should include at least a three to five day supply of non-perishable food and water, prescription medications for up to two weeks if available, baby supplies, pet supplies and any additional items for special medical needs such as an extra pair of eye glasses and batteries for hearing aids. Your kit should also include important phone numbers for doctors as well as car cell-phone chargers. While gathering your emergency kit, pack a go-bag for your family as well. Your family go-bag should be something such as a duffle bag or gym bag that is easily accessible so you can grab it and go in the event that a firefighter or police officer knocks on your door and tells you to evacuate immediately. These bags should include items such as prescription medication, food, water, extra clothing, and copies of important documents and phone numbers to get you through the first few critical days. For information on how to put a family emergency kit together, visit www.ready.nj.gov. Make an emergency plan. Make plans with family and friends in case you’re not together when any type of emergency – natural, technological or man-made – occurs. Discuss how you will contact each other, where you will meet and what you will do in different situations. Become familiar with your town’s evacuation routes. For information on how to put a family emergency plan together, visit www.ready.nj.gov. Pets are family too! Be sure to include them in your emergency plans by visiting www.animalemergency.nj.gov.
Stay informed: NJOEM recommends the following ways to stay informed about emergencies:
Online: Use credible websites to get information about natural hazards and emergency preparedness. NJOEM works closely with the National Weather Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency regarding forecasts and other important disaster news.
National Weather Service NJ is covered by two different weather stations: Mount Holly, NJ for most of the State and Upton, NY for the NE part of the State. For Northeast NJ residents and commuters to/from New York City, please visit: www.weather.gov/okx/. For the rest of New Jersey please visit: www.weather.gov/phi/.
Register Ready: www.RegisterReady.nj.gov – New Jersey’s Special Needs Registry for Disasters allows NJ residents with disabilities or access and functional needs and their families, friends and associates an opportunity to provide information to emergency response agencies, so emergency responders can better plan to serve them in a disaster or other emergency. The information collected here is confidential and will not be available to the public. The information will be held securely and only used for emergency response and planning.
NIXLE – Subscribe to the NJ State Police (NJSP) on Nixle Connect at http://local.nixle.com/new-jersey-state-police/. New Jersey residents can register to receive messages by sending a text message with their zip code to 888777 (data rates may apply depending on your plan). Online registration is also available at www.nixle.com
CMAS – the Community Mobile Alert System – this nationwide system is now being used the National Weather Service to transmit urgent weather info to your cell phone. A warning means the hazard is imminent; a watch means conditions are favorable for the hazard to occur. Your cell phone must be WEA (Wireless Emergency Alert) enabled to receive these messages.
NOAA Weather Radio: A nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information directly from the nearest National Weather Service Office. NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts official Weather Service warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. NOAA Weather Radios are typically inexpensive, readily available in stores and can often be programmed for your specific area. http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/
Firefighters from two states participated in a search of at least 11 miles of the Delaware River for a missing man. After searching it was unclear the whereabouts of the lost man.
August 2, 2020 (updated 8:30 am to take Burlington off list, assignment was recalled prior to them being dispatched)
Breaking News Report: From on scene reports, witnesses and radio reports. If official information is released the story will be updated and corrected.
EWING TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–Late yesterday evening (August 1, 2020) the Ewing Township Fire Department was dispatched to the Interstate 295 bridge over the Delaware River for a missing person in the river. The man was reported missing by his girlfriend around 10:15 pm. he is a white male, with red swim trunks with no shirt in a tube used to float on the water. There was also a delay of 9-1-1 calling for help so the man was lost at least a half hour before at approximately 9:45 pm.
Ewing Township Fire Department was dispatched and requested assistance from Trenton, Hamilton, Hopwell, Bucks County PA including departments from Yardley and Tullytown.
Trenton Fire Department searched in the area of the Route 1, Trenton Makes and Calhoun Street Bridges. The Hamilton Township Fire Department deployed at the Trenton Boat Ramp and searched that area to the Crosswicks Creek. A New Jersey State Police helicopter was requested for the search but was unknown if it was used.
Approximately 11 miles of river was searched from North of the 295 bridge to south of the Crosswicks Creek.
Around midnight the search was called off and all units returned to their stations. It was unclear if the man was found or there may have been further information that the man was seen walking back on one of the roadways next to the river. At the time of this report there were no official reports of the whereabouts of the missing man.
These are some of the most popular fishing lakes in the Mid Jersey region that have been shut down. Even Govenor Phil Murphy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe talked about how great of an activity fishing is and being able to practice social distancing during COVID-19 briefings.
UPPER FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP, MILLSTONE, (MONMOUTH), JACKSON, (OCEAN), NJ — Earlier today MidJersey.News has e-mailed the Division of Fish & Wildlife asking for a “clarification” on the “restricted areas” e-mail and what it means other than what is indicated on the website.
Late this afternoon MidJersey.News acting on a tip that entire lakes are shut down not just “boat ramps” as indicated on the State of NJ, Division of Fish & Wildlife’s web page. (see screen shots below)
MidJersey.News is perplexed trying to figure out why these particular lakes were targeted as “restricted” and shut down due to furloughs. There are no life guards since swimming is not allowed, no fees, no guard shack like at state parks, wildlife management areas are carry-in carry-out for trash = no trash pick up, emergency services such as EMS and rescue are handled by local fire companies and first aid squads, police matters are handled by NJ State Police. The wildlife management areas are low maintenance and are not labor intensive.
Fishing is a “great social activity” and using that 6 foot fishing pole is a great way to measure social distancing while out fishing. Now NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife has closed some of the most popular fishing lakes in the Mid-Jersey region a great activity that is COVID-19 compliant.
Even Govenor Phil Murphy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe talked about how great of an activity fishing is and being able to practice social distancing, see below transcript from March 31, 2020:
Commissioner of Environmental Protection Catherine McCabe:
“If you love to fish, a great social activity, we have good news for you. I shouldn’t say a great social activity – I actually meant to say a great solo, not social. Trout season will open ten days early tomorrow, Wednesday April 1st, for catch and release only. This is to help us to help you maintain safe social distance while fishing. We’ve released the state-raised trout early to disperse them before fishing season opens so that you can disperse, too as you move out to catch them, instead of everyone gathering around the hatchery on day one of Trout Season, which is traditional.
If you find others gathered at your favorite fishing hole, consider trying a new location this year. The fish have moved out and you should, too. And at a minimum, please spread out to at least the required six-foot social distance. Conveniently, this is the typical length of a fishing pole so it should be easy for you to measure. And for better fishing you’ll probably want more distance anyway. If someone gets too close to you, have a friendly conversation about that six-foot distance or find another spot.
So, please do feel free to go out there and get some exercise and enjoy yourselves, whether in a park or a forest or along a fishing stream. But please, please be responsible and remember that social distancing is absolutely essential to keeping you, your families and our communities safe, and to help us all flatten the curve of this serious viral outbreak. Thank you.”
Governor Phil Murphy:
“And the notion also, to be able to go outside and get some fresh air in a responsible way has to be a part of what our plan is about.”
“So, I just want to reiterate, whether it’s fishing on that six-foot pole, which I think is a great way to think about it, or outside walking, hiking, jogging, please, please, please keep your distance. Thank you. Again, it’s great having you and thank you for everything you do. And Sean, nice to have you with us as well.”
According to the NJ DEP, Division of Fish & Wildlife, The Wildlife Management Area System web page as currently posted as of 7/8/2020 it indicates that Assunpink: “Main Lake Boat Ramp” “Rising Sun Boat Ramp” “Stone Tavern Boat Ramp” “Shotgun and Archery Range” Prospertown Lake: “Main Lake Boat Ramp” Collier’s Mills: “Shotgun, Archery and Rifle Ranges”
The website does not indicate that the entire lake system would be shut down but signs and barricades as seen below indicate differently:
Entrances to Assunpink Lake, Stone Tavern Lake, Rising Sun and Prospertown Lake all closed as seen below, all lakes are labeled “Restricted Area” and closed:
ROBBINSVILLE, EAST WINDSOR, HAMILTON, NJ (MERCER)–If you were lucky enough to be outside this afternoon around 5:15 you would have seen a military fly over called “Salute To The Great Cities Of The American Revolution” en route from New York City to Philadelphia.
Trenton, NJ the home of the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area where just north of there General George Washington crossed the Delaware on December 25, 1776 was not on the official list of the “Great Cities”
Still the region from the Monmouth Battlefield, extending though Cranbury, Hightstown, Robbinsville, Hamilton and turning at Trenton towards Philadelphia was still able to see the fly over even though it was not officially on the program.
Spectators were able to see a variety of aircraft from the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Marine Corps including: U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, followed by B-1, B-2 and B-52 bombers, F-15 and F-22 fighters and U.S. Marine Corps F-35 fighters in transit from New York City to Philadelphia.
Secretary Esper approved a Department of the Interior request for DOD support to the 2020 Salute to America. DOD will provide aerial, musical and ceremonial support to this year’s celebration in Washington, D.C. This year’s support will also include a flyover of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, as well an aerial salute to several cities that played roles in the American Revolution.
The highlight of this year’s celebration will be our salute to the Great Cities of the American Revolution. The flyovers will begin in Boston and proceed to New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore. From there they will join other Department of Defense and heritage aircraft in the Salute to America over our nation’s capital. In all, roughly 1,700 service members will support the celebrations.
The aircraft are scheduled to overfly each of the cities, beginning at approximately 4:00 pm, then fly on to the next city. U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps jets will fly over in five waves. The flyovers will be led by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, followed by B-1, B-2 and B-52 bombers, F-15 and F-22 fighters and U.S. Marine Corps F-35 fighters.
BOSTON: The aircraft are scheduled to overfly the center of the city at approximately 4:00 pm approaching from the northeast at 1,000 feet above the ground. Multiple aircraft will overfly the U.S.S. Constitution and then proceed over Fenway Park before departing the city.
NEW YORK: The aircraft are scheduled to fly down the Hudson River at approximately 5:00 pm and pass just east of the Statue of Liberty.
PHILADELPHIA: The aircraft are scheduled to overfly the center of the city at approximately 5:15 pm approaching from the northeast at 1,000 feet above the ground. Multiple aircraft will fly over Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell and then proceed southwest out of the city.
BALTIMORE: The aircraft are scheduled to overfly Fort McHenry at approximately 5:30 pm approaching from the northeast at 1,000 feet above the ground. Multiple aircraft will overfly Fort McHenry before turning south out of the city.
The flyovers provide an opportunity for DOD to demonstrate the capabilities and professionalism of the United States Armed Forces. Flying hours are a sunk cost for the Department of Defense, and these aircraft and crews would be using these hours for proficiency and training at other locations if they were not conducting these flyovers.
DOD is proud to help celebrate the nation’s 244th birthday. We are grateful for our nation’s support as we defend our country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Photos below by: Dennis Symons from East Windsor looking towards Hightstown and Robbinsville
Wildwood may be out of our normal coverage area but since many people from our area vacation there information is provided below:
WILDWOOD, NJ (CAPE MAY)–The Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority (GWTIDA) and the City of Wildwood are disappointed to announce the cancellation of July 4th fireworks in the interest of public safety.
Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron and Commissioners Mikulski and Fitzsimons are making the call in an effort to discourage large gatherings on what is traditionally the busiest holiday of the year which also happens to fall on the busiest day of the week: Saturday.
“Wildwood is ready, willing and able to produce a spectacular fireworks show,” stated Mayor Pete Byron. “However, as we’ve seen with the delay of opening indoor dining this week, the public is not adequately following Covid-19 public safety rules such as social distancing. We can’t take a chance that Wildwood sees a spike in cases and shuts down our businesses who have already suffered immensely due to closures.”
“Even though we moved the location to the widest part of the Wildwoods, we expect large crowds to gather in and around Rio Grande Avenue for the display,” said Commissioner of Public Safety, Steve Mikulski. “We cannot take the chance that the public will be unable to practice social distancing due to crowds.”
Commissioner Fitzsimons said, “We are hopeful that the City, GWTIDA and SID [Boardwalk Special Improvement District] can come to some resolution for the Friday Night Fireworks that the city and visitors have come to know and love since 1995. We expect a decision on that in the near future.”
I am writing to share some difficult news. Tilton Fitness Powered by Hackensack Meridian Health will be permanently closing its doors on July 1, 2020.
Unfortunately, like other fitness centers across the country, our facilities have been hit hard by the mandatory closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, forcing us to make this difficult decision. I want to express my deepest gratitude to all of you for your loyalty to the Tilton Fitness organization over the years and to our hard-working staff who worked tirelessly to support you on your health and wellness journey.
At Tilton Fitness, we have always prioritized our members and guests. We were committed to changing people’s lives by promoting total health and wellness and providing the best customer experience possible. Our seven fitness centers serving roughly 20,000 members represent a lifetime of effort and devotion. As you might imagine, this announcement is heartbreaking. You are as much of a part of our life as Tilton Fitness was part of yours. You have our deep and sincere appreciation.
Some of you may have questions regarding your membership. Please understand that it will take some time for us to respond to all inquiries. To the extent that you have any questions or concerns, we will be providing you the contact information of the individual who will be assigned to oversee the orderly dissolution in the next few days.
I have always believed we are more than a gym — we are a community. A community I deeply care for. A community I will sadly miss.
Sam Young President and CEO Hackensack Meridian Fitness & Wellness
BEDMINSTER, NJ (Somerset)–President Trump’s Tweets following dinner with Governor Phil Murphy:
“Just finished dinner in Bedminster, New Jersey, with Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) and his wonderful wife, Tammy. Talked about many things, including the opening of the beautiful Garden State, getting people back to work, and……rebuilding America’s infrastructure with projects like the Portal North Bridge, which I have given authorization to proceed!”
AG’S OFFICE RELEASES AUDIO AND VIDEO RECORDINGS RELATED TO FATAL OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTING ON GARDEN STATE PARKWAY ON MAY 23
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–The Attorney General’s Office today released audio and video recordings related to the shooting on May 23, 2020 on the Garden State Parkway in Bass River, N.J., in which a New Jersey State Trooper fatally shot Maurice Gordon, 28, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. The Attorney General’s Office today also released the identity of the State Trooper who shot and killed Mr. Gordon. He is Sgt. Randall Wetzel of Troop “D” of the New Jersey State Police. The shooting remains under investigation by the Attorney General’s Office. However, the audio and video recordings are being released pursuant to Attorney General Directive 2019-4, the “Independent Prosecutor Directive,” which governs use-of-force investigations in New Jersey and requires that such records, if requested, be released to the public once the initial phase of the investigation is substantially complete, generally within 20 days. The recordings depict five episodes involving Mr. Gordon over an approximately 30-hour period: a 911 call placed by one of Mr. Gordon’s friends on the morning of May 22, 2020, followed by interactions between Mr. Gordon and law enforcement officers in Brick, Waretown, Stafford, and Bass River, New Jersey, on the morning of May 23, 2020. The recordings are contained in 12 files, which have been posted online. Click here for files. To facilitate their review, the file names are numbered and described briefly below. 911 Call
Recording 01: “911 Call – Dutchess County (redacted).” At approximately 3:23 a.m. on May 22, 2020, Mr. Gordon’s friend called 911 from Poughkeepsie, New York to express concerns about Mr. Gordon’s wellbeing and whereabouts. Towards the end of the recording, the 911 operator transferred Mr. Gordon’s friend to the Poughkeepsie Police Department. (NOTE: Personal information regarding the caller and Mr. Gordon has been redacted; an unredacted version of the recording will be provided to Mr. Gordon’s family.)
Recording 02: “911 Call – Poughkeepsie (redacted).” This audio recording is a continuation of Recording 1, picking up once Mr. Gordon’s friend was connected to the Poughkeepsie Police Department. (NOTE: Personal information regarding the caller and Mr. Gordon has been redacted; an unredacted version of the recording will be provided to Mr. Gordon’s family.)
Interaction in Brick, NJ
Recording 03: “Red Bank MVR.” At approximately 3:13 a.m. on May 23, 2020, an off-duty Red Bank Police Officer driving a police vehicle pulled up near Mr. Gordon’s car, which had run out of gas and was stopped in the middle lane of the southbound Garden State Parkway near Exit 91 in Brick, N.J. The interaction was recorded by the mobile video recorder (MVR) attached to the dashboard of the Red Bank patrol vehicle, as depicted in Recording 3. The Red Bank officer called a tow truck. (NOTE: A short time later, an off-duty State Trooper driving to work in his personal car pulled over to assist Mr. Gordon and the Red Bank officer. The off-duty State Trooper provided assistance and then departed. Because the State Trooper was in his personal vehicle, there is no MVR footage of this encounter.)
Recording 04: “Stop 1 MVR – Pt. A.” A short time after the off-duty Trooper departed the scene, a second, on-duty State Trooper pulled up to assist Mr. Gordon and the Red Bank officer. Because this second State Trooper was in his patrol vehicle, the encounter was captured by his vehicle’s MVR, as depicted in Recording 4. That second State Trooper set out flares and departed.
Recording 05: “Stop 1 MVR – Pt. B.” The second State Trooper later returned to the scene where Mr. Gordon was stopped with the tow truck driver on the southbound Garden State Parkway in Brick. Recording 5 is MVR footage captured by the State Trooper’s patrol vehicle during this encounter.
Interaction in Waretown, NJ(Includes Visit to Wawa in Barnegat, NJ)
Recording 06: “Stop 2 MVR.” At approximately 4:54 a.m. on May 23, 2020, a different State Trooper pulled up behind Mr. Gordon’s car, which was stopped in the left lane of the southbound Garden State Parkway near Exit 72 in Waretown, New Jersey. The Trooper called a tow truck, set out flares, and then departed.
Recording 07: “Wawa (redacted).” After the State Trooper departed but before the tow truck arrived, a civilian vehicle pulled alongside Mr. Gordon’s car and the occupants offered Mr. Gordon a ride to a nearby Wawa convenience store to get gas. A surveillance camera inside the Wawa (in Barnegat, New Jersey) captured Mr. Gordon and others entering the store at approximately 5:33 a.m. Afterwards, Mr. Gordon returned to his vehicle and continued driving southbound on the Garden State Parkway. Customer and employee faces are blurred. Screen shots where Mr. Gordon does not appear are blurred.
Interaction in Stafford, New Jersey
Recording 08: “Stop 3 MVR.” At approximately 6:13 a.m., a State Trooper stopped Mr. Gordon for speeding on the southbound Garden State Parkway near Exit 62 in Stafford, New Jersey. The Trooper issued a ticket to Mr. Gordon, who had allegedly been driving 101 miles per hour.
Interaction in Bass River, New Jersey
Recording 09: “Stop 4 MVR – Pt. A.” At approximately 6:26 a.m., Sgt. Wetzel stopped Mr. Gordon for speeding on the southbound Garden State Parkway near Exit 50 in Bass River, New Jersey. Sgt. Wetzel started to write a ticket for Mr. Gordon, who had allegedly been driving 110 miles per hour. During the stop, Mr. Gordon’s vehicle became disabled in the left shoulder and Sgt. Wetzel called a tow truck. While they waited for the tow truck to arrive, Sgt. Wetzel asked Mr. Gordon if he would prefer to sit in the back seat of Sgt. Wetzel’s vehicle, and Mr. Gordon stated that he would. (NOTE: The beginning of the recording depicts footage from Sgt. Wetzel’s forward-facing MVR camera, which shows Mr. Gordon’s car stopped on the southbound Parkway. Once Mr. Gordon enters the back seat of Sgt. Wetzel’s vehicle, the car’s backward-facing MVR camera becomes the primary camera view. A diagram depicting the approximate location of the two vehicles is included with the materials posted as part of this release.)
Recording 10: “Stop 4 MVR – Pt. B(redacted).” Recording 10 is a continuation of the MVR footage captured by Sgt. Wetzel’s vehicle, as described in Recording 9. After a total of approximately 21 minutes inside Sgt. Wetzel’s vehicle, Mr. Gordon exited the vehicle when Sgt. Wetzel attempted to offer him a mask, resulting in a confrontation with Sgt. Wetzel. During this confrontation, Mr. Gordon attempted to enter the driver seat of Sgt. Wetzel’s vehicle on two occasions. After the first occasion, Sgt. Wetzel deployed oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray. After the second occasion, Sgt. Wetzel removed Mr. Gordon from the vehicle and, after a physical struggle on the left shoulder of the southbound Parkway, Sgt. Wetzel shot and killed Mr. Gordon with his service weapon. Sgt. Wetzel fired six times and then placed handcuffs on Mr. Gordon. (NOTE: The backward-facing camera footage shows a reversed or “mirror image” of the events captured because the camera was set to record in that manner. Consistent with Department practice, the audio component of the recording has been partially redacted to remove the sound that Mr. Gordon makes immediately upon being shot.)
Recording 11: “Enhanced Clip(redacted).” Recording 11 contains a two-minute segment of Recording 10, but zoomed in on the view out the back window of Sgt. Wetzel’s vehicle. As with Recording 10, the audio component of the recording has been partially redacted.
Recording 12: “NJSP Radio Transmissions.” Recording 12 contains audio recordings of law enforcement radio transmissions regarding the events in Bass River. Because the radio system only records audio when an individual is speaking, the recording is “compressed,” insofar as it does not include the portions of the encounter when no one was communicating over the radio system.
At approximately 7:25 a.m., a State Trooper attempted to provide aid to Mr. Gordon, but did not detect a pulse. Shortly thereafter, a second State Trooper attempted to administer aid. EMS arrived at the scene at approximately 7:28 a.m. and pronounced Mr. Gordon deceased. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, which is an independent agency housed in but not of the Department of Health, has not yet completed its medical examination report, including any conclusions about Mr. Gordon’s time of death.
Once that report is complete, the findings will be shared with Mr. Gordon’s immediate family. The information at the following link was previously made public pursuant to the Open Public Records Act, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-3.b., which lists specific criminal investigatory information that must be disclosed:www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases20/Gordon_3B_Form_5-29-20-(OPRA).pdf.
The investigation is being conducted pursuant to a state law enacted in January 2019 (P.L.2019, c.1), which requires that the Attorney General’s Office 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.
The investigation is ongoing and no further information is being released at this time. Under state law and the Independent Prosecutor Directive, when the entire investigation is complete, the case will be presented to a grand jury, typically consisting of 16 to 23 citizens, to make the ultimate decision regarding whether criminal charges will be filed. The Administrative Office of the Courts has temporarily suspended the convening of grand juries due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Independent Prosecutor Directive, issued by Attorney General Grewal in December 2019, outlines a 10-step process for conducting independent investigations of use-of-force and death-in-custody incidents in compliance with state law. The directive establishes clear procedures governing such investigations to ensure that they are done fully, fairly, and independently of any potential bias. A summary of that 10-step process is available at this link:https://www.nj.gov/oag/excellence/docs/The-Independent-Prosecutor-Directive.pdf
MidJersey.News has now obtained a full copy of the Federal lawsuit and is waiting on comments.
TRENTON (MERCER)-BELLMAWR (CAMDEN), NJ–Atilis Gym Bellmawr, LLC. has filed a Federal lawsuit in the United States District Court For The District Of New Jersey against Governor Philip D. Murphy Governor, Attorney General S. Grewal , New Jersey State Police Superintendent Patrick J. Callahan and NJ Department of Health Commissioner Judith M. Persichilli. The pages of the lawsuit obtained from a Facebook group and MidJersey.news as asked for comment and waiting for a reply. The full document is now posted below:
On 24, May 2020 at 0103 AM, The Falls Township Police Department (FTPD) responded to a report of shots fired at the Holiday Inn Express located at 3101 Cabot Blvd. W, Langhorne, Falls Township, Bucks County, PA. Responding officers found a large number of people attempting to leave the area, according to Falls Police Lt. Nelson Whitney. A male victim, later identified as Davon Frink (25 years old, from Trenton NJ) was found in the parking lot near the front entrance with gunshot wounds to his face and neck. Officers called for an ambulance and began providing medical care to Frink. An ALS Unit from Levittown Fairless Hills Rescue Squad arrived and transported Frink to St. Mary’s Medical Center. Frink later died from his wounds. It was later determined that the victim was part of a large group of individuals from Trenton NJ that had rented several rooms at the hotel. Investigation into this homicide is ongoing. Lt. Whitney thanked the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office, Middletown Township Police, Lower Makefield Township Police, Morrisville Borough Police and the Levittown Fairless Hills Rescue Squad for their assistance. Anyone with information on this case is asked to contact FTPD Detective John Vella at 215-949-9100 X 431 or email@example.com.
FALLS TOWNSHIP, PA (BUCKS)–According to the Falls Township Police, Crimewatch website the Falls Township Police Department (FTPD) and the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office are investigating a shooting at the Holiday Inn Express located at 3101 Cabot Blvd. W., Langhorne, Falls Township, Bucks County, PA.
Falls Township Police Department officers responded to a report of shots fired at the hotel at 0103 AM this morning. The officers arrived and found a large crowd of individuals from Trenton NJ. A male victim with gunshot wounds to the face and neck was taken to the hospital. The investigation is ongoing.
Pool Story by: David Danzis, The Press of Atlantic City
ATLANTIC CITY — The federal government’s field hospital at the Convention Center is operational and officials expect to take in the first patient as early as today.
Gov. Phil Murphy, Mayor Marty Small Sr. and Casino Reinvestment Development Authority Executive Director Matt Doherty toured the 258-bed medical facility Tuesday morning along with other officials from the New Jersey State Police, New Jersey National Guard and health professionals.
The field hospital site mirrors those already set up at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus and the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center in Edison. “That’s the shortest runway between one of these tours and a patient walking through the doors,” Murphy said, following the brief 10-minute preview of the facility. “That’s a good sign in the sense that it’s ready to go.”The pop-up site will be for non-COVID-19 patients to help alleviate pressure on local hospitals.
However, officials said the field hospital’s primary purpose could quickly change if necessary. The site is under the operation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in partnership with the State Police, state health officials and the region’s Level 1 trauma center, Cooper Medical Center.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers selected the regional site and was responsible for the construction.State Police Sgt. 1st Class Marc Pellegrino told Murphy and other officials that the Atlantic City Convention Center’s infrastructure made the two-week conversion an easier process than at the other locations.”It’s the same setup as the other locations,” Pellegrino said, “but you definitely have more sophistication (here).”Rows of one-bed units blocked off by white curtains lined the Convention Center floor. The field hospital includes an on-site pharmacy and lab testing center.
The Convention Center has the ability to expand to accommodate nearly 3,000 hospital beds.”We need the capacity,” Murphy said. “Whether we need it next week, or a year from now, we don’t ever want to be caught (off guard) again.”
Dr. Richard Scott, a retired chief medical officer for Meridian Health and orthopedic surgeon, is overseeing the medical operations of the facility. Scott, who drove up from Wilmington, North Carolina to volunteer, said his main objective is ensuring the safety and well-being of the hundreds of medical personal who will be staffing the site.”There are a lot of people that left their left their jobs and left their families to come help others,” Scott said. “So we’re making sure they’re following good safety procedures and protocols and that we’ve got all the personal protective equipment we need.”