Category: Uncategorized

The David L. Fried Humanitarian Award

December 23, 2020

ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–On the July morning Brian Lotito slipped the surly bonds of this Earth after his motorcycle collided with another vehicle on Route 130 near Woodside Road, he was at peace.

More importantly for Paula Lotito, her son was not alone.

Thanks to Robbinsville resident Eric Steinberg.

“Eric said he prayed Jewish prayers over him,” Paula said. “He said Brian was peaceful, and he held his hand as he slipped away. Who does that? This was a nightmare for Eric. He saw it. He heard it. But he stayed, and I am forever indebted to him.”

Because of his selfless and compassionate act of human kindness, Eric Steinberg was presented with the first David L. Fried Humanitarian Award on November 28.”

Many of us may ask ourselves what we would do in such a moment, and deep inside our heart of hearts we all hope to do what Eric did for Brian and his family that morning,” Mayor Fried said. “There is no plaque or medal big enough, no amount of words eloquent enough, to honor Eric for his humanitarianism on July 11.”

Brian was a talented musician and vocalist and studied music and performing arts. According to his obituary, he was unique, driven and “an advocate for anyone that could not be one for themselves.

“When the day comes we can gather again at another State of Robbinsville Township Pay it Forward event, Eric Steinberg will be the guest of honor. Paula Lotito and her family will be there, too.”

It could have been anyone. Eric would have done it for anyone,” Paula said, holding back tears. “He would have stayed by their side. That’s just who he is. We are so grateful to Mayor Fried and the Township for creating this award for him. Eric is a man of grace and he will probably be embarrassed by all this, but if this motivates more people to be kind to others then this story needs to be told.”  


BREAKING: 3 Alarm Fire On Southard Street

September 22, 2020


Continuing Coverage:

Victim In 3rd Alarm Trenton Fire Identified, Fire Under Investigation

Trenton 3rd Alarm Now “Suspicious Death” Investigation

UPDATED: SEE UPDATED STORY HERE: Update: 3rd Alarm In 2 Family Home With “Collyer’s Mansion” Conditions Turns Fatal


BREAKING NEWS REPORT: Breaking news report from on scene and radio reports, if and when official information becomes available story will be updated and corrections made.

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Around 8:30 pm the Trenton Fire Department was sent to the 700 Block of Southard Street for a house fire. Upon arrival companies struck an “All Hands” sending the full first alarm and additional EMS units were also called to the scene. Fire was in a 2 1/2 story 2 family home with heavy fire conditions throughout. About 20 minutes into the fire a 2nd Alarm was called for and eventually the fire became a 3rd Alarm.

No further information was available about the fire.



Two Iranian Nationals Charged In Cyber Theft And Defacement Campaign Against Computer Systems In United States, Europe and Middle East

TWO IRANIAN NATIONALS CHARGED IN CYBER THEFT AND DEFACEMENT CAMPAIGN AGAINST COMPUTER SYSTEMS IN UNITED STATES, EUROPE, AND MIDDLE EAST

September 16, 2020

Two Iranian nationals have been charged in connection with a coordinated cyber intrusion campaign – sometimes at the behest of the government of Iran – targeting computers in New Jersey and around the world, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.

Hooman Heidarian, a/k/a “neo,” 30, and Mehdi Farhadi, a/k/a “Mehdi Mahdavi” and “Mohammad Mehdi Farhadi Ramin,” 34, both of Hamedan, Iran, are each charged in a 10-count indictment returned Sept. 15, 2020, with: one count each of conspiracy to commit fraud and related activity in connection with computers and access devices; computer fraud – unauthorized access to protected computers: computer fraud, unauthorized damage to protected computers; conspiracy to commit wire fraud; and access device fraud; and five counts of aggravated identity theft.

“These Iranian nationals allegedly conducted a wide-ranging campaign on computers here in New Jersey and around the world,” U.S. Attorney Carpenito said. “They brazenly infiltrated computer systems and targeted intellectual property and often sought to intimidate perceived enemies of Iran, including dissidents fighting for human rights in Iran and around the world. This conduct threatens our national security, and as a result, these defendants are wanted by the FBI and are considered fugitives from justice.”

“We will not bring the rule of law to cyberspace until governments refuse to provide safe harbor for criminal hacking within their borders,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said. “Unfortunately, our cases demonstrate that at least four nations—Iran, China, Russia and North Korea—will allow criminal hackers to victimize individuals and companies from around the world, as long as these hackers will also work for that country’s government—gathering information on human rights activists, dissidents and others of intelligence interest. Today’s defendants will now learn that such service to the Iranian regime is not an asset, but a criminal yoke that they will now carry until the day they are brought to justice.”

“The indictment of two Iranian nationals charged with computer hacking, fraud, and aggravated identity theft demonstrates how the FBI continues to work relentlessly with our law enforcement partners to identify cybercriminals who seek to do harm to American citizens, businesses, and universities, regardless of where those criminals may reside and hold them accountable,” George M. Crouch Jr., Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Newark Division, said. “Mehdi Farhadi and Hooman Heidarian are now fugitives and have been added to the FBI website for charges in connection with a massive, coordinated cyber intrusion campaign. These actions demonstrate how imposing risks and consequences on our cyber adversaries will continue to be a top priority for the FBI.”

According to the indictment:

Beginning in at least 2013, the defendants were responsible for a coordinated campaign of cyber intrusions into computer systems in New Jersey and around the world. The victims included several American and foreign universities, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, a defense contractor, an aerospace company, a foreign policy organization, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), non-profits, and foreign government and other entities identified as rivals or adversaries to Iran around the world.

Heidarian and Farhadi conducted many of these intrusions on behalf of the Iranian government. The stolen data was typically highly protected and extremely sensitive, and included confidential communications pertaining to national security, foreign policy intelligence, non-military nuclear information, aerospace data, human rights activist information, victim financial information and personally identifiable information, and intellectual property, including unpublished scientific research. The defendants also often vandalized websites using the pseudonym “Sejeal” and posted messages that appeared to signal the demise of Iran’s internal opposition, foreign adversaries, and countries identified as rivals to Iran, including Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Tactics and Techniques

The defendants conducted online reconnaissance to carefully select their victims, gathering data and intelligence to determine their areas of expertise, and assessing computer networks in preparation for launching cyber-attacks. They often used information obtained at this stage in latter phases of their hacking activities to complete a picture of processes, organizational structure, and potential soft spots of victim networks. The defendants used vulnerability-scanning tools to test the victim networks and to reveal security holes.

The defendants gained and maintained unauthorized access to victim networks using various tools, including: session hijacking, where a valid computer session was exploited to gain unauthorized access to information or services in a computer system; SQL injection, in which they used malicious code to access information that was not intended to be displayed, such as sensitive government data, user details, and personal identifiers; and malicious programs installations, which allowed the defendants to maintain unauthorized access to computers.

The defendants then used key-loggers and “remote access Trojans” to maintain access and monitor the actions of users of the victim networks. They also developed a botnet tool, which facilitated the spread of malware, denial of service attacks, and spamming to victim networks. In some instances, the defendants used their unauthorized access to victim networks or accounts to establish automated forwarding rules for compromised victim accounts, whereby new outgoing and incoming emails were automatically forwarded from the compromised accounts to accounts controlled by defendants

Using these methods, the defendants stole hundreds of terabytes of data, including confidential victim work product and intellectual property, and personal identifying information, such as access credentials, names, addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, and birthdates. The defendants marketed stolen data on the black market.

In addition to stealing intellectual property and other data, the defendants, using the pseudonym “Sejeal,” replaced the publicly available contents of websites with political and other ideological content, thereby defacing websites, for the apparent purpose of projecting Iranian influence and threatening perceived enemies of Iran. The defacements featured, among other things, images of burning Israeli flags and threats forecasting the death or demise of citizens in the United States, Israel, and elsewhere.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Crouch in Newark, with the investigation leading to the charges.

The counts of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and related activity in connection with computers and access devices, unauthorized access to protected computers, and computer fraud – unauthorized damage to protected computers, each carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The counts of aggravated identity theft each carry a mandatory sentence of two years in prison. The count of access device fraud carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dean C. Sovolos of the U.S. Attorney’s Office National Security Unit, Daniel V. Shapiro, Deputy Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division, and Trial Attorney Scott McCulloch of the National Security Division.

The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.
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Trenton to Add More COPS Through DOJ Community Policing Grant Program

September 3, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)—Mayor W. Reed Gusciora announced today that the City of Trenton and the Trenton Police Department (TPD) have been awarded $1.25 million in competitive federal grant funds from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Orientated Policing (COPS), which will help hire 10 new officers and allow TPD to increase community policing and prevent violent crime.

Trenton City Council will consider accepting the award as well as the expenditure of additional funds to match the grant at tonight’s City Council meeting. The City of Trenton will be required to match $542,815 per year for the next three years.

“Trenton has had an uptick in violent crime, all made worse by a lingering health crisis and a police force that is still reeling from previous budget cuts,” said Mayor Gusciora. “This grant application allows us to put over a $1 million more into TPD’s efforts to enhance community policing programs and improve the safety of our residents at a time when they need it the most.”

“Due to ongoing budget constraints and retirements, TPD’s manpower is getting smaller and smaller as the needs of Trenton residents grow larger,” said Police Director Sheilah Coley. “While we work with our state and county partners to deploy more officers in Trenton neighborhoods, we should also secure every available resource at the federal level that will help keep residents safe and refine our community policing strategy.”

The COPS Hiring Program is a competitive award program that helps state and local law enforcement agencies implement community policing strategies and crime prevention efforts by hiring or rehiring additional police officers. Applicants must identify a specific focus problem, such as violent crime, and explain how the funding will be used to implement community policing approaches that address that focus.

“On behalf of the City of Trenton, I want to thank Senator Cory Booker, Senator Bob Menendez and Senator Shirley Turner for their assistance in advocating on behalf of the capital city,” said Mayor Gusciora. “There is no doubt that this funding will have a meaningful impact in helping TPD serve our residents.”

Murphy Administration to Open New Jersey’s Schools For In-Person Instruction Subject to Critical Health and Safety Protocols

Governor Murphy Signs Executive Order Requiring Schools to Open for In-Person Instruction and Permitting Districts to Provide Remote-Only Instruction if They Cannot Meet Health and Safety Protocols Executive Order Also Allows Institutions of Higher Education to Resume Broader In-Person Instruction

August 13, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Phil Murphy and Department of Education Interim Commissioner Kevin Dehmer announced that New Jersey’s public and private school districts will be open for in-person instruction for the start of the school year. Public school districts can begin the school year via remote-only instruction if they cannot adequately meet critical health and safety protocols outlined in the state’s school reopening guidance, “The Road Back,” which was released in late June. Districts who need to delay the implementation of in-person instruction will be required to submit information to the Department of Education (DOE) describing the health and safety standards that they are currently unable to adequately meet, how they will address outstanding issues in a timely fashion, and a proposed timeline for reopening physical school spaces to students and staff for in-person instruction.  

“Our top priority is the health and safety of our students and educators, and we must ensure that schools reopen their doors only when it is safe for them to do so,” said Governor Murphy. “Since releasing our guidance on reopening, we have continued to have frequent discussions with stakeholders and educators across the state. Many districts have expressed that meeting critical health and safety criteria by the first day of school is proving to be a challenge. While we continue to believe that there is no substitute for being in the classroom, allowing districts to delay the implementation of in-person instruction will give them the time and flexibility they need to ensure buildings are ready and welcoming when they do open.”

Governor Murphy signed Executive Order 175, which directed the following for school districts:

  • Districts are required to certify to DOE that they can meet the health and safety protocols outlined in the Order, and further detailed in the “Road Back,” before resuming in-person instruction.  Private school districts will also be required to submit this certification;
  • Districts that can meet the health and safety protocols shall open to students for in-person instruction in the fall;
  • Even if school buildings are open for in-person instruction on the first day of the 2020-2021 school year, districts must provide a remote learning option for parents or guardians who request it for their children;
  • Districts unable to adequately meet health and safety reopening protocols must provide remote instruction to all students. These districts are required to submit documentation to DOE detailing which standard(s) the district is unable to satisfy, the anticipated efforts that will be taken to satisfy the standard(s), and a date by which the school anticipates resuming in-person instruction;
  • All schools required to participate in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program and those that voluntarily opt-in to those programs must offer required meals to all children on remote-learning days.

The Order also waives the use of student growth data from standardized assessments for this year’s educator evaluations. 

“This action reflects our responsiveness to the varying needs and challenges that each district faces as they prepare for the new school year,” said Kevin Dehmer, Interim Commissioner of Education. “We’re providing the flexibility that some school districts may need to ensure that reopening of schools and in-person instruction is done in as safe a manner as possible.”

“We are pleased to say that in East Brunswick we will be able to meet the health and safety standards outlined in the Department of Education guidance and return to our classrooms in the fall, all while keeping our students and staff safe,” said Dr. Victor Valeski, Superintendent of East Brunswick Schools. “While a return to full time in-person instruction is not possible for East Brunswick Public Schools, we are confident that the hybrid plan we are offering our students will ensure that all students, regardless of where they will be during the school day, receive a high-quality education.”

“While our goal remains to achieve in-person learning, our district determined that there is still much work to be done to ensure the health and safety of students and staff before we reopen our doors for in-person instruction,” said Dr. Neely Hackett, Superintendent of Willingboro Public Schools. “As a community committed to providing Willingboro students with an education grounded in 21st century thinking and learning, we remain committed and will work toward taking every necessary step to prepare our buildings, students, staff, and parents for in-person learning for the start of the second marking period.”

Executive Order 175 further permits institutions of higher education to resume in-person instruction not previously permitted under Executive Order 155, provided they can meet previously outlined health and safety protocols from the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, effective immediately. 

“We know how effective in-person learning is as it provides students academic and social supports that cannot be offered as efficiently in remote settings. As colleges and universities restart operations this fall, students will have a wider array of instructional options including in-person, remote, and hybrid learning,” said Interim Secretary of Higher Education Diana Gonzalez. “Regardless of the mode of instruction, our priority is to offer students the best college experience while prioritizing health and safety for all.”

Click here for a copy of Executive Order 175.

Governor Murphy Signs Executive Order Increasing Capacity Limit on Outdoor Gatherings

Order Also Allows Public and Private Recreational Campgrounds to Reopen

May 23, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Phil Murphy today signed Executive Order No. 148, increasing the limit on outdoor gatherings from 10 to 25 people and allowing recreational campgrounds to reopen with social distancing measures in place. The limit on indoor gatherings remains at 10 people. The Order takes effect immediately.“Our steady progress on the road back has been made possible through the hard work and personal responsibility of New Jerseyans to safeguard public health,” said Governor Murphy. “I’m proud that we can confidently take this step today and provide further optimism for the unofficial start of summer.”

Outdoor GatheringsThe Governor’s Executive Order allows outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people so long as the following rules are complied with:

  • The gathering must take place entirely outdoors except for restroom use;
  • Limit capacity to no more than 25 people at all times;
  • Require attendees to be six feet apart at all times, excluding immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners;
  • Prohibit contact between attendees, and no organized or contact sports;
  • If the event is an organized gathering, the organizer should demarcate six feet of spacing in the area of the gathering to demonstrate appropriate spacing for social distancing;
  • Limit provided seating to single individuals, spaced six feet apart, and sanitized after each use;
  • Prohibit sharing of any physical items provided and require sanitization before and after each use; and
  • Require contactless pay options wherever feasible. 

Nothing in the Order shall prevent professional athletes from fulfilling their job duties, consistent with paragraph 10 of Executive Order No. 107 (2020).

Charter Boats and Recreational Businesses: The Order rescinds the 10-person capacity limit on charter boats and recreational businesses opened under Executive Order No. 147, including archery ranges, batting cages, golf driving ranges, horseback riding, tennis clubs, and shooting ranges, and imposes a new 25-person capacity limitation with a requirement that individuals can remain six feet apart at all times.

Parks, Beaches, Boardwalks, and Lakeshores: The Order allows gatherings of no more than 25 people at State Parks and Forests, county and municipal parks, public and private beaches, boardwalks, lakes, and lakeshores, but continues to prohibit special events such as festivals, concerts, fireworks, and movies.

Recreational Campgrounds: The Order permits private and public recreational campgrounds to reopen to the public. The following shall remain closed at recreational campgrounds: picnic areas; playgrounds; pavilions; and other buildings amenities, or facilities, except restrooms and showers. Recreational campgrounds that are open to the public must comply with the same restrictions required for recreational businesses.  The Department of Environmental Protection is required to prepare a phased-in reopening plan for all campgrounds located on State Parks and Forests within fifteen days.The Order also recommends, but does not order, that people wear a face covering while at outdoor gatherings and recreational campgrounds when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.