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State Corruption Cases Up 9 %; Gangs, Organized Crime Up 48 %; Major Crimes Up 7%

 

By Herald Staff

ATTORNEY GENERAL PRESS RELEASE:
Division of Criminal Justice Files Over 900 Cases for Second Straight Year, Including Major Increases in Priority Areas
TRENTON – Attorney General Anne Milgram and Criminal Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni announced that the Division of Criminal Justice achieved major increases in 2009 in the number of criminal cases charged by indictment or accusation by its Corruption Bureau, Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, and Major Crimes Bureau.
* The Corruption Bureau charged 70 cases, a 9 percent increase over 2008 (64 cases) and a 32 percent increase over 2007 (53 cases).
* The Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau charged 161 cases, a 48 percent increase over both 2008 and 2007 (109 cases each year).
* The Major Crimes Bureau charged 549 cases, a 7 percent increase over 2008 (514 cases), and a 72 percent increase over 2007 (319 cases).
The Division of Criminal Justice charged a total of 920 cases in 2009, exceeding 900 for the second straight year.
“Once again we substantially increased the cases we charged in three priority areas, namely rooting out public corruption, fighting street gangs and organized crime, and targeting those who commit financial fraud, particularly those who prey on vulnerable investors and homeowners,” said Attorney General Milgram. “Our Medicaid Fraud Control Unit also increased its cases.”
The Corruption Bureau obtained indictments charging three New Jersey assemblymen, an Essex County freeholder, two former Atlantic City council members and other public officials. It sent two former mayors to prison for five years each, and took a guilty plea from a third former mayor calling for a minimum sentence of five years in prison without parole.
“We charged and resolved important cases this year, from indictments charging ballot fraud in a New Jersey Senate campaign in Essex County and a mayoral primary in Atlantic City, to the success of our Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau in securing lengthy prison sentences for leaders of street gangs and narcotics rings,” Milgram said.
“By indicting three state assemblymen and securing prison sentences for three former mayors, we sent a strong message that we will not tolerate officials who betray the public and use their offices for personal gain or illicit activities,’’ Milgram added.
The Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau sent a leader of the violent Nine Trey Gangsters set of the Bloods to prison for 70 years; obtained life sentences for two leaders of a South Jersey drug ring; indicted an alleged pimp and six associates who ran a major human trafficking and prostitution ring in Jersey City; indicted 12 men for illegally trafficking guns later recovered by police in connection with crimes in New Jersey; and indicted 35 inmates for illegally possessing cell phones in prisons.
The Major Crimes Bureau sent a man to prison for 13 years for stealing $2.9 million through mortgage and investment scams; indicted four defendants for stealing over $1 million by using stolen identities to obtain mortgages and credit; indicted a father and son in a $4.5 million mortgage fraud; and indicted four men who stole $435,000 from the state by fraudulently obtaining tax refunds.
The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit filed charges in major cases, including indictments and guilty pleas involving 24 defendants in Essex County who engaged in a scheme to fraudulently bill Medicaid for HIV/AIDS drugs and other expensive medications, and the takedown of a major criminal narcotics network in Hudson County that distributed thousands of black market OxyContin and Percocet pills.
The Division charged 920 cases this year, compared to 966 in 2008, 658 in 2007, and 594 in 2006. CeaseFire program cases, which are handled by deputy attorneys general embedded in the Camden and Essex County Prosecutors’ Offices, declined from 117 in 2008 to 39 in 2009 as staffing was cut, cases charged in 2008 moved to trial, and more cases were handled by the county prosecutors. Staff cuts also impacted the Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor, which charged 100 cases compared to 156 in 2008. However, the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in OIFP increased its cases to 27 in 2009, from 25 in 2008.
Director Gramiccioni noted that the Division charged 920 cases despite the net loss in 2009 of 19 attorneys and detectives (8 deputy attorneys general and 11 detectives) and the requirement that all staff take five unpaid furlough days. Cases are up 26 percent over 2005, when there were 38 more attorneys and 21 more detectives. There were 162 attorneys and 217 detectives in January 2006; there are 124 attorneys and 196 detectives now.
“For the second straight year, we charged well over 900 cases, and we did it with fewer people and fewer working days due to continued attrition, the state hiring freeze and five mandatory furlough days,” said Director Gramiccioni. “Through the diligence of our staff, we are bringing more and higher quality cases in priority areas including corruption, gangs, financial crimes and Medicaid fraud. We are truly maximizing our resources to protect the people of New Jersey and serve their best interests.”
“I commend the outstanding work of all of our deputy attorneys general, detectives, civil investigators, analysts and support staff,” Gramiccioni added. “Frequently they acted in partnership with the New Jersey State Police and other law enforcement and government agencies.”
Corruption Bureau
The Corruption Bureau charged and resolved a number of important cases, including these:
* Assemblyman Joseph Vas, the former mayor of Perth Amboy, was named in two separate indictments that charged him with, among other things, rigging a public housing lottery so his personal driver could buy an affordable home; stealing approximately $5,000 in public funds to pay for personal purchases and expenses; illegally receiving $25,000 in home improvements free of charge from a city vendor; making illegal reimbursements to city employees for political contributions; and conspiring with another city vendor to have it pay the $58,000 catering bill for a ribbon-cutting at the city’s new public safety, court and community complex.
* Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone and his wife, Diane, were charged with funneling $8,000 in state paychecks for legislative aides into their personal and campaign accounts, and failing to report the paychecks that went into the campaign to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission.
* Former state assemblyman Neil Cohen was charged in July in a superseding indictment that included a new count of possession of child pornography for images of child pornography he allegedly possessed on a computer in his law office in Montclair. The indictment repeated the counts of a prior indictment charging Cohen with official misconduct and possession, reproduction and distribution of child pornography for allegedly using computers in the 20th Legislative District office to view child pornography and print copies of child pornography that he left around the office.
* Former Irvington mayor Michael Steele pleaded guilty in September to rigging school district contracts and taking thousands of dollars in kickbacks as business administrator for the Irvington Board of Education. The state will recommend a seven-year prison sentence including five years without possibility of parole.
* Former Orange mayor and former state assemblyman Mims Hackett Jr. was sentenced in January to five years in state prison for fraudulently billing the City of Orange for more than $5,000 in travel expenses he never incurred.
* In July, the Division of Criminal Justice secured an Appellate Division decision increasing the sentence of former Carneys Point mayor John “Mack” Lake from three to five years in prison for attempting to bribe an opponent to drop out of the 2006 township committee race.
* Ten people, including Essex County Freeholder Samuel Gonzalez, were indicted for election fraud in connection with absentee ballots they collected and submitted as campaign workers in the 2007 campaign of State Senator Teresa Ruiz in the 29th Legislative District.
* Atlantic City Councilman Marty Small was indicted with 13 other defendants on charges they systematically conspired in a variety of fraudulent messenger ballot schemes in the 2009 Democratic primary election for mayor of Atlantic City.
* Former Atlantic City councilwoman Cassandra Clark was indicted on charges she used a straw purchaser to illegally purchase a property being sold by the city for delinquent taxes.
* John P. Corea, the former director of the Hoboken Parking Utility, was indicted on charges he conspired to steal more than $600,000 in parking meter revenue that he split with a contractor whose company he arranged to hire to collect coins from city parking meters.
* Frank Winters, former police chief for Clayton Borough, was sentenced to seven years in prison for stealing $180,000 from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and $989 from his police department.
* Audrey Walker Bey, a former employee of the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program in Newark, and two co-conspirators, were charged with conspiring to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from the federally-funded WIC program by using fraudulent vouchers.
Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau
Operation Red Light – This investigation resulted in the indictment of an alleged pimp, Allen “Prince” Brown, and six associates charged with running a human trafficking and prostitution ring in Jersey City in which scores of women were induced to use heroin and cocaine and were beaten if they did not turn a daily quota of tricks.
Operation Pandora – In this case, 19 defendants were indicted in connection with a Newark-based ring engaged in the wholesale distribution of hundreds of thousands of narcotic pills, including OxyContin. This year all remaining defendants, including ringleader Mohamed Hassanain, entered guilty pleas calling for aggregate prison sentences in excess of 200 years and the forfeiture of millions of dollars worth of property.
Operation Nine Connect – Prosecutions continued in this investigation into the statewide criminal activities of the Nine Trey Gangsters set of the Bloods Street Gang. Guilty pleas have been obtained from approximately 48 of the initial 59 defendants resulting in sentences between five and 16 years in state prison. One gang leader, Michael Smart, was tried in January 2009, convicted and sentenced to 70 years in prison, including 40 years without possibility of parole.
Operation Centerfield – The leaders of a large-scale cocaine, methamphetamine, prescription pill and marijuana distribution ring in Camden and Gloucester counties, Gary Maddox and Jason McKinnon, were convicted at trial of racketeering and leading a narcotics trafficking organization and were each sentenced to life in prison plus fifteen years.
Eugene Braswell – Former senior state corrections officer Eugene Braswell was indicted with six others for allegedly trafficking 20 kilos of cocaine between Texas and New Jersey.
Operation Bloodbank – A spin-off investigation from Operation Nine Connect led to the indictment in July of 12 defendants charged as leaders and recruiters in a scheme involving members of the Nine Trey Gangsters to steal from banks by cashing counterfeit payroll checks. The defendants passed approximately $667,500 worth of counterfeit checks, stealing $374,502 from eight banks.
Cell Phones in Prisons – A state grand jury indicted 35 inmates for the illegal possession of cell phones in Northern State, East Jersey and South Woods state prisons. Twenty-five of those indicted are members or associates of criminal street gangs.
David Charles Murray – Murray was sentenced to seven years in prison for selling assault rifles, semi-automatic handguns and sawed-off shotguns to an undercover State Police detective.
Major Crimes Bureau
State v. Spiro Pollatos – This defendant was sentenced to 13 ½ years in state prison, including 4 ½ years without possibility of parole, in connection with a series of mortgage and investment scams through which he stole approximately $2.9 million, causing financial devastation for at least 20 victims and having an adverse impact on two financial institutions that provided loans.
State v. Jeffrey Southard – This Salem County investment broker was sentenced to 15 years in prison, including five years without possibility of parole, for defrauding elderly clients in South Jersey out of $1.8 million through a Ponzi scheme.
State v. Yu Jane Chen et. al – Four defendants were indicted for stealing more than $1 million by utilizing the identities of others to obtain mortgages, lines of credit and credit cards.
State v. Gendel – Martin and Seth Gendel and their companies, including Casey Properties LLC, were indicted for allegedly deceiving seven mortgage lenders into providing $4.5 million in loans for purchases of 14 homes. The loans were used in a scheme in which the defendants convinced investors to buy urban properties at inflated prices, then diverted loan funds for their personal use, leaving behind investors facing foreclosure and dilapidated homes.
State v. Michael Rumore – This Lyndhurst lawyer was sentenced to 15 years in prison for stealing $4 million entrusted to him for real estate closings, which he used to gamble in Atlantic City.
Title Wave – Wesley Starr, a former employee for the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, was indicted on charges he sold hundreds of fraudulent motor vehicle titles to various brokers and purchasers, including 13 people who were also indicted.
State v. Albert Taylor – A Virginia man who formerly ran a company in Lincoln Park, N.J., that tested underground storage tanks was indicted for defrauding hundreds of clients by falsifying test results to generate business for his tank removal company.
State v. R.D. Secaucus, Crowne Plaza –- The owner of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Secaucus was indicted for unlawfully discharging sewage contaminated wastewater into the Hackensack River.
State v. Mark Magee – Magee was indicted for first-degree murder and weapons charges in the shooting death of Trump Taj Mahal shift manager Raymond Kot inside the casino on May 27.
State v. John Hollins and Leslie Lawson –- John Hollins, an alleged cocaine dealer from Harrisburg, Pa., and his girlfriend Leslie Lawson were indicted on a charge of first-degree financial facilitation of criminal activity for allegedly laundering more than $2 million in drug proceeds in Atlantic City casinos from 2004 to 2008.
State v. Daniel Goncalves – A state grand jury indicted Goncalves for theft of an Internet domain name in November, making him the first person ever indicted in the United States for such a crime.
Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor
State v. Sciarra, et al. – Seven individuals and 11 corporations were indicted in January 2009 in a $1.5 million workers’ compensation fraud scheme. The indictments allege that the defendants lied on insurance applications and failed to remit premiums to the insurance companies, instead keeping the money for themselves. They allegedly laundered money so that the scheme would go undetected. As a result, many people were left without workers’ compensation insurance.
OIFP’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit
Operation PharmScam – OIFP’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit indicted or obtained guilty pleas from 24 defendants, including the owners of a pharmacy and a clinic in Essex County, in an ongoing investigation into schemes in which prescriptions for HIV/AIDS drugs and other expensive medications were bought from Medicaid beneficiaries so that Medicaid could be billed for drugs that were never dispensed. The total fraud is estimated to have exceeded $2.3 million. The clinic=s owner, Bryan X. Chandler, and two pharmacy operators, Abdul Bari and John Borges, each pleaded guilty to health care claims fraud. Bari was sentenced to three years in state prison and ordered to pay $500,000 in fines and restitution. Chandler and Borges face state prison sentences of three to five years. The operation has resulted in the seizure of over $4 million in assets.
Operation MedScam – Operation MedScam led to the arrests in October of 13 people, including doctors and pharmacists, in connection with a major narcotics network in Hudson County that distributed thousands of prescription pain pills such as OxyContin and Percocet. Search warrants were executed at multiple locations and more than $1 million in assets were seized.
State v. New Jersey Mobile Dentist – In a series of undercover operations conducted in nursing homes by OIFP’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, detectives documented dentists not performing services that were billed to Medicaid. As a result of the investigation, four dentists employed by New Jersey Mobile Dentist have pleaded guilty thus far. The Medicaid program allegedly paid New Jersey Mobile Dentist more than $1.3 million as a result of fraudulent billing for those four dentists.

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