Daily Archives: March 14, 2011

>Crime Scene Middletown: POLICE ARREST THREE MEN IN CREDIT CARD FRUAD CASE

>PREPARED BY DETECTIVE LIEUTENANT STEPHEN DOLLINGER

Police have arrested three men involved in a credit card fraud totaling $1,556.45 in unauthorized transactions. On March 7, 2011 the victim reported to police that her credit card had been stolen and fraudulently used at numerous businesses throughout the Middletown area.

Middletown Police Detective Daniel Sullivan and the United States Secret Service conducted a joint investigation resulting in the arrests of Edward Malek, age 23, from Clinton Avenue in Belford, Christopher Newrock, age 22, from Evergreen Terrace in Middletown, and James Guadagno, age 36, from Navesink River Road in Middletown.

Police say Edward Malek, who was known to the victim, stole the credit card and with the help of Newrock and Guadagno set up a fake PayPal account in order to access the credit card and receive cash from fraudulent transactions made to the fake account.

The investigation resulted in all three subjects being charged with Fraudulent Use of a Credit Card and Conspiracy. Malek was also charged with one count of Theft after police were able to connect him to the theft of jewelry from the victim as well. Police report Malek was in possession of the stolen credit card at the time of his arrest.

Newrock and Guadagno were released on a summons pending a court appearance. Malek was held on $22,500 bail set by Judge Michael Pugliese.

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Filed under conspiracy, credit card fraud, identity theft, pay Pal, US Secret Service

>Crime Scene Middletown: MAN ARRESTED FOR SHOPLIFTING SUNGLASSES AT SEARS STORE

> PREPARED BY DETECTIVE LIEUTENANT STEPHEN DOLLINGER

On March 12, 2011 at approximately 5:05 pm police responded to the Sears Store located on Highway 35 in reference to a report of a shoplifting.

Upon arrival, Patrolman Brian McGrogan was advised by store security that they had observed Todd Gunderson, age 32, from Grove Street in Middletown, attempt to shoplift a pair of sunglasses from the store.

Officer Mc Grogan placed Gunderson under arrest and transported him to police headquarters where he was charged with Shoplifting. He was processed and released on a summons pending a court appearance

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Filed under crime reports, Crime Scene Middletown, Middletown NJ, Sears, shoplifting

>Crime Scene Middletown: TWO MEN ARRESTED FOR NUMEROUS CAR BURGLARIES

>PREPARED BY DETECTIVE LIEUTENANT STEPHEN DOLLINGER

On March 3, 2011 at approximately 9:30 pm police responded to a report of two subjects breaking into cars in the area of Joycee Court. The caller provided police with a description of the two subjects.

Patrolman Michael Pintilie and Corporal Bernard Chenoweth responded to the area and located two subjects fitting the description. The officers conducted an investigation resulting in the arrests of Joseph Wyckoff, age 19, from Nautilus Drive in Leonardo and Joshua Lindner, age 18, from Kimberly Court in Middletown.

Police say Wyckoff and Lindner entered at least five vehicles and removed various items from the cars.

Both subjects were charged with Burglary, Theft, Receiving Stolen Property and Conspiracy. Wyckoff was also charged with Possession of under 50 grams of Marijuana after police located the marijuana in his vehicle during the course of the investigation.

Both subjects were released on summonses pending a court appearance.

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Filed under burglary, car theft, conspiracy, Crime Scene Middletown, Middletown NJ, stolen property

>Crime Scene Middletown: WOMAN ARRESTED FOR MARIJUANA POSSESSION AFTER MOTOR VEHICLE STOP

>PREPARED BY DETECTIVE LIEUTENANT STEPHEN DOLLINGER

On March 12, 2011 at approximately 1:53 am Patrolman Frank Mazza was on patrol in the area of Port Monmouth Road when he observed a vehicle fail to stop for a stop sign.

Officer Mazza conducted a motor vehicle stop and approached the driver, identified as Stephanie Bryan, age 20, from Hazel Place in Hazlet. At this point Officer Mazza detected a strong odor of raw marijuana coming from inside the car. Further investigation resulted in the recovery of a small baggie of marijuana from the interior of the vehicle.

Bryan was placed under arrest and was transported to police headquarters where she was charged with Possession of under 50 grams of marijuana. She was processed and released on a summons pending a court appearance

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Filed under Crime Scene Middletown, Marijuana, Middletown NJ, traffic violation

>NJ TREASURY BOTCHES MONMOUTH PROBE; STATE IGNORES $245K PENSION SCAM IMPLICATING LT. GOV. GUADAGNO

>Back on October 19th of last year the website New Jersey Watchdog broke the story about how Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, while acting as Monmouh County Sheriff in 2008, allowed and participated in a scheme allowing a high-ranking Monmouth County Sheriff’s employee to blatantly violate pension laws giving him a full pension and a full County paycheck at the same time.

Now New Jersey Watchdog is reporting that after an investigation into the allegations, the NJ Treasury botched it’s investigation into this troubling story, by ignoring evidence that clearly shows that Michael W. Donovan Jr. was employed as Chief Warrant Officer, which has allowed him to collect $85,000 a year in pension benefits while collecting a county salary of $87,500. To date New Jersey Watchdog says that Donovan owes the County in excess of $245,000 for pension payments that he was not entitled to:

Here is what NJ Watchdog is reporting:

A botched investigation by the New Jersey Treasury is allowing a Monmouth County sheriff’s executive – and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, his former boss – to get away with a double-dipping scam that has cheated a state pension fund out of nearly a quarter-million dollars.

Ignoring evidence to the contrary, state officials concluded Michael W. Donovan Jr. was employed as “chief warrant officer,” according to a letter from Florence J. Shepherd, acting director of the Treasury’s Division of Pension and Benefits.

Records obtained by New Jersey Watchdog clearly show that Donovan was actually the Sheriff’s Chief Officer in charge of law enforcement. That evidence includes:

  • An Aug. 21, 2008 memo written and initialed by then-Sheriff Guadagno, introducing Donovan as the “new Chief of the Law Enforcement Division.”
  • Organization charts for the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, covering the period of Sept. 22, 2008 through Feb. 13, 2011. Each identifies Donovan as the “Chief” in charge of law enforcement.
  • A Sheriff’s Office web page describing Donovan’s duties as “Sheriff’s Chief,” including the department’s day-to-day activities.

While the job titles of sheriff’s chief officer and chief warrant officer sound similar, the difference is defined in state statute. Another difference is the money this charade has cost the state pension system, as first exposed by a New Jersey Watchdog investigation in October 2010.

Listed as chief warrant officer in payroll records, Donovan has been able to collect $85,000 a year in benefits as a retired county investigator, plus an $87,500 annual salary for his job with the sheriff.

Chief warrant officer is considered a temporary position exempt from the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (PFRS). In contrast, a sheriff’s chief officer is covered by the PFRS. Under state pension rules, Donovan should have been required to re-enroll in the plan, which would have stopped his retirement checks.

To date, Donovan has improperly received $227,000 in pension payments. In addition, he should have paid $18,000 in contributions to the plan since returning to work in 2008.

On behalf of the PFRS, the Treasury could sue to recover $245,000 from Donovan. But first, the agency would have to face facts that implicate Guadagno – and would likely embarrass the Christie Administration.

The Feb. 11 letter from Acting Director Shepherd was sent in response to an inquiry from Anthony Wieners, president of the New Jersey State Policeman’s Benevolent Association. Wieners could not be reached for comment.

Three days later, Donovan was given a new job title – plus a raise. As Monmouth County’s new undersheriff in charge of law enforcement with essentially the same responsibilites, he now receives a $90,125 annual salary – plus nearly $86,000 a year in state pension checks.

With all that is going on today about how public employees are bankrupting states with their generous health and pension benefits, it’s nice to know that Governor Christie can look the other way when it involves one of his own from the Monmouth County “Good ol’ Boy” network.
Based on what NJ Watchdog has uncovered, I think it is time for Christie to intervene by firing Michael Donovan as Chief Warrant Officer for Monmouth County and asking his Lt. Governorr for some straight answers before asking for Guadagno’s resignation.

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Filed under Chief Warrent Officer, Gov. Chris Christie, Kim Guadagono, Monmouth County, Monmouth County Sheriff, New Jersey Watchdog, pension fraud

>All hail Christie: Governor’s bigger-than-life persona has national media starry-eyed — and missing some facts

>It seems that the tarnish is finally starting to show on Chris Christie’s armour. As the national news media is swooning over Christie and very often refuse to fact check much of which he says, others are beginning to wake up and look at the facts as they are. Often times the facts tell a far different story than the one being told by Christie and his cronies.

This third editorial written by the Star-Ledger’s Kevin Manahan, talks about this very subject and alls out 60 Minutes, Face The Nation, MSNBC “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough and others for asking softball questions without tough follow-up question of the Governor and falling for his tough guy, honest answer, Youtube persona. Which many New Jerseyians know is an act that is wearing thin based on polling numbers that have him less popular at home than he is away from it:

As the segment on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” opens, co-host Joe Scarborough applauds his in-studio guest, Gov. Chris Christie, while stumbling over the words of a song playing in the background — “My Hero” by Foo Fighters:

There goes my hero
Watch him as he goes
There goes my hero …

A day after introducing his $29.4 billion budget, Christie is performing on the Cheerios circuit, and it’s clear from the start this is going to be another 10-minute neck rub for the Republican superstar who, Scarborough believes, is carrying the weight of national reform on his broad (but reportedly slimming), blue-suited shoulders.

For more than a year, most of the national media have tripped over themselves to tell the governor how great he is, or have allowed him to tell the nation himself. It’s fitting that radio and TV host Glenn Beck lovingly calls Christie “the conservative porn star,” because dozens of media outlets — magazines (national and niche), newspapers (New Jersey and beyond), radio (AM and FM), TV (network and cable) — want to climb into bed with Christie and kiss him all over.

In addition, interviewers often don’t have a good grip on what’s happening in New Jersey, outside of what they see in YouTube clips posted by the Christie P.R. machine. Many simply don’t do their homework (“What’s the tool kit?” Scarborough once asked a Star-Ledger reporter). They rarely have a challenging follow-up question and they leave fact-checking to someone else (one inflated Christie’s approval rating to 70 percent). Their shallow questions are tailor-made for Christie riffs on what a great job he’s doing.

You’d expect the batted eyelashes and cuddling from conservative personalities like Neil Cavuto (Christie’s Mendham neighbor) or Imus or Rush Limbaugh, and from conservative talking head Ann Coulter, who refuses to take Christie’s presidential “no” for an answer. But even the usually even-handed “60 Minutes” let Christie go unchallenged in an interview about state finances, and some faithful readers (and online commenters) believe the New York Times — staunch defender of liberalism — has inched perilously close to the Christie hero-worship line, too.

A headline on a Washington Post blog asked, “What is it about Chris Christie?”

The blog lauded Christie for making “even the toughest position sound like nothing more than common sense” — even though the toughest” positions enumerated were typical Republican stances.

Why do the media love him? Because Christie is a novelty — engaging and entertaining — a plain-tawkin’ slugger at a time when the Republican bench is weak. He is seen as Everyman: a guy who has a problem with his weight and his “L’s,” but he is also a savvy politician who, while protecting the tax returns of the rich, can make some middle-class taxpayers believe he is fighting for them.

A large part of Christie’s allure to the media is that he might be president or vice president someday soon.

Why does Christie love them? Well, because he has carefully chosen the interviewers — part of a media strategy to build a national profile. And they don’t ask tough questions.

“Christie understands that he can get a bounce in New Jersey from a gushing national media,” Rutgers political science professor Ross Baker says. “Voters figure if they’re making a fuss about him, he must be all right.”

Is it working? Yes, outside New Jersey, anyway. Recent polls show the governor is more popular outside the Garden State than in it.

And, of course, here, within the borders, the questions tend to be more challenging.

Before this February morning is done, Ann Curry of “Today” will schmooze over Christie’s weight loss: “You look good,” she says, and she spends more time (five questions and comments) prying into the number of pounds he has lost than finding out about the state’s proposed budget or how Christie feels about the union-busting attempt by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker….

Read More >>> Here

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Filed under 60 Minutes, Chris Christie, Face the Nation, Gov.Scott Walker, Morning Joe, the Star-Ledger, Today Show

>In many N.J. towns that undergo revaluations, homeowners end up paying more open space taxes

>The second NJ.com editorial that caught my eye today was about how NJ open space taxes are effected when municipalities undergo revaluations like Middletown has. Open space taxes are tied into property values and increase proportionally to the value of a property after a revaluation.

I remember during last year’s budget introduction meeting in Middletown, a gentleman brought up this issue and wanted the Township to adjust the rate downward to offset the 14% tax increase which was contained in the budget. I believe his request fell on death ears and nothing was done to make adjustments to the open space tax:

In the nation’s most densely populated state, Garden State residents value their space.

But they may not be so thrilled about what they are paying for it. The reason is a tiny municipal tax for open space — pennies per $100 of a home’s valuation — that, left unchecked, has added up to big bucks in some towns.

The result is homeowners in 50 New Jersey towns have paid out some $15 million more to preserve land, farms and historic and recreational sites than they had in previous years. In one town last year, the tax bills jumped by more than $150 for some homeowners.

The quirk comes into play when towns conduct revaluations. The problem is towns — which make adjustments to prevent other slices of the tax pie from skyrocketing — fail to do the same for the open space tax. Because that tax’s rate is tied to property values, the levy goes up when properties appreciate.

The longer a town goes between revaluations, the more homes are worth and the bigger the bite taken by the open space tax. Last year, for example:

• In Roseland, which underwent a revaluation for the first time since the Nixon administration, the average property assessment climbed 651 percent. That jacked up the open space tax from roughly $25 to nearly $200 for the owner of a home assessed at the borough’s average of about $481,000. The Essex County town’s open space tax levy surged from nearly $95,000 to almost $727,000.

• In Brick, what had been an open space levy of more than $471,000 ballooned by 127 percent to more than $1 million after a revaluation in that Ocean County township.

• In Princeton Borough, leaders tried to avoid a tax hike by spending surplus funds and not replacing several departing workers. But the open space rate wasn’t adjusted before the Mercer County borough’s revaluation, and it raised that part of the average tax bill by $40 from the year before.

“Maybe some people are asleep at the switch,” said Ulrich H. Steinberg, a former director of the state Division of Local Government Services, which provides management and fiscal advice to municipalities. “(Officials) may see the numbers, but they may not understand what the numbers mean. They may not be looking out for what the overall impact is on the residents.”

Over the last five years, 71 New Jersey towns with open space taxes underwent property revaluations. Nearly three-quarters of them failed to adjust their open space tax rates, leading to a 128 percent increase in their combined levies — a windfall of more than $15.5 million. By contrast, municipal taxes in those towns rose an average of 12 percent….

Read more >>> Here and find out exactly “WHAT IS A MUNICIPAL OPEN-SPACE TAX?”

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Filed under Middletown, open-space tax, property tax revaluation, the Star-Ledger