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Fire OT prompts hirings

By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


After meeting in closed caucus for about an hour last Wednesday, Kearny’s governing body came out with what Mayor Alberto Santos later characterized as a commitment to hire 12 additional firefighters … if the town’s state fiscal monitor goes along.

And town officials are pledged to do that, Santos said, even if Kearny fails to secure outside funding sources – in particular, the federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) grant – to help subsidize the cost.

In the recent past, the town has been hesitant to hire any new uniformed employees without that outside cash, insisting that it has been operating under severe budgetary restraints.

But now, Santos said, the Fire Department roster has dipped to the degree that overtime expenses to cover for ailing or injured firefighters and fire superiors have climbed to alarming levels, to the point where the town has essentially no choice but to replenish the ranks.

“We’re going to hit close to $1 million in Fire Department overtime – for both the rank and file and for officers – for the year,” the mayor said, “and we have a recommendation from both the fire chief and CFO that if we hire 12 additional firefighters, we will actually see a savings with a big reduction in overtime.”

With the new personnel, Santos said, each of the department’s four shifts can be supplemented by three firefighters, thereby expanding coverage and more bodies available to fill gaps when needed.

Implementing the new hires, according to Santos, would mean an investment of approximately $600,000 – calculated on the basis of about $30,000 in salary plus an average of $20,000 in health benefits per firefighter per year.

But Santos said that some of that cost would be offset by retirements of veteran uniformed employees anticipated in both the Police and Fire Departments during the next couple of years.

As part of the plan, the mayor said the town would “implement monthly overtime reporting to track projected savings in overtime.”

If, for whatever reason, however, the plan doesn’t produce those savings, Santos said the town may have to close another fire company, as it did a few years ago.

Asked if the town would consider – as a possible savings strategy – renegotiating firefighters’ work schedule, Santos said that wouldn’t happen because the issue was previously arbitrated in the unions’ favor.

At any rate, assuming the state monitor signs off on the plan for extra hirings, Santos said the next step would be for the town to ask the state Civil Service Commission to certify a new firefighter appointment list.

Reached this week, Fire Chief Steve Dyl said: “Yes, we looked at our overtime for 2013 and 2014 and we figured that if we put a few more [firefighters] on, we’d have better balance and put a dent in the O.T.”

Dyl said he’s still facing a falloff in personnel, having lost three firefighters this year through retirement. “If we get the 12 [new appointees], that will put me at 56 – and, with superiors, it will come to 96 total,” he said. That will still fall short of the 102 total called for under the department’s T.O.

“We’ll try to get the new people into the training academy by March [2015] so we have them on the streets before July 1,” Dyl said.

Meanwhile, Santos said the town is also planning to hire more police officers to strengthen thinned ranks. To that end, he said that Civil Service has asked the Police Department to verify residencies of the people on the current appointment list. He declined to say how many cops might be hired.

The mayor and council have also agreed to go along with Public Works Superintendent Gerry Kerr’s recommendation to hire three “seasonal” workers for six months of the year. The monitor has consented to this proposal, Santos said.

A request from the Health Department for a replacement senior citizen bus driver has yet to be discussed, the mayor said.

Sober House ordered to pack up


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


Occupants of the so-called Sober House at 2-8 Grand Place in Kearny faced a court order to vacate the building on or before 5 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 4.

Hudson County Superior Court Judge Hector R. Velazquez, sitting in Jersey City, so ordered last Friday after determining “that immediate or irreparable harm will result” from property owner Jacqueline Lopes “operating or permitting others to operate a rooming/boarding house” in a single-family residential zone.

An inspection of the property conducted by the state Department of Community Affairs’ Bureau of Rooming & Boarding House Standards on Oct. 6 found that eight people were living in the house. Angelo J. Mureo, an enforcement field supervisor with the bureau, concluded that, “the property is currently operating as an unlicensed Class C boarding house.” The house can hold up to nine residents, Mureo determined.

Among “concerns regarding physical plant,” Mureo recommends removal of two entry doors, “one providing access to the third story attic area housing a rooming unit to accommodate two roomers and the other housing a sitting room.”

He also says the bureau has received “no certificate of smoke detector and carbon monoxide alarm compliance, issued by the designated Uniform Fire Code enforcing agency….”

The judge will allow Lopes to explain why the occupants of the house should be allowed to stay – but not until a hearing set for Dec. 12 at 11:30 a.m. in Jersey City.

On a separate legal front, Lopes and Charles Valentine, who runs the Sober House operation, have been summoned to appear in Kearny Municipal Court Nov. 13 at 10:30 a.m. Lopes faces fines totaling $8,000 dating from Sept. 5 for “changing the use” of the property while Valentine is charged with failing to get a certificate of occupancy for a rooming house, dating from Sept. 8.

As of last week, it was unclear what, if anything, Lopes or Valentine would do to prevent the vacate order from being carried out.

According to complaints filed by Kearny with Superior Court, Lopes acquired the Grand Place property around May 2014 and received a C.O. for its “continued use” as a “one-family dwelling.” But, the complaint notes, Lopes “is being paid $1,900 per month to illegally operate, or to permit others to illegally operate, a boarding house on the premises.”

This contention, the town says in its complaint, is borne out by the state inspection report.

And because the Valentine House accommodates “recovering drug and alcohol addicts,” that is “of particular concern to the town because the Roosevelt Elementary School is approximately 100 feet from the premises,” the complaint says.

Further, the complaint says, Lopes “has not applied to the town for a variance to use the premises as a rooming/boarding house [and] is not licensed by the [state] as a rooming/ boarding house operator ….” and that she “misrepresented that she would occupy the premises as her sole residence.”

Fairfield attorney Gregory Castano Jr., the town’s general counsel, argued in the complaints that, “The town has a statutorily mandated obligation to enforce the state and local zoning laws. Every single day that Ms. Lopes is permitted to operate an illegal rooming/ boarding house at the [Grand Place] premises is a flagrant, continuing and ongoing injury for which the town – which represents the general public interest – has no other remedy.”

Lopes couldn’t be reached and reportedly had no legal representative at last week’s court session. Valentine’s attorney Thomas J. Cotton was unavailable last week.


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent


The federal trial of Kearny Board of Education member John Leadbeater, accused of taking part in a conspiracy to defraud banks of $13 million in mortgage proceeds, has been delayed three months – at the government’s request. The trial of Leadbeater, a former Kearny councilman, is now on for March 2 before Judge Ann Marie Donio in Camden federal court.

Leadbeater’s Jersey City attorney Thomas J. Cammarata raised no objection to the government’s petition. The case had been set for trial early next month but on Oct. 8, government lawyers asked U.S. District Court Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle to designate it as a “complex case,” and, as such, the government gets more time to prepare.

“Complex case or litigation,” as explained by the National Center for State Courts website, is a legal term of art referring to the types of cases “requiring more intensive judicial management. Complexity may be determined by multiple parties, multiple attorneys, geographically dispersed plaintiffs and defendants, numerous expert witnesses, complex subject matter, complicated testimony concerning causation, procedural complexity, complex substantive law, extensive discovery [among other factors].”

On Oct. 21, Judge Simandle granted the government’s request, noting that, “This case involves allegations of conspiracy to commit wire fraud over a period of several years and conspiracy to commit money laundering over a period several years.”

Further, the judge found that, “The discovery in the case is voluminous, in that it includes the documents relevant to approximately 30 real estate transactions occurring between 2006 through 2008.”

Initially, the government – represented by Asst. U.S. Attorney Jacqueline M. Carle – had sought the move the trial from Dec. 1, 2014, to Feb. 2, 2015, “and to exclude the intervening period of time under the [70-day] Speedy Trial Act to allow trial counsel for the government to prepare for trial.”

In response, Cammarata asked for a March date “due to scheduling conflicts,” to which the judge consented, agreeing to make the same exception for the intervening time for the defense.

In March 2013, Leadbeater, 54, was charged with Daniel Cardillo, 49, of Wildwood, in a federal indictment with conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with an alleged scheme to recruit straw buyers (Cardillo included) to buy oceanfront condominiums “overbuilt by financially distressed developers in Wildwood and Wildwood Crest.”

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the straw buyers “had good credit scores but lacked the financial resources to qualify for the mortgage loans.” Leadbeater and other co-conspirators allegedly “created … fake employment records, W-2 forms and investment statements to make the straw buyers appear more creditworthy than they actually were to induce the lenders to make the loans,” the feds alleged.

“Once the loans were approved and the mortgage lenders sent the loan proceeds in connection with real estate closings on the properties, Leadbeater and his conspirators took a portion of the proceeds, having funds wired or checks deposited into various accounts they controlled,” the government alleged.

If convicted of wire fraud conspiracy, Leadbeater could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison and fined up to $1 million.

Leadbeater co-defendant Cardillo was severed from his alleged co-conspirator and will stand trial after Leadbeater, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Rebeka Carmichael. They are the two remaining defendants in the feds’ sweeping mortgage fraud case involving at least 11 other alleged conspirators.

Seven of those defendants – Justin Spradley, 35, of Cincinnati, Ohio; Robert Horton, 37, of Nashport, Ohio; Paul Watterson, 53, of Mountainside; Michelle Martinez, 49, of Brick; Ernesto Rodriguez, Matthew Gardner and Steven Schlatmann, 27, of Jersey City – have each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and their sentences are pending, Carmichael said.

Four defendants – John Bingaman, 44, of Benton, Ark.; Dana Rummerfield, 47, of Los Angeles; Debra Hanson, 49, of Voorhees; and Angela Celli, 42, of Somerset, Mass. – have also entered guilty pleas relative to the case and also await sentencing, she said.

7 promoted in police ranks


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


Just four weeks after Commissioner John Montillo took over as public safety director, the Lyndhurst Police Department promoted seven cops, including the only woman in the nearly 50-member department.

Strikingly absent from last Thursday’s promotion ceremonies was Mayor Robert Giangeruso, a retired deputy police chief who had been a fixture as public safety boss since being elected to the Township Commission nine years ago.

But last month, Giangeruso was forced to accept a shift to Montillo’s old spot as public affairs chief after the township was reportedly on the brink of losing insurance coverage because several cops – including the chief – were suing the mayor for allegedly interfering with the operations of the Police Department.

Standing before a packed house in the Municipal Building assembly chambers, Montillo said: “This is a special day for me. I’m extremely proud to be your public safety commissioner.” After having met with “almost all” of the police officers “to hear them explain their functions and the efforts they make to protect Lyndhurst,” Montillo said he was confident that the township “is a safer place because of Chief [James] O’Connor and the members of the Lynhurst Police Department.”

And he drew cheers when he declared that he was “committed to being fair and impartial” in his oversight of the department. Addressing the newly made superiors, Montillo added: “I have all the faith in the world you are right people for the job.”

Later, Montillo released a statement to The Observer, saying, “The promotions were in compliance with the department’s official table of organization. They filled vacancies that existed due to retirements that have occurred within the past year as well as one officer currently on terminal leave.

“It’s a benefit to our entire department those we serve to recognize the talents and dedication of our officers,” his statement said. “It also makes good police-management sense to have a clear chain of command and accountability. These promotions help us achieve that goal.”

O’Connor extended thanks to Montillo “for taking an active role” in consulting with him on the promotions and said that the department would shortly disclose a “reconfiguration” of its table of organization. He declined to elaborate.

The new appointees are: Capt. Patrick Devlin, Lts. Robert Nicol, John Kerner and Michael Failace; and Sgts. Kevin Breslin, Donna Niland and Richard Pizzuti. Sergeant’s pay is $121,352 a year; lieutenants make $131,854; and captains earn $142,424.

Capt. Devlin, the current investigative division supervisor, was hired in December 1994, was made detective in August 2000, elevated to sergeant in June 2003 and to lieutenant in 2009. He is tactical commander of the Special Response Team and founder of the Junior Police Academy. He has a bachelor’s degree in police studies from John Jay College and a master’s in administrative science from FDU. He served six years with the Marine Corps and is an instructor with the West Point Command & Leadership Program.

Lt. Nicol was hired in March 1985 and promoted to sergeant in November 2002. He teaches expandable baton, prisoner and cell block management and coordinates criminal justice information systems.

Lt. Kerner was hired in June 1992, promoted to detective in June 2003 and sergeant in September 2009. He has served as property & evidence officer, Megan’s Law liaison officer and crisis negotiator. He is credited with a highly successful case clearance rate in investigations and is responsible for DNA collections. He attended Montclair State University.

Lt. Failace was hired in August 1999, made detective in September 2002 and sergeant in September 2009. An original member of the Special Response Team, he assists with CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) and Neighborhood Watch Program, is a Junior Police Academy instructor, a certified chemical munitions instructor, certified field training officer and Honor Guard member. He also works with the Bergen County Police Academy as a physical fitness instructor and motor vehicle stop & street survival instructor. While assigned to the detective bureau, he was credited with a high case closure rate. He’s heavily involved with the Special Olympics.

Sgt. Breslin was hired in December 1994. His resume includes: department Tactical Anti-Crime officer, certified EMT, instructor in CERT, CPR and First Aid, emergency vehicle operations and automatic license plate reader. He maintains all department mobile computer systems and defibrillators and is a computer trainer. Sgt. Niland was hired in January 1998. She has a degree in business administration from Ramapo College. She’s a drug recognition expert, child safety technician, Alco-test operator, DARE instructor, crisis negotiator, Project Lifesaver Electronic Search specialist and assists with Junior Police Academy.

Sgt. Pizzuti was hired in August 1999. He has a criminal justice degree from New Jersey City University and is a firearms instructor, field training officer, an SRT member/sniper, Honor Guard member and Junior Police Academy instructor. Since 2010, he has been assigned to the DEA Task Force where he’s been involved in numerous high-level narcotics investigations.

All those promoted are the recipients of numerous letters of commendation for exceptional police work.

Nov. 12 hearing on feral cats


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


Oct. 29 was National Cat Day, and Kearny feline lovers were purring with delight over the town’s move to implement a TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return) policy for feral cats – something advocates been clamoring about for months.

It’s not quite official yet: The mayor and Town Council will hold a public hearing on the ordinance, introduced Wednesday, that details how the program will work at their next meeting on Nov. 12 but no roadblocks are anticipated.

The policy, which, Mayor Alberto Santos heralded as a potential “model for the state” if adopted, allows for “feral cat colonies” and designates citizen “caregivers” to “maintain them” as per the rules set out in the ordinance.

Here’s how the policy would work:

The town’s animal control provider, the Bergen County Animal Shelter, would train caregivers in caring for the cat colony, help resolve any complaints over the colony’s operation and assume costs associated with the TNR program, such as traps, vaccinations, neutering/spaying. (Those expenses would be included as part of the town’s roughly $92,000 a year contract with the BCAS, Santos told The Observer.)

A TNR Committee, whose members are to be appointed by the mayor and council, would use standardized forms to “maintain records provided by colony caregivers on the registration, size and location of the colonies, as well as the vaccination and spay/neuter records of cats in the caregiver colonies.”

The TNR Committee would also report to the town Health Department, every six months, with help from colony caregivers, on the “number and gender of all cats in the colony, the number of cats who died [or left the colony], the number of kittens born to colony cats and their disposition, the number of cats and kittens spayed and neutered and the number of cats and kittens placed in permanent homes….”

Volunteer feral cat caregivers would register a colony with the TNR Committee, have the colony vaccinated against rabies and get “all cats” in the colony spayed/ neutered; maintain a digital photo record of all colony cats and a record of cats having been “vaccinated, spayed/ neutered and ear tipped [to identify cats that may roam from the colony]” and provide food and water during daylight hours and winter shelter for colony cats.

They would also “keep a record of any illnesses or unusual behavior” observed in any colony cats, secure medical care for ill cats, and secure “written approval” of any property owner “to which the caregiver requires access to provide colony care.”

They would also be charged with placing any kittens born to a colony cat in “homes, foster homes, or with animal shelters, rescue organizations or veterinary offices for the purpose of subsequent permanent placement.”

The town would reserve its right to remove from a colony any cat that hasn’t received a rabies shot and is showing signs of the disease or any cat “creating a nuisance” unless the caregiver can resolve the issue within 60 days. The town could shut down a colony for failure to comply with the regulations. It could also “replace or remove” a caregiver for failure to comply with the rules. If the town gets a nuisance complaint about an ear-tipped feral colony cat, the Health Department can remove the cat if the TNR Committee can’t resolve the issue within 60 days. Sick or injured cats or cats deemed a public threat may also be removed under certain time conditions.

“Not later than Jan. 31, 2016,” the town is to evaluate the policy to determine whether to continue, modify or terminate it.

Asked who would sit on the TNR Committee, Santos said the council would be asked to deal with that shortly by acting a resolution for the appointment of between three and five nonsalaried members who, he added, would likely include TNR advocates Leonard Twist and Kathy DeRay. “We would probably leave it to them to choose the others,” he said.

The mayor credited Flanders attorney Michelle Lerner, legal adviser for the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, for help in drafting the ordinance.

After the council voted to introduce the ordinance, Twist and DeRay lauded the lawmakers and Health Director Ken Pincus for their efforts. “You put your nose to the grindstone on this one,” said Twist. “We’ll make it work.”

Added DeRay: “You’ve turned Kearny from a ‘trap and kill’ community to a ‘trap and no kill.’ ’’



PHOTO: Wikipedia



Old enough to know better?

By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 


Last Wednesday, Oct. 29, Kearny police contacted the Hudson County Juvenile Intake Unit regarding a 16-year-old township boy whom they had arrested for receiving stolen property.

According to Police Chief John Dowie, rather than acceding to the request to send the teen to the Juvenile Detention Center, officials advised the KPD to release him to his guardian. Apparently, the county did not consider the offense serious enough to warrant detention.

But the kid ended up at the center anyway. The very next day. Following a new arrest — this time, for robbery.

Dowie said it marked the 50th “encounter” Kearny police have had with this juvenile since 2010.

Last week’s drama started at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, when Officer Steven Hroncich took a report from a Johnston Ave. resident regarding a bicycle stolen from her yard sometime overnight. The woman noted she had registered the bike with the Montclair PD when she was living in that town, and she provided a detailed description, including the make, the model, the color — and the ID number the MPD had inscribed on it.

At 3:15 p.m., Officer John Fabula, who had read the theft report after coming on duty at 2, spotted a cycle matching the description being ridden by the aforementioned 16-yearold at Kearny Ave. and Beech St. When Fabula inspected it, he found the Montclair ID number, police said.

Since there was no direct evidence linking the boy to the actual theft, he was charged with receiving stolen property and was brought to headquarters. It was then that the request to county was made, and denied.

The juvenile was released to the custody of his grandmother.

On Oct. 30, at 6 p.m., a 17-year-old from Kearny notified police that he had been robbed near Belgrove Drive and Afton St.

Sgt. Charles Smith and Officer Chris Levchak responded to the scene, where the victim told them he had been walking across the athletic field when he was assaulted. He said he was punched in the head and knocked to the ground and was robbed of his cell phone and $5.

A description was obtained and a short time later Sgt. Peter Gleason detained suspects at Kearny Ave. and Afton St. The victim was brought there and provided identification, police said.

Charged with robbery and conspiracy were Jomar Diaz, 21, of Newark, and the same 16-year-old apprehended the previous day with the bicycle.

Diaz was remanded to the Hudson County Jail on $25,000 bail.

The juvenile was finally sent to the Youth House.

Dowie said the KPD›s file on the teen dates to June 2010, when the boy, then 13 years old, was charged with assault. Subsequent charges have reportedly ranged from curfew violation to armed robbery (with a firearm). The 50 “encounters” have also involved allegations of theft, robbery, harassment, trespass, making terroristic threats, and aggravated assault, the chief said.

Thoughts & Views: We can all walk that tightrope

This past Sunday evening, a global audience tuned in to the Discovery Channel to watch the aerialist Nik Wallenda tackle another death-defying stunt.

On this occasion, Wallenda – of the Flying Wallendas circus family – would walk along a tightrope linking two 500-foot-plus high skyscrapers in Chicago – the Windy City – sans harness or safety rope.

And (drum roll, please) he would do part of the walk up an incline and another while wearing a blindfold.

This is the same fellow who, two years ago, strolled across Niagara Falls. (ABC insisted he wear protection for that one.)

“If I want to inspire others, I feel like I have to continue to push myself,” Wallenda told The New York Times in its Saturday edition. “I thought a blindfold would be very exciting.”


To me, exciting is managing to get out of bed in the morning without tripping over my own feet. Or pitching a softball without getting whacked by a line drive back through the box. Or performing on stage and not forgetting my lines.

Why push it?

Well, obviously there are some among us for whom life just ain’t worth living unless you do all you can do – however that translates in your own universe.

If you happen to be an entertainer on a world stage like Wallenda, I guess it’s the notion of rising to ever greater challenges that keeps you going.

Some people might see that as ego satisfaction – and there’s probably a pinch of that influencing the man on the wire – but if we are to accept his words, “inspire others,” as truthful, then we can look beyond personal acclaim to the idea that he’s taking us mere mortals along with him on his perilous journey.

That he’s putting the notion in our heads that we, too, have it in us to rise to the occasion, to be all that we can be, in the noblest and finest way in serving our fellow creatures.

Take, for example, the health care professionals – like Doctors Without Borders and their attending nurses like Kaci Hickox – who have put their lives on the line to work with the unfortunate victims of Ebola in West Africa.

There is the great courage of Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Pakistani girl shot and nearly killed by the Taliban in October 2012 for daring to advocate for a girl’s right to an education in her country and continuing to speak out in the face of persistent death threats.

Let us not forget the contributions made by test pilots, like co-pilot Michael Alsbury, who was killed this past Friday in the crash of Virgin Galactic’s experimental Space- ShipTwo in the Mojave Desert, and pilot Peter Siebold, who was seriously hurt after parachuting from the plane. And, before them, of course, Amelia Earhart and countless others who risked their lives … yes, probably for fame, but also for the advancement of aviation.

Let’s not forget Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, the Mississippi Freedom Fighters who were an inspiration to the cause of civil rights.

Yes, they all walked their own type of tightrope because they believed that in pursuing something bigger than themselves that the world would be better for it.

– Ron Leir 



To the editor: 

In response to Karen Zautyk’s column on Ebola, I think much of the media coverage to date and the statements of some politicians have promoted a climate of confusion and fear. The following points are important:

1. The current strain of Ebola is not airborne. Exposure is through direct contact with infected bodily fluids such as vomit, diarrhea, blood or saliva.

2. All major medical organizations, including the American Medical Assoc. and the American Hospital Assoc., agree that involuntarily quarantining someone not exhibiting symptoms is unnecessary. Only symptomatic individuals are contagious. Govs. Christie and Cuomo did not base their mandatory quarantine policy for health-care workers returning from West Africa on medical science. In my opinion, it was done for political reasons.

3. Nurse Kaci Hickox did not exhibit any symptoms. When the governors announced that she was being quarantined at University Hospital, they ignored the fact that she did not have a fever and was not contagious. Isolating her in a tent with no heat, A/C or a toilet was an overreaction and contributed to the climate of fear.

4. New York’s only Ebola patient, Dr. Craig Spencer, rode the subway, jogged several miles, visited a bowling alley, walked the High Line and patronized restaurants with his girlfriend before he exhibited any symptoms. The media contributed to the climate of fear by tracing his whereabouts, even though no one in the general public was at risk when he was asymptomatic.

5. The Dallas hospital exposures demonstrate that there are unacceptable deficiencies in protocols and training for nurses, doctors and first responders who may come in contact with Ebola patients. Instead of focusing on those gaps, most media and many politicians on TV continue to stoke a climate of fear by conjuring unreal risks to the general public.

We should listen to what the medical experts say about this deadly virus and base our public health policies on medical facts, not fear, and certainly not politics.

Mayor Alberto G. Santos 


Shoplifter had taste for fine wine: NPD blotter

NPD blot_web

A thief with a craving for the classic vino got away with a $1,900 bottle of wine from a Nutley liquor store last Tuesday, Oct. 28.

Police said that a man described as either a light-skinned black or Hispanic, about 6 feet-four, more than 200 pounds, wearing a grey sweatshirt with a dark colored vest, light colored cap, black shoes, Bluetooth headset on his right ear, possibly having keys hanging on a front right belt loop, and possibly driving a black Land Rover, entered the Franklin Ave. shop at 8:21 p.m. and asked the manager if he could check out some of the better wines.

He was shown one selling for $500 which he placed back on the shelf and then began looking at even more expensive brands, police said.

At some point, police said, the manager went to check on something and, when he returned, the customer was gone, along with a bottle of 2005 Chateau Haut Brion, Pessac-Leognan, France valued at $1,900 kept in a cabinet with expensive wines.

A store surveillance system captured an image of the alleged shoplifter.

Detectives are investigating.

Police are asking anyone who may know the identity of the man in the photo to call them at 973-284-4940.

In a separate incident, during the early morning hours on Oct. 29, an officer on patrol observed a 2006 Chevrolet with its engine running on the 300 block of Walnut St. and stopped to investigate.

Inside, police said, the officer discovered Melvin Roman, 24, of Hopatcong, allegedly under the influence of synthetic marijuana, with his girlfriend, Ann Montalvo, 25, of Newark.

Police said the officer also found, inside the car, 11 GPS units. Detectives later determined that three of the units were reported stolen out of two vehicles on Highfield Lane and one on Edgewood Ave., both in Nutley.

Investigation further determined that the units had been in Linden, Elizabeth, Westfield and Clark but police said Roman told them he was only targeting for entry vehicles in Garwood and Nutley.

Roman and Montalvo were each charged with possession of CDS and burglary to autos. Roman was held in Essex County Jail on $25,000 bail while Montalvo was released, both pending court appearances.

Between Oct. 26 and Oct. 30, Nutley PD also responded to 10 “suspicious” incidents, 19 motor vehicle accidents, 15 disputes and the following incidents:

Oct. 26 

A Passaic Ave. resident reported an apparent fraud, stemming from having misplaced their credit card. When the resident tried to cancel their account, they found an unauthorized charge of more than $100 from the Extra Supermarket in Newark. The account was subsequently canceled.

Oct. 27 

An Oakridge Ave. resident complained they were getting harassing phone calls during the past several weeks, all from the same number from someone who called himself “Steve,” seeking access to the family’s home computer to address a problem with the Windows program. The resident said that three calls came that night, with the last one being verbally abusive.


Police said a Hawthorne Ave. resident was an apparent victim of identity theft. After reporting the loss of their Visa debit card to the bank, the resident discovered that there were three unauthorized charges made to the card totaling about $120. Two other transactions were declined, they said.

Oct. 28 

Police said a case of an apparently mistaken address left a local resident without a delivery. The resident told police they’d ordered two coats, valued at $990, from Bloomingdales for shipment to Nutley but UPS allegedly delivered the shipment to the wrong address and, when the driver returned to retrieve the packages, they weren’t there.


The victim of an identity theft told police that someone had used their debit/credit card to make four unauthorized transactions in Lyndhurst and Hoboken totaling more than $300. Police said the card, which was inadvertently left at a local store, has been canceled.


A Centre St. resident reported that a female was observed having keyed and kicked their car, leaving scratches and dents on the rear passenger side quarter panel, along with key marks to the truck and a large dent on the rear driver’s side quarter panel and key marks on the entire driver’s side.

Oct. 29 

Someone threw a rock at a Harrison St. resident’s vehicle, breaking the rear windshield. Police noticed a large rock on the ground under the car window and the point of impact on the windshield the size of the rock.

Oct. 30 

Residents told police that someone in Texas had cashed a check for $13,980 from their savings account and that their bank had advised them the check was fraudulent.

– Ron Leir 

Cops stop menacing intruder: HPD blotter


An East Newark man was grabbed by cops early on Monday, Oct. 27, after police said he threatened people in a Harrison multi-family dwelling, left and then returned carrying a shard of broken glass.

Harrison Police Det. Dave Doyle said the incident began at around 2 a.m. when a man, later identified as Michael Caldera, 35, burst into a building on Grant Ave. and made his way to the second floor and started making a racket, screaming for his girlfriend.

Tenants, roused by the commotion, tried to get Caldera to leave but police said Caldera refused and tried to force his way into a second-floor apartment where, police surmise, he apparently thought his girlfriend was staying.

Police said two tenants, a woman from the second floor and a man from the first floor, responding to the incident, managed to drag Caldera away from the apartment and down the stairs to the front of the house.

There, police said, Caldera allegedly shouted, “I’m going to hurt everyone in this house.”

Witnesses told police that Caldera began running toward East Newark and was seen at the intersection of Grant and Central Ave. before returning to the Grant Ave. house while brandishing a large glass shard before being apprehended by police from East Newark and Harrison.

Caldera was arrested on charges of burglary, possession of a weapon, possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose and terroristic threats. He also had an active warrant from Newark, police said.

Caldera was taken to Hudson County Jail to await court action after failing to post total bail of $75,000 for all the charges and the warrant.

In other Harrison incidents logged by Harrison PD during the past week:

Oct. 27 

At 9:54 a.m., while on patrol, an officer saw an orange forklift traveling backwards, north on Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. N., through the Central Ave. intersection against the light, nearly causing an accident.

Northbound traffic was backed up for nearly two blocks behind the forklift, police said. When the driver, later identified as Alberto Badillo, 60, of Paterson, stopped in front of 505 Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. N. to deliver a supply of wood, the officer advised Badillo he would be getting two traffic summonses by mail so that he could continue his delivery.

At that point, police said Badillo began protesting loudly, stepped off the sidewalk and confronted the officer, prompting the officer to arrest him and charge him with disorderly conduct.


At 1 p.m., a woman came to HQ to report that she’d placed an order for several online items valued at $46 that were scheduled to be delivered to her home on the 700 block of Bergen St. on Oct. 20 but which she didn’t receive. After informing the company from which the items were ordered, she was told that delivery was made on Oct. 20. Police said the woman told them this was the third time that a package had been removed from her porch.

Oct. 30 

A woman reported a theft from her vehicle, which she valet-parked at 8:30 p.m. at the Red Bull Arena. After returning from the soccer woman noticed several items missing from the car. Police said she listed those items as: one Think Pad Laptop X-61 with charger, valued at $510; and one Galaxy cell phone charger valued at $20. She reported the incident at 5:50 the next morning.

Nov. 1 

At 4:34 a.m., an employee of a garbage carting company was struck by an auto on Harrison Ave. between Third St. and Church Square.

Police said the employee, 55, of Belleville, was picking up trash when the accident occurred. He was taken by EMS to University Hospital of Medicine & Dentistry, Newark, for treatment of his injuries.

The victim was unable to describe the vehicle that hit him; however, a review of surveillance footage from a street camera indicated that the suspect vehicle had traveled east on Harrison Ave. past a red traffic signal, then north on Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. towards Kearny.

Police said a witness described it as a black four-door vehicle, possibly a Toyota.

– Ron Leir