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Category: News Alerts

DEVELOPING STORY: Kearny Board of Education vice-president John Leadbeater arrested on mortgage-fraud charges

Observer File Photo John Leadbeater

Observer File Photo
John Leadbeater

Updated at 1:15 p.m. on Saturday, March 23, with comments from Kearny Mayor Alberto G. Santos.

KEARNY

The vice-president of the Kearny Board of Education, who is also a former town councilman, alleged to be involved in a $13 million mortgage fraud scam that used phony documents and straw buyers to make illegal profits on overbuilt condos at the Jersey shore, has been arrested and charged in connection with the scheme, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced earlier today.

John Leadbeater, 54, of Kearny, who served on the Kearny Town Council throughout the 1990s as a Republican representative of the 4th Ward, along with Daniel Cardillo, 49, of Wildwood, are each charged in a superseding indictment with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office says.

Leadbeater is also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, reports say.

Read more »

BREAKING: Jury finds Nutley’s Bergrin guilty on 23 charges

A screen grab of Paul W. Bergrin speaking at a conference several years ago.

A screen grab of Paul W. Bergrin speaking at a conference several years ago.

 

Report By The Observer Staff

NEWARK

A former prominent Nutley attorney has been found guilty on 23 charges — ranging from conspiracy to commit murder to racketeering — after a significant trial and two days of jury deliberation.

Paul W. Bergrin, 57, who practiced primarily in Newark, and who was a former federal prosecutor, sat in stunned silence as the foreman of the jury announced he was guilty of all charges he faced.

The charges — all one count unless otherwise noted — included Conspiracy to Travel in Aid of Drug Trafficking Business and Bribery, Travel in Aid of Drug Trafficking Business and Bribery (2 counts), Conspiracy to Travel in Aid of Drug Trafficking Business, Travel in Aid of Drug Trafficking Business (5 counts),  Failure to file an IRS Form Racketeering, Racketeering Conspiracy, Violent Crime in Aid of Racketeering (2 counts), Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Dangerous Substance, Maintaining Drug-Involved Premises (3 counts), Conspiracy to Murder a Witness, Aiding and Abetting the Murder of a Federal Witness, Conspiracy to Travel in Aid of Prostitution Business and Travel in Aid of Prostitution Business (2 counts).

“Bergrin’s conduct was a stunning violation of his role as an officer of the court and a betrayal of his roots as a member of law enforcement,” said U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.  “Today, the jury returned the verdict compelled by the evidence and imposed the justice he deserved.  We take no joy from his tragic fall, but I am extremely proud of the work done by those in my office and agents from the FBI, IRS and DEA that led to this just result.”

The once-respected lawyer was the representative to many celebrities over the years. The charges arose when federal investigators became aware he was using his law office in a mafia-like manner, according to reports.

During a two-month trial, Bergrin represented himself, and insisted he was set up by corrupt prosecutors. But clearly, the jury didn’t buy his defense.

Bergrin was a major in the United States Army, having served in the 75th Ranger Regiment.

As a U.S. attorney, he served under U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff.

While on trial, Bergrin maintained a website and blog, where he continued to lament that he was set up.

Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge David Velazquez; Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Shantelle P. Kitchen; and the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Jersey Division – under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Robert G. Koval, with the investigation leading to the conviction.

Three of the charges Bergrin was found guilty of carry a mandatory life sentence — and there’s no parole in the federal prison system. He’ll never see the light of day again.

Sentencing is set for June 18.

BREAKING: Major fire in Harrison

HARRISON —

Updated at 4:30 p.m.

A six-alarm fire is still giving firefighters trouble on Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard this afternoon, just as the West Hudson St. Patrick’s Day Parade is kicking off.

Reports say the fire broke out at around 12:30 p.m. in numerous, two-story attached homes and that fire can be seen shooting out of the roof of each building. Scanner traffic reveals firefighters have found heavy smoke in the rear of the buildings, as well.

Firefighters on scanners have also reported “trouble with water,” though it’s not immediately clear what the issues are.

One report indicates one of the buildings has collapsed and that numerous firefighters were injured by a backdraft that caused windows to break, sending debris flying (see Youtube video in posts below this

Photo By Alyssa Ficeto This photo was taken just moments ago from a few blocks away from the fire scene. Smoke continues to billow from the scene.

Photo By Alyssa Ficeto
This photo was taken at about 2 p.m. Sunday  from a few blocks away from the fire scene. Smoke continues to billow from the scene.

one). Five Jersey City firefighters were taken to hospital with injuries, officials say.

An eyewitness tells The Observer the fire is still burning as of 3:15 p.m.

The parade route, meanwhile, has been changed — and it will not proceed up Rodgers Boulevard from Harrison into Kearny as it normally would. It’s not immediately clear how the route will change.

The Jersey City, Kearny, East Newark Belleville and North Hudson Regional fire departments are on scene, providing mutual aid and alternate coverage, according to scanner traffic.

Please check back with The Observer for updates to this developing story.

 

 

 

 

BREAKING: Youtube video of Harrison fire

BREAKING: Youtube video shows violent backdraft that injured firefighters at Harrison fire

Fire forces residents from Warren Street homes in Harrison

By Ron Leir
Observer correspondent

HARRISON —

Residents from five attached buildings on Warren Street in Harrison were evacuated from their homes Monday night, Feb. 25, after a fire ignited in the cockloft of 209 Warren St. and quickly spread to the adjoining structures, officials said.

No injuries were reported in the four-alarm blaze that started shortly after 7 p.m. and took several hours to quell.

Ultimately, occupants of 201, 203 and 211 Warren St. were allowed back in their apartments but 205, 207 and 209 Warren St. were tagged by Town Construction Official Rocco Russomanno as unfit for habitation because of damage to the properties.

Harrison Fire Director Harold Stahl characterized the cause of the fire as “accidental,” based on an investigation by Fire Official George Kondek.

Stahl said members of the Harrison Fire Department “did one fantastic job” containing the fast-spreading fire, with a big assist from firefighters from East Newark, Kearny and Jersey City. The Secaucus Volunteer Fire Department provided stand-by help at local firehouses.

Stahl also credited members of the Harrison Police Department with assisting firefighters with getting everyone safely out of their apartments as the fire began to escalate. He also thanked the Harrison Public Works Department for providing a shuttle bus to transport displaced residents to an emergency shelter at the Harrison Senior Center.

Be sure to check the March 6 edition of The Observer for more details on the fire.

BREAKING: Major fire in Harrison

We’re gathering the details of a major fire on Warren Street in Harrison this evening. In the interim, here is video footage of the fire that was uploaded to Youtube. Please check back for more details.

 

BREAKING: Pennsylvania man arrested, charged with murdering Alishia Colon

Cruz Martinez Jr.

Cruz Martinez Jr.

A 41-year-old Pennsylvania man has been arrested and is being held on $10 million cash-only bail in connection with the Thursday murder of 16-year-old Kearny girl Alishia Colon, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office said this weekend.

Cruz Martinez Jr., of 348 West 14th St., Hazelton, Pa., was charged with murder late Saturday evening, Acting Hudson County Prosecutor Gaetano T. Gregory said.

On Saturday, Martinez was arrested in Pennsylvania by authorities there on an unrelated open warrant from Pennsylvania, the prosecutor’s office said. Later that same day, Martinez was charged by the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office with first-degree murder, unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of firearm for an unlawful purpose, the prosecutor’s office said.

Martinez is currently being held in a Pennsylvania jail, awaiting extradition proceedings, Gregory said.

The prosecutor’s homicide detectives, along with Kearny police, are actively continuing the investigation for other possible suspects.

Anyone with information on this incident is asked to contact the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office’s Homicide Unit at (201) 915-1345 or hcpotips@hcpo.org. All communications are kept confidential.

BREAKING: 16-year-old Kearny girl shot, killed on Belgrove Drive Thursday night

Alishia Colon

Alishia Colon

 

KEARNY —

A 16-year-old Kearny High School student was shot in the head and died from those wounds in her Belgrove Drive Home Thursday night, according to reports.

The victim was identified as Alishia Colon, according to reports.

Reports say Colon recently turned 16.

A fight took place earlier yesterday in the area of the shooting involving some of the victim’s relatives, according to the HCPO. The HCPO says it is trying to determine whether there is a connection to the incident and the shooting.

The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office says that around 6:20 p.m. last night, Kearny police were called to 253 Belgrove Drive — and when they arrived, police found Colon dead in her bedroom.

Reports also say a 37-year-old Belleville man — identified as Edwin Mendez Jr. — was arrested in relation to the fight and charged with unlawful possession of a gun and making terroristic threats. It’s not immediately clear whether there is a connection to the shooting, however.

The Hudson County Prosecutor’s office is working with the Kearny Police Department on the investigation. Neither a suspect nor motive have yet been identified, the prosecutor’s office says.

Anyone with information on the incident is asked to call the prosecutor’s office at 201-915-1345 or send an e-mail to hcpotips@hcpo.org. All reports are kept confidential.

Mayor Alberto G. Santos released the following statement earlier today:

“The Kearny Police Department is diligently working with the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office in the homicide investigation.  We are utilizing all available resources to apprehend the individual responsible for this tragic death.  We will leave no stone unturned until we bring this individual to justice.

“The Township of Kearny would like reassure its residents that their safety is paramount and that is why increased police patrols have been implemented.  We would like everyone to understand that this is an isolated incident.

“The Township of Kearny and I would like to express our deepest sympathies to the family of the young victim.

“If any resident has any questions concerning safety issues they can call the mayor’s office or the Kearny Police Department.”

Please check back with The Observer for updates to this story. We’ll update our website as soon as more details are available.

 

 

The cbp: LLC Theatrical Troupe joins together for Sandy Relief

The “cbp:LLC” theatrical troupe, in place of its postponed Jukebox Jubilee musical revue (temporarily suspended due to hurricane location damage and electrical outages), will host a Sandy Relief Drive at the All-American Sports Shop, 482 Stuyvesant Ave., Lyndhurst, Sunday, Nov. 11, between 12 to 4 p.m.

Troupe members will be collecting necessary donation items such as: gently-used warm weather clothing (all sizes); canned foods; toiletries (incl. feminine products); new baby items; blankets, etc. Additionally, further information about the reassigned Jukebox Jubilee performance dates and future 2012 – 2013 season productions will be made available.

For more information, feel free to contact the troupe at 201-563-1746 or email cherryblossomplayers@gmail.com.