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Category: Police & Fire News

‘He knew he’d be caught’

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By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent

KEARNY –

On Christmas Eve, Kearny police reported, a Windsor St. home was burglarized by a thief who gained access through a window after stacking a bunch of pavers below it and climbing in.

The perp took jewelry and $100 in change.

The police took fingerprints, which Det. Ray Lopez found on the windowpane and on a glass jar that had held the coins, The prints were sent to the State Police, which confirmed they belonged “to a local resident we were familiar with,” Capt. Stephen Durkin told The Observer.

The KPD then obtained both an arrest warrant and a search warrant for the suspect’s home.

Last Thursday, at 5:30 p.m., Dets. Michael Gonzalez and John Telle arrested 22-year-old Joseph Ferguson of Kearny at Wilson Ave. and Maple St. At headquarters, Ferguson reportedly admitted to not only the Dec. 24 crime but also four other burglaries in the town: Dec. 19, on Halstead St.; Dec. 30, on Windsor St.; Jan. 2, at Belgrove Drive and Bergen Ave.; “and a Maple St. burglary that was never reported to us,” Durkin said. That one, the captain said, occurred “a couple of months ago.”

Ferguson was charged with four counts of burglary and theft and was remanded to the Hudson County Jail in lieu of $25,000 bail, with no 10% option.

Sidelight: The Jan. 13 edition of The Observer carried a report on the Belgrove Drive crime. The burglar had gained entry to a ground-floor apartment by smashing a window, cutting himself in the process.

Police followed a blood trail along Belgrove, collecting stained tissues the thief had apparently used on his wounds. That evidence and the blood on the window glass has been sent to the State Police lab for DNA analysis.

Durkin said that Ferguson told police he had read the story in The Observer:

“He said he knew we had his blood and we’d be coming to get him.”

Facing Sandy-recovery aid fraud charges

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TRENTON – 

A Nutley woman is facing up to five years in prison and fines totalling $25,000 for allegedly filing fraudulent applications for federal and state relief funds related to Superstorm Sandy, the state Attorney General’s Office reported last week.

According to Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman, Kathleen F. Ambro, 58, received a total of $12,270 in aid. She was charged criminally last Thursday with thirddegree theft by deception and fourth-degree unsworn falsification.

Following the October 2012 destruction, Ambro allegedly filed false applications for a FEMA grant and for state grants under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP) and Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation Program.

Authorities said Ambro claimed that a storm-damaged home she owns on Rosewood Drive in Bayville was her primary residence, when, in fact, her primary residence was a home she owns with a relative in Nutley.

Ambro reportedly received $2,270 in FEMA rental assistance and a $10,000 RSP grant.

The theft-by-deception charge carries a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000; the unsworn falsification count, a prison term of up to 18 months and a fine of $10,000.

Since March 2014, the Attorney General’s Office has filed criminal charges against 23 people for allegedly engaging in fraud related to Sandy.

Cases were investigated by detectives of the N.J. Division of Criminal Justice and special agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Department of Housing and Urban Development.

– Karen Zautyk 

Have you seen these suspects?

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BELLEVILLE – 

Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray and Belleville Police Chief Joseph Rotonda are seeking the public’s help in identifying two suspects who held up the Radio Shack store in a mall on Main St. last month.

As had been reported in The Observer, the robbers — one armed with a handgun — entered the store at 404 Main at 11:24 a.m. on Dec. 21, the Sunday before Christmas, a time when the area was crowded with shoppers.

The men reportedly tied up the three Radio Shack employees, pistol-whipping one of them, and took a large number of personal electronic devices, including cell phones, tablets and headphones.

Police, responding to a 911 call, arrived as the robbers were leaving.

Authorities said the getaway car rammed a Belleville patrol car and then fled south on Rt. 21, toward Newark.

Last week, the Prosecutor’s Office released the security video images shown here.

Anyone who recognizes these suspects or who has information regarding the crime is asked to contact the prosecutor’s tips line at 1-877-TIPS-4-EC (1-877-847- 7432) or the Belleville Police Department, 973-450-3333.

The Essex County Sheriff’s Crime Stoppers Program is offering up to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest.

– Karen Zautyk 

Guns, ammo & more: KPD blotter

Last Thursday evening, Kearny police responded to the report of a man with a gun in a home on Linden Ave. What they found, Chief John Dowie said, were several guns, including an assault rifle. And lots of ammo.

Officers Frank West and Chris Levchak and Sgt. Pete Gleason went to the residence on the 100 block at 7:30 p.m. and confronted occupant Robert Conlin, 32, who allegedly had threatened another man during a verbal altercation. In plain view in the home, police said, was a .45-caliber automatic pistol. But West also reportedly noticed a .223 rifle round, which was not ammunition consistent with the handgun. And, protruding from under a bed, was a rifle case.

In that, police said, the officers discovered a .223 Bushmaster assault rifle.

A second case reportedly contained a pistol-grip Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun.

Also found, police said, were a high-capacity magazine, two blackjacks, a can of OC spray and several boxes of ammunition for the three weapons.

Conlin was charged with aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a weapon, possession for unlawful purposes, possession of a prohibited weapon (the assault rifle) and making terroristic threats.

He was remanded to the Hudson County Jail in lieu of $45,000 bail.

• • •

Other recent reports from the Kearny police blotter included the following:

Jan. 16 

At 6:30 p.m., a tenant in an apartment complex on the 700 block of Schuyler Ave. returned home from work and walked in on a burglary in progress. In her bedoom, she encountered a man in the process of stuffing her jewelry box into a pillowcase. She began shouting, and the thief dropped the loot and fled out a back door. Police said he had gained entry by kicking in the front door. The suspect was described as a black male with a short beard, about 40 years old and more than 6-feet tall. He was wearing a gray jacket.

Officer West, who had responded to the call, checked the area, but to no avail. Det. John Telle processed the crime scene and is conducting the follow-up investigation.

Jan. 19 

Officer John Fabula, on patrol on Maple St. at 3 p.m., arrested John Rodrigues, 24, of Kearny, on an outstanding warrant from Lyndhurst. Rodrigues was processed at headquarters, and the Lyndhurst PD was notified.

Jan. 20 

At 8 p.m., Fabula was at Garfield and Davis Aves. when he saw an apparently intoxicated man quaffing a bottle of Chardonnay. The 50-year-old Newark resident was issued a town-ordinance summons for drinking in public.

• • •

On Bergen Ave., at 9:30 p.m., vice detectives stopped a car operated by Eric Castellanos, 21, of Kearny, whom they believed had just engaged in a drug transaction, and confiscated marijuana that reportedly was in the center console.

He was charged with possession of the drug and drug paraphernalia.

Jan. 21 

At 8:30 p.m., a resident of the 100 block of Brighton Ave. reported he had returned home to find his house had been burglarized and several watches and assorted jewelry were missing from a second-floor bedroom. Police said a rear window had been pushed in. Officer Jay Ward took the initial report, and Dets. Scott Traynor and Ray Lopez processed the scene and are investigating. Jan. 22  Officer Levchak was on patrol at Passaic and Johnston Aves. at 4:30 p.m. when his onboard license-plate reader alerted him that a passing 2000 Volkswagen had a suspended registration. He stopped the car on Passaic and found that the driver, Guadalupe Martinez, 23, of Newark, also had a suspended license and a $250 Harrison warrant, police said. She was arrested, charged on the MV violations, which also included failure to surrender a suspended license, and her vehicle was impounded. Harrison police were notified.

Another suicide & more: NPD blotter

Nutley PD has labeled the death of a 49-yearold Washington Ave. man initially discovered unresponsive at his home as a suicide.

He was pronounced dead on Jan. 15 – the same day that police found the lifeless bodies of a man and woman in a Hillside Ave. residence – fatalities that police categorized as a murder-suicide. In the first incident, police said they responded to a 911 call relayed by Bergen County Police at 10:25 p.m. Jan. 13 regarding a serious injury to a resident in his home at the north end of Washington Ave.

Police said the man was unconscious and suffering from head trauma. The man was transported by Nutley Rescue to St. Joseph’s Hospital, Paterson, where he was pronounced dead two days later.

Police said detectives called to the scene on Jan. 13 to investigate concluded that the man’s injury was a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

According to Det. Sgt. Anthony Montanari, an examination by the county medical examiner’s office revealed that a single round of a “larger caliber” bullet had been fired into the victim’s head and that a weapon he described as “a home-made gun, made from a section of pipe” was recovered from the scene.

“We’re still investigating where [the weapon] came from,” Montanari said. The bullet has been sent for ballistics testing, he added.

Asked if the victim was alone at the time of the incident, Montanari said that, “There were other occupants – two family members and one friend – all adults.” It is believed one of them made the 911 call, he said. As of press time, police were withholding the identity of the victim.

•••

In another incident, police have charged a Florida man for allegedly performing a lewd act in front of students leaving the John H. Walker Middle School on Franklin Ave. last Thursday, Jan. 22.

Police said officers responded to a call from a concerned parent at 2:50 p.m. reporting that as the school was dismissing students for the day, several students had observed a man sitting in a parked SUV performing a sexual act on himself.

After getting a description of the man, police said detectives were able to come up with a likely identity of the suspect as Jack Faria, 64, and managed to locate him in Nutley.

Faria was charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct and he was released, pending a court date, after posting bail.

Police Chief Thomas Strumolo commended all those involved in the investigation with their quick apprehension in a case involving potential risk to children.

Mayor/Public Safety Commissioner Alphonse Petracco reiterated that, “There is no greater concern than the safety of the residents in this town, particularly our children. I want every parent who allows their child to walk to and from school to be assured that anyone looking to exploit our children will be identified, arrested and prosecuted.”

•••

In other matters logged by Nutley PD between Jan. 17 and 23, police responded to 48 medical calls, 30 motor vehicle accidents and these incidents:

Jan. 17 

Police responded to a Gless Ave. location on a report of the theft of a $250 extension ladder from a homeowner’s rear yard and the chain securing it to a pole. The homeowner told officers that the rubber weather stripping around their vehicle’s rear window had been disturbed but that nothing was apparently taken from inside the house.

Jan. 18 

A Barringer Drive resident reported that during the night, someone entered their unlocked vehicle and removed a $40 phone charger, a set of keys and an unknown amount of loose change.

•••

A Hartford Drive resident reported their car stolen.

•••

Police pulled over a driver known to have a suspended license traveling on Myrtle Ave. and arrested Nicole Bosco, 36, of Nutley. Police said a search of Bosco revealed drugs, paraphernalia and a bag with suspected cocaine residue inside. Bosco also had two active warrants from Nutley and Clifton. She was charged with possession of CDS and three counts of possession of drug paraphernalia and ticketed for driving while suspended and possession of CDS in a motor vehicle. Bosco was released after posting bail, pending court dates.

Jan. 20 

A Myrtle Ave. homeowner reported an attempted burglary. Police said the owner told them that upon returning home, they found the molding on their door bent and police said they observed pry marks on the door. Nothing was reported missing. Detectives are investigating.

Jan. 21 

Responding to calls about “suspicious activity” at Nicola Place and Hagert St., police said they observed three individuals walking quickly away from the area. Police said they chased them to an abandoned property at Hancox and Washington Aves. where they grabbed two juveniles. The third person got away but dropped his wallet, police said. The juveniles were turned over to their parents. Police said Jesse Elsmore, 18, of Nutley, came to HQ to retrieve his wallet and was charged with obstruction.

Jan. 22 

After getting calls about individuals riding All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) on Radcliffe School property and the adjacent pipeline property, police went to the location where they observed two men riding ATVs on school grounds. Police impounded both vehicles and charged Matthew Apito, 18, and Christopher Juliano, 19, both of Nutley, with criminal mischief. Both received summonses for driving an ATV on private property without consent and failure to produce valid registration and insurance. Both were released pending court appearances.

•••

After observing a driver allegedly go through a stop sign on Kingsland Ave. and then pull into a parking lot and behind a building on Franklin Ave., police said they approached the vehicle and saw the driver crouching down to hide. After talking with him, police issued Michael Seibel, 25, of Garfield, summonses for disregard of stop sign and DWI and released him pending a court date.

– Ron Leir 

Sought in fatal accident, she fled to Brazil, cops say

By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 

HARRISON – 

A Harrison woman has been indicted on two counts of vehicular homicide in connection with an accident last year on the N.J. Turnpike, but don’t expect news of a trial anytime soon.

She is a fugitive.

Authorities said she fled to Brazil, where she is a citizen.

The wanted woman is identified as Rafaella Maranhao, 29, who until last spring had been residing in Harrison.

Last week, Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray announced that an Essex grand jury had returned a three-count indictment against Maranhao, including the two counts of vehicular homicide and one count of assault by auto.

The indictment alleges that, during the early morning hours of May 11, 2014, Maranhao killed one man and fatally injured another while driving recklessly and under the influence of alcohol on the Turnpike.

According to the N.J. State Police, Maranhao, behind the wheel of a 2005 Nissan Maxima, was traveling north in the left center lane of the highway near Exit 14 in Newark when she apparently lost control of the vehicle.

Police said the car spun around, crossed two lanes of traffic, hit a guard rail, rebounded onto the highway and then overturned on the right shoulder.

Maranhao’s front-seat passenger, Peter Figueroa, 32, of Newark, was pronounced dead at the scene at approximately 2 a.m.

Two other passengers were transported to University Hospital in Newark.

One of the victims, 35-year-old Prince Stoney of Elizabeth, died of his injuries on June 7. The second, identified by authorities only as Taleisha Charles, sustained injuries but survived.

According to Murray’s office, Maranhao fled the country not long after the fatal crash and has not been apprehended.

3 arrested in Nutley robbery

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NUTLEY —

At 12:50 a.m., Jan. 18, a Nutley police officer noticed three young men fleeing a Whitford Ave. location. Police said the three entered a black Subaru, which the officer felt was suspicious and stopped the vehicle. It was shortly after this that headquarters received and transmitted a call reporting, that a 17-year-old boy had just been assaulted and robbed, near Tennis Place.

After the victim identified the three as the assailants, detectives were able to recover the robbery proceeds from the suspect vehicle that belonged to the victim, police said.

The three suspects were identified as Carlos Vidreiro, 18, of Belleville along with two other juveniles, report said. All three were charged with robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery, with Vidreiro getting an additional charge for employing a juvenile in the commission of a crime, according to police.

Police said Vidreiro was transported to the Essex County Jail in lieu of $75,000 bail, while the two juveniles were transported to the Juvenile Detention Center in Newark, pending a court appearance.

The victim, although visibly upset, sustained minor injuries.

Chief Thomas Strumolo said that if not for the quick actions of this patrol officer, the actors may have gotten away. He commended the officer, and added that these are very serious charges with serious consequences.

Mayor/Police Director Alphonse Petracco said he was grateful the juvenile wasn’t seriously injured, and feared what could’ve happened. He said when young people from another town come into Nutley to commit crimes, it is a crime against everyone in the town and it will not be tolerated.

3 displaced, 1 injured in Belleville fire

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BELLEVILLE –

Three township residents were displaced and one was injured by a fire that heavily damaged a King St. dwelling on Sunday, Jan. 25, according to the Belleville Fire Department.

Battalion Fire Chief Martin Lutz said township fire personnel responded to an alarm of fire at a two-story brick residence at 27 King St. at about 10 a.m.

Lutz said the first units to arrive spotted heavy smoke coming from the second floor.

“When they tried going up the stairwell, they were pushed back by the heavy volume of fire,” Lutz said.

A look at a fire that heavily damaged a King St. dwelling on Sunday, Jan. 25, in Belleville.

Belleville Fire Dept. photos

A look at a fire that heavily damaged a King St. dwelling on Sunday, Jan. 25, in Belleville.

A look at a fire that heavily damaged a King St. dwelling on Sunday, Jan. 25, in Belleville.
Windows on the King St. and Cross Place sides of the building burst as a result of the interior build-up of heat inside, allowing fire and smoke to vent, he said.

With flames extending from the second floor through the cockloft to the roof, firefighters trained streams of water from an aerial truck and three pumpers on to the building, he said.

Lutz said the tenant on the second floor – where the fire originated – managed to get out on his own power but received second- and third-degree burns to his hands and was transported to St. Barnabas Hospital’s Burn Unit, where he was treated and released later that day.

Read more »

Murder-suicide & more: NPD blotter

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Details remained sketchy in the wake of what law enforcement agencies characterized as a murder-suicide on Hillside Ave. in Nutley last week. A joint release issued Jan. 15 by Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray and Nutley Police Chief Thomas Strumolo said that the Nutley PD and Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide/Major Crimes Task Force were investigating the incident.

The initial release said that a man and a woman were found dead of apparent gunshot wounds in the 300 block of Hillside Ave.

Subsequently, Murray identified the victims as Christina Prestianni, 37, and her boyfriend Christopher Minichini, 38, both of that Hillside Ave. address. “Both were found dead in their home,” the release said.

“The two of them suffered fatal gunshot wounds. The preliminary investigation indicates Mr. Minichini shot his girlfriend and then turned the gun on himself. The investigators are awaiting the autopsy results.”

According to Murray, Minichini served as a state corrections officer for the past seven years.

A report published in patch. com said that family and friends of Prestianni are seeking donations for the cost of her funeral which was scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 20, from 4 to 8 p.m., at the Zarro Funeral Home, Bloomfield.

Prestianni was an owner of Pupcake Dog Grooming & Bakery in Caldwell. Tributes to her were posted on Facebook. One woman called her “an amazing woman, kind, loving and always greeted you with a smile. Lucy (rescue dog) grew to trust her because of her mild manner – even when she was running behind schedule.” Another said Prestianni “may be gone but she will never be forgotten.”

Among other incidents logged on the NPD blotter between Jan. 10 and 16 were these:

 Jan. 10 

Police responded to a report of a dispute at a Passaic Ave. location where officers learned that a man with a bat was trying to enter a store where someone inside was holding the door closed. Police said they were able to identify the would-be intruder based on descriptions given at the scene but couldn’t immediately locate him. However, police said the suspect, Louis Giardelli, 51, of Clifton, voluntarily turned himself in at HQ and was charged with aggravated assault, possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose and unlawful possession of a weapon. He was released after posting bail, pending a court date.

Jan. 11 

Linda Ramirez, 39, of Clifton, and John Turnick, 23, of Congers, N.Y., were arrested at Centre St. and Franklin Ave. on active warrants. Police said Ramirez was wanted in Paterson while Turnick had two warrants from Paterson, one from Mahwah, one from Edison and one from New York for a parole violation. Police said a search of Ramirez turned up a Newport cigarette pack with two glassine envelopes inside. She was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and turned over to Paterson PD. Police said Turnick, who allegedly originally told officers his name was “Joe Madden,” was also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia (a crack pipe) and hindering apprehension. He was taken to Essex County Jail after he was unable to post bail, police said.

Jan. 12 

Michael Brown, 27, of Bloomfield, was arrested in a Franklin Ave. parking lot after officers learned there was an active warrant on him from the Essex County Sheriff’s Department. He was picked up by Essex County PD for transfer.

Jan. 13 

Police said they observed a road rage incident on Franklin Ave., south of Brookfield Ave., when a man who appeared very agitated, exited his vehicle and approached a female driver, yelling at her, then began smacking the driver’s side window and screaming. Eli Raam, 52, of Nutley, was arrested and taken to HQ where he was charged with disorderly conduct and released pending a court date.

•••

A Bloomfield Ave. resident reported that someone removed their impaired driver placard from their unlocked vehicle while it was parked in their driveway.

Jan. 15 

Police conducted a motor vehicle stop after they said they observed a Nissan Maxima traveling south on Washington Ave. swerving over the center double yellow line. The driver, Gabriel Aquino, 23, of Kearny, was issued summonses for failure to maintain lane and failure to exhibit registration. Police said Aquino also had an active warrant from Montclair. He was arrested and, later, released after posting bail pending court appearances.

•••

An individual told police they were shopping in a Franklin Ave. store and was unloading groceries in the parking lot when they realized that their Michael Kors wallet containing $200, credit/bank cards and personal items, was missing from the cart. Shortly after reporting it missing, the wallet was found behind a trash can and it still had the personal items but the cash was gone, police said. The victim canceled the card accounts as a precaution.

– Ron Leir 

Drug suspects indicted

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KEARNY – 

Three suspects — one from the Bronx and two from Kansas — arrested by N.J. State Police outside the Kearny Walmart in October, were indicted Friday on first-degree drug charges, Acting N.J. Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced.

When the trio were nabbed, they were allegedly in possession of nearly one pound of methamphetamine.

Named in the indictment obtained by the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau were: Juan Perez-Nunez, 46, of the Bronx; Juan Guerrero-Estrada, 30, of Olathe, Kan.; and Juan Flores-Santos, 37, of Kansas City, Kan.

According to Hoffman’s office, the defendants were arrested on Oct. 22 after Perez-Nunez met up with the other two men in the Walmart parking lot, which was under surveillance by a State Police anti-drug trafficking unit.

The officers reportedly first spotted a Mercedes-Benz with a Kansas plate parked in a remote area of the lot. The car, occupied by Guerrero-Estrada and Flores-Santos, later slowly circled the lot and then parked in a new location, where Perez- Nunez arrived driving a Honda Civic, authorities said.

The drivers spoke outside their cars, and Perez-Nunez then pulled the Honda alongside the Mercedes. At that point, a red-and-white plastic bag reportedly was tossed from the Mercedes into the rear window of the Honda.

As both vehicles departed, they were stopped by the state troopers.

Police said Perez-Nunez consented to a search of the Honda, in which they found the bag, allegedly containing nearly 16 ounces of crystal meth. The three were then arrested.

In the indictment handed up by the state grand jury, each of the defendants was charged with second-degree conspiracy, first-degree possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, and third-degree possession of meth.

Guerrero-Estrada and Flores- Santos also were charged with first-degree distribution of methamphetamine.

The first-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $300,000. The seconddegree charge carries a five-to- 10-year sentence and a fine of up to $150,000; the third-degree charge, three to five years and a fine of up to $35,000.

The indictment was handed up in Mercer County to Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson, who has assigned the case to Hudson County.

The defendants are being held in the Hudson County Jail with bail set at $175,000 for Perez-Nunez and $300,000 each for Guerrero-Estrada and Flores-Santos.

– Karen Zautyk