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1.7B to clean Passaic’s lower 8 miles

  NEWARK – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last Friday, April 11, that it plans to undertake the most costly public waterway cleanup in its 43-year history. At a press conference held at Newark Riverfront Park, EPA Regional […]

Lost medal recovered from Pa.

  By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – For more than two decades, it sat – carefully preserved – in a Pennsylvania residence. Next month, however, the Purple Heart medal awarded posthumously to a long-dead Kearny serviceman will be returned […]

Feds won’t pay for more firefighters

Two neighboring West Hudson communities have been shut out in their bids to snag federal funding to hire more firefighters. Kearny Fire Dept. and Harrison Fire Dept. each applied for a share of SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency […]

Tribute to a teacher

  By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – Fred Kuhrt died doing what he loved best – giving of himself to others. His former employer, the Kearny Board of Education, is honoring the automotive technology instructor’s selflessness by establishing the […]

Play ball! (and politics, too)

  By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent NORTH ARLINGTON – Saturday’s opening ceremony for the North Arlington Recreation Girls’ Softball season took on a political twist. Mayor Peter Massa, a Democrat, complained that he was snubbed by League President Mike Tetto […]

News in brief

HARRISON – Harrison Mayor James Fife, 73, is spending time in St. Michael’s Medical Center, Newark, where he is recovering from surgery. The hospital declined to provide any information but Councilman James Doran, who is serving as Fife’s campaign manager […]


Screaming Females to play Kearny Irish

By Anthony J. Machcinski | Observer Correspondent

Band members, from l., Jarret Dougherty, Marisa Paternoster and King Mike Abbate.

The Screaming Females, a fantasy combination of The Ramones’ sound and the vocals of Pat Benatar, hit the Kearny Irish Club on Friday, May 6, looking to please any fans who simply care about the music.

Coming out of New Brunswick, The Screaming Females started in 2006 and will play their 600th show this June.

“I just refused to let music out of my life,” said drummer Jarret Dougherty. “I had almost given up on a shot with a band until I stumbled across (King) Mike (Abbate) and Marisa (Paternoster).”

After talking to the two, who both were in the band Surgery on TV before forming Screaming Females, Dougherty joined the new group and has been along for the ride.

While most bands have an idea of their influences as they begin to produce music, Dougherty and the other members do not have a base for their music.  But with both parents being musicians, Dougherty has a great appreciation for the art of music.

“I have yet to meet a fan of music who only likes that genre of music,” Dougherty said, “I grew up around (the punk scene). Punk is about people doing things themselves. I saw that through my parents.”

However, the band has several influences that took shape as it toured around the nation. These inspirations were not only music based, but also helped the band from a business standpoint. This included scheduling places to play and dealing with record labels.

“One of the things that I tell people is that we’re influenced by bands performing around us in the punk scene,” said Dougherty, who listed The Urgs and the Hunchbacks as influences.

Since 2006, the band has been able to tour the world, all while recording four full-length albums. Despite the vast number of places they have played, Dougherty does not need crowds at the bands shows to believe that the performance was successful.

“We just want to play for people who care,” Dougherty explained. “You can play for a dozen people, and if they’re into it, then it’s a great show.”

Dougherty and the band have given their fans a lot to listen to. With those four albums in the books, and the band heading to the studio next winter to do work on a fifth, the Screaming Females have all the opportunity to grow a punk fan base that has died off in the mainstream over the last couple of years.

The band’s music is a blast from times past. As noted, the main vibes that flow from two of their main tracks, “I Don’t Mind It” and “I Do,” come from a mash up of the Ramones’ background music with the vocals of  Benatar.

Much like the vocals in the songs, the guitar sounds just as powerful. While the chords are not complicated, they fit into the punk genre. Abbate plays bass, and main guitarist and lead singer Paternoster keeps the guitar parts of the song simple while still managing to create tunes that stick in the mind.

Despite all the places the band has played and how successful they’ve become, Dougherty believes that it is the art behind it.

“We have always preferred playing in places where the people really are about the music,” said Dougherty, who elaborated that small bars and lounges do not bother the band, rather encourage it because of the artwork in them.

The band realizes that success has not come easy to them, but in the end, they are humble about how they got to where they are.

“We’re a hard-working band, we’ve gotten things for ourselves,” explained Dougherty. “We do it because we care about the music and it’s something we believe in.

The Screaming Females will appear at the Kearny Irish with No Pasaran, Ben Franklin, and Eula. Admission is $10 and is open to all ages.  The show starts at 8 p.m.

Kearny cops bust Nutley drug suspect

By Karen Zautyk | Senior Correspondent


Photo by Karen Zautyk

A 55-year-old man, who police said has had eight felony convictions, was arrested April 20 on drug and weapons charges following a street stop in Kearny and a subsequent search of his Nutley home, KPD Police Chief John Dowie reported.

The suspect, who reportedly had been the focus of an investigation since the beginning of the month, was initially taken into custody on Elm St. at 5:20 p.m. after members of the Vice Squad confronted him and found him to be in possession of prescription painkillers and what was suspected to be cocaine, Dowie said. (The cocaine was packaged in plastic bags stamped with a blue bunnies – just in time for Easter.) He also was carrying $3,780 in cash.

Shortly before 11 p.m., Kearny police executed a search warrant for his residence on Essex St. in Nutley as the Nutley PD secured the location.

Assisted by Kearny Officers Mike Andrews and Neil Nelson, the Vice Squad detectives reportedly found the following:

In the bedroom, next to the bed:

  • 1 stun gun
  • A digital scale
  • A pistol holster
  • An umbrella with a dagger hidden in the handle

In the bedroom closet:

  • $2,700 in cash
  • In the kitchen:

3 ziplock bags with cocaine

  • 153 Endocet pills
  • 167 Oxycontin pills
  • Plus seven separate bags each containing 10 Endocet tablets
  • Also reportedly removed from the house were:
  • A spoon with cocaine residue
  • Pepper spray containing UV dye
  • Six .38 caliber hollow-point bullets
  • Three gun cases
  • 11 large bags containing smaller packaging material
  • And a container of white powder with what was thought to be a cutting agent

The suspect was charged in Kearny with possession of cocaine, possession with intent to distribute within a school zone, possession of a CDS and possession of a prescription-legend drug.

Additionally, Dowie said, the man was charged in Nutley with drug possession, possession in the proximity of a public park (Booth Park), possession of Oxycontin with intent to distribute, possession of a stun gun, possession of a stun gun while engaged in CDS activities and possession of hollow-point ammunition.

The suspect was remanded to county jail in lieu of $125,000 bail.

Dowie said the man had a record dating to a May 1980 arrest in a Newark robbery case – disposition of that unknown. His second arrest, the chief said, came in Boonton in 1999, at which time he was convicted of possession of cocaine and a stun gun and served three years in state prison.

Records show the man was arrested again in Nutley in 2005, convicted of possession of heroin, cocaine and marijuana and a stun gun and was given five years’ probation. Arrested in Lavalette in 2006 for possession of heroin and cocaine, he received a 15-day jail sentence, a $1,200 fine, had his license lifted for six months and given three years‘ probation. The very next year, 2007, he was convicted of possession of a CDS or analog drug in East Hanover.

His penalty: Another three years’ probation.

(Editorial comment: What?!?)

In other police news, another drug bust was made April 27 after two Kearny males, one under age, called attention to themselves by leaving a liquor store with a 24-oz. bottle of beer sticking out of a plastic bag.

Dowie said that Officer Mike Andrews was on patrol at 8:45 p.m. at Kearny and Bergen Aves. When he spotted the duo, one of whom he knew to be under the legal drinking age. He stopped them as they walked west to Maple St. and detained the younger male, 19, for illegal possession of alcohol.

Andrews, asking the other individual for identification , told the man to remove his hand from his pocket, which he refused to do, the chief said. When the officer removed it for him, Dowie noted, three small ziplock bags, which appeared to contain marijuana, fell to the ground. The suspect, 22, allegedly was also in possession of an additional 16 baggies believe to contain pot, along with a bag of 13 Endocets.

The 19-year-old was released on a summons for alcohol possession. His older buddy was arrested for CDS possession with intent to distribute, possession within a school zone and possession of drug paraphernalia.


Guilty plea in Nutley/Belleville ATM ‘skimming’

By Karen Zautyk | Senior Correspondent


A Brooklyn man has pleaded guilty in a scheme to steal account information from Valley National Bank customers by installing secret recording devices on ATMs in Nutley and Belleville.

U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said the 28-year-old defendant, Viktor Kafalov, entered the plea last Wednesday in Federal Court in Newark on one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Kafalov, a native of Bulgaria, has been held without bail since his arrest June 29, 2010.

In all, authorities said, Kafalov and his co-conspirators stole information, and  $278,144, from 348 bank accounts. Valley National repaid the defrauded customers and absorbed the loss.

According to documents filed in the case, Kafalov was part of a scheme that obtained account and customer identity information by “skimming” ATM cards.

In this form of theft, an electronic device (“skimmer”) and a pinhole camera are secretly inserted into an ATM. The “skimmer” reads and records the account and identity data encrypted in the magnetic strip of an ATM card. The camera records the customers’ keystrokes when they enter their personal identification number.

According to Fishman’s office, Kafalov admitted that he installed skimmers and cameras on Valley National ATMs in Belleville and Nutley in September 2008, and that, after account and ID data were obtained, that info was loaded onto blank ATM cards. Those new cards were then used to make unauthorized withdrawals.

Kafalov and his co-conspirators made withdrawals at locations in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan, as well as in Ontario, Canada. In addition to skimming, they inserted empty deposit envelopes into ATMs to falsely inflate the funds that appeared to be available in the accounts and allow them to withdraw more money, authorities said.

The skimmers and cameras had been placed on the Nutley and Belleville ATMs between Sept. 13 and Sept. 28, 2008, and were intermittently removed to avoid detection. The unauthorized withdrawals began in October 2008.

The bank fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. For aggravated identity theft, Kafalov faces a mandatory consecutive penalty of two years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for July 27.

“Identity theft is a pervasive problem,” Fishman stated. “When coupled with ATM skimming, thieves have all they need to take cash right out of victims’ accounts.

Skimmers’ spying devices have become increasingly sophisticated, designed to fool even the most discerning ATM user. We caution consumers to be vigilant, and skimmers that we are on to your tricks.”

The U.S. attorney cited special agents of the Secret Service, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jacob Christine, with the investigation leading to the guilty plea.

Car flips, teen walks away

Driver escaped serious injury when his car overturned last Wednesday on Passaic Ave. in Kearny. Photo by Karen Zautyk


Only hours after one Kearny teenager was killed in an auto accident (see p. 1 story), another escaped serious injury when his car flipped over on Passaic Ave. near North Midland Ave. last Wednesday.

The lucky driver, a 17 years old, was alone in the car, heading north on Passaic,  when he missed the curve on the hill just south of the railroad  trestle at about 5 p.m., police said.

According to the police report, the teen said the car drifted as he was putting something into the glove box. The 1991 Mercury clipped the curb, hit a utility pole and overturned, ending up on its roof in the middle of the two-lane road.

No other vehicles were involved.

When police arrived at the scene, the driver was sitting on the curb, waiting for them. He apparently suffered only a knee injury and was taken to Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville.

He was also issued a summons for careless driving.

The accident forced police to close Passaic Ave. from North Midland to Laurel Ave. at the height of afternoon rush-hour, causing traffic backups on local streets.


––– Karen Zautyk

School elections round-up

By Ron Leir  | Observer Correspondent

It’s back to the drawing board for Boards of Education in Lyndhurst and, to some extent, for Nutley, while Kearny, North Arlington, Belleville and Bloomfield were lucky to hang on to budgets they pitched to voters.

In Nutley, by a tally of 1,668 to 1,337, voters authorized raising $48.1 million in taxes to support a 2011-2012 school budget that could see a reduction in the work force through layoffs.

But township residents rejected, by a vote of 1,478 to 983, a second proposal to spend $7 million for the acquisition and installation of solar panels at Nutley High School and five elementary schools.

Joseph Zarra, the district superintendent of schools who is retiring at the end of the school year, said the solar energy program “would have greatly reduced” the district’s energy costs and “would have generated income” from sales to outside energy users.

Zarra said he anticipated the school board going to the voters with a similar plan next year.

“I’m very happy the (school tax levy) was approved by the voters,” Zarra said. “It’s a very good indication that the majority of the people who went to the polls were satisfied with the budget and the return on their investment in the public schools.”

Perhaps, but the district faces some harsh realities under next school year’s budget: It’s proposing to reduce staffing by 25 job slots in administration, instruction, library, secretarial and coaching.

It’s also outsourcing its cafeteria operations and assessing fees for student participation in extracurricular activities.

Yet, even with all the cutbacks, the district has projected a hike in school taxes for the coming year.

Meanwhile, not only is the district losing its chief school administrator, it is also bidding farewell to three other administrators who are retiring. Replacements for them are being sought.

Zarra said the district is working on a “transition plan” that aims to “ensure that by September we have everything in place that we need.”

Zarra said the school board is “in the final stages of selecting a (new) superintendent and is reviewing applications for high school principal, elementary school principal and special services director.”

Nutley residents selected from four school board candidates three winners: attorney Victoria Flynn, with 2,189 votes; Lisa Danchak-Martin, an ADP product release manager, 1,930; and retired Assemblyman Frederick Scalera, 1,698.

Kevin Georgetti came in last with 1,323.

The three incumbents – board president Ken Reilly, Walter Sautter and Vincent Moncaritola – opted not to seek re-election.

In Lyndhurst, voters nixed the approximately $32 million school tax levy but returned incumbent Stephen Vendola to his seat on the Board of Education with 956 votes.

Two other incumbents – Tom DiMascio and Lou Bilis – didn’t run. Their seats went to retired teacher Josephine Malaniak, who got 840 votes; and Homeland Security employee Christopher Musto, 717.

Rounding out the voting: Stephen Morinho III, polled 581; Rosemary Albecker, 532; and Vincent Sommese, 516.

Lyndhurst Board of Education President James Hooper was philosophical about the budget defeat. He said that after the public turned down the school board’s proposed $37 million plan for a new middle school in January, “we weren’t that hopeful of a positive impact (on the tax levy).”

Hooper said the board was fighting a tough numbers game, being locked into a labor contract that ensures district teachers of a 4% raise for the year ending June 30, 2012.

“We’re hoping that in contract negotiations in subsequent years, we’ll do a little better,” Hooper said. “Also, we’re going to get back 1.5% of their salary for health insurance.”

Hooper said the board’s finance committee will meet with the mayor and township commissioners “and, hopefully, the cuts won’t be too bad. It’s up to the commissioners,” Hooper added. “We’ll go to them, hat in hand, and hopefully, they’ll do what’s right for the kids.”

In the meantime, Hooper said, he also remains hopeful that the board can persuade residents to support a new referendum that the district is planning for later this year on ways of upgrading aging school facilities.

Kearny’s $80 million budget falls under the state-mandated 2% spending cap, but still reflects attrition in the ranks: 10 instructional and two custodial slots vacated via retirements will go unfilled.

Voters approved the $45.2 million tax levy by a vote of 1,194 to 768 but declined to return incumbent board members David Stevenson Jr. and John Campbell to their seats. Incumbent Virginia Santos didn’t run.

Instead, residents elected retired firefighter S.J. Zibbie Viscuso, former councilman John Leadbeater and John Plaugic Jr. Viscuso was high man with 955 votes, Leadbeater had 921 and Plaugic, 877.

Stevenson collected 854; Campbell got 861; Richard Ribeiro, 543; Alex Valdez, only a year out of high school, 537; and Dinis Conceicao, 269.

Viscuso, 74, a member of the township zoning board who served on the school board two terms 17 years ago, said he ran this year “because I’d like to see things run smoothly. There should be no bickering. … I didn’t run for the Board of Education to have anyone hired or fired.”

Going forward, Viscuso said he hopes that Superintendent Frank Digesere will be staying on, regardless of any benefit restrictions that Gov. Christie’s administration might be implementing for school administrators.

“I’m a supporter of Mr. Digesere and I’d love to see him stay,” Viscuso said. Like Digesere, Viscuso advocates redistricting to remedy overcrowding in certain grades and schools.

Leadbeater, who served on the Town Council from 1990 to 2000, said he was energized to run for school board “because of the amount of money we spend on taxes for education.”

He said he would push “to get rid of all the kids going to Kearny schools who don’t live in town. All you have to do is sit on Kearny Ave. in the morning and watch them get off the bus. Or watch them get on the bus after school. Then go over to Newark and watch those kids walking around in their Kearny (school) uniforms.”

Leadbeater said he’s also upset because “there’s too much money being spent on administration and not enough on the kids. … We have vice principals making $132,000 – that’s only going to keep going up. People in town can’t afford this anymore.”

In Belleville, voters returned incumbents William Freda, the board president, and Joseph Longo to their school board seats over challengers Ralph Vellon and Eric Schwartz and accepted the tax levy to support a $59 million school budget by a tally of 838 to 621.

In the election, Longo led with 1,177; Freda got 1,140; Vellon garnered 819; and Schwartz, 348.

North Arlington residents approved their $21.3 million school tax levy by a vote of 648 to 554. Incumbent Anthony Blanco and newcomer George Rosko ran unopposed for the two open seats. Longtime board member Karen Palatella didn’t seek a new term.

And, in Bloomfield, votes accepted the $59.4 million school tax levy by a tally of 1,733 to 837 and chose three aligned newcomers – Emily Smith (1,589 votes), Paula Zaccone (1,488) and Catherine Bumpus (1,409) – to seats on the school board.

Incumbent Susan Wolf got 1,098 votes; Joann Castro, 1,129; Joel Rosen, 881; and Derek Grimes, 402.

Teen killed in tragic accident

Mark Burke, from his Facebook page

By Karen Zautyk | Senior Correspondent

Mark Burke, from his Facebook page


Horseplay turned deadly last week for an 18-year-old Kearny youth who was killed when he fell off the trunk of a car driven by a friend on Highland Ave., police reported.

According to the KPD, the victim, Mark Burke,  had apparently been riding on the trunk of a Nissan operated by David Orjuela, also 18, that was traveling north on Highland at about 2:15 p.m. last Wednesday.

As the car came to a stop, about 100 yards north of Wilson Ave., Burke tumbled off , striking his head on the pavement.

He was pronounced dead at 3:07 p.m. in the emergency room at  University Hospital in Newark.

Police said Orjuela reportedly did not initially know the other teen was on the trunk, and he slowed and stopped when he saw Burke there.

Compounding the tragedy is the fact that Burke and Orjuela were best friends and their families lived in the same two-family home on Wilson Ave., just around the corner from the accident site.

On Thursday afternoon, scores of other friends were gathered in front of that house to console each other and remember the victim, a Kearny High School senior who was due to graduate in June.

One of the mourners, Johnny, 18, said, “I never saw him without a smile. He made everybody laugh.”  A 16-year-old named Ashley said, “He was a really good kid. He was a guy you could go to whenever you had a problem.”

And on Burke’s Facebook page, the tributes included this from a friend named Vanessa, who wrote, “You’re with the angels high above in the clouds shining down at all of us . . . . You’re in God’s arms, you’re an angel.”


Dr. Cynthia Baumgartner, KHS principal, said that “the first thing” Burke’s mother said to her after his death was: “He loved school. He said all the teachers inspired him.”


Baumgartner, who arranged for grief counseling at the high school on Thursday, said of the victim, “He was a kid  with goals.” (Burke had planned to be a nutritionist and physical therapist and volunteered his time at West Hudson Hospital.)


“It is just a tragedy for the school,” Baumgartner said. “It’s a terrible loss.”


A funeral Mass for Burke was offered Monday in St. Cecilia’s Church.

The accident is under investigation, and as of press time, no charges had been filed.

“It’s in the hands of the Hudson County prosecutor,”  a KPD spokesman said Monday. “We sent everything over to them.”


18 busted in Peru-N.J. drug ring

Alfredo Lazol, Jose F. Castro, Luis G. Rios, Victor Ramos


By Ron LeirObserver Correspondent

Federal, county and municipal law enforcement agencies partnered in busting an international drug smuggling ring whose alleged upper-echelon members are from Belleville and Kearny.

Investigators said the ring – comprising 18 suspects from six counties in northern New Jersey – transported cocaine in a gel-like form from Peru and converted it back into powder at various locations in New Jersey.

The fact that the illegal substance was “chemically masked” as a liquid, made to appear as a lotion or shampoo, made it hard to detect, said Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio.

“(The suspects) used a number of methods to ship the drugs,” DeFazio said.

The ring is believed to have smuggled in several hundred pounds of cocaine over the last few years.

In those instances when operatives flew with the contraband nonstop from Lima to Newark, they packed it in their checked luggage, not their carry-on bags, and “since it was masked, it couldn’t be detected in the normal course of airport security operations,” the prosecutor said.

Or, the stuff was shipped by mail, “FedEx, UPS, whatever,” he said.

“It’s the first time we’ve seen this process,” DeFazio said.

DeFazio said the ring – which was monitored by investigators over 16 months – used both individuals and shipping couriers, known as “mules,” to smuggle the cocaine to out-of-state “hubs” and, ultimately, to parts of Hudson and Essex counties, including Kearny, Belleville and Newark.

He said the suspects made trial runs and deliveries from Peru to the U.S. over several months to perfect their methods.

Investigators said that one of the alleged ringleaders, Jose F. Castro, 34, of 5 Dawson St., Belleville, exclusively held the cocaine-conversion formula.

“Now that the airlines, as well as immigration and custom authorities, have been made aware of this, I would assume that appropriate measures will be taken,” DeFazio said, but he cautioned that it would be “difficult to thwart this type of smuggling enterprise.”

“We’ll try to stay on top of it on our end, the best we can, under the circumstances,” he said.

“This is a very significant investigation.”

Asked if the ring had enlisted any airline baggage personnel in the criminal enterprise, DeFazio said: “At this point, we don’t know if that is the case. It’s an ongoing investigation.”

DeFazio said most of  the suspects were taken into custody at their residences in the early morning hours over a period of several days.

Investigators seized more than two kilograms of cocaine with an estimated street value of more than $150,000, along with a total of $30,000 in cash (alleged proceeds of drug transactions), a loaded handgun and several vehicles,  according to DeFazio.

Search warrants were executed at the second floor of 293 Maple St., Kearny; the first floor of 41 Magnolia Ave., Belleville; and 175 Garden Ave., Belleville, among other sites.

DeFazio said the process of converting the cocaine from liquid to dry form was conducted at more than one location but he declined to say where specifically.

Agencies that executed search warrants were: the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Narcotics Task Force, U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, and municipal police from Harrison, Kearny and Newark.

DeFazio identified the chief players of the smuggling network as: Castro, Victor Ramos, 44, of 175 Garden St., Belleville; Luis Rios, 43, of 605 Elm St., Kearny; and Alfredo Lazol, 46, of 9 Maple St., Kearny.

Castro is charged with being “leader of a narcotics trafficking network”; conspiracy to distribute cocaine; maintaining or operating a drug production facility; possession with intent to distribute cocaine; possession with intent to distribute cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school; and possession with intent to distribute cocaine within 500 feet of public property. He remains in Hudson County Jail, Kearny, on $750,000 cash bail only.

Ramos is charged with being “leader of a narcotics trafficking network” and conspiracy to distribute cocaine. He was jailed on $750,000 cash bail only.

Rios and Lazol were each charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and were each held in jail on bail of $500,000 cash only.

Other area suspects are: Jesus Tarazona, 50, of 221 Oakwood Ave., Kearny; Juan C. Rios, 30, of 308 Sanford Ave., Lyndhurst; and Paul Murgeitio-Tapia, 34, of 41 Magnolia St., Michael Murillo, 38, of 21 Cottage St., and Monica E. Angamarca, 26, of 41 Magnolia St., all of Belleville.

All are charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

Tarazona is being held on $125,000 cash/bond; Rios, on $150,000; Murgeitio-Tapia, on $200,000 cash/bond; Murillo, on $125,000 cash/bond; and Angamarca, $150,000 cash/bond.

Suspects from Newark are: Leon Bienvenid, 41; Mario Linares-Gonzalez, 34; Julio Cesar Lagos, 40; Jorge Vega, 64; and Edwin Miranda, 44.

Bienvenid is charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school and within 500 feet of public property, unlawful possession of a weapon, possession of a firearm during a drug offense and certain persons not to have weapons. His bail was set at $250,000 cash/bond.

Linares-Gonzalez, Lagos, Vega and Miranda were each charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and Lagos was additionally charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine. Linares-Gonzalez’ bail was $200,000 cash only; Lagos and Vega had bail set at $150,000 cash/bond; Miranda’s bail was $100,000 cash only.

Also arrested were: Ronaldo Sosa, 39, of Perth Amboy; Diego A. Bayone-Guido, 36, of Paterson; Ricardo Buenas-Cardenas, 40, of Rockaway; and Milton Gonzales, 46, of Elizabeth.

Sosa was charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession with intent to distribute cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school and within 500 feet of public property. Bail was set at $200,000 cash/bond.

Bayone-Guido, Buenas-Cardenas and Gonzales were charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Bail was set at $250,000 cash only for Bayone-Guido; bail for Buenas-Cardenas and Gonzales was set at $150,000 cash/bond.


Filmmaker drives for success with ‘Red Corvette’

By Anthony J. Machcinski | Observer Correspondent

Five years ago, Kearny resident Frank Lisi battled cancer, a challenge no one everwishes to endure. This summer, after becoming cancer-free a couple years ago, Lisi will unveil his second film, “The Red Corvette.”

“There is a little bit of everything in this movie,” said Lisi, who not only is the producer for the film, but acts in it as well.

Acting is nothing new for Lisi. He attended the Penny Templeton Studio in the hopes of an acting career.

“I never wanted to be a director,” Lisi said. “I thought it was too much of a headache.”

However, at the studio, Lisi not only learned the nuances of acting, but also many things on the other side of the camera. Eventually, he became intrigued by the actors themselves.

“I learned how to love to work with the fellow actor and to get the best out of them. I like working with the actor directly,” explained Lisi. “The lighting and cameras are important, but I trust my crew. Pulling the best performances out of each actor, I get a thrill out of that.”

Lisi’s first film, “A Sicilian Tale,” won the prize for the Best Short Film Crime Drama at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festi-Val. Despite a change in genre, Lisi hopes that the success will continue.

“You have to change the genre,” said Lisi, who went from crime drama to m


of asuspense thriller with “The Red Corvette.” “I want to do a little bit of everything. I didn’t want a film that was beginning to end a Mafia film. I wanted to tell the story of two opposites attracting.”

However, Lisi knows that a flourishing movie is not a one-man production, rather, it’s a well-oiled V8 that will make “The Red Corvette” purr to success.

“Everyone has that passion for filmmaking,” said Lisi of his co-workers. “We could be on the set for 12 hours, and they would say, ‘Who cares? We’re making the movie’.”

With actors and crew who truly love the passion and not the money, Lisi was able to use his creative ability to achieve his goal of switching genres. Inspired by a real-life story, “The Red Corvette” was driven by Lisi’s motivation to find a movie that would attract a younger demographic.

“I have teenagers of my own,” said Lisi, “Violence sells. Sex sells. That’s what young people want to see, but the moral of the story still is kind of sad.”

The story is fueled by its two lead actors, Valerie Bauer, playing ‘A’ student Cindy Reese, and Katherine Mesa, playing mob princess Bella Fagone.

“I had a hard time finding someone for the Cindy Reese character,” recapped Lisi, “but from the moment I saw (Valerie), I knew she was the right woman for the role.”

Along with the two relatively unknown leads, the movie also features Vinny Vella, from “Casino” and “The Sopranos” fame, as well as ex-Kearny High School teacher Artie Pasquale, who also had a role on “The Sopranos.”

Once editing is finished in the summer, Lisi will send the movie to multiple film festivals, hoping for both “The Red Corvette” and “A Sicilian Tale” to be distributed. Unmotivated by the greed, Lisi still hopes to make a return on his films.

“It wouldn’t be bad to make a dime here and there to pay people what they should be paid for this film,” Lisi explained.

As for his own career, Lisi hopes to get in front of the screen more.

“I spent the last four years making two films,” Lisi said. “I’d like to land some nice character roles.”

Lisi has been trying to get cast in the next season of HBO’s hit show “Boardwalk Empire,” but does not want people to typecast him as the Italian gangster.

“In the future, I’d like to get more acting jobs, roles, and branch out,” Lisi said. “I’ve been stereotyped as a gangster, but I can play other things.”

Lisi realizes that show business is not the easiest to break into, but that has not stopped his determination.

“Whatever it takes, I’m going to do more auditioning and try to go into more films,” Lisi said.

“The Red Corvette” is currently in the editing phase of production and will be entered into summer film festivals with the hopes of bringing in more awards.


Lyndhurst wins prestigious Jack Yockers Bergen County Relays crown

By Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer


Tom Shoebridge has been involved with the Lyndhurst High School track and

fieldprogram for longer than anyone can remember, including him. The veteran

coach was a standout athlete at the school and has been the father — and perhaps even grandfather — of theprogram for more than 30 years.

So Shoebridge knows the historical perspective of what it means for the Golden Bears to do well in the annual Jack Yockers Bergen County Relays championships, which were held last weekend at River Dell High School.

“I know we had only won one championship at the county relays,” Shoebridge said. “That was in 1985. Before the race Friday, I told them all that they had a chance to do something that had only been once in the history of the school, that they had a chance to make history themselves. It’s the ultimate team event in track and field and I knew we had a chance to win it going in.”

However, the two days of competition came down to one single event — the 4×400-meter relay. Lyndhurst was tied with Pascack Hills, each team owning 106 points.

“We were going back and forth for two days, for 15 events,” Shoebridge said. “It all came down to the last event.”

It meant a lot to the Golden Bears, because they finished second in the Division C team standings in each of the last two seasons.

But not this time.

In an exciting race, the Golden Bears won the 4×400, with Erik Quesada, Andrew Stajek, Jimmy Gangi and the brilliant Patrick Rono doing the work, coming home in 3:34.0, two seconds ahead of Pascack Hills.

With that, Lyndhurst had accomplished the unthinkable, winning the Division C championship at the Bergen County Relays.

“We knew that Pascack Hills had a great team, so we just tried to stay with them,” Shoebridge said. “We placed in every running event and won the pole vault. It really was a great day.”

The Golden Bears also won the 4×800, with Thiago Fernandes, Anthony Maldonado, David Torres and Danny Gaspar combining to run in 9:03.5. They also won the gold medal in the 4×1,600-meter relay, with Rono, Gaspar, Max Estevez and Fernandes having the honors.

They also earned the gold medal in the sprint medley relay, with Stajek, Quesada, Gangi and Rono combining forces there to break the tape in 3:43.2.

And for good measure, they won the distance medley relay in 11:17.1, with Rono once again, along with Tommy Grimmeyer, Anthony Giaquinto and Fernandes combining for the gold.

The winning pole vault combination comprised of Justin Lim, Mike Morreale and Ian Yunis.

If you’re keeping score at home, you’ll realize that Rono was part of four gold-medal winning relay teams for the Golden Bears. His legacy of greatness just continues to grow and grow with every passing meet, every passing day.

“I think Patrick is the greatest track athlete we’ve ever had,” Shoebridge said. “He’s just been phenomenal. He ran a 4:21 mile on Friday and came back to run a 3:09 in the distance medley and finished it off by running 51 flat in the 400, a race he doesn’t even like doing. There aren’t many who can say they won four gold medals at the county relays.”

Although Rono had a gigantic part in the championship day, this was not a championship won by Rono alone.

“It was absolutely fabulous, especially with the way it played out,” Shoebridge said.


“I told them that they had to live for this moment, because it may never happen again. They all did it. This wasn’t just Patrick. Quesada had a great day, winning two golds and two silvers. Fernandes, Gaspar, Stajek, Gangi, they all had big roles and won multiple medals. It’s a fabulous feeling to have the entire team come

through like this.”

Shoebridge, who has earned a solid reputation for his development of pole vault competitors, was especially pleased with winning the pole vault relay and pointed

out that Lim is set to be the Class of 2011 valedictorian.

“We really have to savor this,” Shoebridge said. “Everyone had a hand in this. It’s the reason why it’s so special.”

But no question, the day belonged to Rono, who earned the Bernard Smith Memorial

Track Most Valuable Runner for his four gold medals and leading the Golden Bears to a slice of history.

“He’s definitely the team leader,” said Shoebridge of Rono, who will graduate from

Lyndhurst in three years and head off to a major college to be determined in the fall. “I told the colleges that they’re getting someone in Patrick who can do it all, like getting four kids for the price of one. He’s that good.”


And his legacy continues to grow and grow. It’s almost totally astounding what Rono has done, from being a two-time place finisher in the NJSIAA Cross Country Meet of Champions to now a four-time gold medal winner at the Bergen County Relays.

Federal indictment in charity shakedown

By Karen Zautyk | Senior Correspondent


A Belleville man was indicted by a federal grand jury in Newark last Thursday for allegedly extorting a nonprofit company that collected used clothing from bins in local communities, including Belleville, Kearny and Bloomfield.

U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said the defendant, Michael Arpaio, 57, also allegedly identified himself as a police officer with a connection to organized crime, but, as the indictment reads, Arpaio “was neither an officer nor employee of any police department in the State of New Jersey or elsewhere.“

Arpaio had been arrested Nov. 8, 2010. Last week, he appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Esther Salas and was released on a $100,000 bail. He will be expected for an initial appearance and arraignment on the indictment in Newark on a date to be determined, Fishman’s office said.

The nonprofit, based in New York and identified in court documents only as “Company One,” placed clothing-collection bins in New York and northern New Jersey, sold the donated garments and gave the net profits to charity, Fishman’s office said. But the bins reportedly began to disappear last summer.

According to court documents filed in the case: “Beginning in July 2010, after the bins were stolen, Arpaio met an individual from Company One . . . . falsely represented himself as a police officer who had a family member associated with organized crime, [and] told the individual that his permission was needed to place clothing bins in northern New Jersey, which Arpaio referred to as his territory.”

Arpaio also allegedly demanded payment for the stolen bins before they would be returned.

Arpaio reportedly met twice with the company representative, on Sept. 29 and Oct. 29. The meetings were recorded, Fishman‘s office said.

According to the court documents, at the September meeting, Company One’s rep gave Arpaio approximately $1,000 in cash, and “Arpaio stated, among other things, ‘This thousand dollars is gonna return some of your boxes to you and it’s gonna make sure none of your other [expletive]’s gone.’”

At the October meeting, Arpaio allegedly demanded money for the privilege of keeping the collection bins on the property of a Belleville retail store, with which Arpaio actually had no connection.

The defendant allegedly lied that he had paid the store $400 to allow placement of a bin, but when the Company One rep asked to see a receipt, the request reportedly was not received graciously.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, the response from Arpaio (who apparently has a way with certain words) was: “You’re lucky I’m on the [expletive] job cause I’d break every bone in your [expletive] body right now. You don’t think I’m capable? I’d break every [expletive] bone in your body.”

The indictment also quotes Arpaio as claiming that his uncle is “connected”: “My uncle used to work for a guy . . . . [who was a] captain in the Genovese crime family but he worked directly for John Gotti. Now you know who John Gotti is, right?”

If convicted on the extortion count, Arpaio faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward, for the investigation leading to the indictment.