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Fighting scams targeting elderly


Fed up with fraud? With scams? With identity theft?

So is the State of New Jersey, which has just launched an initiative called “Fighting Fraud,” a series of consumer education seminars that will be held in each of N.J.’s 21 counties during the coming year.

The aim is to help New Jerseyans recognize and prevent fraud before falling victim.

From the IRS phone scam, to lottery and sweepstakes frauds and the so-called “grandparent scam,” the N.J. Division of Consumer Affairs reports that criminal scamsters appear to be more active than ever, preying on potential victims in our state through phone calls, emails and other means.

“Today’s con artists combine new technologies with the same old psychological tricks, to get otherwise alert victims to lower their defenses and fall prey to a bogus story,” N.J. Attorney General John J. Hoffman said in a press release announcing the initiative last week. “Unfortunately, too many people learn that they were conned the hard way — after losing thousands of dollars or becoming victims of identity theft,” Hoffman added.

Steve C. Lee, director of Consumer Affairs, noted, “New Jerseyans can protect themselves simply by being aware that these frauds are out there, and by refusing to send money or personal information to anyone without taking time to stop, think, and verify whether the person contacting them is legitimate.”

The “Fighting Fraud” presentations will include law enforcement footage of an overseas “boiler room” that was the heart of a multimillion- dollar lottery and telemarketing scam. The footage shows now-convicted fraudsters speaking by phone with an undercover FBI agent and an actual victim, seeking to coerce them into sending a money order to claim their “winnings” from a nonexistent sweepstakes.

The seminars also will touch on the various techniques that scammers use to trick their victims into sending money or providing personal information; the proliferation of phone-based scams as well as phishing scams that seek personal info via email or other electronic messages; and the basic steps you should take to protect yourself.

Some advice from the state:

• Never send money,  give away personal or financial information, or click on a link or attachment, without first independently verifying the information. Use another source to find a separate phone number for the person or entity that supposedly sent the communication, in order to ensure it was genuine.

• Never act without  thinking. This is true especially when dealing with a sales pitch or a threat that says, “You must act right away.” And even more so if the consumer is told, “Keep this confidential and don’t tell anyone about this deal.”

Just as with the “grandparent scam” — in which callers target senior citizens claiming that a grandchild or other relative is in trouble and needs cash immediately — con artists try to create a false sense of urgency and a need for secrecy. They know consumers are much more likely to become victims if their emotions are higher and if they are prevented from discussing the scam with a friend or relative. The seminars will be held through 2015. The full seminar calendar, with sites, dates and times, can be found at: www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/outreach.

Additional information about fraud prevention can be found on the division’s website, where you can access the FedUp Handbook, Consumer Briefs and Cyber Safe NJ.

 – Karen Zautyk  

Senior housing partly occupied

Photos by Ron Leir
Mayor James Fife (c.), Town Council members and Domus represent atives gather on porch of Harrison Senior
Residence as tenants Patti Dec (top l.) and Solaida and Gonzalo Cruz Molina, with visiting granddaugher Briar
Rose, settle into their new apartments.

By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent


After six years of start/ stop planning, the Harrison Senior Residence at 774 Harrison Ave. is finally open, with seven of its 15 apartments rented and two occupied so far.

But the selection process for the remaining units at the town’s first “affordable senior building” is continuing and the Domus Corp., the developer, is still accepting applications for the 650 square feet one-bedroom units, according to Daniel Ritchey Jr. of Marzulli Real Estate, which manages the Harrison site.

Applicants must be age 62 or older and meet federal housing income guidelines to be considered, he said.

For an application or for more information, people are asked to call the Kearny Senior Residence, another Domus property on Schuyler Ave., at 201-991-0054.

Of the 10 residential projects Domus (an arm of Catholic Charities of Newark) has built in Hudson, Essex, Bergen and Union counties, the one in Harrison “has been the most difficult” of all to process, Domus President John Westervelt said.

While assembly and configuration of the modular units went quite smoothly under Del-Sano Contracting Corp. of Union, it was the tenant selection protocol that proved problematic for the developer.

As it has done before with prior projects, Domus devised a lottery, with prospective tenants’ applications to be screened in the order by which they were randomly drawn, as the method to be used for picking the “winners.”

That is how they ended up with the pool of 164 applicants, who, because a chunk of federal aid was included in the $3.7 million funding mix for the project, could not be limited solely to Harrison residents.

It turned out that many of the applications had to be rejected, either because members of the same family submitted multiple filings or because applicants did not have enough income to qualify, according to Ritchey and Westervelt.

Of the 15 apartments available, 12 will rent for $705 per month while three will go for $560, Ritchey said. Utilities are extra.

A household of up to two people must have an annual income of at least $21,150 and can earn no more than $31,650 to be eligible for a Domus apartment in Harrison.

For the three cheaper apartments, the regulatory agreement covering the Harrison site says that a tenant’s household income cannot exceed 50% of the region’s median income, which comes out to $26,350, and, at the same time, the monthly rent cannot exceed 30% of a tenant’s household income.

Ritchey said that because some applicants are just missing the income cutoffs by maybe $1,000 or so, Domus is exploring with the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development the possibility of relaxing those limits a bit to allow some borderline cases to qualify.

Given that element of uncertainty, Domus is extending the application period, he said. No cutoff date was given.

In the meantime, those cleared to move in will do so.

Gonzalo Cruz Molina and his wife Solaida, who previously lived in a Grant Ave. apartment in Harrison, have the distinction of being the first occupants. They moved into a second-floor apartment in February.

“I’m not able to climb stairs because of my leg condition,” said Solaida. “And we tried to find an affordable apartment.” Harrison Senior Residence, with its reasonable rent and an elevator, is a welcome find for the couple.

When The Observer visited the building last week, the Molinas were babysitting their 2-yearold granddaughter Briar Rose.

Their second-floor neighbor is Patti Dec, who was getting her new furniture delivered when a reporter visited with her. Dec, who got word about her selection in mid-March, spent the past 25 years in a walk-up apartment building on N. Third St. in Harrison.

“I was number 80 on the list,” she said. “I never thought I’d get in.”

But she did and she couldn’t be happier. “With my rheumatoid arthritis, I needed an elevator. Before, it was too much walking up two floors carrying groceries and what not.”

Dec retired a year and a half ago after having put in 18 years in customer service with Tyden Brooks, a manufacturer of high security seals. Before that, she owned and operated a hairdresser’s shop on Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. She’s been an active member of the Elks for 16 years.

Mayor James Fife, who visited the senior building last Wednesday with members of the Town Council, called it “a wonderful occasion and, I hope, the first of many more such projects.”

Asked if any were in the offing, Fife said the town was eyeing two potential sites on which to build senior apartments. “We’re looking for private financing to acquire them,” he said.

Westervelt, meanwhile, is hoping to see the Harrison Senior Residence fully occupied by June.

Incidentally, pets are allowed in the building, “but no more than 25 pounds,” said Fatima Blanco, executive manager for Marzulli Realty. “And there is a pet security deposit required.”

2 West Hudson women among honorees

Photos courtesy County of Hudson
LEFT: Patricia Ann Hinchcliffe-Pettigrew (c.) accepts her award. RIGHT: Rosemary Marks holds citation.

Two West Hudson residents were among 24 of their peers selected as the 2015 Hudson County Women’s History Month Honorees feted March 25 at the historic Brennan Courthouse in Jersey City.

The awardees, who received citations and medals from Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, represent a diversity of backgrounds, careers and personal influences.

The program was co-hosted by County Clerk Barbara Netchert, County Register Pamela Gardner and County Freeholder Caridad Rodriguez.

West Hudson’s representatives among the group were Patricia Ann Hinchcliffe-Pettigrew of Harrison and Rosemary Marks of Kearny.

Hinchcliffe-Pettigrew is the oldest of 13 children with an extended Harrison legacy and a graduate of Holy Cross Grammar School and Harrison High School. Her grandfather, father, uncle and brother all served on the Harrison Police Department.

Hinchcliffe-Pettigrew worked 18 years as a project manager in New York City until 2009 when she became secretary to the superintendent of the Harrison public schools. She and her husband Art Pettigrew, a former Second Ward councilman, have been married more than 25 years and are proud of their children, Jason, Heather and Michael, and stepchildren Kevin, James and Christian, and her seven grandchildren. She was recently appointed to the Harrison Public Library board of trustees where her grandmother served many years ago.

Marks is assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction with the Hackensack public schools, where she has previously served as a bilingual/ESL teacher, math teacher and director of the Bilingual/ESL and World Language program.

She received her B.A. from the College of New Jersey in Ewing, an M.A. from New Jersey City University and is pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership at New York University.

Married to her college sweetheart Stephen Marks, she is a dedicated mother to Timothy (St. Peter’s Preparatory School, Class of 2012) and Sarah (St. Dominic Academy, Class of 2015), and has been an active member of the Kearny community, having served on the Kearny Board of Education, the Junior Women’s Club and the Roosevelt School PTA.

Marks is an active member of the St. Stephen’s Parish community, the Portuguese Cultural Association and St. Dominic Academy Parent Association.

Other honorees were: Sylvia Abbato, education administrator, Union City; Theresa Borrelli, author, of Weehawken; Det. Tori Carter, Hudson County Sheriff’s Office; PeiJu Chien-Pott, Nimbus Dance Works, Jersey City; Susan M. Colacurcio, science teacher, West New York; Theresa Ferguson, entrepreneur, Jersey City; Radia Funna, Build n Blaze, Jersey City; Melina Garcia, Union City Music Project; Maurena Luzzi, singer/teacher/ playwright, North Bergen; Adriana Machado-Jaworski, graphic artist, Jersey Journal; Adela Martinez, school trustee/council member/educator, Guttenberg; Eva Mehos, Hudson County Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs/ Tourism Development, Jersey City; Councilwoman Sharon Ashe Nadrowski, Bayonne; Amanda Morrison, CEO of Don’t Sit Home, Hoboken; Rebekah Ortiz, banking, Hoboken; Lee Penna, Secaucus Public Library/Special Events coordinator; Maria Pepe, CPA/assistant comptroller, Hoboken; Wendelin Regalado, Living Village Community Garden/Good Vibes Coalition, Jersey City; Miriam Rendon, senior volunteer/aide to Rep. Albio Sires, West New York; Zabrina Stoeffel, Project Play/ Mile Square Theater, Hoboken’ Laura E. Torres, Regis Corp., Hoboken; and 2015 Willie Flood Youth Community Service awardee Liliana Matilde Segovia, My Outreach Mission (M.O.M.s), West New York.

Doctor sentenced for taking bribes


A North Arlington doctor has been sentenced to 37 months in prison for accepting more than $130,000 in bribes in exchange for referring patients to a Parsippany clinical-testing lab, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman reports.

Dr. Angelo Calabrese, 57, an internist who resides in Pine Brook but had his medical practice in North Arlington, previously pleaded guilty to one count of accepting bribes, authorities said.

U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler handed down the sentence last Thursday in Newark Federal Court.

As part of his guilty plea, Calabrese must also forfeit $334,000.

Federal authorities said a long-running test-referral scheme was operated by Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services (BLS) of Parsipppany, its president, and numerous associates.

Including Calabrese, 37 people — 25 of them physicians — have pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme, which its organizers have admitted involved millions of dollars in bribes and brought in more than $100 million in payments to BLS from Medicare and private insurance companies, Fishman reported.

To date, the investigation has recovered more than $10.5 million through forfeitures.

According to court records, Calabrese admitted accepting more than $130,000 in bribes to refer at least $600,000 in business to BLS.

From 2010 through 2013, the doctor received more than $4,500 per month from BLS through sham consulting and rental agreements, Fishman said.

In addition to the prison term and forfeiture, Calabrese must serve one year of supervised release and pay a fine of $5,000.

Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, IRS Criminal Investigation, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service with the ongoing investigation leading to the sentencing.

– Karen Zautyk 

Promoting transit choices

Photo courtesy HTMA
Kearny’s John Peneda (r.) accepts citation from HTMA’s Jay DiDomenico.

The Town of Kearny was among nearly 100 local businesses, institutions and local governments honored by the Hudson Transportation Management Association April 1 at its annual New Jersey Smart Workplace (NJSW) Awards Breakfast in Jersey City.

The event was hosted by the Hudson County Community College at its Culinary Conference Center.

Through its award program, HTMA pays tribute to efforts by the business and government community to “improve the environment and the quality of life for our Hudson community” by promoting commuting alternatives designed to reduce traffic and congestion and improve air quality, said HTMA Director Jay DiDomenico.

Kearny was recognized on two fronts:

The town received a Safe Routes for School Bronze award for its summer camp program’s participation in the HTMA’s Bike School program.

The agency loaned bicycles to the camp at no cost and camp counselors, trained by the HTMA, taught campers bike safety best practices.

Additionally, Washington Elementary School participated in the agency’s Walk to School program which encourages walking instead of being dropped off by car.

Also, the Kearny Department of Public Works collected a NJSW award for assisting its employees in exploring commuting alternatives by hosting a Transit Fair and distributing information on ride-sharing.

John Peneda, the town’s Urban Enterprise Zone coordinator and town assessor, accepted the awards on behalf of Kearny.

Among the local dignitaries attending the breakfast were Harrison Mayor James Fife, Hudson County Assignment Judge Peter Bariso, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, Freeholders E. Junior Maldonado and Anthony Romano and Hudson County Improvement Authority Executive Director Norman Guerra.

1 injured in near head-on Pike crash

Photo by Ron Leir
Aftermath of last Tuesday’s crash on Belleville Pike


A collision between a Honda Accord and a cement truck on the Belleville Turnpike last week required response from not only Kearny police, but also the Kearny Fire Department, which had to wash a considerable amount of gasoline from the roadway.

“The truck’s tank was punctured and it lost virtually all of its fuel, spilling it onto the Pike,” KPD Chief John Dowie reported.

Dowie said neither of the drivers was hurt, but a female passenger in the car was taken by Kearny EMS to Clara Maass Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries.

The accident occurred at 11 a.m., Tuesday, March 31, as the eastbound cement truck was negotiating a curve near the intersection with Sellers St. According to police, witnesses stated that the Honda, travelling west, had crossed the center line and hit the truck virtually head-on.

The Honda driver, a 68-year-old Jersey City man, was issued a summons for the lane violation, police said. No summonses were given to the trucker, a 27-year-old South Plainfield man.

The car was towed from the scene. Mechanics from the company that owned the truck responded to see if it could be repaired at the site, Dowie said.

The state Department of Environmental Protection was notified of the fuel spill.

– Karen Zautyk 

Abdo-Manno nets major realty award


Maggie Abdo-Manno, broker-sales associate with Century 21 Semiao and Associates’ Lyndhurst office, has been named Top Company Producing Associate for 2014.

“Maggie is constantly trying to keep ahead of the ever-changing real estate market,” said Fernando Semiao, broker/owner of Century 21 Semiao and Associates. “Her dedication to hard work and her clients has helped her shine in every type of market.”

Abdo-Manno has more than 10 years’ experience in the industry and has been with the Century 21 from the start of her career. She holds a broker-salesperson license and commercial and certified distressed property expert certification. In addition, she is one of the few brokers who have obtained the Graduate Realtor Institute GRI designation.

In 2014, she achieved the company’s highest production level, Centurion Status. She has also received Quality Service and Master Awards, as well as the Silver Level of the Circle of Excellence from the N.J. Association of Realtors.

Located at 761 Ridge Road, Century 21 Semiao & Associates is a full-service brokerage specializing in residential, commercial and new construction properties.

Abdo-Manno can be reached at 201-460-8000 ext. 410.

Fundraiser benefits W. Hudson collegians

The Hudson County Community College Foundation’s Scholarship Committee will host a Hudson/Bergen Comedy Night Fundraiser on Tuesday, May 6, beginning at 6 p.m. at the San Carlo, 620 Stuyvesant Ave., Lyndhurst.

Proceeds will benefit students from East Newark, Harrison, Kearny and North Arlington with scholarships to HCCC.

The evening will include a “meet and greet” hour with hors d’oeuvres followed by family style dinner. A cash bar will be available all evening.

Comedian Rob Ryan will serve as master of ceremonies. A regular at top comedy clubs, he was recently voted the “Funniest Person on Long Island.”

The show will also feature the stand-up talents of Richie Byrne, an accomplished actor, singer and comic who is currently the warm-up act for the hit TV series “The Dr. Oz Show.” Buddy Fitzpatrick, a regular on Comedy Central, will also share his comedy perspective with the audience. The show is rated PG 13.

Tickets are $75 and are on sale now. To purchase tickets or for additional information, contact Joseph Sansone, HCCC’s vice president for development, at 201-360- 4006 or email jsansone@ hccc.edu.

Thoughts & Views: Don’t give up on peace


In his Easter message delivered Sunday at Vatican City, Pope Francis rightly reminded us about the forgotten people of the world.

He talked about persecuted Christian minorities in such places as Kenya where 148 students were summarily executed by the Shabab, an extremist Somali group retaliating for intervention by Kenyan government soldiers in Somalia.

Also on his agenda was the ever-escalating conflict in the Middle East where the only people profiting from their dealings there are the merchants of death.

“We ask for peace, above all, for Syria and Iraq, that the roar of arms may cease and that peaceful relations be restored among the various groups which make up those beloved countries,” he said.

But the pontiff also went on to list the disastrous strife in Yemen, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ukraine, the Palestinian territories and Israel – all of which have contributed to the horrific displacement of refugees from their homelands.

He chose to take heart from the potential Iranian nuclear deal tentatively struck by negotiators in Switzerland.

All good words, indeed, but despite the popularity of the Argentinian cleric among his flock and beyond, the global community has done little, beyond isolated bombings, drone attacks and, with some exceptions, out-gunned and outmaneuvered boots on the ground, to try to stop the relentless killings, kidnappings and desecrations of historic sites by the Islamic State thugs and its affiliates.

Back in the Middle Ages, of course, the Vatican gave the world a taste of its own punitive might when it organized the Crusades, flexing its political muscles by expanding its authority through Europe and elsewhere.

So what to do?

Mahatma Gandhi famously turned fasting into a weapon of persuasion to accomplish his non-violent goals.

Between 1913 and 1948, Gandhi undertook 17 fasts of varying lengths – from one to 21 days – to protest oppressive British policies in India and internal fighting by segments of the native population as well.

Sad to say, even if the pope, President Obama and other world leaders committed to abstinence from food for any length of time, it would likely carry little weight with those forces who say they’re equally committed to establishing a world-wide caliphate.

There seems to be little appetite among the U.S. and its allies – still struggling with recessionary pressures – to mount a steady stream of attacks on an enemy that has proved to be elusive as it is brutal.

What’s more, ISIL continues to draw support from fringe elements world-wide, with media reports estimating that some 20,000 recruits, many from western bloc countries, have volunteered to join the jihadists.

While the root causes for the rise of ISIL may have been oppressive and intolerant measures imposed by governments, those callous practices will have to be left for later to reverse, no doubt leading to more future upheavals.

For now, though, as the pope says, the priority must be to halt the wanton acts of bloodshed which, if left unchecked, will continue to be a plague in our midst.

– Ron Leir 

KPD blotter: Cops weren’t clueless

A motorist who crashed his car on Passaic Ave. fled the scene of the accident, but conveniently provided clues to help police find him — pieces of his car scattered in the roadway.

At 3:40 a.m., Saturday, March 28, Officers Derek Hemphill and Dave Rakowski responded to the report of a one-vehicle crash near Passaic and Laurel Aves. and arrived to find the auto gone. But police said they recovered debris indicating it was a dark-green car that apparently had headed north on Passaic.

A BOLO was issued to surrounding agencies, and Rakowski began a search.

On the far side of the Belleville Pike bridge, at the intersection of Main and Rutgers Sts., he located a green 1999 Buick “with extensive front-end damage, including the absence of a left front tire,” KPD Chief John Dowie noted.

Police said the driver — Robert Smith, 26, of Belleville — was unsteady on his feet and “had difficulty following simple instructions.” After field sobriety tests and an Alcotest, he was charged with DWI, reckless driving and leaving the scene. What was left of the car was impounded.

• • •

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

March 27 

Officer Daniel Esteves, on patrol at 5:30 p.m. at Brighton Ave. and Liberty St., saw a pedestrian whom he believed to have warrants. After confirming that there were two — one each from Scotch Plains and Newark, and both traffic-related — he arrested Tristen Sanchez, 23, of Kearny, took him to headquarters and notified the two municipalities.

 March 28 

Shortly after midnight, Officer Jay Ward was dispatched to a tavern on the 400 block of Kearny Ave. on a report of an unruly patron. Police said that when the man, Ataullah Barnes, 39, of Brooklyn, N.Y., was asked to leave, he began shouting at Ward and ignored repeated advice to desist and to call for a ride home. He was charged with disorderly conduct, transported to HQ and placed in a cell “until he was in a state of mind to take care of himself and behave.”

• • •

At 8:30 a.m., Officer Esteves stopped a ‘98 Honda with New Hampshire plates and a broken tail light on Harrison Ave. near Walmart and found it operated by Rose Abraham, 29, of Jersey City. After he was advised by HQ that she had a suspended license, she was arrested on that charge and was issued a summons for the lighting violation.

March 30

At 4:30 p.m., Officer Christopher Levchak stopped a passing 2007 Nissan with New York plates at Passaic and Webster Aves. after he saw the driver talking on a cell phone, police said. Sharon Worth, 44, of N.Y.C., produced a N.Y. driver’s license, but a check with Motor Vehicles reportedly revealed that she also had a N.J. license — a suspended N.J. license. In addition, police said, she had three motor-vehicle related warrants, from Clifton, Clark and Berkeley Heights. She was charged on those and with driving while suspended, and received a summons for yapping on the cell phone while driving.

• • •

Officer Jordenson Jean was dispatched at 4:36 p.m. to Walmart, where security had detained Helen Chacon, 50, of Jersey City, for allegedly trying to steal a USB charger. A search incident to arrest found her to be in possession of a dozen suspected Xanax tablets in an umarked Rx container, police said.

Chacon was charged with shoplifting, unlawful possession of a prescription drug, possession of drug paraphernalia — and on a $2,500 drug-related warrant from Newark.

• • •

At 5 p.m., after police were advised that Kmart security was in foot pursuit of a shoplifter, Officer Frank West spotted the suspect — clad in red pants — squeezing through a fence behind ShopRite, apparently heading toward Belgrove Drive. West issued a BOLO, and Vice detectives nabbed the man after seeing him emerge onto Belgrove near Rose St.

The suspect was found to be in possession of marijuana and to have a criminal warrant from the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, police said. Kmart security reported that $70 worth of electronic merchandise had been hidden in the red pants. Elijah Easterling, 20, of East Orange, was charged with shoplifting and possession of pot and drug paraphernalia and was held for pick-up by Essex County.

• • •

Police said Christian Garcia, 25, of Kearny, was arrested at 9:45 p.m. after Vice officers, aware that he had a suspended license, saw him driving a 2005 Saab on Kearny Ave.

March 31 

At 4:30 p.m., Officer Brian Wisely saw a man, who seemed to be fumbling and unsteady on his feet, enter and start a 2004 Pontiac parked near Kearny Ave. and Halstead St. When Wisely and Det. Michael Farinola approached the car, the man appeared to be nodding behind the wheel and the odor of alcohol was detect ed, police said. Following FSTs and an Alcotest, John Edwards, 56, of Wallington, was charged with DWI, possession of a presciption drug (Suboxone capsules), possession of drug paraphernalia (a diagonally cut plastic straw) and possession of drugs in a motor vehicle.

April 1 

Officer Wisely, on patrol near Madison and W. Bennett Aves. at 6:30 p.m., saw a woman sitting in the curb and smoking a hand-rolled cigar. When she saw the patrol car, she reportedly tossed the cigar aside and began walking away. Wisely retrieved it and confirmed it was marijuana and, as he approached her, saw her try to discard a knotted plastic bag under a parked car, “while protesting her innocence,” police said. Julissa Nazario, 22, of Newark, was charged with possession of pot and paraphernalia.

– Karen Zautyk