2 men — one a former Harrison cop, another a former Kearny resident — admit to bilking customers after Super Storm Sandy: OCPO

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Two former area residents, including one who is a retired Harrison police officer who spent time on the rubble at Ground Zero after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on America, face several years behind bars after pleading guilty to Hurricane Sandy-related fraud charges this week, Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer said.

On May 6, 2022, former HPD Officer John Bishop, 57, now of Celebration, Florida, pled guilty before Judge Lisa A. Puglisi, to theft by failure to make required disposition, Billhimer said. Three days later, Bishop’s business partner, Paul Rueda, 50, of San Diego, Texas, formerly of Kearny, pled guilty before Judge Puglisi to the same charge.

Billhimer said both defendants’ guilty pleas stem from their stealing funds through a contractor businesses they operated together between October 2014 and May 2017 — in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy — in Ocean, Monmouth and Middlesex counties.

At sentencing July 15, the state will recommend a term of four years in a state prison for Bishop, and five for Rueda. As part of their plea agreements, Bishop agreed to pay $178,425 in restitution to the victims; Rueda agreed to pay $542,800 in restitution to the victims.

An investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office’s Economic Crimes Unit revealed Bishop and Rueda formed John Paul Building, LLC, in November 2012. Six homeowners throughout Ocean, Monmouth, and Middlesex counties reportedly entered into contracts with building company to repair their homes after Superstorm Sandy. 

Collectively, these homeowners paid the pair in excess of $350,000, which the defendants agreed to use to complete the projects. The homeowners received little to no work on their projects, however, and the company disbanded without returning any of the funds to the homeowners.

Subsequently, between July 2016 and May 2017, Rueda entered in agreements with four additional homeowners under his newly formed contracting business, PKR Construction. These homeowners paid PKR Construction a total of $363,575 toward construction projects on their properties.

Although some work was done by PKR Construction, Rueda converted the victims’ funds to his own personal use and benefit and failed to complete any of the projects.

Billhimer acknowledged the efforts of Senior Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Heisler, who is handled the case on behalf of the state, as well as the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Economic Crimes Unit, Little Egg Harbor Police Department, Brick Township Police Department, Point Pleasant Borough Police Department, and Middletown Township Police Department, for their collaborative assistance.


A look back

In 2015, Bishop, who retired from the Harrison PD in 2006 after a decade of service was one of several Harrison police officers — who spent time at Ground Zero during recovery efforts in 2001 — to address an audience of schoolchildren at Harrison’s Washington Middle School. That day, he displayed boots he wore at Ground Zero. He had also been inducted into the school’s “Hallway of Heroes,” which served to honor women and men who give back to the local community.

Before he was taken into custody in 2018 when he was originally charged, Bishop had gone missing and U.S. Marshals ultimately found him living in the Sunshine State.

In The Observer’s original reporting about the case — Dec. 5, 2018 — another former Harrison cop, who requested anonymity, said he wasn’t all that shocked by what he’d learned of Bishop.

“I knew him when he was a cop and he was a creep then,” the retired officer said. “None of this is shocking to hear. The Bishop I remember had always had a hard time doing the right thing, so all of this — it makes sense.”

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.