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Hoboken Police Officer Convicted of Stealing $187,000 in Superstorm Sandy Relief Funds

Superstorm Sandy

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Trenton NJ, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a former police officer was sentenced to prison today after being convicted in October at trial of stealing $187,000 by filing fraudulent applications for federal relief funds related to Superstorm Sandy. His wife, who was convicted with him, was sentenced to probation and community service.

Nikola Lulaj, 45, of Seaside Heights, N.J., (formerly of Dumont, N.J.) – who forfeited his job as an officer with the Hoboken Police Department as a result of his conviction – was sentenced today to five years in state prison by Superior Court Judge James M. Blaney in Ocean County. His wife, Majlinda Lulaj, 32, was sentenced today to three years of probation, conditioned upon completion of 50 hours of community service. Both defendants were ordered to pay full restitution. The husband and wife were found guilty on Oct. 25 by an Ocean County jury of charges of second-degree conspiracy, second-degree theft by deception, and six counts of fourth-degree unsworn falsification.

Deputy Attorneys General Thomas Clark and Jamie Picard tried the case and handled the sentencing for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. They were assisted at trial by Detective Mark Byrnes, Detective Franco Cignarella and Analyst Rita Gillis.

The state presented testimony and evidence at trial that Nikola and Majlinda Lulaj filed fraudulent applications following Superstorm Sandy for FEMA assistance, a low-interest SBA disaster-relief loan, and state grants under the Homeowner Resettlement Program (RSP), the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program, and the Sandy Homeowner and Renter Assistance Program (SHRAP) funded by the New Jersey Department of Human Services. As a result, they received a total of approximately $187,074 in relief funds.

The couple falsely claimed in their applications that a home they own on Webster Avenue in Seaside Heights, which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, was their primary residence at the time Sandy struck. In fact, their primary residence was in Dumont, N.J. They have since moved to the house in Seaside Heights, but at the time of the storm, it was a vacation/rental property. As a result of the alleged fraudulent applications, Nikola and Majlinda Lulaj received $2,820 from FEMA, $90,200 in SBA loan proceeds, a $69,054 RREM grant, a $10,000 RSP grant, and a $15,000 SHRAP grant.

“For a police officer to commit this type of fraud is particularly egregious, because officers take an oath to uphold the law and we rightly hold them to the highest standards,” said Attorney General Grewal. “When disaster strikes, we cannot allow dishonest applicants to divert disaster relief funds from the intended recipients – namely, those victims whose primary homes were destroyed or damaged.”

“We have recovered well over $2 million through these prosecutions and have delivered a strong message that should deter this type of fraud during future disaster recovery efforts,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “I commend our trial team for securing the verdict and these sentences, and I thank all of our law enforcement partners for their excellent work in these historic anti-fraud efforts.”

The case was investigated for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau by Deputy Attorney General Thomas Clark and Detective Mark Byrnes. They conducted the investigation with special agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, HUD Office of Inspector General and SBA Office of Inspector General. The case was investigated and prosecuted under the supervision of Lt. Vincent Gaeta, Lt. David Nolan, Sgt. Fred Weidman, Deputy Bureau Chief Mark Kurzawa and Bureau Chief Julia S. Glass of the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau.

The Attorney General’s Office has charged over 120 defendants with fraud related to Sandy relief programs. Most of the cases involve “primary residence fraud” of the type committed by Nikola and Majlinda Lulaj. The 120-plus defendants allegedly were responsible for diverting more than $8 million in relief funds. The office is continuing its aggressive efforts to investigate fraud in Sandy relief programs, working jointly with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA), and the Offices of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Also assisting the taskforce is the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, New Jersey Office of the State Comptroller, New Jersey Department of the Treasury Office of Criminal Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the non-profit National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

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Dumont Man Charged with Intent To Distribute Drugs in a School Zone

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Dumont NJ, Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Dennis Calo announced the arrest of WILLIAM H. KECK (DOB: 12/6/1949; single; unemployed) of 109 Lafayette Avenue, Dumont, NJ on charges of Possession Of A Controlled Dangerous Substance, Possession With The Intent To Distribute Controlled Dangerous Substances, and Possession Of Drug Paraphernalia. This arrest is the result of an investigation conducted by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Chief Robert Anzilotti and the Dumont Police Department under the direction of Chief Michael J. Conner.
Several months ago, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Narcotics Task Force and the Dumont Police Department received information that William H. KECK was distributing Controlled Dangerous Substances, namely Oxycodone, in Bergen County. On Thursday, October 11, 2018, a search of KECK’s residence located at 109 Lafayette Avenue in Dumont resulted in the seizure of Controlled Dangerous Substances including numerous Oxycodone 20MG and 30MG tablets, Suboxone, Diazepam, and Zolpidem, and plastic baggies used for the packaging of Controlled Dangerous Substances for distribution purposes.

Continue reading Dumont Man Charged with Intent To Distribute Drugs in a School Zone

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Ridgewood Raiders 14U Baseball Team Win State Championship

Photo :The following is the listing of players and coaches from left to right:Connor O’Hara #52, Coach Brian O’Hara,J.T. Luther #28,Joe Grasso #4,Matt Sullivan #23,Dylan Leith #6,Coach Mike Vigliotti,Angelo LaVaglia #13,Johnny Pilla #11,Mike Vigliotti #10,Jeremy Schneider #25,Jackson Kammen #19,Coach Mike Kammen,Jake Kleiman #45

August 1,2018

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, Ridgewood Raiders 14U baseball team just made an improbable run, winning our Little District (District 4), our Section (Section 1), and winning the State Championship yesterday 7/29 over Sayreville. Each step along the way, we lost a game early in each tournament yet won all 9 elimination games we played to win the Junior League State Title.

In District Play, we lost the first Junior League game we played on July 7th vs Westwood, 6-4. We then beat Washington Township 10-0 on July 9th and were then able to beat Westwood two games in a row, 14-4 on July 10th and 10-0 on July 11th to win the District 4 Title and move onto sectionals. District games were played in Dumont and Westwood.

In Sectional Play, we won our first game vs Lackawanna Newton 11-2 on July 13th. The next day July 14th, we suffered a 9-8 loss to a tough and talented team from Parsippany Troy Hills East (PTE) , a game in which we had a 7-3 lead. We then beat Lackawanna Newton on July 16th 4-2 to set up a rematch in the Championship with Parsippany Troy Hills East (PTE). However, PTE had no losses, so being these are double elimination tournaments we would have to beat them twice. We beat them two in a row, 13-0 on July 18th and 10-0 on July 20th to win the Section 1 Championship! All of those games were played in Bloomingdale NJ.

We then moved on to the NJ State Tournament hosted in Lyndhurst. We won our first game 17-1 on July 24th vs. Saddle Brook but suffered a tough loss to a very good hitting team from Sayreville on July 26th 11-6. We were then rained out on Friday July 27th. We were able to beat Saddle Brook 15-5 at 1:00pm on hot and humid Saturday. This again set up for a rematch against Sayreville who had zero losses. We played them at 3:30pm immediately following the Saddle Brook game and outslugged them 13-10 to set up a true Championship game on Sunday July 29th. Both teams scored runs in the first inning and the game stayed tied until we scored 3 in the 3rd inning to make it 4-1. Sayreville was able to add a run to make it 4-2 in the 4th but we were able to tack on a run in the 6th and 5 more in the 7th to come away with the 10-2 game!

Our team now moves on to represent New Jersey in the Eastern Regional Tournament being held at Michael J Tighe Field in Freehold NJ from August 2nd-August 8th. The winner of the Eastern Regional will move on to play in the Junior World Series held in Taylor Michigan August 12th to August 19th!

Ridgewood is looking to follow in the footsteps of the 2015 Junior League team which advanced to the Junior World Series!

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3 Alarm Fire in Oradell Tuesday Leaves at least one Victim Hospitalized with Serious Burns

photo by Jim Arakelian

June 14,2018

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Oradell NJ, a multi-story house 3 alarm fire at 240 Kinderkamack Road became engulfed Tuesday evening. There were no fatalities reported, at least one victim was hospitalized with serious burn injuries after being pulled out by an Oradell police officer and an off-duty firefighter in the fast-moving Tuesday night house blaze.

Firefighters from Oradell, Haworth, Westwood, Paramus, Bergenfield, New Milford, River Edge, and Dumont responded.

Jim Arakelian , “It’s my understanding that the members of Company One in River Edge Fire went far and beyond the call of duty at yesterday’s horrific fire in Oradell. Congratulations and thank you for your bravery.”

 

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Ridgewood School Rankings ,the Good ,the Bad and the Ugly

tradition of excellence

US NEWS STATE of NJ RANK:
.
Eleven (not even the TOP 11 BTW) of the top 25 on the list are magnet or Vocational schools (which is not “more than half the top 25” but I guess math is hard for you)
.
Also these PUBLIC (non-magnet) Schools are ranked AHEAD of Ridgewood:
#5 – Elizabeth High School
#6 – Princeton High School
#7 – Chatham High School
#10 West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North
#11 – Livingston High School
#12 – Summit Senior High School
#13 – Millburn High School
#14 – Glen Ridge High School
#15 – Ridge High School, Basking Ridge
#18 – West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South
#19 – Mountain Lakes High School
#20 – Tenafly High School
#23 – Northern Highlands Regional High School
#25 – Montgomery High School
#26 – Ridgewood High School
.
.
US NEWS NATIONAL RANK:
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RIDGEWOOD IS RANKED #583 (almost below 600) in NATIONAL Rank
.
.
US NEWS COLLEGE READINESS (arguably the most important ranking)
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RIDGEWOOD HAS A 53.6% COLLEGE READINESS rating (barely half of the students graduate as ready for college).
.
.
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———————————
STATE OF NJ’s OWN SCHOOL RANKINGS
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You are also ignoring that THE STATE OF NJ ranked Ridgewood High School as 83 out of the 385 NJ high schools.
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Neighboring Glen Rock was ranked #13

(the top twelve on the NJ State list are specialized “academies” and vocational schools which have academic standards for acceptance)
.
Here’s some other (local) schools that are ranked higher than Ridgewood:
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#20 – Pascack Hills (Pascack Valley)
#25 – Northern Valley – Demarest
#28 – Tenafly
#29 – Mahwah
#45 – Northern Valley – Old Tappan
#46 – Pascack Valley
#48 – River Dell
#52 – Indian Hills
#55 – Emerson
#56 – Fair Lawn
#60 – Northern Highlands
#61 – Fort Lee
#72 – Waldwick
#73 – New Milford
#76 – Bergenfield
#82 – Ramapo
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Then Ridgewood at #83
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But at least we beat out Dumont (ranked #84)
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—————————-
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No Matter how you look at the data, it IS NOT good news for Ridgewood.
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Free talk: Graydon sycamore assessment and removal

Ridgewood's Iconic Sycamore Tree on the island at Graydon Pool is dying

photos by Boyd Loving

Free talk: Graydon sycamore assessment and removal

Have you been wondering what led the village to remove the historic sycamore tree from the island in Graydon–and even whether it was really necessary?

The expert consultant himself, Wayne Cahilly, will describe his assessment procedure at next Tuesday’s meeting of the Ridgewood Shade Tree Commission.

The public is invited to attend and to ask questions. For those still mourning and perhaps questioning the loss, this presentation may promote closure. Anyone wishing to learn how tree professionals make such decisions would benefit as well.

o What: “Risk Assessment in Municipal Arboriculture: The Graydon Sycamore Case Study”
o Who: Wayne Cahilly, Cahilly’s Horticultural Services, LLC, Dumont, NJ
o When: Tuesday, April 10, 7 PM
o Where: Ridgewood Public Library auditorium, 125 N. Maple Ave., Ridgewood, NJ

Shade Tree Commission chair Andrew Lowry, quoted in a press release from the group, said, “The Graydon sycamore was an icon in our village. Many residents had strong feelings about its removal. We hope this presentation will help people understand what went into making this tough decision and the complexities of risk assessment more generally.”

money tree

Adapted from the Shade Tree Commission press release:

Speaker’s background
In 35 years of working with trees, Wayne Cahilly has assessed the structural condition and health of more than 60,000 trees in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and elsewhere. A graduate of the New York Botanical Garden School of Professional Horticulture, he has served the Garden as Forest Manager, Arborist, Manager of the Arboretum and Grounds, and Manager of the Mapping Department. He lives in Dumont, New Jersey.

About the Ridgewood Shade Tree Commission
The purpose of the Ridgewood Shade Tree Commission is to protect, preserve, and enhance the village’s shade trees, defined as trees planted next to streets on village property. Goals are to foster public-private partnerships to educate the community about the contribution to the Village environment made by shade trees and to increase the number of shade trees in the village by actively promoting community tree-planting programs.

We hope to see you there.

Swimmingly,
The Preserve Graydon Coalition, Inc., a nonprofit corporation
“It’s clear—we love Graydon!”
info@PreserveGraydon.org PreserveGraydon.org

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Reader asks Who is Responsible for the Dramatic Decline of Ridgewood Schools

My God… we’re not even better than Bergenfield? Waldwick? etc…
Maybe we need a bigger budget. How about $125 million and a goal to break into the top 75…
Bergenfield, Dumont, Ramapo… Those towns must have massive budgets

 

The State of NJ ranks Ridgewood High School as 83 out of the 385 NJ high schools.
Apologies for being off by 1 in the original post (was counting the “header row” by mistake)
.
Lets see how bad Ridgewood #83 ranking really is…
.
Neighboring Glen Rock was ranked #13
(the top twelve are specialized “academies” and vocational schools which have academic standards for acceptance)
.
Here’s some other (local) schools that are ranked higher than Ridgewood:
.
#20 – Pascack Hills (Pascack Valley)
#25 – Northern Valley – Demarest
#28 – Tenafly
#29 – Mahwah
#45 – Northern Valley – Old Tappan
#46 – Pascack Valley
#48 – River Dell
#52 – Indian Hills
#55 – Emerson
#56 – Fair Lawn
#60 – Northern Highlands
#61 – Fort Lee
#72 – Waldwick
#73 – New Milford
#76 – Bergenfield
#82 – Ramapo
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Then Ridgewood at #83
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But at least we beat out Dumont (ranked #84)
.
.

Embarassing.
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But let’s approve the $110 Million budget.
It’s money well spent.
We’ll keep deluding ourselves that we have great schools.
It’s all part of the “Tradition of Excellence”

What a dramatic decline. Fishbein and Gorman should take responsibility for this. Who holds their feet to the fire? In the meantime parents are oblivious as long as they feel good about “the new leaders (their kids)” being “vocal” about national issues

 

 

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The State of NJ ranks Ridgewood High School as 83 out of the 385 NJ high schools

RHS 2017

The State of NJ ranks Ridgewood High School as 83 out of the 385 NJ high schools.
Apologies for being off by 1 in the original post (was counting the “header row” by mistake)
.
Lets see how bad Ridgewood #83 ranking really is…
.
Neighboring Glen Rock was ranked #13
(the top twelve are specialized “academies” and vocational schools which have academic standards for acceptance)
.
Here’s some other (local) schools that are ranked higher than Ridgewood:
.
#20 – Pascack Hills (Pascack Valley)
#25 – Northern Valley – Demarest
#28 – Tenafly
#29 – Mahwah
#45 – Northern Valley – Old Tappan
#46 – Pascack Valley
#48 – River Dell
#52 – Indian Hills
#55 – Emerson
#56 – Fair Lawn
#60 – Northern Highlands
#61 – Fort Lee
#72 – Waldwick
#73 – New Milford
#76 – Bergenfield
#82 – Ramapo
.
Then Ridgewood at #83
.
But at least we beat out Dumont (ranked #84)
.
.

Embarassing.
.
But let’s approve the $110 Million budget.
It’s money well spent.
We’ll keep deluding ourselves that we have great schools.
It’s all part of the “Tradition of Excellence”

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Dumont Tax Preparer Charged With Running and Investment Scheme

03-27-18_Stephen_Adler[1]

march 29,2018

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Dumont NJ, Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Dennis Calo announced the arrest of STEPHEN ADLER (DOB: 3/25/1943; single; and self-employed as a tax preparer) of 185 West Madison Avenue, Dumont, NJ on a charge of Theft by Deception. The arrest is the result of an investigation conducted by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Financial Crimes Unit under the direction of Chief Robert Anzilotti.

In June 2017, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Financial Crimes Unit received a complaint from a family who had lost approximately $200,000.00 in what they believed to be an investment scheme operated by their tax preparer, Stephen ADLER. The victims reported that, between 2014 and 2015, Stephen ADLER persuaded them to invest in what he described as a secure investment vehicle, which would guarantee their principle investments and pay them monthly dividends. After paying small dividends for a few months, Stephen ADLER reported to the victims that he had made bad investments and lost all of their money.

As a result of the investigation, it was determined that Stephen ADLER had misappropriated the victims’ money for his own personal use. Stephen ADLER was arrested on March 27, 2018 and charged with one count of Theft by Deception, with the amount involved being greater than $75,000.00, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4a, a crime of the 2nd degree. Stephen ADLER is scheduled for a first appearance in Central Judicial Processing Court in Hackensack, NJ on Wednesday, April 11, 2018 at 8:30 A.M.

Acting Prosecutor Calo states that the charge is merely an accusation and that the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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“OPERATION HELPING HAND 4”

Heroin-006

March 24,2018

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

 

Hackensack NJ, Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Dennis Calo announced today the results of “Operation Helping Hand 4” – the fourth phase of an innovative law enforcement and public health initiative targeting the heroin and opioid crisis in Bergen County. The initiative was led by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office (“BCPO”), under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Calo and Chief of Detectives Robert Anzilotti, in coordination with Bergen County Executive James J. Tedesco III and Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino. Held from March 12 through 16, 2018, the initiative brought together Bergen County law enforcement from 30 agencies, Recovery Specialists from Children’s Aid and Family Services, clinicians and specialists from the Bergen County Department of Health Services, Division of Addiction Services, and professionals from New Bridge Medical Center to offer help to those suffering from the disease of addiction in Bergen County.

During the initiative, 37 individuals were arrested and brought to the BCPO to be processed. After they were issued summonses, largely for heroin possession, they were offered an opportunity to speak to a Recovery Specialist – a recovering addict, who has been clean and is trained to help them find treatment. This offer of help was in addition to, not in lieu of, criminal charges.

If the individual requested help, a trained clinician from the Bergen County Division of Addiction Services assessed him/her to determine the appropriate level of care and treatment needed. The clinicians, working closely with the Recovery Specialists and representatives from New Bridge Medical Center, then made arrangements for treatment, and law enforcement transported the individual to treatment.

Of the 37 individuals arrested during Operation Helping Hand 4, 19 have so far availed themselves of the treatment option, including 12 who are currently in 5-day detox programs, mostly at New Bridge Medical Center. As those individuals complete detox, longer-term treatment options are being arranged for them and their progress is being tracked by the Recovery Specialists. For those who did not avail themselves of treatment, the Recovery Specialists remain in touch with many of them and are prepared to offer help whenever they are ready to seek it.

A multi-jurisdictional task force comprised of law enforcement officers from the following agencies, under the direction of BCPO Chief Anzilotti, participated in the initiative: Bergen County Sheriff’s Office; Bergenfield Police Department; Cliffside Park Police Department; Clifton Police Department; Dumont Police Department; East Rutherford Police Department; Englewood Police Department; Elmwood Park Police Department; Fair Lawn Police Department; Garfield Police Department; Glen Rock Police Department; Hackensack Police Department; Lyndhurst Police Department; Mahwah Police Department; Morris County Prosecutor’s Office; New Milford Police Department; Norwood Police Department; Paramus Police Department; Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office; Paterson Police Department; Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; Ridgefield Park Police Department; Saddle River Police Department; Tenafly Police Department; Union County Prosecutor’s Office; Upper Saddle River Police Department and the Westwood Police Department.

Statistics compiled by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office indicate an increase in opioid use and drug overdoses in Bergen County from 2016 to the present. A preliminary analysis of overdose data by the BCPO Intel Unit and Narcotics Task Force revealed the following with respect to 2017:
507 total reported overdoses, 416 of which are currently identified as heroin/opioid-related.
Of the 308 reported overdoses, 131 were fatal overdoses; 111 of those were identified as heroin/opioid-related.
325 deployments of Narcan, the overdose reversal drug, by law enforcement officers, resulting in 245 lives saved. (Note: there were many other deployments – by parents, friends, family members, EMTs and in the ER that are not accounted for in this )

Acting Prosecutor Dennis Calo stated that “Operation Helping Hand 4 is part of the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office and Bergen County law enforcement’s continuing effort to combat the opioid epidemic and help those who are affected by it. The Operation demonstrates the close cooperation of law enforcement, County government and Bergen County social service organizations in the fight against this epidemic and the results that are possible through that cooperation. We will continue the fight.”

Acting Prosecutor Calo would like to thank the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office, the Bergen County Executive, New Bridge Medical Center, Children’s Aid and Family Services, the Bergen County Department of Health Services, Division of Addiction Services, as well as all the participating law enforcement agencies for their assistance with this initiative.