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Milling and Paving Project to Close Franklin Turnpike in Ho-Ho-Kus from June 4th-13th

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ho-Ho-Kus NJ, Ho-Ho-Kus Police Department :

Bergen County Milling and Paving Project is going to begin on June 4th and continue though June 13th. The project will be starting on Racetrack Rd and continuing up East Franklin Tpke and North Franklin Tpke to the Waldwick border. Expect detours and delays.

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Third Person Charged in Hoboken Voter Bribery Scheme

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Hoboken NJ, A Hoboken man has been charged with promoting a voter bribery scheme by use of the U.S. mail, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.

William Rojas, 68, is charged by complaint with a violation of the federal Travel Act for causing the mails to be used in aid of voter bribery contrary to New Jersey state law. He is scheduled to have his initial appearance this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor in Newark federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Under New Jersey law, registered voters are permitted to cast a ballot by mail rather than in person. To receive a mail-in ballot, voters must complete and submit to their county clerk’s office an Application for Vote by Mail Ballot (VBM Application). After the application is processed by the county clerk’s office, voters receive a mail-in ballot.

From September 2015 through November 2015, Rojas agreed to pay certain Hoboken voters $50 if those voters applied for and cast mail-in ballots for the November 2015 Hoboken municipal election. Rojas provided these voters with VBM Applications, told the voters that they would get paid $50 for casting mail-in ballots, and then delivered the completed VBM applications to the Hudson County Clerk’s office. After the mail-in ballots were delivered to the voters, Rojas went to the voters’ residences to collect the mail-in ballots and mailed the completed mail-in ballots to the Hudson County Clerk’s Office. After the election, Rojas delivered checks to these voters. Bank records show that voters living in Hoboken received $50 checks from an entity associated with the campaign that employed Rojas.

Rojas faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The charge and allegations in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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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).