Middlesex County Man Convicted of Sexual Assault Against a Minor

A Middlesex County man was convicted yesterday of sexual assault against a minor, said Union County Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow.

Jose Tavera (DOB: 11/6/71) of Sewaren, N.J. was found guilty following a trial in Union County Superior Court, said Assistant Prosecutor Melissa A. Spagnoli who prosecuted the case. Tavera was found guilty of 2nd degree Sexual Assault, 2nd Attempted Sexual Assault and 3rd degree Endangering the Welfare of A Child.

According to the investigation, Tavera assaulted the child of his girlfriend while the mother was at work. The assaults occurred between Sept. 2007 and Sept. 2009, said Spagnoli. The abuse was reported by the victim shortly after the mother and Tavera ended their relationship. The abuse took place in Union County when the victim was less than 13-years-old, said Spagnoli.

Following the verdict Tavera was remanded to the Union County Jail and faces up to 25 years in prison when sentenced on May 20, 2011 before Union County Superior Court Judge Joseph P. Perfilio.


Elizabeth Man Arrested in Texas

An Elizabeth man charged with 1st Degree Aggravated Sexual Assault against a minor was arrested in Houston, Tex. Wednesday afternoon by the United States Marshals Service, said Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow.

Roberto Villalta DOB: 10/18/1968 is charged with sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl inside an Elizabeth apartment between May 2009 and December 2010, said Romankow. Villalta fled the area upon learning that the sexual assault had been reported by the victim.

He will be extradited to New Jersey where he faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

These criminal charges are mere accusations. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.


Roselle Mayor Indicted for Insurance Fraud

View PDF for a copy of the Indictment

Mayor Garrett Smith of Roselle, N.J. was indicted by a Union County Grand Jury this afternoon on one count of 2nd Degree Insurance Fraud, announced Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow. Smith has also been charged with one count of 4th Degree Filing a False Police Report.

Smith, DOB: 9/25/1961, of Jackson Avenue in Roselle is accused of leaving the scene of an accident that occurred on Locust Ave in Roselle in the early morning hours of Dec. 25, 2010. The accident severely damaged both a parked car and Smith’s vehicle. Pieces of Smith’s vehicle – a 2001 Lincoln Town Car – were left at the scene, said Romankow.

A copy of the indictment is attached to this press release.

Investigators also obtained videos from private businesses showing Smith leaving a local tavern at 2:10 a.m. on Dec. 25, 2010 a short distance from where the accident occurred, said Romankow.

Officers who responded to a 2:14 a.m. 9-1-1 call from a private citizen who witnessed the collision, followed a trail of automotive fluids that led to a garage door at Smith’s home, said Romankow.

Officers knocked on the door to Smith’s home but received no reply.

The following day, Dec. 26, 2010, according to prosecutors, Smith moved his car onto the street during the massive snowstorm. Smith later called police to report that his vehicle had been struck, alleging that it might have been a snowplow that caused the damage.

Smith subsequently notified his insurance company, New Jersey Manufactures Insurance Company, and reported the fraudulent claim. He would have several additional conversations with the insurance company regarding the fraudulent claim in the following days.

An investigation by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office Special Prosecutions Unit, the Roselle Police Department, the crime scene unit of the Union County Sheriff’s Department and an accident reconstruction unit from the Linden Police Department concluded that Smith was responsible for the initial accident and that his claims to the insurance company were false. Assistant Prosecutor James Tansey will handle the case.

Prosecutor Romankow commended Sgt. William Brennan and other members of the Roselle Police Department for their diligent and thorough investigation.

If found guilty of the charges Smith faces up to 10 years in prison and will be ineligible to hold public employment in the future.

“Nothing is accomplished by trying to cover up a wrongdoing,” said Prosecutor Romankow. “Mr. Smith had the opportunity to do the right thing from the beginning by stopping and reporting that he was involved in an accident. He only compounded his error by lying to the police and his insurance carrier by falsifying a claim. As a public servant, the people who elected him deserve the truth.”

These criminal charges are mere accusations. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.


Latin King Member Sentenced to 50 Years

A confirmed high-ranking member of the Latin Kings street gang was sentenced today to 50 years in state prison, said First Assistant Union County Prosecutor Albert Cernadas, Jr.

Francisco Demoscoso (DOB 04/24/74) of Plainfield was found guilty in September 2010 for 1st degree attempted murder, 2nd degree aggravated assault and various weapons offenses.

According to the investigation, Demoscoso and fellow gang member Jorge Acosta attacked a Plainfield man outside the Chez Marie nightclub in the early morning hours of January 26, 2008, said Assistant Prosecutor Joshua McMahon who prosecuted the case.

Following the assault, the victim fled the scene, only to be chased down in the area of Park Avenue and North Avenue by Demoscoso and Acosta. Demoscoso repeatedly stabbed the victim, leaving him for dead on the street corner.

An alert Good Samaritan approached the victim, who pleaded with him to “don’t let me die,” and flagged down a nearby police vehicle, said McMahon. After being airlifted to Robert Wood Johnson hospital and extensive trauma surgery, the victim eventually regained consciousness and survived.

Demoscoso, a high-ranking member of the Latin Kings street gang, and his co-defendant, Jorge Acosta (DOB 06/06/87), also a member of the Latin Kings, were arrested in 2009 following an extensive collaborative investigation between the Plainfield Police Department and Union County Prosecutor’s Office, said McMahon.

At sentencing on Tuesday morning Union County Superior Court Judge Joseph P. Perfilio said the public needed to be protected from Demoscoso because he is a “danger to society.”


Task Force Investigating Plainfield Shooting Death

The Union County Homicide Task Force is investigating the shooting death of a Plainfield teenager who died early Sunday morning, said Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow.

Police were called to 411 John Street in Plainfield just after Midnight Sunday for reports of an individual who had been shot, said Romankow. The victim, Shawne Lovely, 16, of Plainfield Ave was taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in critical condition.

He was pronounced dead at 2:45 a.m., said Romankow. This is the second homicide that has occurred in Plainfield for 2011.

This remains an active investigation by the Homicide Task Force and the Plainfield Police Department. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the anonymous Union County Crime Stoppers tip line at (908) 654-TIPS, via the Internet at or by texting UCTIP plus a message to 274637 (CRIMES). A reward of up to $5,000 is available for information leading to the arrest of the person or people responsible for the death of Shawne Lovely.


Former Salvation Army Pastor Found Guilty

A former Salvation Army pastor and his wife were found guilty yesterday of multiple theft by deception charges, announced First Assistant Union County Prosecutor Albert Cernadas, Jr.

Former Pastor Enoc “Tito” Sotelo DOB: 10/08/1959 was found guilty of 17 counts of 3rd Degree theft by deception and one count of conspiracy to commit theft by deception. His wife, Vereli Sotelo DOB: 8/27/1973 was found guilty of six counts of 3rd Degree conspiracy to commit theft by deception, said Assistant Prosecutor Ann Rubin who prosecuted the case along with Assistant Prosecutor Joshua McMahon.

The verdicts came after a five-week trial before Union County Superior Court Judge Joseph Perfilio and day and a half of deliberation by the jury. The couple was remanded to the custody of the Union County Jail.

According to the investigation, Sotelo was accused of promising immigrants that he would help them obtain green cards through a “Florida attorney” and collecting thousands of dollars from them purportedly to pay for travel to and from Florida and obtain the documents, said Rubin.

Sotelo told each of the victims that he was working with an attorney named Oscar Ruiz and collected roughly $4,000 from each. The investigation revealed that Sotelo told the victims that $500 from each payment would go to the Salvation Army, something that never occurred nor was authorized by the charity, said Rubin. None of the victims, however, received their green cards.

Sotelo collected the money between December 2004 and February 2006.

The investigation also revealed that Ruiz was never an attorney and had been under a cease and desist order from the Florida Bar Association since 1999 barring him from performing any immigration related work for anyone.

Ruiz pled guilty to 3rd Degree conspiracy to commit theft by deception days before the Sotelo trial was to begin. Ruiz will be sentenced to six years in New Jersey state prison consecutive to a separate sentence he is currently serving in Florida on a separate immigration fraud charge.

The fraud was first uncovered when a number of victims complained to Flor Gonzalez, a local community activist, who reported the fraud to the Plainfield Police Department.

Enoc Sotelo faces up to 90 years in prison when sentenced on April 29, 2011. Vereli Sotelo faces up to 30 years when she is sentenced on the same day.

Cernadas commended Detective Johnny Ho for his diligent work on the case.

Officials for the office of Fraud Detection in the Department of Homeland Security and the Texas Service Center realized the threat posed by Oscar Ruiz and the Sotelos and actively sought to cooperate with the Prosecutor’s Office by providing the immigration files on the victims and the defendants.


Three indicted in Summit Homicide Investigation

This afternoon a Union County Grand Jury indicted three individuals on murder and robbery charges in the death of a Summit man last summer, said First Assistant Union County Prosecutor Albert Cernadas, Jr.

Nigel Dumas DOB: 4/17/1991 of Morristown, Khayri Williams-Clark DOB: 1/7/1992, of Summit and Hakean Fitzgerald, 18, who had previously been charged as a minor but was waived to adult court on January 13, 2011 face charges of Felony Murder, First Degree Murder and robbery charges.

According to the investigation, on July 17, 2010 Abelino Mazariego, 47, was found unconscious in the Prominade Park off Springfield Avenue in downtown Summit around 9:25 p.m.

He was taken to Overlook Hospital in serious condition and remained unconscious until his death on Tuesday July 20, 2010.

Mazariego had finished work at a local restaurant, stopped at a few local businesses and then settled on a park bench to enjoy an evening in Summit.

At some point, the suspects entered the park and several of them began to speak with Mazariego and according to the investigation, several of the defendants in the case hatched a plan to steal cash and property from the victim.

According to the investigation, Williams-Clark stood behind the victim and held a white tee shirt over the victim’s head while Fitzgerald, who was 17-years-old at the time, punched Mazariego with brutal force. Dumas then punched the victim a second time.

The attack was recorded on a cell phone by one of the individuals in the area. The force of the blows knocked Mazariego unconscious and the teenagers then fled the scene.

Good Samaritans discovered the victim and contacted police. After Mazariego was taken to Overlook hospital, doctors informed officers that the victim was in a grave state but said there was no indication that a crime had taken place. Several days later, a family friend of the victim reported that she had seen a video of the attack. The family was told of the video and they contacted police on July 20, a few hours before Mazariego died.

Upon learning that a video of the attack existed, investigation was immediately launched by the Summit Police Department.

Investigators were able to quickly identify the teenager who recorded the attack and after watching the video was able to identify suspects. Arrests were made shortly after Mazariego died.

The defendants will have a first court appearance scheduled in the coming weeks.

These criminal charges are mere accusations. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.


Homicide in Plainfield

Members of the Union County Homicide Task Force and the Plainfield Police Department are investigating a shooting death that occurred around 2 a.m. Sunday at 310 West Front Street regarding a homicide, said Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow.

The victim, Andres Chach, DOB: 11-15-88 of the 300 block of West Front Street in Plainfield was taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Medical Center where he was pronounced dead, said Romankow.

Mr. Chach is the first homicide victim in Union County for 2011 and detectives continue to search the area for evidence in the case and to gather statements from people in the neighborhood, said Romankow.

This remains an active investigation. Anyone with information regarding the death of Mr. Chach is asked to call Union County Crimestoppers at (908) 654-TIPS.


Three Stabbed in Union Township

A man armed with a knife and hatchet attacked two women early Friday morning as they investigated misplaced items in their back yard, said Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow. The seemly random and unprompted attack occurred just before 6:00a.m. at 215 Longview Road.

According to the investigation, the women noticed several items from their shed strewn around the back yard. When the women went into the yard to investigate and approached the shed, a man later identified as Morgan Mesz, 25, of 356 Nottingham Way in Union Township emerged and stabbed both women several times.

A neighbor, Hernan Agudelo, 33, heard the attack and ran into his neighbor’s yard and was able to subdue the attacker, said Romankow. Agudelo suffered several non-life threatening stab wounds in the altercation, received treatment at a local hospital and was later released.

“This act of selflessness and bravery is commendable,” said Romankow. “Without Mr. Agudelo’s brave actions this situation could have been much worse.”

The victims were taken to University Hospital in Newark. The first, a 53-year-old woman is currently listed in critical condition. The second, 50-year-old woman was undergoing surgery for her wounds as of this afternoon.

Members of the Prosecutor’s Office and Union Township Police Department continue to examine evidence and gather statements. A motive for the attack has not yet been established.

Mesz was also taken to University Hospital for injuries and is currently in police custody.

Bail information is pending.

Additional information will be released as it becomes available.

These criminal charges are mere accusations. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.