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Prosecutor

Suspect wanted for Elizabeth homicide arrested in Camden

James McNair

A fugitive wanted in connection with a fatal shooting that took place in Elizabeth last month has been apprehended in South Jersey, according to a joint announcement made Wednesday by acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo, Elizabeth Police Chief Giacomo Sacca, and city Police Director Earl Graves.

James McNair, 43, of Elizabeth is charged with first-degree murder and two related weapons offenses in connection with the death of 21-year-old Trevon A. Palin, a resident of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Members of the Elizabeth Police Department responding to the rear yard of a home on the 1000 block of Anna Street on Thursday, May 13 found Palin at that location, having sustained multiple injuries, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Peter Benza, who is prosecuting the case. Palin was later pronounced dead at the scene.

An investigation into the shooting, led by the Union County Homicide Task Force and assisted by members of the Elizabeth Police Department, Union County Police Department Ballistics Unit, and Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit resulted in McNair being identified as a suspect in the case, and he was criminally charged in absentia on Monday, May 24.

McNair remained at large until yesterday, when he was arrested following a routine patrol stop in Camden, having been found to have allegedly been in possession of a quantity of narcotics and drug paraphernalia. He was subsequently transported back to Union County for processing.

The Prosecutor’s Office would like to recognize and thank the Elizabeth Police Department for its work on this investigation; the U.S. Marshals Service for their assistance in the search for McNair; and the Camden County Police Department for effectuating the arrest.

Anyone with information about this matter is still urged to contact Prosecutor’s Office Sgt. Christopher Scuorzo at 908-472-0492 or Detective Ryan Kirsh at 908-347-1420.

Convictions on crimes of this nature are commonly punishable by terms of up to life in state prison.

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

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Prosecutor

Child killed following fall from window, dog attack

Authorities are investigating the circumstances behind an incident in which a young child fell from a rear window of his home and was attacked by dogs in the backyard, resulting in his death, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo and Elizabeth Police Chief Giacomo Sacca and Police Director Earl Graves jointly announced Thursday.  

Members of the Elizabeth Police Department responded to a home on the 400 block of South 5th Street shortly after 5:25 p.m. Wednesday and found the 3-year-old victim, who had sustained serious injuries. The child was immediately transported to Trinitas Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead shortly after 6:30 p.m. 

An investigation led by members of the Union County Homicide Task Force, the Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Victims Unit and Special Prosecutions Unit, and the Union County Sheriff’s Office’s Crime Scene Unit, and assisted by members of the Elizabeth Police Department, revealed that the dogs, which belonged to the victim’s family, were in the fenced yard at the time of the incident. Representatives of a local animal control organization responded to the scene and secured the dogs, which were transported to another location.

No criminal charges associated with this incident have been filed at this time. Anyone with any information about this matter is being urged to contact Prosecutor’s Office Detective Richard Acosta at 908-347-0404 or Detective Michael Tambini at 908-472-4301.

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Prosecutor

Linden man charged with committing lewd acts in front of children at public park

Paul J. Schappe

A Linden man has been arrested and criminally charged with performing lewd acts in front of children at a city park, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo and Linden Police Chief David Hart jointly announced Tuesday.

Paul J. Schappe, Jr., 68, is charged with second-degree sexual assault, third-degree aggravated criminal sexual contact, and two counts of third-degree endangering the welfare of a child.

A joint investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Victims Unit and the Linden Police Department determined that at approximately 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 2, Schappe allegedly approached a juvenile under the age of 13 who was playing basketball in Clifford Lawson Memorial Park and directed comments of a sexual nature toward him while touching himself inappropriately over his clothing, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Bruce Holmes, who is prosecuting the case. The investigation further revealed that Schappe had been seen allegedly masturbating in the park while partially nude on at least one other occasion, when multiple children were present.

Schappe was arrested Monday evening without incident and lodged in the Union County Jail pending a first appearance and detention hearing to take place in Union County Superior Court.

Anyone with any information about this matter is being urged to contact Prosecutor’s Office Detective Jessica Tattoli at 908-341-5418 or Linden Police Department Detective David Nolasco at 908-474-8521.

Convictions on charges of this nature can result in sentences of 5 to 10 years in state prison.

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

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Prosecutor

Newark man charged in connection with fraudulently obtaining $135,000 in cash, cashier’s checks

Warris Adenuga

An Essex County resident has been arrested and charged with using fraudulent documents to obtain $135,000 in the form of two large cashier’s checks and cash from a Summit bank, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo and Summit Police Chief Andrew Bartolotti jointly announced Tuesday.

Warris Adenuga, 25, of Newark is charged with one count of second-degree identity theft, one count of second-degree receipt of stolen property, and two counts of third-degree possession of false government documents.

An investigation by the Summit Police Department revealed that the day before visiting Chase Bank on Summit Avenue last week, Adenuga allegedly had $150,000 fraudulently wired to a business account under his control from a bank in Florida, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Melissa Spagnoli, who is prosecuting the case. During a pair of transactions at the Summit bank the next day, Adenuga received cashier’s checks in the amount of $100,000 and $20,000, along with $15,000 in cash.

The investigation revealed that Adenuga used a fraudulent United Kingdom driver’s license and passport during the course of the wire transfer and both bank transactions. He also allegedly opened his business account using the same documents.

Adenuga was arrested shortly after visiting the bank, but by then he was no longer in possession of the larger of the two cashier’s checks.

Anyone with any information about this matter is being asked to contact Summit Police Department Detective Charlie Robertson at 908-277-9392 or Prosecutor’s Office Lt. Sofia Santos at 908-577-4256.

Convictions on charges of this nature can result in sentences of 5 to 10 years in state prison.

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

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Prosecutor

UCPO, Prevention Links hosting virtual presentation on Operation Helping Hand 24/7/365

Members of the public are being invited to tune in for a virtual presentation by members of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office and Prevention Links later this week, with representatives from both groups set to profile the Operation Helping Hand 24/7/365 (OHH 24/7/365) substance misuse mitigation program they jointly run.  

The presentation is scheduled for 3:30-4:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 20; registration is free and available online at us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_1IFoBbvqTOWxSPWsajda4Q 

The Operation Helping Hand concept was pioneered by current New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal in 2016, when he served as Bergen County Prosecutor. Initially, it involved weeklong operations during which law enforcement officers would target individuals purchasing opioids or other narcotics at open-air drug markets. When these individuals were arrested and brought in for processing on narcotics possession charges, recovery specialists and other healthcare partners were waiting to seek to connect them with treatment and recovery services.

As Attorney General, Grewal has since expanded the program to reach every county in the state, and Union County in January 2020 became the first county in New Jersey to convert the program to a round-the-clock model thanks to the generous support of the Governor’s Office, the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety, and the Union County Board of Commissioners and Union County Police Chiefs Association. As such, to this day, any time an individual is arrested in Union County for a low-level opioid offense, he or she is immediately offered access to free recovery services through Prevention Links and the arresting officer; the program also operates a continuously manned hotline, 1-855-825-3275, which residents can call at any time to begin their recovery journey.

During Thursday’s seminar, presenters will share information about identifying opioid use in loved ones, accessing recovery support services throughout Union County, and COVID-19’s impact on substance use and recovery services. Additionally, an Operation Helping Hand participant will share a firsthand account of enrolling in the program.

Speakers during the presentation will include acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo, Prosecutor’s Office Capt. Gary Webb and Sgt. Nicholas Veltre of the Major Crimes Division, and Prevention Links Director of Recovery Support Sabrina Sabater and Recovery Engagement Manager Philip Brunke.

Supplementing the round-the-clock program model, a “pop-up” OHH 24/7/365 event was held in Union County for the first time earlier this month on Third Street in downtown Elizabeth. The event followed a joint announcement by Prosecutor Ruotolo and Acting United States Attorney Rachael A. Honig that four Elizabeth residents were recently placed under federal arrest for their roles in conspiracies to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin and fentanyl.

Seizing on the unique opportunity, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, Elizabeth Police Department, and Prevention Links hosted the OHH 24/7/365 pop-up event in the very area that was previously being used to conduct open-air narcotics transactions. During the four-hour operation, 25 county residents engaged with recovery specialists from Prevention Links regarding the services provided through OHH 24/7/365. The Union County Prosecutor’s Office, Elizabeth Police Department, and Prevention Links intend to maintain a presence in the neighborhood.

OHH 24/7/365, and other programs geared toward addressing the opioid epidemic, have been bolstered by grant funding obtained from state and county government. Specifically, the Prosecutor’s Office was initially awarded $62,500 from the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety’s 2019 Overdose Data to Action Operation Helping Hand Grant. The Prosecutor’s Office was also the recipient of $100,000 in grant funding through Governor Phil Murphy’s Operation Helping Hand Grant.

The acceptance of these blocks of grant funding was approved by the Union County Board of Commissioners and County Manager Edward T. Oatman. In addition, the Commissioners also dedicated $110,000 in direct county funding to Prevention Links for the expansion of Operation Helping Hand in 2020.

For more information on Union County’s Operation Helping Hand 24/7/365, or to learn more about beginning your recovery journey, please visit: ucnj.org/prosecutor/initiatives/operation-helping-hand-24-7-365/

For more information about Thursday’s virtual presentation, email UCPOoutreach@ucnj.org

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Prosecutor

Roselle 2-year-old found safe following auto theft, kidnapping

2-year-old child is safe and has been reunited with his family after being briefly kidnapped in a vehicle that was stolen outside a Roselle home Thursday night, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo and Roselle Police Chief Brian Barnes jointly announced Friday.

Juvenile complaints of second-degree kidnapping, second-degree eluding police, third-degree endangering the welfare of a child, third-degree motor vehicle theft, and fourth-degree resisting arrest have been filed against the 16-year-old defendant in this matter, whose identity is being withheld from disclosure due to his age.

At approximately 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, Roselle Police Department units were dispatched to a home on the 300 block of White Street on a report of a stolen vehicle with a child inside, according to the preliminary investigation. Investigators learned that the vehicle’s owner had arrived at the home moments earlier and had been bringing items inside when the juvenile defendant took the vehicle.

Following a vehicular pursuit into neighboring Elizabeth that ended with a brief foot pursuit, the 16-year-old was taken into custody without incident minutes later. The child was found unharmed on a sidewalk on the 1000 block of Oak Street in Roselle.

The juvenile defendant remains in custody pending a Superior Court hearing. This was believed to have been an isolated incident, with no remaining threat to the community.

These juvenile complaints are mere accusations. Every defendant, adult and juvenile, is considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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Prosecutor

Elizabeth homicide under investigation

A fatal shooting that took place in Elizabeth last night is under active investigation, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo and Elizabeth Police Chief Giacomo Sacca and Police Director Earl Graves jointly announced Friday.

The victim has been identified as 21-year-old Trevon A. Palin.

Members of the Elizabeth Police Department responding to the 1000 block of Anna Street Thursday night found Palin at that location, having sustained serious injury, according to the preliminary investigation. He was subsequently pronounced dead at the scene.

The investigation into the shooting is being led by the Union County Homicide Task Force and assisted by members of the Elizabeth Police Department, Union County Police Department Ballistics Unit, and Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit.

Anyone with information about this matter is urged to contact Prosecutor’s Office Sgt. Christopher Scuorzo at 908-472-0492 or Detective Ryan Kirsh at 908-347-1420. Tips can also be submitted anonymously by phone at 908-654-TIPS (8477) or online at www.uctip.org.

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Prosecutor

Following a Collaborative Narcotics Investigation Resulting in Four Federal Arrests, Prosecutor’s Office Brings Operation Helping Hand 24/7/365 Resources to the Impacted Elizabeth Neighborhood

On Friday, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, Elizabeth Police Department, and Prevention Links hosted a pop-up Operation Helping Hand 24/7/365 (OHH 24/7/365) event on Third Street in downtown Elizabeth. The event aimed to connect area residents struggling with substance use disorder with recovery resources.

The event held Friday followed the announcement made Thursday by the Acting United States Attorney Rachael A. Honig and Acting Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo, that four Elizabeth residents were placed under federal arrest for their roles in conspiracies to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin and fentanyl. The arrests followed a collaborative investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, special agents and task force officers with the FBI under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark, officers from the Elizabeth Police Department under the leadership of Police Chief Giacomo Sacca and Director Earl Graves, and investigators of the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, under the leadership of Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson.

Seizing on the unique opportunity  created by the arrest of the four defendants, The Union County Prosecutor’s Office, Elizabeth Police Department, and Prevention Links hosted the OHH 24/7/365 pop-up event in the very area that was previously being used to conduct open-air narcotics transactions during the long-term investigation.

“Up until Thursday, those struggling with substance use disorder were coming to this neighborhood to buy illegal opioids. On Thursday, those who profited from their struggles were arrested. And on Friday morning, when would-be buyers returned to this neighborhood to purchase narcotics, they were instead met by members of law enforcement and recovery specialists working together to provide them with a new option and bring recovery resources to those who need it most. We must meet people where they are,” said Prosecutor Ruotolo, adding “We in law enforcement need to constantly reinvent the ways in which we prevent crime, save lives, and combat the opioid epidemic. We knew these arrests would disrupt the chain of product, but that was not enough. We wanted to seize on the unique opportunity of a lack of supply to address the demand. So we brought OHH 24/7/365 to the neighborhood and provided would-be buyers with a chance to seek help no questions asked.”

During the four-hour pop-up operation on Friday, twenty-five county residents engaged with recovery specialists from Prevention Links regarding the services provided through OHH 24/7/365. The Union County Prosecutor’s Office, Elizabeth Police Department, and Prevention Links intend to maintain a presence in the neighborhood.

“This investigation was a result of community and intra-agency collaboration,” Chief Sacca and Director Graves said in a joint statement. “The plans moving forward call for maintaining the safety of the neighborhood to allow for a greater quality of life.”

“It is important that peer recovery specialists are in the community, meeting people where they are at, in the moments they need support most,” says Sabrina Sabater, Director of Recovery Support Services at Prevention Links. “We are very grateful to our partners for their creativity and collaboration which increases the accessibility of recovery supports by bringing them right into the community. We never know when someone will accept an offer to receive support. It is through innovative approaches to addressing Substance Use Disorder such as this that together we can help save lives. “

The Operation Helping Hand 24/7/365 program brings lifesaving recovery assistance to those in the throes of addiction throughout our community. Thanks to a partnership between the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, Prevention Links, and the Union County Police Chiefs Association, any time an individual is arrested in Union County for a low-level opioid offense, they are immediately offered access to free recovery services through Prevention Links and the arresting officer. The program also operates a 24/7 hotline, 1-855-825-3275, which residents can call at any time to begin their recovery journey.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office press release on the referenced investigation can be found online here: justice.gov/usao-nj/pr/four-union-county-men-charged-conspiracy-distribute-narcotics

Operation Helping Hand was first conceived of by Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal when he served as Bergen County Prosecutor. As Attorney General, he has grown the program to reach every county in the state of New Jersey. Union County was the first county to expand the program to a 24/7/365 model thanks to the generous support of the Governor’s Office, the Department of Law and Public Safety, and the Union County Board of Commissioners.

This initiative, and others geared toward addressing the opioid epidemic, have been bolstered by grant funding obtained from state and county government. Specifically, the Prosecutor’s Office was initially awarded $62,500 from the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety’s 2019 Overdose Data to Action Operation Helping Hand Grant. The Prosecutor’s Office was also the recipient of $100,000 in grant funding through Governor Phil Murphy’s Operation Helping Hand Grant.

The acceptance of these blocks of grant funding was approved by the Union County Board of Commissioners and County Manager Edward T. Oatman. In addition, the Commissioners also dedicated $110,000 in direct county funding to Prevention Links for the expansion of Operation Helping Hand in 2020.

For more information on Union County’s Operation Helping Hand 24/7/365, or to learn more about beginning your recovery journey, please visit: https://ucnj.org/prosecutor/initiatives/operation-helping-hand-24-7-365/

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Prosecutor

Plainfield shooting leaves 1 dead, 1 injured

A shooting that left one person dead and a second seriously injured in Plainfield yesterday is under investigation, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo and Plainfield Police Director Lisa Burgess jointly announced Monday.  

The deceased victim has been identified as Michael Price Jr., 29, of Dunellen.

Members of the Plainfield Police Department responding to the area of West Eighth Street and Grant Avenue in Plainfield Sunday afternoon found Price and a second man, a 30-year-old resident of Piscataway, at that location, both having been struck by gunfire, according to the preliminary investigation. Price was transported to JFK University Medical Center in Edison, where he was pronounced dead shortly after 6 p.m., while the second victim was taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, where he remained early Monday in critical but stable condition.

The investigation into the shooting is being led by the Union County Homicide Task Force and assisted by members of the Plainfield Police Department, Union County Police Department Ballistics Unit, and Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit.

Anyone with information about this matter is urged to contact Prosecutor’s Office Detective Lamar Hartsfield at 908-451-1873 or Detective Charles Clement at 908-577-6489. Tips can also be submitted anonymously by phone at 908-654-TIPS (8477) or online at www.uctip.org.

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Prosecutor

Fatal shooting in Elizabeth under investigation

A fatal shooting that took place in Elizabeth yesterday is under active investigation, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo and Elizabeth Police Chief Giacomo Sacca and Police Director Earl Graves jointly announced Tuesday.

The victim has been identified as 32-year-old Antwoine Thompson.

Members of the Elizabeth Police Department responding to the intersection of Second and Bond streets in the city’s Elizabethport section early Monday afternoon found Thompson at that location, having sustained serious injury, according to the preliminary investigation. Thompson was rushed to Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth, where he was pronounced dead shortly before 3 p.m.

The investigation into the shooting is being led by the Union County Homicide Task Force and assisted by members of the Elizabeth Police Department, Union County Police Department Ballistics Unit, and Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit.

Anyone with information about this matter is urged to contact Prosecutor’s Office Lt. Johnny Ho at 908-403-8271, Detective Lamar Hartsfield at 908-451-1873, or Detective Michael Tambini at 908-472-4301. Tips can also be submitted anonymously by phone at 908-654-TIPS (8477) or online at www.uctip.org.