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Prosecutor

Scotch Plains man convicted on all counts following child sex assault trial

Union County Prosecutor William Daniel announced today that a Scotch Plains man has been convicted of repeatedly sexually assaulting a young girl over the course of two years.

Following a jury trial before Union County Superior Court Judge Thomas Isenhour, Jeff Banatte,37, was convicted Tuesday on charges of first degree aggravated sexual assault, two counts of third degree aggravated criminal sexual contact and two counts of second degree endangering the welfare of a child.  This investigation was initiated after a referral from the Scotch Plains Police Department and was led by Sergeant Annie Coll of the Special Victims Unit of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office.

According to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Bryan Tiscia, who prosecuted the case, the investigation revealed the juvenile victim was sexually assaulted by Banatte on multiple occasions when she was between the ages of 13 and 15.

“We are grateful for the collaboration from the Scotch Plains Police Department who assisted our Office in bringing this suspect to justice,” Prosecutor Daniel said, upon hearing the verdict.  “We hope this conviction can bring some small measure of comfort to the victim and her family.”

Sentencing has been tentatively scheduled for Friday, October 21, 2022 before Judge Isenhour, at which time Banatte can face a sentence of up to twenty years in State Prison with an 85% period of mandatory parole ineligibility pursuant to the State’s No Early Release Act (NERA), on his first-degree conviction.

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Plainfield homicide under investigation

At approximately 6:38 p.m. on Saturday, September 17th, Plainfield Police Officers responded to the area of the 700 Block of Kensington Avenue in Plainfield after reports of gunshots in the area. Upon their arrival they located a male victim, David Michael Buck of Somerset, NJ, who suffered gunshot wounds. He was transported to an area hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

The Union County Prosecutor’s Office, Homicide Task Force and the Plainfield Police Department are actively investigating this case.  Anyone with information should contact Homicide Sergeant Chris Scuorzo at 908-472-0492, Detective Ryan Kirsh 908-347-1420 or Plainfield Police Criminal Investigations Bureau at 908-753- 3131.

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Elizabeth man charged with first degree murder

An Elizabeth man was arrested and charged Sunday evening in a bludgeoning death that took place early Sunday morning, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel, Elizabeth Police Director Earl J. Graves, and Elizabeth Police Chief Giacomo Sacca jointly announced Monday.

Victor H. Rodriguez Gomez, 33, is charged with first-degree murder and two related weapons offenses in connection with the murder of Carmen Lopez Barahona, 30, of Elizabeth.

According to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Jillian Reyes, who is prosecuting the case, shortly after 2:00am on Sunday, September 11th, Elizabeth Police Department Patrol Units responded to the 200 block of Lt. Glenn Zamorski Drive and found the victim, who had sustained fatal injuries as a result of blunt force trauma to her head.

The investigation revealed that after the murder Gomez fled the scene. His vehicle was later located by the Perth Amboy Police Department. He was apprehended and transferred into the custody of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office without incident. Gomez is currently being held in the Union County Jail pending a first appearance.

This fast-moving investigation was led by the Union County Homicide Task Force and the Elizabeth Police Department, assisted by the Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit and the Perth Amboy Police Department.

“We appreciate the hard work and collaboration with our local law enforcement agencies who assisted our office in locating and apprehending the suspect,” Prosecutor Daniel said. “We hope that this arrest can bring some small measure of comfort to all those grieving Ms. Barahona.”

Anyone with information on this matter is being urged to contact Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Task Force Sergeant Filipe Afonso at (908) 965-3807, Detective Kenneth Luongo at (908) 527-4643, or Elizabeth Police Detective James Szpond at (908) 558-2041.

Convictions on crimes of this nature are 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

Plainfield man sentenced to 9 years for 2015 McDonald’s robbery

Thomas H. Outland

A Plainfield man who was recently found guilty of robbing a fast food restaurant in Scotch Plains in 2015 has been sentenced to nine years in state prison for the crime, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel announced today.

During a Friday hearing, Union County Superior Court Judge Robert A. Kirsch ruled that 54-year old Thomas H. Outland must serve a minimum of 85% of the sentence before the possibility of parole, under the provisions of New Jersey’s No Early Release Act. This sentence is to run consecutively to the previously imposed sentence of 16-years in an unrelated robbery that took place in April 2014.

At approximately 12:30a.m. on September 4, 2015, Outland and an unidentified co-conspirator, both of whom were wearing masks and brandishing firearms, entered an unlocked door of the McDonald’s on Route 22 in Scotch Plains, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutors Aran McNerney and Marilyn Muller, who prosecuted the case.

The unidentified suspect then began demanding the cell phones of some of the employees who were cleaning the restaurant at the end of their shift while Outland, a former employee of the restaurant, began walking towards the manager’s office, where the safe was located. Outland was intercepted by one of the store employees, who loudly asserted that Outland’s weapon was fake and suggested Outland could get killed.

At that time, Outland removed his mask, lowered his imitation firearm, and announced to the restaurant employees that his actions constituted a practical joke. He and the second suspect, who never removed his mask, then returned the employees’ cell phones and immediately left the area.

Following an investigation by the Scotch Plains Police Department, Outland was arrested in January 2016 and indicted a month later.

The above incident took place when Outland was free on bail in connection with an unrelated robbery that took place in April 2014. A jury convicted Outland on multiple charges associated with that crime in May of 2016 and he was sentenced to an extended term of 16 years in state prison for the robbery charges.

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Prosecutor

Certificate of Commendation for Outstanding Performance in the Line of Duty Awarded to Sergeant Rudolfo Correia

The Union County Prosecutor’s Office and the Two Hundred Club of Union County present a Certificate of Commendation for Outstanding Performance in the Line of Duty to Sergeant Rudolfo Correia.

On December 25, 2021, Christmas morning, Sgt. Correia performed CPR on an overdose victim and helped save his life.

As Sgt. Correia was making his way to pick up Christmas dinner for his family, he approached a traffic light at Bayway Circle in Elizabeth and witnessed a man slumped over in his vehicle. Seeing that efforts were being made to pull the man out of his vehicle, Sgt. Correia pulled his vehicle over to render assistance to the man, who was now laying in the road next to his vehicle, unresponsive and not breathing. As Sgt. Correia directed witnesses to call 911, he began chest compressions and was able to deduce the man was most likely suffering from an overdose. As Sgt. Correia continued with chest compressions, he asked the growing crowd for Narcan. Sgt. Correia was then approached by a Northern State Prison Corrections Officer, Hugo Rebelo, who came on scene and offered his assistance and a dose of Narcan that he had in his vehicle. After administering the Narcan, Sgt. Correia and the on-scene CO continued chest compressions until the man started breathing again. Paramedics arrived shortly thereafter and transported the man to Trinitas Hospital where he recovered.

Sgt. Correia and CO Rebelo’s actions were heroic and selfless as they took time out of their lives on Christmas Day to render aid to a man who most certainly would have died had it not been for their actions.

Union County Prosecutor William Daniel, Chief of Detectives Harvey Barnwell, and the entire Prosecutor’s Office staff commend Sgt. Correia for his heroism on that day. Sgt Correia’s actions exemplify the best traditions of law enforcement and the Union County Prosecutor’s Office.

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Fanwood woman charged with theft and forgery

Jennifer Grambor

An extensive investigation has led to the arrest of a Fanwood woman on charges of theft and forgery, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel announced today. The criminal complaint comes as a result of a year-long investigation led by Detective Alex Lopez of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Prosecutions Unit. Jennifer Grambor, 50, was charged with three counts of second-degree theft and one count of third-degree forgery.

In August 2021, a local pharmaceutical company made a report to the Union County Prosecutor’s Office that its former Human Resources/Payroll Manager had stolen a large amount of company funds. More specifically, the company’s Forensic Accountant discovered that, between 2016 and 2021, Jennifer Grambor stole in excess of $900,000 through various unlawful means.

After a thorough and exhaustive investigation, Detective Lopez concluded that Grambor, as payroll manager, had exclusive access to company finances and used her position to unlawfully issue payroll checks to herself and family members.

Grambor was arrested without incident and processed at the Union County Sheriff’s Office. Her first court appearance is scheduled to take place on August 31, 2022.

This investigation is ongoing. Anyone with further information about this or similar incidents involving Jennifer Grambor is being urged to contact Union County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Alex Lopez at 908-527-4933.

Convictions on charges of this nature are commonly punishable by sentences of up to 10 years in state prison.

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

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Winfield Park man found guilty in slashing man’s throat outside of Rahway bar

Michael G. Johnston

A Union County jury has returned a guilty verdict against a man who slashed the throat of a Rahway man last year, Union County First Assistant Prosecutor James O. Tansey announced today.  

Michael G. Johnston, 45, of Winfield Park was found guilty last Thursday on one count each of second-degree aggravated assault, third-degree aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, third-degree possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes and fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon following a two week trial before Union County Superior Court Judge Robert Kirsch.  The jury deliberated for approximately three hours before returning its verdict. 

At approximately 1:45 a.m. on August 30, 2021, A Rahway Police Department patrol unit was in the area of CVS on the 800 Block of Saint George’s Avenue when he was approached by a 25 year-old male who was bleeding from his neck, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Melissa Caparruva who prosecuted the case.  The victim was stabilized and transported to University Hospital where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries, Caparruva stated.

An investigation led by Detectives from the Rahway Police Department quickly resulted in Johnston being identified as a suspect in the case.  Soon thereafter, he was arrested at his home in Winfield Park and remanded to the County Jail pending the outcome of the trial.

At trial, it was revealed that Johnston and the victim were at Butch Kowal’s Tavern in Rahway, when there was a verbal confrontation outside of the bar.  This verbal dispute ended with Johnston attacking the victim with a knife, causing two lacerations to the victim’s throat and one to his wrist.  Witnesses, physical evidence and video surveillance in the area presented over the course of the trial were able to definitively pinpoint Johnston as the attacker, Caparruva said

Sentencing has been scheduled for Friday, September 30, 2022 before Judge Kirsch, at which time Johnston can face a sentence of up to ten years in State Prison with an 85% period of mandatory parole ineligibility pursuant to the State’s No Early Release Act (NERA).

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Linden man arrested for committing sexual offenses against three minors and one adult

Johan A. Osorno

A Linden man has been charged after having committed several sexual acts with three separate children and one adult victim dating back to 2018, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel and Linden Police Chief David Hart, jointly announced Thursday.

Johan A. Osorno, 35, of Linden, has been charged with one count of second-degree sexual assault, two counts of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, one count of third-degree endangering the welfare of a child, two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual contact and one count of fourth-degree attempted criminal sexual contact.

In late June, the Linden Police Department received a report of the sexual assault upon one male and one female minor, which was referred to the Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Victims Unit. During the course of that investigation the Special Victims Unit learned that there were an additional two victims. The first was an adult female who reported being molested as a minor between 2018 and 2020 according to Assistant Prosecutor Bryan Tiscia, who is prosecuting the case. An additional female victim was also uncovered who was an adult at the time that she was abused by Osorno, Tiscia added.

Osorno was arrested without incident on June 27th and lodged in the Essex County Jail. After a pretrial detention hearing in Union County Superior Court, he was subsequently ordered to be detained pending the disposition of these matters.

This investigation is ongoing, and anyone with further information about Osorno is being urged to contact Union County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit Detective Craig Famoso at (908) 578-1036.

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Authorities Seek Public’s Help in Solving Decade Old Homicide of Linden Teen

Amber Duncan-Wilson

The Union County Homicide Task Force and Linden Police Department continue to investigate the shooting death of an 18-year-old Linden woman who was killed ten years ago, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel and Linden Police Chief David Hart jointly announced today.

At 11:55 p.m. on July 9, 2012 the Linden Police were called to the 500 block of Hussa Street following reports of an argument and gunfire, said Daniel. When they arrived, officers discovered 18 –year-old Amber Duncan-Wilson dead at the scene from an apparent gunshot wound.

Members of the Task Force and Linden Police Department learned that Ms. Wilson was walking from a local Dunkin’ Donuts with a friend when she was approached and robbed. During the robbery, words were exchanged and the young woman, who had graduated Linden High School just days earlier, was shot.

Ms. Wilson was a young, ambitious woman, who had a meaningful life ahead of her,” Prosecutor Daniel said. “Sadly, that life was senselessly lost at such a young age and we remain as firmly committed today as we did ten years ago in finding this cold-blooded killer and to bringing justice for her and her loved ones.

Investigators continue to seek leads and ask for the public’s help in obtaining any information that could assist in solving this tragic case. Members of the public are urged to contact the Union County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Task Force at 908-527-4500 or Linden Police Detective Sergeant Travis

Koziol at 908-474-8542. Further, anyone with information regarding the shooting may anonymously phone in tips to Union County Crime Stoppers at (908) 654-TIPS or online at www.uctip.org. Information that leads to the arrest and indictment of the person or persons responsible for the death of Amber Duncan-Wilson are eligible for a reward of up to $10,000.

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Man Pleads Guilty to Murdering his Girlfriend

Jamar Webber

On Tuesday, a Union man, charged in shooting the death of his girlfriend last March, pled guilty and is facing a 30 year prison sentence, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel announced today.

Jamar Webber, 21 of Union, pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of first-degree murder in the death of 19-year-old Malikah Taylor of Newark, before Union County Superior Court Judge Regina Caulfield.

On the early morning of March 7, 2021 members of the Union Police Department, responding to a home on the 2100 block of Melrose Parkway near the corner of Hillcrest Terrace North, found Taylor unresponsive at that location having sustained serious injury from several gunshot wounds, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Robert Grady, who is prosecuting the case. Taylor was rushed to Newark’s University Hospital, where she was pronounced dead shortly before 8 a.m.

Sentencing in the case has been scheduled for Friday, September 23, 2022, at which time Webber will be facing a term of up to 30 years in state prison without the possibility of parole.