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New York Man found Guilty in Union Township Sexual Assault

Richard Darby

A Union County jury has returned a guilty verdict against a man who sexually assaulted a Union Township woman in her home in July of 2020, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel announced today.  

Richard Darby, 37, of The Bronx was found guilty this past Friday on one count each of first-degree aggravated sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault, second-degree burglary and third-degree aggravated criminal sexual contact following a three week trial before Union County Superior Court Judge Regina Caulfield.  The jury deliberated for just hours before returning its verdict. 

In July of 2020, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit received a referral from the Union Township Police Department regarding the sexual assault an elderly victim.  The joint investigation led by the Special Victims Unit and the Union Police Department that followed quickly identified Darby as the suspect.  After a two-day manhunt, Darby was arrested in Jersey City.

Testimony offered at trial revealed that on the day of the crime, the victim was at her home at approximately 5:00 a.m. and went outside to dispose of her trash, leaving her door propped open.  When she re-entered the home, she was attacked and sexually assaulted by Darby who had somehow slipped into the home as she was placing her garbage outside, according to Assistant Prosecutor Kathleen Dillon, who prosecuted the case.  During the attack, the victim was able to escape the house and call 9-1-1 with her neighbor’s assistance, causing Darby to flee the scene, Dillon added.

Sentencing has been tentatively scheduled for Friday, March 10, 2023 before Judge Caulfield, at which time Darby can face a sentence of up to twenty years state prison, subject to New Jersey’s No Early Release Act (NERA), under which defendants convicted of certain violent crimes must serve 85% of their term before being eligible for parole.

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West New York man charged for attacking and sexual assaulting woman at Newark Airport

Thomassal Watkins

A West New York man was charged with sexually assaulting a woman in a Newark Airport parking garage in Elizabeth on Thursday, January 19, 2023, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel and Port Authority Chief Security Officer Greg Ehrie jointly announced today.

Thomassal Watkins, 40, is charged with first-degree aggravated sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault, third-degree aggravated assault and fourth-degree criminal sexual contact in the attack on the victim. 

Port Authority Police Department officers responded to the Conrac Parking Garage — connected to Newark Airport’s Terminal A — shortly after 9 p.m. this past Thursday after a woman reported being sexually assaulted minutes earlier by an unknown male as she was walking to her car, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Caroline Lawlor, who is prosecuting the case.

The responding officers were able to quickly locate and apprehend the subject on airport property.  An exhaustive investigation jointly led by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit and the Port Authority Police Department, with the assistance of the Union County Sheriff’s Department Crime Scene unit, resulted in the identification of Watkins as the suspect and collection of significant evidence.

“We are grateful for the extraordinary collaboration with our local law enforcement partners and for the exemplary police work of the Port Authority Police Department, which led to the identification and apprehension of Watkins within minutes of the attack”, Prosecutor Daniel said.

“We appreciate the swift response from our partners at the Union County Prosecutor’s and Sheriff’s Offices, and commend our Port Authority police officers for the exceptional work that led to the apprehension of the suspect,” added Port Authority Police Superintendent Ed Cetnar.

Watkins is currently being held in the Essex County Jail pending a pretrial detention hearing on Friday, January 27th in Union County Superior Court.

Anyone with information about this matter is still urged to contact Prosecutor’s Office Detective Claudia Diez at 908-965-3779 or Port Authority Police Department Detective Amos Shand at 973-961-6308.

Convictions for crimes of this nature are commonly punishable by terms of up to twenty 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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Elizabeth landlord indicted for sexual crimes against 30 victims

The owner of hundreds of rental units scattered across 18 residential properties in Elizabeth who was arrested in June of 2021 was indicted last Thursday for committing sexual offenses against 30 tenants over a number of years, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel, Elizabeth Police Director Earl Graves and Elizabeth Police Chief Giacomo Sacca jointly announced today.

The 42 count indictment charges Joseph Centanni, 75, of Mountainside with 23 counts of second-degree sexual assault and 19 counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual contact.  The alleged crimes took place at various times from 2013 to 2020, with male and female victims ranging in age from 22 to 61.

A long-term investigation initiated by a referral from the Elizabeth Police Department and led by the Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Victims Unit, revealed that Centanni targeted tenants or prospective tenants who were homeless, about to be evicted, or otherwise struggling financially, according to Special Victims Unit Supervisor and Assistant Prosecutor Caroline Lawlor, who is prosecuting the case.

The defendant allegedly solicited the sex acts from his victims as a quid pro quo, agreeing to offer them rent reductions, a delay in an eviction, or other forms of financial assistance in exchange. He also purportedly threatened tenants who hesitated or refused his advances with eviction or other retaliatory measures. 

The ongoing investigation into Centanni’s activities has been led by Special Victims Unit Detective Joanne Son, and assisted by Elizabeth Police Department Detective Louis Demondo, Special Agent Khela Vazquez of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Civil Rights Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey.  Anyone with information about this matter is still urged to contact Union County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Joanne Son at (908) 477-1698.

Convictions on second-degree crimes are commonly punishable by terms of 5 to 10 years in state prison on each count and those for fourth-degree crimes by up to 18 months in prison.

Centanni remains free on court-ordered pretrial monitoring pending the outcome of his case.

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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Newark Man and Union Woman Arrested for Sexual Assault and Exploitation of a Minor

Valdirene Nogueira
Rony D. Game-Palacios

A Newark man and Union woman were arrested last week after being criminally charged with the sexual exploitation of a 14-year-old female, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel announced today.

Rony D. Game-Palacios, 30, is charged with second-degree sexual assault and third-degree endangering the welfare of a child, and Valdirene Nogueira, 45, is charged with first-degree promoting prostitution of a child, third-degree promoting prostitution, third-degree compelling another to engage in prostitution and second-degree endangering the welfare of a child. 

In September of 2022, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit received a referral from the Union Police Department regarding the reported sexual assault of a 14 year old female.  The investigation that followed revealed that the victim was sexually assaulted by Game-Palacios after Nogueira coerced her to have sex with him for money after plying her with alcohol, according to Assistant Prosecutor Peter Benza who is prosecuting the case.

This remains an active investigation, and anyone with information about this matter or these defendants is urged to contact Special Victims Unit Detective Jessica Tattoli at 908-965-3885 or Detective Sergeant Nicholas Veltre at 908-965-3812.

Convictions on first-degree crimes are commonly punishable by terms of up to 20 years in state prison.  Convictions on second-degree criminal charges are punishable by 5 to 10 years and those on third-degree crimes can result in 3 to 5 years.

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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Elizabeth man convicted in beating death

A Union County jury has returned a guilty verdict against a man who assaulted and and killed a 28-year-old Elizabeth man in July of 2019, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel announced today.

Laquan McCall, 31, of Elizabeth, was found guilty Friday on one count each of second-degree manslaughter and second-degree aggravated assault following a two-week trial before Union County Superior Court Judge Candido Rodriguez, Jr.  The jury deliberated for three days before returning its verdict. 

Shortly after 2 a.m. on the morning of Saturday, July 27, 2019, Elizabeth Police Department patrol units responded to a report of an altercation at Ben’s Bar on the 600 block of Meadow Street and found Oscar Melara, 28, who had sustained severe injuries, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutors Alaina Caliendo and Jillian Reyes, who prosecuted the case. Melara was transported to Trinitas Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Testimony presented during the trial revealed that McCall punched the victim approximately four times outside the bar after an altercation, ultimately causing brain injuries that led to Melara’s death.

An investigation by the Union County Homicide Task Force, the Elizabeth Police Department, and the Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit, resulted in McCall being identified, charged and arrested.

Sentencing has been scheduled for Friday, January 27, 2023 before Judge Rodriguez, at which time McCall can face a term of up to ten years in state prison, of which he would be required to serve 85% of that sentence prior to being eligible for parole under the State’s No Early Release Act (NERA).

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Bloomfield man convicted in 2019 Clark carjacking and attempted murder

A Union County jury has returned a guilty verdict against a man who assaulted a Lyft driver and a passenger before carjacking the vehicle in April of 2019, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel announced today.

Farrakhan Howard, 30, of Bloomfield, was found guilty on Wednesday on one count each of first-degree carjacking, first-degree attempted murder, second-degree aggravated assault, third degree aggravated assault, third-degree unlawful possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, and fourth degree unlawful possession of a weapon, following a four-week trial before Union County Superior Court Judge Thomas K. Isenhour.  The jury deliberated for approximately 8 hours before returning its verdict. 

At approximately 1 a.m. on the morning of Wednesday April 24, 2019, Clark Police Department patrol units responded to the area of Westfield Avenue and found a 47-year-old man bleeding from stab wounds and cuts to his head, face and neck, according to Assistant Prosecutors Izabella Wozniak and Alex Pecora who prosecuted the case.  Officers from the Rahway Police Department soon after located a 20-year-old woman who was also suffering from stab wounds to her head and scratches to her neck, Wozniak and Pecora added.

Testimony presented during the trial revealed that Howard was in the male victim’s Lyft vehicle with the female passenger.  At some point during the trip, Howard assaulted and stabbed the female victim.  At that point, the Lyft driver stopped the vehicle to help the female and Howard stabbed him several times before carjacking the vehicle.  Both victims were able to escape before being located by Clark and Rahway officers.  Howard drove off and was eventually arrested and charged after crashing the victim’s vehicle in Woodbridge.

Sentencing has been scheduled for December 16, 2022, before Judge Isenhour at which time Howard can face a term of up to 30 years in State prison, of which he would be required to serve 85% of that sentence prior to being eligible for parole under the State’s No Early Release Act (NERA).

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Rahway man arrested in weekend homicide

A Rahway resident was arrested last night in Newark after being charged with shooting and killing a man in Rahway on Saturday, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel, Rahway Police Director Jonathan Parham and Chief Law Enforcement Officer Lieutenant Shawn Ganley jointly announced today.

Brandan Melford, 31, is charged with first-degree murder, second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon and second-degree possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes in connection with the shooting death of Jack Harris, 44, of Roselle.  

At approximately 12:39 p.m. Saturday afternoon, Rahway Police Officers responded to the 1400 block of Witherspoon Street on the report of gunshots, according to Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Desimone who is prosecuting the case. Upon their arrival they located Harris who had been shot and was subsequently pronounced dead at the scene, Desimone added.

An investigation led by the Union County Homicide Task Force and assisted by the Rahway Police Department, the Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit and the Union County Police Department Ballistics Unit resulted in the identification of Melford as the murder suspect and led to his eventual capture and arrest.

“We are grateful for the collaboration from our partner law enforcement agencies who assisted our Office in locating and apprehending the suspect,” Prosecutor Daniel said. “And we hope that this arrest can bring some small measure of comfort to all those grieving Mr. Harris.”

Anyone with information regarding this incident is still urged to contact Union County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Task Force Detective Patrick Bradley at 908-418-2187 Or Rahway Police Department Detective Sidra Colvin at 732-827-2200.

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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Fugitive wanted for Plainfield homicide apprehended in Guatemala

A fugitive wanted in connection with a fatal stabbing that took place in Plainfield in 2003 has been located and apprehended in Guatemala, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel and Plainfield Police Director James T. Abney announced today. 

Members of the U.S. Marshals Service took 56-year-old Fausto Ramiro Santos Carillo of Plainfield into custody in Guatemala on March 21, 2022, where he was held prior to him being extradited back to New Jersey in the pre-dawn hours this morning. 

He is charged with first-degree murder, third-degree and fourth-degree weapons offenses in connection with the death of 49-year-old Martha Morales. 

On July 23, 2003, members of the Plainfield Police Department responded to the 600 block of East Third Street and found Morales inside an apartment she shared with Fausto Carillo.Morales had sustained multiple fatal stab wounds. Following the murder, Fausto Carillo fled the area.

In February of 2018, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Task Force received information concerning Fausto Carillo’s potential whereabouts, which in turn led to his apprehension in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

“I want to commend the fortitude and dedication exhibited by the investigators who have worked tirelessly on this case these past several years, during a time that presented so many other unique challenges,” Prosecutor Daniel said. “Thanks to their efforts, we have moved closer to bringing Fausto Carillo to justice for his role in the murder of Ms. Morales.”

“Fausto Carillo chose to avoid capture by hiding abroad.  He believed distance was his sanctuary, “said Juan Mattos, U.S. Marshal for the District of New Jersey.  “The U.S. Marshals Service has an extended reach and partnerships throughout the world.  Thanks to the steadfast commitment of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Task Force, U.S. Marshals, and our law enforcement partners throughout Central America, capturing this most wanted fugitive has brought us one step closer to justice and closure for the victim and their family.” 

Convictions on criminal charges 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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Linden Man Sentenced to 22 years for fatal shooting

On October 14, 2022,a Linden man was sentenced to 22 years in state prison for the shooting death of 29-year-old Andy Rozelien, Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel announced today.

On July 8, 2022, Ashton Barthelus, 27, pled guilty to 1st degree aggravated manslaughter in exchange for the 22-year sentence which requires him to serve at least 85% of the term before the possibility of parole.

Shortly before 3:30pm on Monday, October 26, 2020, members of the Linden Police Department responded to the 1600 block of East St. Georges Avenue and found Andy Rozelien of Linden having sustained multiple gunshot wounds. Rozelien was transported to Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth, where he was pronounced dead, according to Assistant Prosecutor Scott Peterson, who prosecuted the case.

Prosecutor Daniel acknowledges the diligent efforts of the Union County Homicide Task Force, Linden Police Department, Union County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit, and the Union County Police Department Ballistics Unit for their collaborative efforts which resulted in Barthelus’s apprehension and ultimately, being brought to justice.

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Union homicide under investigation

At approximately 6:39 p.m. on Sunday, October 16, 2022, Union Police Officers responded to the 2000 block of Morris Avenue in Union after reports of gunshots in the area. Upon their arrival they located a male victim, Emmanuelle Florestal, 22, of Irvington, who suffered gunshot wounds. He was transported to University Hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

At this point, there is no indication that this incident is related to a previous shooting that took place in Union the day before.  The Union County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Task Force and the Union Police Department are actively investigating both cases. 

Anyone with information regarding the shooting on Saturday night or the homicide on Sunday should contact Sergeant Lamar Hartfield at 908-451-1873, Detective Melvin Rogers 908-259-2030 or Union Police Department’s Detective Christopher Connors at 908-851-5066.

Tips can also be submitted anonymously by phone at 908-654-TIPS (8477) or online at www.uctip.org; submission of tips made in this fashion that result in an indictment and conviction can be eligible for a reward of up to $10,000 via the Union County Crime Stoppers.