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    Darren Black is accused of shooting her to death, moving the body.

    An East Orange man has been arrested for the shooting death of a 38-year-old Orange woman whose body was found dumped in the middle of a street in Irvington.

    BlackCooper.jpg 

    Darren Black, 37, was charged with the murder of Shafeqah Cooper, who was killed on Aug. 17, Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens,II, and Irvington Police Director Tracy Bowers said in a statement Tuesday.

    Cooper was killed in the area of Valley Street and Argyle Avenue in Orange, prosecutors have determined. However, her body was found by a motorist in Irvington on Krokit Place. She had been shot several times.

    Black was arrested in Princeton by detectives from the Essex County Prosecutor's Office Homicide/Major Crimes Task Force and the FBI Fugitive Task Force, officials said.

    Cooper was the mother of an 8-year-old son who was "the love of her life," according to her obituary. She also was an avid reader, an animal lover, a pool player, a lover of poetry and a Cowboys fan.

    In addition to murder, Black was charged with concealment and removing human remains, illegal possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.

    Black is being held in the Essex County Correctional Facility.

    Robin Wilson-Glover may be reached at rglover@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @RobinGlover. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    The flight was headed to New Jersey from Los Angeles

    A United Airlines flight bound for Newark had to make an unscheduled stop in Denver due to a mechanical issue, officials said. 

    Flight 1640, a Boeing 757-200 that originated in Los Angeles, landed safely in Colorado at 11:43 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time and passengers exited normally, according to United.  

    It then departed Denver at 1 p.m. and is due to touch down at Newark Liberty International Airport at 6:43 p.m. local time. 

    The flight, which took off from Los Angeles at 7:45 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, was originally scheduled to land in Newark at 4 p.m. local time. 

    NBCNewYork,com reported that the plane had to be diverted to due "fumes" or a "peculiar smell."

    The Federal Aviation Administration didn't immediately return message from NJ Advance Media seeking information. 

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

     


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    'This is probably one of the worst days of my life,' the consultant said at her sentencing.

    A former political consultant in Essex County was sentenced to four years in federal prison Tuesday for her role in defrauding the now-defunct nonprofit in charge of treating water for parts of northern New Jersey. 

    Dianthe Martinez-Brooks, 48, of West Orange, previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud, admitting she submitted bloated invoices to the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corp. for work that was never performed, and gave the money as kickbacks to top officials at the agency. 

    "This is probably one of the worst days of my life," Martinez-Brooks said before U.S. District Court Judge Jose Linares, as she wiped tears away with a tissue. 

    "I've spent my life helping people stay out of trouble yet I find myself standing here ... I'm sorry that I find myself before you today," she said. 

    Her sentencing Tuesday marks the latest in the corruption case against a roster of officials and consultants at the watershed corporation, who have been sentenced or charged in a million-dollar scheme that ultimately sunk the agency. 

    Federal prosecutors said Martinez-Brooks was part of the inner circle at the watershed, serving as an advisor through her political consulting company, DMart127 LLC. Between May 2011 and March 2013, she recruited an unnamed relative of hers and West Orange businessman Kevin Gleaton to do work that was never performed. Altogether, she secured $226,666 in phony contracts -- including money she paid out to herself.

    Gleaton is serving an 18-month sentence

    Martinez-Brooks' company received $131,000, of which only $43,000 was for work she did, prosecutors said. The rest was kicked back to the former director of the watershed, Linda Watkins Brashear, and Donald Bernard Sr., special projects manager for the watershed. Both are in prison. 

    "This kind of corruption can't be allowed to exist and can't be allowed to permeate in the city of Newark," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacques Pierre said in court. He said Martinez-Brooks played a role in bringing the watershed "down to its knees."

    The watershed corporation dissolved in 2013 and filed for bankruptcy. 

    Martinez-Brooks is the eighth person to be sentenced in the scheme; a former Newark police officer, Janell Robinson, of Newark, was indicted in March. Her case is still pending. 

    Paulette Pitt, who represented Martinez-Brooks, asked the judge for probation, citing an Elizabeth organization and a person involved with transitioning homeless residents at the now-shuttered homeless shelter in Newark, that were willing to have her work for them. 

    "She's a person who is a member of the community and has been doing volunteer work for her whole life," Pitt said. "She's conveyed her remorse and regret about this whole episode in her life." 

    Pitt said Martinez-Brooks, who had a rough upbringing, also had a relative she needed to care for and was worried about what could happen to that person. 

    About three dozen people -- including East Orange Mayor Ted Green -- were in the audience to support Martinez-Brooks and her work in the community. 

    Judge Linares said he had received several letters from members of the community vouching for her work to help others and her involvement in her church, but said ultimately Martinez-Brooks let "greed get the best of her."

    "She was fully aware by virtue of her position as advisor of the malfeasance that was occurring," he said. "Corruption started at the top and made its way to the consultants."

    Linares said "everybody was taking money out" but Martinez-Brooks "was one more hand in the cookie jar."

    Newark resident Guy Sterling, of The Newark Water Group, which led efforts to expose corruption at the agency, said the group wanted officials to continue investigating what happened at the agency. 

    "We are of the belief that there could well be others who shared in the illicit distribution of watershed funds," he said. "We also seek a more plausible explanation from former Mayor Cory Booker -- who served as ex-officio chairman of the watershed's board at the time of this corruption -- about what he knew and when he knew it." 

    A federal judge in 2016 dismissed a lawsuit by the watershed's trustees against now U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, whom the trustees argued failed to properly oversee its administration while he served on the agency's board.  

    Booker argued the watershed's lawyers and accountants never alerted him to the financial corruption, and that he moved to bring the organization under the city's control once he became aware of the wrongdoing.

    Karen Yi may be reached at kyi@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @karen_yi or on Facebook

     

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    All priest sex abuse victims are free to call New Jersey's new hotline to report allegations, even if they have a legal agreement forbidding them from speaking, church officials said.

    Victims of priest sexual abuse who signed confidentiality agreements with Catholic dioceses in New Jersey are free to ignore those deals and speak publicly about their experiences, church officials said in a statement Tuesday.

    The announcement means all victims who reached financial settlements with the Catholic Church in New Jersey can call a new hotline established by the state Attorney General's office earlier this month to speak to investigators gathering evidence of clergy sexual abuse in the church.

    "Cardinal Joseph Tobin and the other Catholic bishops of New Jersey have no issue if someone who had signed a settlement agreement prior to 2002 speaks publicly about his or her ordeal. In fact, we tell survivors who come forward that we will inform law enforcement of their allegations, and we encourage them to do the same," said Patrick Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference.

    N.J. Catholic dioceses detail sex abuse settlements

    "Again, we do not object, and would not take any action, if a victim chose to speak out, even if there is a confidentiality provision in the settlement agreement," Brannigan added.

    Under a 2002 policy established by the U.S. Catholic bishops, American dioceses were forbidden from requiring victims to enter into confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements when they reached a financial settlement with the church, unless the victims requested confidentiality.

    However, the confidentiality agreements remain in an unknown number of settlements reached with victims before 2002. That has stopped some victims from publicly speaking about their abuse allegations or phoning the new hotline established by the attorney general.

    The announcement by the New Jersey dioceses came a few hours after Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, called for the Catholic Church to release victims from their legal agreements and allow them to call the attorney general's hotline.

    "As victims have been reaching out, several have asked if they are able to report their abuse if they have signed a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement with the church and their abuser," Vitale said. "Technically the answer would be no."

    New Jersey's Catholic dioceses have paid out at least $50 million in financial settlements to alleged abuse victims, the dioceses said. It is unclear how many of those settlements had non-disclosure agreements.

    The state Attorney General's office established a toll-free number, (855) 363-6548, earlier this month to allow victims to speak with investigators.

    State officials plan to use the information gathered by the hotline to present evidence to a grand jury similar to the one in Pennsylvania that found more than 300 priests had been accused of sexual abuse in that state over several decades while some church officials covered up their crimes.

    The New Jersey hotline has been overwhelmed by the number of calls in its first few weeks and additional staff was assigned to speak to alleged victims, said Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the Division of Criminal Justice.

    Aseltine did not disclose how many calls the hotline has received, but some alleged victims said they initially had trouble getting through.

    When he announced the hotline, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal urged victims to call to report abuse so the state could investigate whether the abuse and cover-up in New Jersey was similar to what the grand jury uncovered in Pennsylvania.

    Former acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino was appointed to head a task force that which will have subpoena power through a grand jury to compel testimony and demand the production of documents.

    "We owe it to the people of New Jersey to find out whether the same thing happened here," Grewal said. "If it did, we will take action against those responsible." 

    Kelly Heyboer may be reached at kheyboer@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KellyHeyboer. Find her at KellyHeyboerReporter on Facebook.

     

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    See if your school district is among the 31 chosen for millions in new pre-kindergarten funding .


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    SAMS Mens & Boys Clothing store in Livingston has been open since 1899.


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    Maria Teresa Venegas let customers exchange their benefits for some cash and kept the rest

    The 25-year-old owner of a Newark deli admitted Tuesday she defrauded the government out of $888,000 in a food stamps scheme she ran over more than six years.

    Maria Teresa Venegas, of Newark, pleaded guilty to one count of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit fraud, the U.S. Attorney's Office for New Jersey said in a statement.

    She faces up to 20 years in prison when she is sentenced Jan. 19 for running the scheme at Jenny's Deli between November 2011 and February 2018.

    Elizabeth shopkeeper admits to $1M food stamp fraud

    Though SNAP recipients are only allowed to use their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards to buy certain food items, Venegas instead gave some customers cash by entering made-up dollar amounts for their purchases.

    Authorities began looking into Jenny's Deli when they noticed an unusually high number of SNAP transactions. 

    In an example provided charging documents, a SNAP recipient only bought $5 in items. Venegas, though, debited $75 from the person's account, which was then credited to the deli's bank account. She gave the SNAP recipient a portion of the proceeds and kept the rest.

    An undercover agent also made 20 purchases at Jenny's Deli using SNAP benefits in exchange for cash.

    In total, Venegas stole $888,486.89.

    In a similar case, the owners of M&R Supermarket on Irvine Turner Boulevard in Newark were charged last week with trading more than $5 million in SNAP debits for cash over three years.

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    She was last seen near Sept. 11 near Weequahic Park

    Police are asking for the public's help as they try to find a 23-year-old Newark woman who has been missing for more than two weeks.

    thomas.jpgAsheerah M. Thomas (Newark police) 

    Asheerah M. Thomas was last seen at noon on Sep. 3 on the 100 block of Dayton Street, Newark police said in a statement. She was reported missing on Sept. 11. Dayton Street runs along Weequahic Park.

    Thomas is about 5-foot-4, 130 pounds with brown eyes and black hair. She was last seen wearing a white T-shirt and blue shorts.

    City police are also still looking for Diane James, a 74-year-old woman who has been missing since Aug. 21. James was last seen at Beth Israel Hospital in Newark.

    Anyone with information about the whereabouts of either woman is asked to call 1-877-695-8477 or 1-877-695-4867. Tips are kept confidential. Tips can also be using the police department's website or through the Newark Police Division's smartphone app. 

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook

     


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    A former Newark code enforcement employee admitted he took a bribe from a club owner.

    A former Newark code enforcement employee will serve three years in state prison after he solicited and accepted a bribe from a man who wanted to open a nightclub, state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said. 

    Qaadir Royal, 37, of Newark, previously pleaded guilty to tampering with public records, admitting the club owner paid him a $1,000 bribe to change the building's certificate of occupancy to allow a social club.

    Qaadir-Royal.jpgQaadir Royal, 37, of Newark, N.J., a former clerk in the city code enforcement office, was sentenced to three years in prison Monday. (Department of Corrections)
     

    Royal worked as a clerk in the code enforcement office and had access to city databases when he altered the document in December 2016, authorities said. Payroll records show Royal was hired in 2015 and earned $22,296.

    On Monday, Superior Court Judge Martin G. Cronin sentenced Royal to three years in prison. 

    A request for comment from Royal's attorney, Rhea Moore, was not immediately returned. 

    "We are committed to investigating and aggressively prosecuting public employees who abuse their authority or access to government records to enrich themselves," Grewal said in a statement. "We are determined to root out such corrupt conduct, which erodes good government and public trust."

    Another code enforcement worker, Tajji Williams, 42, of Newark, has separately been charged with bribery and official misconduct. That case is still pending. 

    Williams is accused of soliciting a $5,000 bribe from the same club operator in 2016. Authorities said Williams acted independently of Royal. Williams allegedly received three payments totalling $1,500 in exchange for promising to alert the club owner about police action in the area, and prioritizing his building permits. 

    The owner apparently had faced resistance from the city about the club, authorities said, but notified state police about the bribes to Williams. 

    Williams was hired in February 2014 and earned $39,558, records show. 

    Karen Yi may be reached at kyi@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @karen_yi or on Facebook

     

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    FanDuel claims an error in its odds-making system makes the payout on the Broncos-Raiders game much lower

    A New Jersey sports fan is crying foul, claiming FanDuel has refused to pay him more than $82,000 on a bet he placed at the Meadowlands Racetrack during Sunday's NFL Broncos-Raiders game.

    FanDuel says a brief glitch in its in-game odds-making system artificially inflated the payout by a huge amount.

    Anthony Prince, of Newark, told News12 he placed a bet over-the-counter at the Meadowlands as Denver trailed Oakland late in the fourth quarter.

    After Denver quarterback Case Keenum completed a pass down to the Oakland 18-yard line, FanDuel attempted to update the live betting odds to reflect Denver as a -600 favorite to win.

    However, FanDuel says an error in the live-odds feed caused the Broncos to be posted as 750-1 (+75,000) underdogs to win the game.

    Prince told News 12 he bet $110 on the Broncos and they completed the late comeback for a 20-19 win. At the odds listed, Prince was due a payout of $82,610.

    But FanDuel says at the correct odds of -600, he would have won $18.35.

    "The wager in question involved an obvious pricing error inadvertently generated by our in-game pricing system," Kevin Hennessy, spokesman for FanDuel, said in an email.

    Specifically, near the end of the game, the odds for the Broncos - who had the ball and were trailing by two points at the time - to win were +340, where a $100 bet would win $340 Hennessy said.

    The next play, the Broncos completed a 26-yard pass to position themselves to attempt a 36-yard field goal to take the lead in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, clearly positioning the Broncos as the favorite to win, he said.

    "At that moment in the game, our system updated the odds and erroneously posted a price of +75,000 on the Broncos to win the game (bet $100 to win $75,000) when the correct odds for the Broncos to win the game at that point in time were -600 (i.e., bet $600 to win $100)," Hennessy said.

    Hennessy said "a small number of bets were made at the erroneous price over an 18-second period."

    "We honored all such bets on the Broncos to win the game at the accurate market price in accordance with our house rules and industry practice, which specifically address such obvious pricing errors," Hennessy said. "We have reached out to all impacted customers and apologized for the error."

    Prince told News12 that he was offered $500 and skybox seats for three Giants games.

    But he turned down that offer and has threatened FanDuel with legal action and a complaint to the New Jersey Division of Gaming.

    Kerry Langan, a spokeswoman for the division, said Wednesday that they are aware of the dispute.

    "I can tell you this is under investigation," Langan said.

    Hennessy said the incident is under internal review by FanDuel and that, for now, FanDuel won't make the payout.

    Anthony G. Attrino may be reached at tattrino@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TonyAttrino. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    The device, which wouldn't have exploded, was found by a security officer at B'nai Abraham Cemetery in Newark

    Authorities are offering up to a $5,000 reward for information about the person who placed a non-working homemade explosive device inside a Jewish cemetery in Newark last weekend.

    A security officer evacuated B'nai Abraham Cemetery on South 19th Street around 10:45 a.m. Sunday after finding a commercial firework attached to a can of lubricant on a headstone, the Essex County Sheriff's Office said. 

    The bomb squad determined that the device would not have exploded and it was later turned over the FBI.

    A group of people had gathered at the cemetery as part of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest New Jersey's visitation day.

    The Essex County Sheriff's Office traditionally provides visitation security to the Jewish community at cemeteries throughout during the High Holy Days, spokesman Kevin Lynch said. 

    Anyone with further information is asked to call the sheriff's Crime Stoppers hotline at 973-877-TIPS. The reward is being offered by the Crime Stoppers program. 

     

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    As leader of the Grape Street Crips, Corey Hamlet ordered 6 killings and several shootings, prosecutors say.

    A judge Wednesday ordered a former star high school football player to spend the rest of his life behind bars for running a violent street gang that blazed a trail of blood to the top of the Newark's drug trade.

    Corey Hamlet (cropped)Corey Hamlet. (Essex County Correctional Facility)

    Corey Hamlet's role in ordering six killings and an attempted murder while the head of the Grape Street Crips led U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo to sentence him to two concurrent life terms in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.

    Hamlet, a 41-year-old Belleville man also known as "C-Blaze," was one of more than five dozen gang members snared in an investigation that saw federal prosecutors turn Hamlet's friends against him with the threat of lengthy prison terms.

    Originally founded in Los Angeles' Jordan Downs Housing Projects, the Grape Street Crips have come to be a dominant force in Newark's heroin trade in recent years.

    Prior to the massive federal takedown that dismantled the gang, prosecutors said, its members in Newark controlled drug sales at the Oscar Miles, Riverview Court, Pennington Court, Wynona Lippman Gardens, Kemsco Village and John W. Hyatt housing complexes, as well as former Baxter Terrace public housing complex.

    Investigators ultimately developed evidence Hamlet had ordered the killings of five people: Leroy Simmons, Rodney Kearney, Tariq Johnson, Anwar West and Wesley Child. An innocent bystander, Velma Cuttino, was killed in the same fatal shooting as Child.

    The gang's killing of West, and the attempted murder of a suspected informant, helped spark the creation of a joint local-federal task force targeting its activities.

    Inside the takedown of the Grape Street Crips

    The U.S. Attorney's Office ultimately used photos from Hamlet's Instagram account depicting him with other gang members to bolster the testimony of cooperating witnesses.

    Hamlet, once a star football player for East Side High School in Newark, never denied being involved with Grape Street Crips -- only that he was the leader of a criminal organization.

    Hamlet's attorney, Anthony Iacullo, told NJ Advance Media this summer that the gang never existed as a single entity and had no single leader. He called the admitted killers who testified against his client "unworthy of belief."

    Hamlet's first trial alongside four co-defendants took almost six months. It ended in April with a deadlocked jury unable to reach a verdict on all but one count against Hamlet -- a drug charge of which jurors acquitted him.

    After a second, abbreviated trial, he was convicted in July of charges that included racketeering conspiracy and committing murder in aid of racketeering, among other offenses.

    Iacullo told the Associated Press Wednesday that Hamlet would appeal the conviction and the sentence.

    Note: This post has been updated to replace sentencing information from the Associated Press with that provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

    Ted Sherman contributed to this report.

    Thomas Moriarty may be reached at tmoriarty@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ThomasDMoriartyFind NJ.com on FacebookHave a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips


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    The places, large and small, we went to hear great music.

    I was on my way to Peddler's Village this past summer and passed the New Hope Winery on Route 202 ... and had a teenage flashback.

    The roadside sign listed all the bands that were appearing that week. A different one each night.

    FountainCasinoroute35northaberdeennj.jpgYou couldn't say "there's nothing to do" when signs like this were everywhere in New Jersey. 

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    Whoa.

    There certainly are places you can go nowadays to see live music. There are venues where bands that have achieved success perform along with groups and individuals trying to get their start. But there was a time when signs like the one I saw in Pennsylvania were everywhere.

    It was truly a golden age for music in New Jersey. Most are familiar with the stories of the beginnings of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, but for every Bruce there were 200 bands playing just as hard and dreaming just as big.

    And we had the opportunity to see them pretty much for free - many of these clubs didn't even have a cover charge. It was a special time for rock and roll in the Garden State.

    Vintage photos of clubs and bands in N.J.

    Vintage photos of clubs and music venues in N.J.

    Vintage photos: Music with a N.J. connection

    If you didn't see your favorite music place in this gallery, you'll likely find it by clicking the links above.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    The list includes three members of the 300-win club and a group with more than 8,500 wins and 1,200 years of coaching experience.


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    There are five new teams in the boys soccer Top 20 this week.


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    Newark man is accused of trying to sell foreclosure information before it's public to a predatory developer, who could then try to scoop up the homes

    Federal prosecutors charged a county sheriff's employee on Wednesday, saying he tried to extort money after leaking information on foreclosure sales.

    Abdush Shahid Ahmad, a 51-year-old Newark resident, was charged with attempted extortion, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced in a news release.

    Ahmad worked as a civilian employee in the civil process division of the Essex County Sheriff's Office, where he could see the writs of execution for foreclosed properties that the sheriff would sell at public auction -- auctions that are advertised on the office's website and in local newspapers including The Star-Ledger.

    The charges stem from what Ahmad allegedly told a witness posing as a property developer: that he could access the foreclosure auction information and give it to the developer about two months before it was public. 

    That information would help a developer get a favorable sale price from the parties involved in the foreclosure.

    When reached for comment, Sheriff Armando Fontoura said his office's intent is to help people stay in their homes, instead of helping developers push them out.

    "By law I'm permitted to work with folks who are in foreclosure by providing some relief, some delay," Fontoura said. "The last thing I want to do is have people lose their homes and become homeless."

    Having information leaked that could have been useful to a predatory developer has led to the entire department becoming "terribly outraged," he said.

    "He did it to his neighborhood, where we hired him from, gave him an opportunity," Fontoura added.

    At a meeting in Hillside on July 26, 2018, federal investigators secretly recorded  Ahmad arranging to sell the witness private access to writs of execution (properties that the sheriff's officers were about to seize and auction), according to a criminal complaint. He said the writs would cost $100 each, and said he would be owed an extra $4,900 each, if the "developer" acquired any of the properties.

    At that meeting, the two talked about a contract spelling out that arrangement. The witness also gave Ahmad $2,000 in cash in exchange for 20 writs of execution, the complaint says. 

    Ahmad did not want to email the contract, so the witness and Ahmad met again on Aug. 30 in Newark and Ahmad presented the witness with the document, the criminal complaint says.

    Sheriff Fontoura said, "We're grateful to the FBI for helping us root him out."

    Ahmad had an initial appearance Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leda Dunn Wettre in Newark federal court.

    The charge of extortion under color of official right carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 

    Joe Brandt can be reached at jbrandt@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips

     

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    Check out which colleges have the biggest Jersey connections


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    While New York City might be the heart of the metro area, New Jersey has the arteries that feed it with people, goods, gas and power.


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    Prosecutors said investigators had been watching the group since December.

    Federal prosecutors on Thursday announced drug and weapons charges against six alleged Newark heroin traffickers in what they said was the latest offensive on violent criminals in the city.

    The U.S. Attorney's Office, in a statement, said Andre Mims, Herbert Cheeks, Anthony Woods, Gregory Mims, James Thomas and Freddie Mims were members of a drug-trafficking organization that sold heroin to customers from throughout the state.

    Prosecutors identified Cheeks, 52, and Andre Mims, 42, as the leaders of the drug ring, which became the target of state and federal investigators at least as early as December, according to documents filed in Newark federal court by a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) task force officer.

    The investigation ultimately grew to include the use of court-authorized wiretaps and undercover officers, who purchased more than 1,800 packets of heroin from Mims and Thomas, 51, between December and March, the officer wrote.

    Cheeks, Andre Mims and Gregory Mims, 43, all of East Orange, were charged by the Essex County prosecutor's narcotics task force in May following raids that resulted in the seizure of roughly $80,000 worth of heroin, cocaine and marijuana, authorities said at the time.

    Detectives also seized $10,000 cash, three handguns and eleven cellphones while executing the search warrants, which -- according to a federal criminal complaint unsealed Thursday -- targeted a store and a residence in Irvington and another home in East Orange.

    Prosecutors indicated Gregory and Freddy Mims were scheduled to make their first appearances in federal court Thursday afternoon, while Andre Mims, who is being held at the Essex County jail, was scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 25.

    Cheeks, Woods, 54, of Newark, and Thomas, of the Bronx, New York, remained at large as of Thursday morning, authorities said.

    All of the men face charges of conspiring to distribute heroin or actually distributing it, while Cheeks and Andre Mims have also been charged with possessing firearms as convicted felons.

    It was not immediately clear whether any of the men had attorneys who could comment on the charges.

    Thomas Moriarty may be reached at tmoriarty@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ThomasDMoriartyFind NJ.com on Facebook

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    The 9-year-old child and school bus aid on the bus during the multiple crashes were not injured.

    A school bus driver who hit five cars, two traffic poles and a fire hydrant in East Orange and Orange on Tuesday morning has been charged with driving under the influence, police said Thursday.

    The driver, 52-year-old Wayne Carmichel of Paterson, was driving the bus  between 8:10 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. when the accidents occurred, said East Orange spokesperson Connie Jackson. 

    A 9-year-old child and a bus aide were on the bus at the time of the crashes, Jackson said. 

    Carmichel was the only one injured, she said. 

    Jackson did not say which school the driver was taking the child when the accidents happened.

    The first four accidents were in East Orange. The first happened at Park and North Arlington avenues, the second was on William Street, the third was on North Oraton Parkway and the fourth accident was at Springdale and Glenwood avenues, where a vehicle that the bus collided with was severely damaged.

    The last accident was at Dodd Street and Thomas Boulevard in Orange Township, officials said. 

    Carmichel was also issued a summons for driving with a suspended license and reckless driving, Jackson said.

    Essex County Prosecutor's Office spokesperson Kathy Carter said their office also charged Carmichael with endangering the welfare of a child. 

    The company that Carmichael drivers for, A1 Elegant Tours, is owned by Paterson councilman Shelim Khalique. 

    The Paterson Times reported that for the 2016-17 school year A1 Elegant Tours secured $1.58 million in contracts even though the company has infractions for lack of cameras on buses, drivers without commercial licenses and no aides.

    The company was banned earlier this year by the Paterson School Board after a teacher reported missing students and the driver discovered a student sleeping on the back of the bus, according to schools Superintendent Eileen Shafer.

    Representatives from A1 Elegant Tours did not immediately return request for comment Thursday afternoon. 

    Taylor Tiamoyo Harris may be reached at tharris@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @ladytiamoyo.

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