MIDDLESEX COUNTY – Authorities announced the arrest of eight men who were charged with stealing more than $400,000 during a series of burglaries and home invasions.
The eight men, who worked as a crew that targeted specific businesses, civic halls and homeowners, were charged with counts of burglary and armed robbery following incidents that occurred in various Middlesex County communities between Nov. 9, 2007, and June 6, 2009.
In addition, one of the defendants was charged separately in a murder-for-hire scheme that was uncovered and presented to the FBI, which is handling that part of the sweeping probe initiated in Middlesex County.
Police in Middlesex County also charged two of the burglary team suspects with attempted murder, after investigators learned the pair was involved in a drive-by shooting in the Avenel section of Woodbridge on Sept. 19.
No one was injured when the two men opened fire on a 19-year-old East Orange woman and a 25-year-old Sayreville man to settle an on-going dispute.
However, a 22-year-old East Brunswick man suffered a head injury when a number of the defendants robbed his family at gunpoint. The man, whose identity is being withheld, was hospitalized, but since has recovered.
During the course of the arrests, which began last Wednesday, Sept. 23, police seized two handguns, jewelry and small amounts of cocaine and steroids. An investigation is continuing to determine if any of the jewelry had been taken during the home invasions.
Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan said police in the various Middlesex County communities spent hundreds of hours investigating the burglary crew, which worked as a team, and in some cases, as subgroups that watched various businesses, employees and homes to determine how to rob them and calculate the amounts of cash they would reap with each burglary and home invasion.
“Without the tireless efforts of these police officers and the tremendous cooperation between our police departments and the FBI, these seemingly random acts may never have been connected to a single, organized team,” Kaplan said.
The investigation was led by Investigator Brian Lubeski and Investigator Colin VanDemark, both of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, Detective Dave Davis and Detective Paul Geoffroy, both of the Woodbridge Police Department, Detective Richard Belotti and Detective Sgt. Daniel Plumacker, both of Sayreville, and Detective Joseph Alves of East Brunswick. They were assisted by local police departments in South Brunswick, Milltown, Old Bridge, Spotswood, South River and Perth Amboy.
The defendants have been identified as: Jonah Paul, 21, of Sayreville; Joseph V. Passalaqua, 54, of East Brunswick; Joseph Smith, 37, of South Amboy; Raffaele Danise, 23, of South River; Dustin M. Groemm, 22, of Perth Amboy; Brian S. Parolin, 28, of Freehold; Rashawn L. Landin, 22, of Sayreville, and Maheep S. Reyar, 19, of East Brunswick.
Passalaqua also was charged by the FBI in the murder-for-hire plot, while police in Middlesex County charged Groemm and Paul with attempted murder in the drive-by shooting in Avenel.
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