TRENTON – A Jersey City man pleaded guilty today to trying to cover up commercial bribes that his boss, a bounty hunter, allegedly paid to an insurance company executive, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced.
Two Hudson County sheriff’s officers previously pleaded guilty to official misconduct charges and are awaiting sentencing for assisting the bounty hunter, Adel Mikhaeil, 47, of Jersey City, in an alleged criminal scheme. The charges are the result of an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice, New Jersey State Police and Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.
Trevor Williams, 39, of Jersey City, a bounty hunter who worked for Adel Mikhaeil, pleaded guilty today to third-degree hindering apprehension or prosecution and fourth-degree fabricating physical evidence before Superior Court Judge Stuart A. Minkowitz in Morris County. Under his plea agreement, the state will recommend that Williams be sentenced to 364 days in the county jail and a term of probation.
In pleading guilty, Williams admitted that he helped to cover up $92,000 in commercial bribes that Mikhaeil allegedly paid to an insurance company executive in return for business. The executive, John Sullivan, 45, a former vice president for Sirius America Insurance Company, pleaded guilty on May 30, 2008 to commercial bribery and financial facilitation of criminal activity. The state will recommend that he be sentenced to 364 days in the county jail and a term of probation. Another employee of Mikhaeil’s, George Formoe, 45, of Ridgefield Park, also pleaded guilty to covering up the payments. He faces probation.
Charges remain pending against Mikhaeil, who was indicted on Sept. 29, 2008. Mikhaeil is also charged with paying sheriff’s officers to sign false documents called “body receipts” indicating that he had captured fugitives who, in reality, had been apprehended by law enforcement. By claiming he caught the fugitives and allegedly presenting the false body receipts, Mikhaeil collected higher fees from insurance companies that insured the fugitives’ bail bonds. He faces second-degree counts of conspiracy, official misconduct, offer of unlawful benefit to public servant for official behavior, commercial bribery and money laundering, among other charges.
While a bounty hunter does receive a fee for locating a fugitive who is already in custody – what is called a “paper transfer” – the fee is lower than for a “physical apprehension,” when the bounty hunter actually locates and arrests a fugitive who is at large. The fraudulent body receipts also had the effect of reducing the amount of bail forfeited, resulting in savings for the insurance companies that insured the bail bonds but a loss of funds to the counties where the fugitive jumped bail and the State of New Jersey, which divide the forfeited funds.
On July 14, 2009, former sheriff’s officer William Chadwick, 56, of Keansburg, pleaded guilty before Superior Court Judge Salem Vincent Ahto in Morris County to second-degree official misconduct for signing false body receipts for Mikhaeil. The state will recommend that Chadwick be sentenced to five years in state prison. Chadwick forfeited $5,500 in illegal cash gifts that he admitted receiving from Mikhaeil.
On Jan. 12, 2010, a second former sheriff’s officer, Alberto Vasquez, 43, of Apex, North Carolina, pleaded guilty before Ahto to third-degree pattern of official misconduct for signing false body receipts for Mikhaeil. The state will recommend that Vasquez be sentenced to 270 days in the county jail and a term of probation. He forfeited $3,500 in illegal cash gifts that he admitted receiving from Mikhael. Both former sheriff’s officers will be permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey.
On Feb. 5, 2009, another defendant named in the indictment, James Irizarry, 43, of Mohnton, Pa., pleaded guilty to commercial bribery before Ahto. Irizarry admitted he took bribes from Mikhaeil in return for hiring Mikhaeil to recover fugitives for his former employer and for approving Mikhaeil’s invoices for payment. Irizarry worked for a firm that locates fugitives for insurance companies that insure bail bonds. The state will recommend that he be sentenced to 364 days in the county jail and a term of probation. He forfeited $5,000 Mikhaeil allegedly gave him.
The charges against Mikhaeil are merely accusations; he is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court.
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