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Archive for March 11th, 2009

Joseph Vas (file photo)

Joseph Vas (file photo)

TRENTON – Attorney General Anne Milgram and Criminal Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni announced that New Jersey Assemblyman and former Perth Amboy mayor Joseph Vas was indicted Wednesday on charges he conspired with city employees to steal approximately $5,000 in funds of the City of Perth Amboy to pay for personal purchases and expenses.

Vas, 54, was also indicted with his personal driver, Anthony S. Jones, 48, of Perth Amboy, in connection with an alleged scheme in which Vas rigged a public lottery so that Jones won the opportunity to buy an affordable two-family home through the Perth Amboy Home Program.

Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts Jr. (D-Camden) removed Vas from his post as Assembly Deputy Majority Leader and his committee positions Thursday while calling on the Perth Amboy Democrat to resign.

“Any time an elected official is accused of using their office for personal gain, it stains the reputations of all of us who have chosen to dedicate ourselves to public service,” Roberts said. “Assemblyman Vas should do what is best for his constituents and the Assembly and resign from office.”

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TRENTON – On Tuesday, Gov. Jon Corzine proposed a $29.8 billion budget to the state Legislature in a speech at the Statehouse in Trenton. Although the budget includes many cuts and tax increases, it also includes funding for pre-kindergarten education for 50,000 children.

Homeowners who make more than $75,000 a year will not get a property tax rebate check next year under Corzine’s budget proposal. The program will be limited to seniors and families making less than $75,000. To help fund the remaining rebates, the governor has proposed eliminating the property tax deduction on state income taxes next year for everyone but seniors.

The governor proposed a $400 million reduction in the state payroll through furloughs and a wage freeze, but warned that layoffs were also a possibility. “I believe it is far better for employees to share in these reductions and continue working than it is for savings to be achieved by the layoff of up to 7,000 workers,” Corzine said.

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TRENTON – Former state Assemblyman Neil Cohen told prosecutors that he viewed images of child pornography on the computer in is legislative office, but pleaded not guilty to the charges against him Tuesday.

Cohen is charged with official misconduct and two child pornography counts. If he is convicted on all charges, the 58-year-old Cohen could face a 30-year prison sentence.

Defense attorney Mark Tuohey of Washington, D.C., told Superior Court Judge Gerald Council that the prosecution “overcharged” Cohen.

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ELIZABETH—Union County Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, who was appointed by Gov. Jon Corzine as chairman of the Democratic State Committee, says he has no intention of returning some $39,000 in campaign contributions from co-workers and family of R. Allen Stanford.

Stanford is a Texas billionaire accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of running an $8 billion investment scam.

When President Obama’s campaign fund has donated its $4,600 contribution from Stanford to a Chicago charity, the political news website InTheLobby.net asked if Cryan would dispose of the dirty money.

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PERTH AMBOY—Two bus loads of city employees were brought to give evidence about former Mayor Joseph Vas before a grand jury sitting in Trenton last week.

Sources say Carlos Serrano told the panel that he did not give contributions to Vas’ 2006 congressional campaign fund but when confronted with canceled checks from his bank account, he alleged that he was given the money by Ray Geneske, a school board member who was Democratic Party chairman and a key adviser to Vas at the time.

Serrano, Geneske and Vas did not comment on the allegations and officials do not release details about testimony given to grand juries.

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Merck To Merge With Schering-Plough

RAHWAY – In a deal announced Monday, Merck & Co. is buying Schering-Plough Corp. for $41.1 billion in stock and cash. The deal unites the two New Jersey pharmaceutical companies as the industry faces slumping sales, tough generic competition and increasing cost pressures.

Schering-Plough stockholders will get $10.50 in cash and 0.5767 Merck shares for each share of Schering-Plough stock they own. The price represents a 34 percent premium over Schering-Plough’s closing price on Friday.

Merck’s Chairman and CEO Richard Clark will lead the combined company, which should be a dominant player in treatment areas including cholesterol, respiratory, infectious disease and women’s drugs, as well as vaccines.

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UNION – A 16-year-old Elizabeth youth was arrested last Wednesday and charged with first-degree murder in the Dec. 26, 2008 shooting death of Jean D’Haiti outside Skate 22 in Union Township, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office announced last week.

Officials did not release the name of the teen because he is a minor, however prosecutors are seeking a waiver to charge him as an adult. He is currently being held without bail at the Juvenile Detention Center.

Approximately 700 people gathered at the Union skating rink for a party the night after Christmas. It was scheduled to go from 8:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., but ended early because numerous fights broke out inside the rink, officials said.

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