UPDATE: A judge in Hackensack yesterday found probable cause to continue a complaint brought against a Bergen County assistant prosecutor by a former local councilman-turned-gadfly who has filed complaints against various public and private agencies, officials and administrators in New Jersey over the past decade and a half, according to a TV report.
Superior Court Judge Roy McGeady found probable cause that First Executive Assistant Prosecutor Frank Puccio “made false statements in connection with the awarding of a government contract,” according to PIX11.
The hearing follows a decision by the state Attorney General’s Office to close an inquiry into a complaint filed by PIX11 that Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli lied to county freeholders in securing a no-bid contract for an authenticator to help him auction off seized baseball memorabilia that the reporter says he knew was bogus.
“Our investigation did not uncover anything that rose to the level of criminality,” the AG’s Office wrote in an email published earlier this year by PIX11.
Molinelli responded to the original PIX11 report by reaching out directly and offering refunds to any of those customers who bought $36,835 worth of memorabilia from William Stracher’s collection sold by Caspert Auctioneers of Englewood Cliffs for his office on May 3 and Sept. 27 of last year.
Molinelli’s detectives seized the collectibles from Stracher at his Vermont home eight years ago while charging him with illegally peddling prescription drugs from his Paterson pharmacy.
Stracher laundered his ill-gotten gains by buying up huge amounts of collectibles, some of them autographed, the prosecutor said. He then arranged to have them sold by Robert Lifson and his company, Robert Edward Auctions (REA).
Lifson, in turn, hired James Spence Authentication (JSA) to examine 41,678 items for authenticity.
Spence split the collection, taking what he deemed genuine to auction and leaving behind in Vermont what he considered fakes, as well as items that he said weren’t worth assessing.
Authorities later arrested Stracher there in November 2007, seizing the remaining pieces.
In court papers, Lifson said all of those items, except for one, were “not genuine and had no value.”
Molinelli hired his own expert to determine whether any or all of the items that Lifson examined were, in fact, bogus. He found his man on the History Channel program “Pawn Stars” — Las Vegas-based authenticator Drew Max.
The Bergen County Chosen Board of Freeholders awarded a $10,000 contract to Max on Molinelli’s word that he couldn’t find another suitable authenticator.
Brennan, like PIX11, claimed that the prosecutor’s office made false statements in an official document submitted to the freeholders. READ MORE….
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