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Judge regretfully gives scammer brief jail term in Leonia senior flim-flam

Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A career scam artist who admitted trying to con a 77-year old Leonia woman out of her savings was sentenced to 270 days in the Bergen County Jail today by a judge in Hackensack who clearly wasn’t pleased with the plea deal.

“You should be going to state prison,” Superior Court Judge Edward A. Jerejian told 59-year-old Norman Gladney of the Bronx. “I agreed to this before I was aware of your extensive record.”

Jerejian said he’s been a judge for nearly a decade “and this is one of the longest rap sheets I’ve ever seen.”

“You have arrests in multi-state jurisdictions – Missouri, New York, California, North Carolina,” he told Gladney, reading from a pre-sentencing report. “You have 50 aliases — who has 50 aliases? Is this even your real name?

“You’ve been all over the country, you’re a career criminal,” Jerejian added. “A pigeon drop scam – I’ve never even heard of it.”

Gladney and co-defendant Cheryl Lewis, also of the Bronx, admitted in January that they approached their intended victim on the street and showed her what looked to be a bag full of money.

They were trying to convince her them “earnest money” from her bank account in return for a share of what was in the bag. It’s an old con game commonly known as the “pigeon drop.”

But she didn’t fall for the flim-flam — and walked directly to Leonia police headquarters.

Officers arrested the pair a few minutes as they tried talking up an 86-year-old woman outside the PNC Bank at Broad Avenue and Elm Street.

Lewis, 55, escaped jail and was instead sentenced to five years supervised probation, which the judge warned that she must complete in good order — “or you’ll go to prison, too.”

“Walk a straight line,” Jerejian told her.

Gladney’s attorney, Frank Lucianna, objected to the disparity in sentences and said the pre-sentencing report painted an unfair portrait of his client.

Luciania, who turned 91 earlier this year, zeroed in on a statement in the report from the AARP contending that seniors are targeted for con games in greater proportion to the rest of the population because they are easy to victimize, and that some have lost their savings and their homes to scammers such as Gladney.

“I have never seen any seniors losing buildings because of scamming,” Lucianna said. “I know plenty of people in their 70s and 80s who are vigorous, active people and no more vulnerable to crime than anyone else.”

Because the offense “was not a violent crime,” he said, Gladney have been considered for the same leniency as Lewis.

“There is one striking difference,” Jerejian replied. “Your client has 80 arrests. I see here seven indictable convictions, seven third-degree convictions – many of them for dishonesty.

“I don’t know how someone has 53 aliases.”

The judge said he already reduced Gladney’s term to 270 days from 364 at Lucianna’s urging.

Lewis apologized to the judge, saying she made a mistake and was sorry. Her lawyer, Jane Personette, told the judge that her criminal was minimal — the most recent previous incident in 1980 — and that Lewis “deeply regrets her involvement in this incident.”

Gladney, meanwhile, blamed drugs.

“I was caught in the grips of addiction. Those cases are 30, 40 years old, I was just scamming, basically.

“I’m no longer using.”

“The defendants have asked you to extend the hand of lenience,” countered Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Yomara Castro. “The way I read it, he got the hand of lenience” with the plea deal.

Gladney “is the one who made the decision to target those two women, 78 and 86 years old,” Castro said. “He’s admitted responsibility but doesn’t want to be accountable for what he has done.

“The plea is more than fair,” she added, “ridiculously fair.”

Norman Gladney, Frank Lucianna, Cheryl Lewis
(STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter)

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