YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Judges in different Hackensack courtrooms today both refused to cut the $1 million bails for two of four defendants charged in the home invasion robbery of developer Fred Daibes at his St. Moritz high-rise apartment. Meanwhile, a prosecutor disclosed additional details about the holdup.
While one judge was rejecting a bail reduction bid for Jorge Valencia, a 46-year-old Colombian national who authorities said masterminded the scheme, another was doing the same for 26-year-old Ramona Mercado Vasquez, one of the first arrested shortly after the holdup.
Both were returned to the Bergen County Jail after their court appearances.
Valencia and Mercado Vasquez recently had additional charges of conspiracy, kidnapping and other offenses pressed against them in connection with the Nov. 26 overnight robbery at the luxury high-rise that Daibes built just off Gorge Road in Edgewater.
Federal authorities also have slapped a detainer on Valencia, who had been working as a building superintendent at the St. Moritz, where Daibes, Mercado Vasquez and the two other co-defendants live.
Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Roma reminded the attorney for Mercado Vasquez Roma that the standard for a bail reduction is new circumstances.
“I don’t see anything new here,” Roma said, observing that fellow Superior Court Judge Edward A. Jerejian already denied the cut on Dec. 10.
Defense attorney Ron Bar-Nadav, in turn, argued that the high bail is a hardship on his client and her family — including her 3-year old child — and that conditions in the woman’s wing of the Bergen County Jail aren’t conductive to mounting an adequate defense.
“We’re not able to review discovery, and conditions have affected her mental outlook to the extent she can’t participate as she should,” Bar-Nadav said. “Her family is able to make a bail, your honor. The amount they can make is closer to $500,000.
“They are willing to pledge everything they own – house, assets – to assure that she is present here in court,” he said.The lawyer also promised that Mercado Vasquez wouldn’t go back to the St. Moritz and would wear a detention monitoring bracelet.
Supported by a large gathering of family members, Mercado Vasquez looked around the courtroom, wept softly at times, and gave the judge a letter promising she wouldn’t try to skip bail.
Roma wasn’t impressed, however.Mercado Vasquez, a Dominican national with a green card, could “have a strong incentive to flee,” especially if federal authorities seek to detain her the way they did Valencia, he said.
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor David Calviello told the judge that there’s strong evidence — based both on phone records and Mercado Vasquez’s own statements to police — that she had a direct role in the crime.
Daibes’ ribs were broken and $2 million in cash, gold and jewelry was taken during what became a nearly three-hour ordeal.
Dabies was tied up with a bag over his head so he couldn’t see what they were doing, Calviello said today.
At one point, the thieves lured the doorman upstairs during the robbery, then tied him up, as well, he said. Then they took the surveillance video from the doorman’s station, the prosecutor said.
All of the stolen merchandise was found in the apartment at the St. Moritz building where Mercado Vasquez lived with boyfriend and co-defendant Adonis Sepulveda, Calviello told Roma.
The prosecutor said he was prepared to present the case to a grand jury in 30 to 60 days — to which Roma said: “I suggest you accelerate that timetable.”
Meanwhile, in another courtroom, defense attorney Gayle Hargrove told Presiding Superior Court Judge Liliana DeAvila-Silebi that Valencia was threatened by Daibes’s family — and, thus, fled to the Boston area. She claimed that Valencia was willing to work with police but didn’t trust that they’d be protected.
Calviello said he didn’t know of any threats. He also said that Valencia bolted from the rent-free apartment given to him by his former boss of 17 years once he knew that investigators were interested in him.
“There is no greater risk of flight than knowingly fleeing a criminal investigation,” the prosecutor said.
The judge agreed.
“He fled to Boston, abandoning his family,” DeAvila-Silebi said. “This is not a case where he felt threatened in any way.”
Authorities began searching for Valencia almost immediately after busting Mercado Vasquez and Sepulveda, 31, the day after the robbery. They later arrested the fourth defendant, 20-year-old Anthony Suarez of the Bronx, on Dec. 11.
After learning of Valencia’s whereabouts, detectives from Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli’s office alerted the Boston Police Fugitive Unit and U.S. Marshal’s Office, who took him into custody in Massachusetts on Jan. 9.
Bar-Nadav and fellow defense attorneys in the case have insisted that Sepulveda and Mercado Vasquez were set up by building employees, and that there is a fifth, unidentified suspect that authorities were searching for.
They haven’t identified anyone, however.
Like Valencia and Mercado Vasquez, both Sepulveda and Suarez each remain held on $1 million bail at the county lockup.
STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: With attorneys for his co-defendants in attendance, the alleged mastermind of a home invasion robbery of developer Fred Daibes at his St. Moritz high-rise apartment was arraigned in Hackensack late this afternoon. READ MORE ….
YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A 46-year-old Colombian national charged in the home invasion robbery of developer Fred Daibes at his St. Moritz high-rise apartment is behind bars in Bergen County. READ MORE ….
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YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A six-week manhunt ended yesterday with the arrest of a fourth suspect in the luxury high-rise home-invasion robbery of developer Fred Daibes in Edgewater, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said this morning. READ MORE ….
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YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: The victim of a luxury high-rise home invasion in Edgewater was pulled from his bed by four gunmen who broke his ribs while beating him, then tied him up and spent three hours stealing $2 million in cash, gold and jewelry, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said this afternoon, in formally announcing the arrests of two neighbors. READ MORE ….
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