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NJ Supreme Court orders Bergen prosecutor to allow Carlstadt mayor into diversion program

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

UPDATE: The New Jersey Supreme Court last week directed the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office to enter Carlstadt Mayor William Roseman into a pre-trial intervention program for keeping his ex-wife on the borough’s health plan for seven years after they were divorced.

Forcing Roseman and his ex-wife, Lori Lewin, to either go to trial or try to negotiate plea deals instead of allowing them into the diversionary program was a “patent and gross abuse of discretion,” the state’s highest court said in a 6-0 decision.

Under PTI, defendants without prior criminal records can have charges removed if they follow certain conditions for a specified time period, ordinarily a year. Depending on the offense, PTI can require community service, restitution and/or fines, psychological testing, urine monitoring and alcohol evaluations.

If a participant fails to complete the program, the charges go to a grand jury in Hackensack.

A grand jury in Hackensack indicted Roseman and Lewin in June 2009 on charges of trying to scam the borough.

Even though they were divorced in July 2000, Roseman didn’t make the proper 60-day notice to the borough benefits administrator, said Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli (above inset).

As a result, he said, taxpayers covered $4,000 worth of dental work for Lewin and $7,000 worth of prescriptions through January 2008.

Roseman said his family had “a number of health-care issues” and that he’d mistakenly submitted the claims to the Carlstadt health plan. He said he discovered the error after the borough changed its dental plan and immediately conducted an audit that showed other three former spouses and five children of public employees still receiving benefits to which they weren’t entitled.

Lewin also immediately made restitution, he noted.

“After the divorce, my client informed the assistant to the insurance official that he was divorced,” said Roseman’s attorney, Patricia Prezioso. “He filed a new W-4 with the town indicating his change in status, and filed his public disclosure forms each year since the divorce indicating that he did not have a spouse.”

Molinelli said the issue became public when a councilman wrote a letter to his office “complaining that Roseman’s ex-wife was on the insurance plan. It was not ‘self-reported.’ ”

“The Carlstadt plan was a self-insurance plan, so medical reimbursement checks were written on the borough account,” the prosecutor said. “Checks were written by Carlstadt for insurance that were signed by Roseman and deposited by Lewin.”

Roseman remedied the situation “only after he got caught,” Molinelli said.

During plea talks, prosecutors told Roseman they’d agree to PTI for him while dismissing the charges against Lewin if he resigned and agreed to never take a public position again, records show.

Roseman formally agreed to the terms but then later said he’d changed his mind. Prosecutors denied the PTI applications and the case proceeded.

A judge in Hackensack approved Roseman’s request to dismiss the charges, but the state Appellate Division ruled that his conduct arose from his role as a public official.

Three years ago, another judge ordered that both Roseman and Lewin be allowed entry into PTI over the objection.

The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office appealed, and the state Appellate Division overturned the ruling.

Last week, the state Supreme Court reinstated the lower court decision.

The justices said the violations “were essentially self-reported” and “occurred through an administrative error” by a payroll clerk who said she didn’t remove Lewin from the plan because it “simply slipped her mind.”

They also said that the prosecutor’s defense for denying the applications
“merely parrots the statutory language, and presents bare assertions regarding Roseman’s amenability to PTI.”

 

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