North Brunswick fire marshal draws 6 months for fraud

By JENNIFER AMATO
Staff Writer

Former North Brunswick Fire Marshal Craig Snediker was sentenced to six months in prison, six months home confinement and three years supervised release after pleading guilty to embezzlement earlier this year.

Snediker, 40, of Monroe Township, will also pay a fine of $3,000 and has already paid restitution in the amount of $87,812.41, according to information provided by Matthew Reilly of the U.S. Department of Justice regarding Snediker’s sentencing on Dec. 16.

The former treasurer of North Brunswick Volunteer Fire Co. 3, Snediker confessed to one count of wire fraud in federal court on Sept. 2, charging that he embezzled at least $89,000 from the fire company since last year, according to a statement prepared by U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman. According to Fishman, Snediker had the authority to deposit and withdraw money from the fire company’s bank account, which held public funds and private donations, since he was the treasurer.

Snediker admitted that from March 25, 2014, through May 19, 2015, he used ATMs at banks in Middlesex County to access the funds for his personal expenses. Overall, Snediker admitted that he withdrew between $89,000 and $92,986 without the fire company’s authorization.

Snediker later concealed his actions by misrepresenting the account balance to the Township of North Brunswick, Fishman said.

Although Snediker also served as treasurer of the entire North Brunswick Fire Department, the charges themselves and the damages they caused pertain only to the bank account for Fire Company 3, not the whole fire department’s fund, according to William Skaggs, deputy public affairs officer for the United States Attorney’s Office District of New Jersey.

Snediker had been the township’s fire marshal since August 2000, his only official position with the town, according to North Brunswick Business Administrator Robert Lombard.

Donald Salzmann has been the acting fire marshal, pending the still-in-process search for a permanent replacement, Lombard said.

Snediker’s attorney, Robert C. Scrivo, a partner in McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter of Morristown, could not be reached by press time.

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@gmnews.com.

Stroke of Creativity uses art to help people cope with life’s challenges

 Brandywine Senior Living resident Alice Leach and A Stroke of Creativity owner Patty Lang work together on a ceramics project at the Monroe studio.  PHOTOS COURTESY OF STEPHANIE GABER Brandywine Senior Living resident Alice Leach and A Stroke of Creativity owner Patty Lang work together on a ceramics project at the Monroe studio. PHOTOS COURTESY OF STEPHANIE GABER Ten residents of Brandywine Senior Living in Princeton enjoyed an afternoon of ceramic painting in Monroe to express their creativity.

The seniors were able to pick a sculpture from a large selection to paint at A Stroke of Creativity on Englishtown Road on Nov. 18.

“This was our first experience of many to come at A Stroke Of Creativity,” said Stephanie Gaber, activity director at Brandywine Senior Living. “The owners of this creative shop were patient, caring and very hands-on.”

Patty Lang was a special education teacher in Watchung. One day in 2008 she suffered a stroke while driving home. On that very same day, her husband Bob Lang lost his job at Avis.

As Bob Lang was without work, he was able to take care of their three children while his wife recovered.

 Brandywine resident Kirt Wedemeyer, left to right, A Stroke of Creativity owner Bob Lang, resident Nancy Pike and resident Harriet Strauss work together on a project. Brandywine resident Kirt Wedemeyer, left to right, A Stroke of Creativity owner Bob Lang, resident Nancy Pike and resident Harriet Strauss work together on a project. “During my recovery my occupational therapist got me involved in painting. I had never painted before,” said Patty Lang, who explained it helped speed her recovery. “Then I realized, ‘Hey, I’m pretty good at painting.’”

Bob Lang was unable to find work in his own profession and had his mind set on opening his own business. The Langs decided on a paint-your-own ceramic studio, assisted by friends in Virginia who ran a similar studio. “I thought of this name Stroke of Creativity because I had a stroke and then I became creative,” Patty Lang said of the business that opened in December 2008. “It’s not just a place to be creative, but a place for people who have hit life’s speed bumps to come together and share experiences, struggles, success and resources, all while enjoying the opportunity to explore their creative side.”

Brandywine Senior Living is an assisted living residence located at 155 Raymond Road, Princeton. For more information, visit www.brandycare.com or call 732-329- 8888.

A Stroke of Creativity is located at 557 Englishtown Road, Monroe. For more information, call 732-446-4268 or visit www.astrokeofcreativity.com.

Sharing stories

 PHOTOS COURTESY OF ARLENE BAUM PHOTOS COURTESY OF ARLENE BAUM American Legion Post 253’s Ladies Auxiliary held its annual Christmas party for the residents of the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home in Menlo Park on Dec. 12. Eighteen veterans attended the afternoon of food, fun, music, gifts and dancing at the Spotswood post. Cub Scout Troop 35 was also in attendance to share stories with the veterans.



Festival of Lights

 PHOTO BY FRANK WOJCIECHOWSKI PHOTO BY FRANK WOJCIECHOWSKI Rabbi Yehuda Spitzer of Chabad House of Monroe and North Brunswick Councilman Bob Davis at the Menorah lighting ceremony as part of the annual Winterfest festivities held at the North Brunswick Municipal Building on Dec. 8.

After FEMA denial, Milltown seeks to fund substation with interim loan

By KATHY CHANG
Staff Writer

MILLTOWN — With the most recent rejection of $11.7 million in potential funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the question of funding for a new electric substation in Milltown is again a topic of discussion.

Currently, the borough has an interim $14 million New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust (NJEIT) construction loan with a 19 percent principal loan forgiveness, or approximately $2.6 million, for the new substation.

Denise Biancamano, chief financial officer, said at a Borough Council meeting on Dec. 14 that borough officials had to make a decision to convert the interim loan into permanent financing for the substation or face the possibility of losing the 19 percent principal loan forgiveness if officials decided to close the trust.

“There is a possibility that we may receive [the $2.6 million], but I can’t guarantee [it],” she said.

The dilemma that borough officials had to decide was to continue with the loan and/or appeal the FEMA rejection.

Biancamano said there was a question on whether FEMA would provide funding if borough officials decided to convert the interim loan into permanent financing.

The aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 led borough officials on a journey to move the electrical substation to higher ground. Irene brought torrential rains that overflowed area waterways, flooding nearby streets as well as the borough’s electric substation, resulting in a nearly weeklong power outage. Borough officials shut down the substation in preparation for the floodwaters, which reportedly rose halfway up the transformers.

Officials and contracted electricians then spent five days drying and repairing the substation before restoring power.

Milltown is one of eight municipalities in the state that operates an electric utility for the benefit of its residents and businesses.

In September 2014, borough officials awarded a contract for the construction of a new electric substation.

Borough officials entered an agreement with Welsbach Electric Corp. for the Borough Electric Utility Flood Mitigation project, which includes the construction of a new electric substation for a sum not to exceed $12,368,122.

Michael Marcinczyk, department supervisor of code enforcement and zoning, said despite the FEMA rejection, there is a good chance they can win an appeal, which he said is decided at FEMA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

This is the second denial of FEMA funds for the new substation.

Marcinczyk said from talking to state police officers and people from FEMA, there was an issue with the decisions that came out of the FEMA Region 2 level.

“We still stand a very good shot for the $11.7 million,” said Marcinczyk, who explained that the rejection boils down to the electric substation was not destroyed, but instead heavily damaged.

Marcinczyk said the language in FEMA’s Stafford Act includes the language “destroyed” and “damaged.”

“We have met every criteria requested from [FEMA] on why the substation should move,” he said. “I, along with the state police and OEM (Office of Emergency Management], feel confident that we will ultimately prevail once it hits Washington.”

Councilman Ron Dixon said it is important to protect the residents of Milltown and move forward with the loan as well as appeal for the FEMA funds.

The council unanimously voted in favor of moving forward with converting the interim loan into permanent financing for the new substation.

Marcinczyk said they would file an appeal and expedite the process by not waiting the 60-day window to file the appeal.

In 2013, the borough purchased the Schwendeman log cabin property adjacent to Albert Avenue and Mill Pond Park for the purpose of a land swap with Middlesex County for property adjacent to Borough Hall on Washington Avenue. The next year, the borough acquired the 1.3 acres from the county for the new substation.

The use of the property on Washington Avenue will allow the new substation to be built on higher ground, outside of the flood plain, according to the New Jersey State House Commission, which had jurisdiction over the land swap.

In exchange, Milltown will convey the former Schwendeman property — 2.6 acres on Kuhlthau Avenue — to the county.

Christmas village

 PHOTO COURTESY OF MARTINA CONCEPCION PHOTO COURTESY OF MARTINA CONCEPCION Ruth and Bill Iko of East Brunswick have continued an old family tradition that began when Ruth’s parents would set up a village under the Christmas tree. The village is almost the size of their living room.

Spotswood accountant admits to being in illegal ‘Situation’

SPOTSWOOD — The former tax preparer for television personality Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino and his brother Marc Sorrentino pleaded guilty on Dec. 16 to filing fraudulent tax returns on their behalf.

Gregg Mark, 51, of Spotswood, admitted to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, according to a statement prepared by U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman and Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.

Mark, formerly an accountant at a Staten Island, New York-based accounting firm, admitted preparing the fraudulent tax returns for the Sorrentinos for tax years 2010 and 2011 during which time the Sorrentinos and their businesses, MPS Enterprises LLC and Situation Nation Inc., received millions of dollars in income.

To reduce the taxes the Sorrentinos owed, Mark filed fraudulent business and personal tax returns, defrauding the IRS out of $550,000 to $1.5 million, according to the press release.

Mark’s guilty plea carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for March 24.

On Sept. 24, a grand jury in Newark returned a seven-count indictment charging the Sorrentinos with conspiracy to defraud the United States and filing false tax returns. Michael Sorrentino was also charged with failing to file a tax return.

According to the indictment, the brothers received several million dollars in connection with Michael Sorrentino’s role on the MTV show “Jersey Shore” and other promotional activities.

The brothers are charged with failing to report all of the income they received, according to the press release. They are also charged with claiming personal expenses as business expenses, including payments for luxury vehicles, high-end clothing and making distributions or direct payments from the businesses to personal bank accounts.

Both have pleaded not guilty, but no trial date has been set.

Grocery stores expand services

By KAYLA J. MARSH
Staff Writer

 Grocery stores are offering more than food shopping such as this gingerbread cookie decorating class held at Whole Foods Market in Marlboro on Dec. 17.  STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR Grocery stores are offering more than food shopping such as this gingerbread cookie decorating class held at Whole Foods Market in Marlboro on Dec. 17. STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR Area grocery stores are slowly changing the way they cater to their customers by providing more services and programs to help make a regular trip to the supermarket a day filled with fun, learning and adventure.

From nutritional assistance, children’s classes and even free home delivery services, supermarkets have become hotspots of activities and resources, showing it is not just about the shopping, but about community togetherness. “I feel like we are definitely providing something more than just shopping,” said Laura Fette, marketing team leader at Whole Foods Market in Marlboro.

“I feel like the store has been a destination for events, whether kid- or adult-focused, and we are even finding people within the community, partnering with them and helping them to build their own businesses, and I think that has been what has worked really well here — finding what our community needs and really catering to it.”

 Children of all ages watch a gingerbread cookie demonstration by Dani B. Fiori at Whole Foods Market in Marlboro on Dec. 17.  STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR Children of all ages watch a gingerbread cookie demonstration by Dani B. Fiori at Whole Foods Market in Marlboro on Dec. 17. STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR According to Fette, Whole Foods in Marlboro offers some unique partnerships and classes for its clientele, such as with Heirloom Kitchen in Old Bridge for cooking classes and Macaroni Kids of Western Monmouth County, where children get to make their own pizza and macaroni necklaces.

“Finding these local experts who are really trying to build their businesses as well, and collaborating together to bring programming inside the store, people see we are beyond a shopping destination,” Fette said. “We’re offering the full scope of things.”

Fette also said the store offers a You & Me Toddler Program several times a month.

“Each Whole Foods Market is different, and I really feel like that we cater to our community … we’re becoming a part of people’s routine beyond just shopping,” she said.

Aside from classes, Michael Sinatra, public relations and public affairs director at Whole Foods Market’s Northeast Region, said the supermarket chain also offers additional services such as catering and takes pride in giving back to local communities.

“A lot of people enjoy taking advantage of our programming, such as our special ordering and catering services and our special menus,” he said.

At Whole Foods Market, customers can make shopping quick and easy by reserving and ordering meals, entrees, and party must-haves online and then picking them up at the store.

“We definitely see a higher volume of orders this time of year, but customers are aware and use this service at various times of the year,” Sinatra said.

The supermarket chain also participates in community giving days or what they refer to as “5% Days.”

“Each store is always donating food to area food banks and shelters,” Sinatra said. “Then several times a year, we hold community giving days where five percent of that day’s net sales are donated to a local area charity or educational organization.”

The Whole Foods Market in Marlboro will also join the Manalapan and Marlboro municipalities for holiday tree lighting events, providing baked goods, hot chocolate and company.

“I feel like we do a lot in the community,” Fette said. “People are coming here for things, but we’re also coming to them as well … and I think that makes a big difference too.”

Valerie Fox, media relations coordinator at Wegmans Food Markets, said providing services such as catering and a free public app is about making customers’ lives and shopping experience as simple as possible.

“Wegmans’ aim is always to help mealtimes for families be as great and easy as possible,” she said.

“Our services help save customers time … but I think the number one thing that separates us are our people and customer service representatives who provide an added convenience.”

One service Fox said Wegmans provides is a free downloadable app that makes going to the supermarket less of a hassle.

“The Wegmans app is a very useful tool,” she said. “Customers can create their shopping list right there, and it’ll sort everything by aisle, and as you add items to your list, it will automatically estimate the total so you can manage your budget.”

On the app, customers can also browse through hundreds of recipes and add ingredients to their shopping list with just one touch and can even watch easy how-to videos to make meals easier.

“We also offer three ways for customers to enjoy our catering services, and that is either by going online, ordering by phone or by coming into your local Wegmans store,” Fox said.

From simple cheese and deli platters to cocktail party menus, complete holiday dinners and even delicious dessert trays, catering experts and chefs help with cooking and planning so families can have a memorable gathering.

“Many families have told us that they just don’t have time to do all the prep work themselves, so while this is not a full catering service with people coming to your home to serve, it provides our customers a service where they can order all their party-planning needs in one place.”

At ShopRite, a growing service is the supermarket’s ShopRite From Home program, which allows customers to save time and energy by ordering their groceries from the convenience of their own residence.

“The majority of ShopRite stores offer the ShopRite From Home service, which allows customers to shop online and pick up groceries at the store or have those groceries delivered right to their doorstep,” said Karen O’Shea, spokeswoman for Wakefern Food Corp.

Whether you are a busy parent, are injured or can’t make it to the store for some other reason, the ShopRite From Home service is an effortless way to get all the groceries you need with the click of a button.

“The ShopRite Mobile App and ShopRite From Home service allow customers to place orders electronically, and those grocery orders are then shopped in store by personal, trained shoppers,” O’Shea said. “Customers can tell our shoppers how they like their produce picked or cold cuts sliced. Our shoppers will also call customers at home if we are out of a certain item.

“Service is key, and it’s the reason our ShopRite From Home service continues to grow each year.”

Heather Casey of Edison said that, with being a mom of four sons and she and her husband both working full time, ShopRite from Home allows her to order her groceries on her time and schedule the deliveries for when it is most convenient.

“With four kids and both my husband and I working full time, every second counts,” Casey said. “We started using ShopRite from Home when my youngest son was born and food shopping became an added challenge.

“It is so helpful because we can shop from our phones or computer early in the morning or late in the evening when the kids are asleep and schedule pickups [or] deliveries around our work/family schedules. I rarely see the inside of the store any more because this service is so helpful!”

The ShopRite Pharmacy App makes getting prescriptions easier for customers.

“The ShopRite Pharmacy App makes managing prescriptions simple by allowing customers to refill prescriptions and transfer prescriptions right to their local ShopRite,” O’Shea said.

Diana Fransis, retail dietitian program supervisor at Wakefern Food Corp., works closely with more than 120 registered dietitians across 130 stores, training them to work with customers and educating them on making healthier choices while food shopping, as well as carrying out these choices by preparing healthy, well-balanced meals.

“Our registered dietitians will sit down with customers in a free one-on-one consultation, talk about their needs and goals, find out what they are looking for, dive into a diet plan and will even walk around the store with customers showing them where the food that is best for them is,” Fransis said.

ShopRite’s Culinary Workshops is a hands-on cooking class program taught by professionals who share their skills and knowledge, helping customers acquire limitless meal possibilities that include delicious, healthy ingredients.

“They’re cooking full meals with appetizers, entrees, desserts, and we even have a kids cooking class that teaches them how to make a very easy meal.”

According to Fransis, part of the supermarket’s Health and Wellness program includes the Dietitian’s Selection recipe program, a collection of recipes featuring healthy ingredients and essential nutrients while limiting the amount of fats, cholesterol and sodium.

“People are becoming much more aware about healthy eating and getting proper nutrition, and there is so much that our registered dietitians and chefs offer and can help with,” Fransis said. “All our services are free.”

Arlene Putterman, manager of public and community relations at Stop & Shop’s New York Metro Division, said getting prepared for the holidays or other festive occasions is easy as customers can order party platters, desserts, cakes and other arrangements online for in-store pickup and can order flowers.

“Stop & Shop provides fully prepared holiday dinners,” she said. “All the fixings without the prep work.”

Putterman said the supermarket’s Peapod service also makes delivering groceries to your home or business easy.

“Peapod online home delivery service strives to deliver convenience and value,” she said. “Customers can order online or on Peapod’s free mobile app for grocery home delivery or car-side service at one of our many pickup locations.”

Spicuzzo released from prison

By JENNIFER AMATO
Staff Writer

Former Middlesex County Sheriff Joseph Spicuzzo has been released from jail.

Spicuzzo was sentenced in 2013 to nine years in prison for running a jobs-for-cash scheme that yielded him approximately $112,000 in bribes from those seeking positions or promotions in the sheriff’s department, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said at the time.

He was released from the Central Reception and Assignment Facility (CRAF) in Trenton on Dec. 17, according to a receptionist at the CRAF. Spicuzzo had to serve at least two years before becoming eligible for parole. He faced numerous charges in the scheme, but entered into a deal in which he pleaded guilty to only one of them.

The 70-year-old Helmetta resident was sentenced in state Superior Court in Monmouth County on Sept. 20, 2013, after pleading guilty to a charge of accepting $25,000 in exchange for a job in his office.

He was the Middlesex County sheriff for three decades, from 1980 until his 2010 retirement, and was chairman of the Middlesex County Democratic Organization for 16 years.

Former Middlesex County Sheriff’s Investigator Darrin P. DiBiasi, 47, of Monmouth Junction, and former Middlesex County Sheriff’s Officer Paul A. Lucarelli, 50, of South River, also submitted guilty pleas. The two men admitted to a third-degree charge of conspiracy to make illegal gifts to a public servant.

DiBiasi was sentenced on Sept. 20, 2013, to 364 days in jail, five years probation, 200 hours community service and a $5,000 fine.

Lucarelli was sentenced to three years probation, fined $2,500 and ordered to perform 500 hours of community service on Oct. 4, 2013.

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@gmnews.com.