Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that a bounty hunter who formerly lived in Jersey City pleaded guilty today to conspiring in a scheme to have sheriff’s officers sign false documents so he could collect additional fees by claiming to capture fugitives who had already been apprehended by police. He paid the sheriff’s officers for their aid. Two sheriff’s officers previously pleaded guilty to official misconduct and are awaiting sentencing.
The bounty hunter, Adel Mikhaeil, 50, who now lives in Stroudsburg, Pa., also admitted that he paid bribes to an insurance company executive and an employee of a company that locates fugitives for bail bond insurers in return for giving him more business. Mikhaeil pleaded guilty today before Superior Court Judge Salem Vincent Ahto in Morris County to 11 counts contained in a Sept. 30, 2008 indictment obtained by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Those counts include second-degree charges of conspiracy, official misconduct (two counts), offering an unlawful benefit to a public servant for official behavior and commercial bribery, and third-degree charges of theft by deception, commercial bribery and witness tampering. The state today agreed to dismiss counts charging second-degree money laundering and third-degree hindering apprehension or prosecution, and previously the state dismissed an additional count of official misconduct.
The guilty plea, which came this afternoon on the eve of trial, was an open plea, meaning the Attorney General’s Office did not agree to recommend a particular sentence as part of the deal. The second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison. Deputy Attorneys General Jeffrey Manis and Jacqueline Weyand were assigned to try the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Judge Ahto scheduled sentencing for Mikhaeil for Feb. 9.
“This bounty hunter conspired to falsify records so that he could collect higher fees, ultimately at the expense of the state and the counties involved, which received lower bail forfeitures,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “The fact that he paid two sheriff’s officers to violate their duties and participate in his corrupt scheme makes this case particularly egregious and warrants a lengthy prison term.”
“Mikhaeil used his knowledge of the bail bond process to try to game the system and collect higher bounty, but his scheme was uncovered through our joint investigation with the State Police and Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Those who try to defraud the government and corrupt its officials must face stern punishment.”
The charges resulted from an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice, the New Jersey State Police and the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office. Deputy Attorney General Manis and Deputy Attorney General Anthony A. Picione, Chief of the Corruption Bureau, were the lead prosecutors on the case. They conducted the investigation with Detective Sgt. Myles Cappiello and Detective Sgt. 1st Class Neil Hickey of the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption North Unit; Detective Scott Donlan and Analyst Alison Callery of the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau; and Detective Sgt. Mary Reinke of the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office. The Hudson County Sheriff’s Office also assisted in the investigation.
The state’s investigation revealed that Mikhaeil conspired with the sheriff’s officers to have them sign false “body receipts” indicating that he had caught fugitives, when, in fact, the fugitives had already been arrested by law enforcement. As a result, Mikhaeil collected higher fees from the insurance companies that insured the fugitives’ bail bonds. While a bounty hunter does receive a fee for a “paper transfer” when he locates a fugitive who is already in custody, the fee is lower than for a physical apprehension by the bounty hunter. The false body receipts also led to a reduction in the amount of bail forfeited, resulting in savings for the bail bond insurers, but a loss to the counties where the fugitive jumped bail and the State, which divide forfeited funds.
On July 14, 2009, former sheriff’s officer William Chadwick, 59, of Keansburg, pleaded guilty to second-degree official misconduct for signing false body receipts for Mikhaeil. The state will recommend that Chadwick be sentenced to five years in state prison. Chadwick forfeited $5,500 in illegal cash gifts that he admitted receiving from Mikhaeil. On Jan. 12, 2010, a second former sheriff’s officer, Alberto Vasquez, 45, of Apex, North Carolina, pleaded guilty to third-degree pattern of official misconduct for signing false body receipts for Mikhaeil. The state will recommend that Vasquez be sentenced to 270 days in the county jail and a term of probation. He forfeited $3,500 in illegal cash gifts that he admitted receiving from Mikhaeil. Both former sheriff’s officers are permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey.
On April 20, 2012, Trevor Williams, 42, of Jersey City, a bounty hunter employed by Mikhaeil, pleaded guilty to third-degree hindering apprehension or prosecution and fourth-degree fabricating physical evidence. The state will recommend that he be sentenced to 364 days in the county jail and a term of probation. Williams admitted that he helped to cover up $92,550 in commercial bribes that Mikhaeil paid to an insurance company executive in return for business. The executive, John Sullivan, a former vice president for Sirius America Insurance Company, pleaded guilty on May 30, 2008 to commercial bribery and money laundering. He was sentenced on March 1, 2013 to serve 90 days of county jail time and three years of probation. He was ordered to forfeit the $92,550 in commercial bribes he received from Mikhaeil. Mikhaeil pleaded guilty to attempting to induce Sullivan to give false information to law enforcement about the commercial bribes. Another employee of Mikhaeil’s, George Formoe, 48, of Ridgefield Park, pleaded guilty to covering up those payments and was sentenced on May 10, 2013 to two years of probation.
On Feb. 5, 2009, another defendant indicted with Mikhaeil, James Irizarry, 47, of Mohnton, Pa., pleaded guilty to commercial bribery. Irizarry admitted he took bribes from Mikhaeil in return for hiring Mikhaeil to recover fugitives for his former employer and for approving Mikhaeil’s invoices for payment. Irizarry worked for a firm that locates fugitives for insurance companies that insure bail bonds. The state will recommend that Irizarry be sentenced to 364 days in the county jail and a term of probation. He forfeited $5,000 Mikhaeil gave him.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman and Director Honig noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free tip line 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities. Additionally, the public can log on to the Division of Criminal Justice webpage at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing. All information received will remain confidential.