TOMS RIVER, NJ – Documents provided by the Township of Toms River reveal an investigation by the New Jersey Attorney General’s office into a botched land auction. That auction involved the sale of a wooded lot on Hinds Road, one of the last wooded lots available between Brick Boulevard and Fischer Boulevard. The winner of the auction happened to be a member of the Lakewood Planning Board, which raised suspicions in the community that a public auction in Toms River was being custom-tailored for a member of the Lakewood Township governing body.
Eventually, the township backed out of the sale, but not before it caught the eye of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Division of Criminal Justice.
A bill submitted by no-show township lawyer Gregory P. McGuckin reveals that on November 30th, 2020, McGuckin received a memo from the Attorney General’s Division of Criminal Justice regarding that sale.
The township released that bill, but not a copy of the memo sent to the township by the Attorney General’s Office. The Office of the Attorney General would not publicly confirm or deny the investigation.
This past fall, insiders close to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office confirmed unofficially to Shore News Network that the Attorney General’s Office is conducting an investigation into a botched land sale auction held by Toms River Mayor Maurice Hill and the township council. Under that land sale, the township and Hill attempted to sell a piece of public land valued at nearly $1,000,000 to a Lakewood planning board member for $250,000.
The auction, which had 50 bids, according to the Asbury Park Press ended up selling to the lowest bidder, a member of the Lakewood Township Planning Board, however township officials misled the public in an ordinance that was drafted to memorialize the final sale.
An ordinance drafted by Fitzsimmons and the Toms River Division of Law, headed by New Jersey Assemblyman Gregory P. McGuckin stated that only one bid was received on the property. That bid was for $318,000 according to the ordinance. At that meeting meeting Fitzsimmons said there were in fact two bids and a bidding war ensued on the property. In today’s Asbury Park Press report, Acting Business Administrator Lou Amoruso admitted that there were 50 entities that entered bids on the very attractive commercial property on Hinds Road.
Afterward, Hill and the town council announced the land would be sold for $250,000 after the buyer at the auction had “Buyers Remorse”.
The township claimed Sabel had buyer’s remorse. Instead of going back to one of the fifty bidders who had an interest in the property, the land deal was arranged for Sabel to purchase the property for just $250,000. That price was $68,000 lower than his winning bid.
Toms River Councilman Matt Lotano admitted that he had a working business relationship with the auction house. McGuckin, who runs the township legal department has a business relationship with the Lakewood Land Use Board. Lotano is also a land developer. He works for Lotano Development Inc., which specializes in commercial and residential property development.
Now, the New Jersey Office of Public Integrity & Accountability, it has been confirmed is now conducting an investigation into the auction.
After learning that Shore News Network had documents pertaining to the land deal, Mo Hill urged his councilmembers not to vote on the sale.
After Mayor Maurice Hill’s extremely sketchy public land auction was exposed by Shore News Network and Toms River Councilman Daniel Rodrick, insiders in Toms River Town hall told Shore News Network Hill has asked the council not to approve the sale. Later, an email from Mo Hill to the council was released and read into record at the township meeting.