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    Prosecutors said the woman, who was visiting his house at the time, died of severe head trauma from the third-floor fall

    A moment's decision will likely see a Piscataway man spend the rest of his life in prison.

    Three months after a Middlesex County jury convicted him of murder, Christopher Koller, 41, was sentenced Thursday to 66-1/2 years in prison for pushing Beth Bezek out his third-floor window on Halloween night in 2016, according to the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office.

    Police officers responding to Koller's anonymous 911 call found Bezek, 31, suffering from severe head trauma outside his home in Piscataway early the next morning, authorities said.

    At his later trial, prosecutors would produce evidence Koller had forced Bezek out the window while she was visiting him.

    A lifelong Raritan resident who graduated from Bridgewater-Raritan High School, she was pronounced dead at the scene at approximately 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 1, police said. Koller was charged the same day in connection with her death.

    Koller, whose prior criminal history spans three states, was sentenced in January to three years in prison after pleading guilty to third-degree theft in another case, state records show.

    After a trial in March, a jury convicted him of murder hindering his own prosecution and possessing and distributing cocaine.

    Prosecutors did not specify a motive for Bezek's killing in a prior statement announcing the convictions.

    Under the state's No Early Release Act, the prosecutor's office said in a statement, Koller will have to serve at least 51 years before he's eligible for parole.

    In addition to the 66-1/2 year term for the murder conviction, records show Judge Pedro Jimenez sentenced Koller to consecutive terms of 18 months and five years, respectively, on the hindering and drug charges.

    Thomas Moriarty may be reached at tmoriarty@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ThomasDMoriarty.

    Find NJ.com on Facebook. Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips


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    From tax evasion charges to a fake bomb threat, celebrities from the Garden State and those passing through it have wound up in all types of trouble with the law


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    Sharon needed to have her right eye removed.

    bx053_26ef_9.jpgSharon 

    EDISON -- Sharon is a 6-year-old female shih tzu/lhasa apso mix at the Edison Animal Shelter. She was rescued as a stray and no one came to claim her.

    Shelter workers, who note she needed to have her right eye removed, say she would do best in a quiet, all-adult home. Sharon, who gets along with small, senior dogs, is said to be a friendly canine who loves attention. Sharon is microchipped, has been spayed and is up-to-date on shots.

    For more information on Sharon, call 732-248-7278 or visit the Edison Animal Shelter at 125 Municipal Blvd. The shelter, currently caring for 52 pets, is open Fridays through Wednesdays from noon to 4 p.m. and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

    Shelters interested in placing a pet in the Paw Print adoption column or submitting news should call 973-836-4922 or email middlesex@starledger.com.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at ghatala@starledger.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    Find out which districts will be required to raise property taxes under a new state plan.

    New Jersey is about to require tax hikes in as many as 30 school districts as part of an under-the-radar maneuver so rare that school officials themselves are still trying to figure out who is affected. 

    The state's new school funding plan adds $400 million in aid to schools and, in theory, will provide tax relief for some homeowners once Gov. Phil Murphy signs off on it. The plan is meant to even out aid, shifting money from districts considered overfunded to those considered underfunded. 

    But the flip slide is that some districts are about to get hit next year with a virtually unprecedented order: Hike your taxes by 2 percent. 

    "I've been in this business 50 years," said John Donahue, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Business Officials. "I have never heard that before, no."  

    Many districts are already raising taxes by 2 percent a year, so the state's order could have little impact in some towns, aside from giving local boards of education cover to approve the hikes. It's also not known exactly how many districts will fall under the mandate because it's based on figures from the state's school funding formula that change every year. 

    What's clear is forced increases will be imminent in Jersey City, Toms River and Brick and could also hit about two dozen smaller districts over the next six years, according to a list compiled by Senate President Stephen Sweeney's office. 

    The tax increases apply to districts that are both seeing a reduction in state aid and also not spending as much as the state's school funding formula says they should. 

    Those districts also haven't been taxing as much as they need to, according to the state's formula. 

    "You're not going to use the state as a piggybank so that we pay everything and you don't have to," Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said when announcing the plan. "Our money is leaving." 

    State lawmakers passed the plan last month but did not release the full list of schools that would be affected. Some districts contacted by NJ Advance Media were still unsure whether the mandate would affect them. 

    But in Toms River, one of the districts hit hardest by the loss of state funding, officials are speaking out and calling the forced tax increase unjust. 

    The district argues that its ability to fund its schools through local tax revenue took a major hit after Hurricane Sandy, but the lost ratables aren't accurately captured  in the funding formula.

    Toms River will lose more than $60 million in cumulative aid over the next seven years and would need to raise taxes by 2 percent for almost a decade to spend as much as the state says it should, said William Doering, the district business administrator. 

    "If the formula that determines that we are overfunded is materially flawed, how in good conscience can it be relied upon to take our aid, especially when they know it will cause unjust increases in taxes and cuts in programs and staff that will hurt children?" Doering said.

    Statewide, the impact of the mandatory tax increases will vary. 

    In some cases, districts may only need to raise taxes for one year to hit their spending target. In other instances, districts might not be forced to raise taxes until two or three years from now, when a significant portion of their state aid has been phased out, according to Sweeney's office. 

    Whether districts like it or not, the forced tax increases are good for students, said David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center. 

    Any new money collected through tax hikes will help prevent cuts to staff or academic programs that would loom after a reduction in state aid, he said. 

    "You've got to do something to make sure that the resources in the school don't get cut," Sciarra said. 

    Sciarra also cautioned that districts aren't necessarily to blame for not taxing enough.  

    In 2009, the state set targets for how much every district should be raising in local tax revenue, leaving some districts with a huge gap between their goal and their actual tax revenue, Sciarra said. 

    When lawmakers later implemented a 2 percent limit on school tax increases, it became impossible for some districts to reach their target for local revenue, he said. 

    Toms River, for example, is already regularly raising its school taxes to the limit. 

    "They're kind of stuck," Sciarra said. 

    Here is the list of districts most likely to be hit with forced tax hikes in the 2019-20 school year, according to Sweeney's office. 

    Belmar School District 

    Bradley Beach School District

    Brick Township Public Schools 

    Cape May City School District 

    Clearview Regional High School District 

    Collingswood Public Schools 

    Commercial Township School District

    Deal School District 

    Elsinboro Township School District 

    Englewood Public School District

    Haddon Heights School District 

    Hopewell Township School District (Cumberland County)

    Jersey City Public Schools

    Lakehurst School District

    Lakewood Public School District 

    Lawrence Township School District (Cumberland County)

    Little Egg Harbor School District

    Lower Township School District 

    Old Bridge Township Public Schools 

    Oldmans Township School District 

    Ridgefield Public Schools 

    Seaside Park School District

    Toms River Regional School District 

    Weehawken School District 

    Adam Clark may be reached at adam_clark@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @realAdamClarkFind NJ.com on Facebook

     

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    SAYREVILLE -- Young swimmers posed for a photo in Major's Pond in Sayreville in 1917. MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey Once a clay pit, the pond was named for Anna Major, a local resident who spent summer afternoons supervising the children who swam there. MORE: Glimpses of history from around New Jersey The only person identified in the photo...

    SAYREVILLE -- Young swimmers posed for a photo in Major's Pond in Sayreville in 1917.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    Once a clay pit, the pond was named for Anna Major, a local resident who spent summer afternoons supervising the children who swam there.

    MORE: Glimpses of history from around New Jersey

    The only person identified in the photo is Rose Uszczak, in the dark outfit with someone's arm over her shoulder.

    If you would like to share a photo that provides a glimpse of history in your community, please call 973-836-4922 or send an email to middlesex@starledger.com. And, check out more glimpses of history in our online galleries on nj.com.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at ghatala@starledger.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    Joao C. Torres was sentenced Friday after pleading guilty to the January 2017 murder of Christopher Ernst Sr.

    A Middlesex County man who admitted killing his stepfather with an axe will spend 30 years in prison.

    Joao C. Torres, 27, of Monroe, was sentenced Friday after pleading guilty in May to the January 2017 murder of Christopher Ernst Sr.

    Police were called to the Garvey Drive home the pair shared after Ernst, 46, didn't show up for work. They found his body in a garage room, then caught Torres hiding in the back of a pickup truck several miles from the crime scene.

    Torres admitted delivering three axe blows to his stepdad's head after the man had gone to bed. He then wrapped the body in a blanket and garbage bag with duct tape, and moved him to another room.

    After that, he took Ernst's wallet and used his credit cards at Wawa locations in Old Bridge and Sayreville, prosecutors said.

    Officials never described a motive in the killing.

    In addition to the sentence for murder, he was sentenced to concurrent terms of 10 years for disturbing human remains and 5 years each for two counts of fraudulent use of credit cards.

    The 30-year murder sentence includes no parole eligibility.

    Matt Gray may be reached at mgray@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattGraySJT. Find the South Jersey Times on FacebookHave a tip? Tell us: nj.com/tips.

     

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    The Middlesex and Somerset county prosecutors said Abubakaar King, 26, was arrested for the murder of Darren Fordham Jr.

    A Franklin Township man has been charged with gunning down a man who was later found in the woods behind a Somerset County school.

    Police say the shooting, though, occurred in New Brunswick.

    Abubakaar "Diddy" King, 26, of Franklin Township, Somerset County was arrested Thursday, prosecutors said. They believe he killed Darren Fordham Jr., 26, also of Franklin.

    Investigators from the New Brunswick Police Department determined that Fordham was shot at the Hamilton Garden Apartments in the city on June 30, the Middlesex and Somerset county prosecutors said in a news release. 

    The next evening, Fordham's body, with multiple gunshot wounds, was found near Pine Grove Manor Elementary School, about a mile from the apartment complex. Authorities were asking anyone who saw suspicious activity or vehicles to come forward.

    King has been charged with first-degree murder, desecrating human remains, hindering his apprehension, tampering with evidence and weapons charges. He is in the Middlesex County Adult Correction Center in North Brunswick before a detention hearing in Superior Court.

    Anyone with additional information about the case can contact New Brunswick detectives Andrew Weiss at 732-745-5200 or David Abromaitis at 732-745-4436.

    Joe Brandt can be reached at jbrandt@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips

     

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    Perth Amboy officials have honored the historic vote.

    In recent New Jersey elections, voting statistics have been rough. In the 2017 election that ushered in Gov. Phil Murphy to the state's top job, only about 35 percent of people voted -- a record low turnout.

    But, we haven't always overlooked the importance of our civic duty, and one New Jersey town is now saluting a history-making vote that happened there more than 100 years ago.

    The city of Perth Amboy unveiled last week the Thomas Mundy Peterson Plaque in St. Peter's Episcopal Church. It honors Peterson, who historians say was the first black man in the country to vote in an election after the enactment of the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. 

    Ratified Feb 3, 1870, the amendment prohibited the denial of the right to vote based on a citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

    Peterson voted in a local election at Perth Amboy City Hall on March 31, 1870.

    "It just so happened that the first election to be held anywhere in the entire United States after the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment took place here in Perth Amboy. It was fortuitous that it took place in a community that would not only encourage Peterson to go vote, but would later celebrate," said historian Gordon Bond.

    Peterson.jpgPeterson, circa 1870.
     

    The election was a vote on whether to revise the existing charter of the town or to abandon it in favor of creating a new township. Peterson voted to revise the charter, which won 230 votes to 63. 

    Historians have found quotes from Peterson in news reports of the time.

    "I was working for Mr. T. L. Kearny on the morning of the day of election, and did not think of voting until he came out to the stable where I was attending the horses and advised me to go to the polls and exercise a citizen's privilege," Peterson said in an 1800s interview.

    New Jersey annually celebrates Thomas Mundy Peterson Day, commemorating his historic vote on March 31.

    Born in Metuchen, his mother, Lucy, had been a slave of Hugh Newell in Freehold Township. Lucy was freed by Newell's will in 1822, meaning Peterson was born free.

    Peterson went on to be a school custodian and handyman at an elementary school in Perth Amboy before becoming the city's first African American to hold elected office on the Middlesex County Commission as well as the first black person to serve on a jury in the city. The school has since been named the Thomas Peterson Elementary School.

    He was appointed to work on the team making amendments to the town's charter, which was eventually approved by the state legislature on April 5, 1871.

    "The opportunity to become the first African American to vote under the Fifteenth Amendment came to Peterson as a matter of luck. However, what he made of that opportunity, how he embraced his life, how he continued to participate in a democratic process and still believe in the promise of the American experiment despite how it had treated him and those that looked like him, that was a matter of character," said Bond.

    This is not the first time the citizens of Perth Amboy have sought to honor Peterson.

    In 1884, residents raised $70 -- which is over $1,700 in today's dollars -- to award him a gold medallion featuring Abraham Lincoln on Memorial Day, then known as Decoration Day, on May 30. Historians say Peterson thereafter never considered himself fully dressed without the medallion affixed to his left breast.

    Later in life, he pawned it due to financial instability, historians say. It is now on display at the African American Xavier University of Louisiana.

    Perth Amboy officials say the city also hopes to complete an archaeological dig at the site of Peterson's home, and to create a larger memorial to be displayed at City Hall Circle.

    The plaque was paid for by a $5,800 donation from Buckeye Partners, and $2,662.50 in funding from the city's Historic Preservation Commission, officials said. At the unveiling, town leaders spoke of the historic impact Peterson had, but also of the history that led up to that vote.

    "When we go out to the grave of Thomas Mundy Peterson, just take a look around and keep in mind the names and the graves you will not see," historian John Dyke said.

    "Buried around us are many, many graves that are unmarked. Many of these graves are of enslaved people. Perth Amboy was a major slave port in the 18th century. Keep them in mind, because they came before Thomas Mundy Peterson."

    Delaney Dryfoos may be reached at ddryfoos@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @delaneydryfoos. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Friends and family remember the Piscataway woman as a loyal friend and dedicated mother to her 8-year-old son

    During a girls' night out two years ago, Jessica Montes and Lauren Cieri started to laugh uncontrollably.

    They had spent much of that night convincing their friend not to be self-conscious about wearing sandals in public -- only for a bouncer at the club to comment on her toe polish later that night. 

    That's the Jessica Montes that Cieri, one of her best friends since sixth grade, said she remembers: Cheerful, extroverted, and always laughing about something.

    Montes, 28, of Piscataway, was identified by family and friends as the victim of a fatal motorcycle accident that occurred near the border of Piscataway and South Plainfield on July 4.

    "She was a very happy, outgoing person," Cieri said. "And she loved to laugh."

    Montes was riding on a BMW motorcycle with Ruddy Custidio, 30, early Wednesday morning when he lost control of the vehicle and it crashed, ejecting Montes from her seat, the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office said Thursday afternoon.

    Custidio was charged with "multiple motor vehicle summonses," including one for driving while intoxicated, the prosecutor's office said. He was transported to JFK Medical Center in Edison and treated for minor injuries. The accident is under investigation.

    Montes was rushed to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, but died from her injuries later that morning.

    Montes is survived by her 8-year-old son Ruben; her parents, Maria Martinez and Vicente Montes; her cousin, Kenny Figueroa; her aunt, Amparo Martinez; and her friends, Cieri and Dana Anthenelli.

    An obituary for Montes said she was a phlebotomist, and she most recently worked at Raritan Bay Medical Center.

    Cieri started a GoFundMe page for Montes' funeral expenses. It raised almost $2,000 of its $8,000 goal by Sunday morning.

    "Nothing will bring her back but I felt I needed to help in any way possible," she said. "I created the GoFundMe because I felt I needed to do something to take a little bit of weight off of her family."

    Paris Terrill, one of Montes' neighbors, said on Facebook that he saw the aftermath of the accident, and that a roadside memorial received frequent visits over the past few days.

     

    "On the way home at midnight, people were still placing flowers at the crash site," Terrill posted Saturday night.

    A funeral is being held on July 9 at Piscataway Funeral Home from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

    "Everyone who knew Jess knew she was one of the most loyal people ever," Cieri said. "Whenever you needed her, she was there. Now we have to be there for her."

    Gianluca D'Elia may be reached at gdelia@njadvancemedia.comFollow him on Twitter @gianluca_delia. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    Dogs and cats patiently await adoption at shelters and rescues across New Jersey.

    We are now accepting dogs and cats to appear in the gallery from nonprofit shelters and rescues throughout New Jersey.

    If a group wishes to participate in this weekly gallery on nj.com, which is completely free of charge for qualified groups, please contact Greg Hatala at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com.


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    Find out which schools have the highest average SAT score in your area.


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    The state's Supreme and Appellate courts overturned these convictions in the past year and a half

    new trials (8).jpg 

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    Evelin Bracy, 34, and Jorge Rodriguez Lopez, 32, were charged with conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, hydrocodone and more than 40 grams of a fentanyl analogue.

    A pair of New Brunswick residents were arrested Monday for running a drug distribution network posing as an online pharmacy, authorities said.

    Evelin Bracy, 34, and Jorge Rodriguez Lopez, 32, were charged in Manhattan federal court with conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, hydrocodone and more than 40 grams of a fentanyl analogue, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

    "The two individuals arrested allegedly have been distributing powerful narcotics not just in New Jersey, but across the United States, based on orders placed through a supposed online pharmacy," DEA Special Agent in Charge Valerie Nickerson said in the release. "This very profitable, alleged illegal endeavor has come to an end."

    Agents began investigating a website, referred to as the "Pharmacy Website" in the release, following the overdose death of a victim in Boise, Idaho, on or about March 17, 2017, authorities said. The victim's death was caused by elevated levels of multiple prescription opioids as well as fentanyl.

    The man's computer showed that he had repeatedly ordered painkillers from the Pharmacy Website, and that he had wired thousands of dollars to a bank account to purchase them, the release states.

    Investigators later discovered that the bank account was being used by Bracy and  Lopez, authorities said. Bank records showed that the account and several others used by Bracy have received over $750,000 in alleged narcotics proceeds, and that the pair had withdrawn hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from these accounts. 

    They also are accused of using these accounts to pay for costs associated with the distribution of the drugs.

    Undercover agents conducted multiple purchases of controlled substances from the Pharmacy Website, and received instructions to send payment for these drugs to Bracy and Lopez, the release states. The substances purchased by the agents  agents tested positive for oxycodone and hydrocodone.

    The investigation revealed that customers sometimes purchased what they believed to be prescription drugs such as alprazolam or oxycodone from the Pharmacy Website, but instead received pills containing other substances.

    Agents seized a package that was sent to Lopez and recovered over 200 pills weighing over 40 grams, the release states. The pills tested positive for U-47700, a synthetic opioid several times more potent that morphine.

    The drug-related charges carry a sentence of 40 years in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and the money laundering charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

    Chris Sheldon may be reached at csheldon@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrisrsheldon Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    The bandit entered the fast food eatery around 6 a.m. Tuesday and showed the cashier a gun

    Edison police are looking for a masked man who robbed a McDonald's at gunpoint on Tuesday morning.

    The bandit entered the fast-food eatery on Route 27 in the Menlo Park section of town around 6 a.m. and showed the cashier a handgun in his waistband, police said in a statement. 

    Men face federal charges for alleged armed robbery spree

    He then told her to open the cash register, grabbed an undisclosed amount of money and fled, according to police. 

    Employees told police the man was wearing a gray hoodie, stood about 5-foot-10 and spoke with a Spanish accent.

    Anyone with information is asked to call Edison police at 732-248-7400.

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    Gemal Singleton will spend 10 years in federal prison

    A 41-year-old New Jersey man who was part of a drug-dealing ring which planned to sell more than 300 pounds of cocaine and heroin was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in prison.

    singleton.jpgGemal Singleton (Essex County Jail) 

    Gemal Singleton, 41, of Edison will also be subject to five years of supervised release after finishing his stint in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement. 

    Singleton was arrested Aug. 27, 2017, after a tractor-trailer carrying drugs arrived in New Jersey and was pulled over after committing traffic violations. Cops found five duffel bags which contained more than 123 pounds of heroin and more than 187 pounds of cocaine. 

    Singleton later admitted he and his co-conspirators planned to meet the truck to collect the drugs and sell them. 

    One of Singleton's partners, Siddeeq Q. Williams, 39, of Cranford pleaded guilty to the same charge in November. Williams also admitted assaulting federal officers. He has yet to be sentenced. 

    Tuesday's sentence was handed down by Judge Brian R. Martinotti in U.S. District Court in Trenton. 

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     


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    The two broke into the lobby and loaded the machine into a van

    Police in South Brunswick are asking for the public's help as they try to find two men who stole an ATM from a gas station on early Saturday morning.

    The thieves broke into the lobby of a Raceway on Route 1 at 2:38 a.m. and loaded the cash machine into a van, police said in a statement. 

    Arrest made in theft of ATM from Jersey Shore diner

    It might have contained as much as $500, police said. Employees didn't call the cops until 10 p.m. Saturday.

    Anyone with information is asked to call Det. Eric Tighelaar at 732-329-4000, ext. 7486.

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Raul Zarco was sentenced for the robberies yesterday; his co-defendant Pedro Ortiz faces 10 years in prison.

     

    On Jan. 31, 2015, Raul Zarco and Pedro Ortiz ordered a Perth Amboy mini-market owner to get on the floor as they pointed a gun at him in the store.

    The two fled after taking about $3,500 from the market on Catalpa Street. Nine days later, they struck again at a store on Cortlandt Street, getting about $4,000.

    The events were part of a string of several armed robberies in the city which came to an end when the men, about to commit another, attracted the attention of an off-duty police detective.

    When Zarco and Ortiz were casing a 7-Eleven at Hebert and Smith streets on March 13, 2015, Detective Jessica DeJesus spotted them and notified police headquarters. More cops showed up to the store and the men were arrested. Authorities found a gun, too.

    On Tuesday, Zarco, 42, was sentenced to 47 years in prison for his role in the robberies, Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey said. 

    A jury found Zarco guilty on a total of 12 counts including armed robbery, armed robbery conspiracy, theft, making terroristic threats and possession of an imitation firearm (Zarco possessed a BB gun at the time of his arrest, Perth Amboy police said).

    Judge Lorraine Pullen sentenced Zarco to an extended term because of his prior convictions. He will receive 40 years for the armed robberies and a consecutive seven-year term for the March 2015 robbery attempt.

    Ortiz pleaded guilty to armed robbery and faces up to 10 years when he is sentenced July 30 before Judge Joseph Rea.

    Both Ortiz and Zarco's sentences will be subject to the No Early Release Act, which requires 85 percent to be served before parole eligibility. 

    Joe Brandt can be reached at jbrandt@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips 


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    Baseball, softball, professional, amateur - the roots are strong in New Jersey.

    With Major League Baseball's All-Star Game approaching, here's a look at hitting the ball and touching 'em all in New Jersey.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    And here are some other vintage photo galleries you might like:

    Vintage photos of summer eats and treats in N.J.

    Vintage photos of amusement parks, circuses, fairs and rides in N.J.

    Vintage photos of famous folks spotted in N.J.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at greghatalagalleries@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    "Local authorities are requiring us to limit the lines and crowds due to safety concerns."


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    Deputy Chief Ian Swords, 40, had a blood-alcohol level of nearly three times the legal limit, blowing a .22 at the Hazlet Police Department, his arrest report says

    IanSwords.pngDeputy Chief Ian Swords  

    A high-ranking official in New York's fire department was busted on a drunken driving charge last weekend after "swerving all over the road" on his way home from a bar at the Jersey Shore, according to a police report.

    Deputy Chief Ian Swords, 40, had a blood-alcohol level of nearly three times the legal limit, blowing a .22 at the Hazlet Police Department, according to an arrest report, obtained through a public record request. 

    Swords -- current chief of EMS communications and former head of the FDNY's counterterrorism division -- has since been suspended without pay for 30 days, the fire departments press office confirmed Thursday. The incident was first reported by New York Daily News.

    Police say Swords nearly caused multiple accidents while driving west on Route 36 in Hazlet on Saturday just before 4 p.m., spurring numerous 911 calls to authorities about his erratic driving.

    When he was stopped in his Chevy Tahoe just before 4 p.m., Swords flashed his FDNY employee badge and "looked confused" when the officer told him the reason for the stop, the arrest report says.

    The fire official, who was slurring his speech and staggered when asked to get out of the car, told police he'd only had two drinks at Donavan's Reef earlier, according to the report. 

    Swords, who lives in Middlesex County, could not be reached for comment. He faces charges of DWI, reckless driving and failure to maintain lane. 

    "Ian intends to plead not guilty and we believe that when all the facts are made public that he will be vindicated," his attorney, Mitchell Ansell, told NJ Advance Media. 

    The deputy chief is listed as making $95,186 a year, and a total $114,233 last year, according to New York's payroll records. 

    Craig McCarthy may be reached at 732-372-2078 or at CMcCarthy@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @createcraig and on Facebook here. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips

     

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