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    A jury awarded damages to 22 women and their families.

    ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A St. Louis jury on Thursday awarded nearly $4.7 billion in total damages to 22 women and their families after they claimed asbestos in New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson talcum powder contributed to their ovarian cancer in the first case against the company that focused on asbestos in the powder.

    The jury announced the $4.14 billion award in punitive damages shortly after awarding $550 million in compensatory damages after a six-week trial in St. Louis Circuit Court.

    Johnson & Johnson called the verdict the result of an unfair process that allowed the women to sue the company in Missouri despite most of them not living in the state and said it would appeal, as it has in previous cases that found for women who sued the company.

    "Johnson & Johnson remains confident that its products do not contain asbestos and do not cause ovarian cancer and intends to pursue all available appellate remedies," spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said.

    Mark Lanier, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said in a statement that Johnson & Johnson had covered up evidence of asbestos in their products for more than 40 years.

    Medical experts testified during the trial that asbestos, a known carcinogen, is intermingled with mineral talc, which is the primary ingredient in Johnson & Johnson's Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products. The plaintiffs' lawyers said asbestos fibers and talc particles were found in the ovarian tissues of many of the women.

    "We hope this verdict will get the attention of the J&J board and that it will lead them to better inform the medical community and the public about the connection between asbestos, talc, and ovarian cancer," Lanier said. "The company should pull talc from the market before causing further anguish, harm, and death from a terrible disease."

    During closing arguments on Wednesday, Lanier told the jurors this case was the first where jurors saw documents showing that Johnson & Johnson knew its products contained asbestos and didn't warn consumers, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported .

    The New Brunswick company has been sued by more than 9,000 women who claim its talcum powder contributed to their ovarian cancer. Johnson & Johnson has consistently denied that its products can be linked to the cancer.

    Goodrich said the verdict awarding all the women the same amount despite differences in their circumstances showed evidence in the case was overwhelmed by prejudice created when so many plaintiffs are allowed to sue the company in one lawsuit.

    "Every verdict against Johnson & Johnson in this court that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed and the multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed," she said.

    Lawyers for the plaintiffs said punitive damage awards are limited by state law to five times the amount of compensatory damages awarded and defense lawyers probably would file a motion to reduce the award.

    Six of the 22 plaintiffs in the latest trial have died from ovarian cancer. Five plaintiffs were from Missouri, with others from states that include Arizona, New York, North Dakota, California, Georgia, the Carolinas and Texas.

    One of the plaintiffs, Gail Ingham, 73, of O'Fallon, Missouri, told The Post-Dispatch that she was diagnosed with stage-3 ovarian cancer in 1985 and underwent chemotherapy treatments, surgeries and drug treatments for a year before being declared cancer free in the early 1990s.

    Ingham, who used baby powder for decades, said she joined the lawsuit because women who use baby powder "need to know what's in there. They need to know what's going on. Women need to know because they're putting it on their babies."

    ___

    Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

     

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    Authorities say surveillance video captures Abubakarr King loading a body into the trunk of his car

    The man found dead in the woods in Somerset late last month knew the man accused of killing him, court records show.

    Abubakarr King, 26, was charged last week with the murder of Darren Fordham Jr., also 26. Both men were from Franklin Township, Somerset County.

    King, in a taped statement to detectives last week, admitted he was the only person responsible for the death of Fordham, a former co-defendant in a 2010 drive-by shooting case.

    In that case, Fordham fared much better than King.

    2010 case

    Two girls, ages 19 and 17, were sitting on a stoop when they fired upon from a car on Sept. 25, 2010, New Brunswick Police said then. One of the girls was hit in the shoulder and the other was hit in the torso. The injuries were not life-threatening.

    On Nov. 12, 2010, more than a month later, King was arrested in North Brunswick when officers recovered a gun from his car during a traffic stop where he refused to show his registration and ran off. One officer gave chase in a patrol car.

    The other cop, who stayed behind trying to figure out who the vehicle belonged to, rifled through the glove box looking for the registration. Resting on top of the registration was a black mesh bag with a nine-millimeter Glock handgun, which later tests revealed to be the gun from the drive by.

    After a rejected motion to suppress the gun from evidence (since it was obtained without a warrant), King pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and weapons charges, saying that he handed a gun to Fordham - who used it to shoot the two girls.

    But Fordham was acquitted on all counts and served no jail time.

    King, on the other hand, was sentenced to five years, three without parole eligibility. King later appealed, arguing that Judge Diane Pincus gave him an excessive sentence that did not properly weigh his decision to testify against the co-defendants. That appeal was rejected.

    Body found in the woods

    On the night of July 1, Fordham's body was found in the wooded area behind Pine Grove Elementary school in Franklin's Somerset section.

    But he had been shot the day prior, at the Hamilton Gardens Apartments in New Brunswick.

    According to an affidavit of probable cause, surveillance video from the complex shows Fordham being shot at 1:59 a.m. on June 30. The cameras also show King loading Fordham's body into the trunk, where investigators found bloodstains.

    King is in the Middlesex County Adult Correction Center before a July 17th detention hearing. 

    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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    The 33-year-old driver has not been charged

    A 62-year-old woman struck by a car in a parking lot at Bridgewater Commons on Monday afternoon has died of her injuries, authorities said Thursday. 

    Marion Kelley, of Bedminster, was hit in lot 4 near the Macy's merchandise pick-up area around 3:20 p.m., according to Bridgewater police. 

    Bicyclist dead after being hit by car in Maplewood

    The driver of the car, a 33-year-old Piscataway woman, has not been charged. The incident remains under investigation. 

    Anyone with information is asked to call Bridgewater police officer Frederick Brittain at 908-722-4111 ext. 4178.

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

     

     


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    Former Gov. Jim McGreevey is helping ex-offenders get jobs in building trades. Watch video

    Edwin Ortiz shot and killed a man, and he lives with it. Every day. Thirty years in prison didn't change that, for Ortiz or the victim's family.

    When asked the victim's name, Ortiz answered without hesitation.

    "Val Edward Williams," he said. "It was a robbery in East Orange."

    Williams and a friend walked up on Ortiz and three others robbing a man. When Williams tried to intercede, he was shot. He was 29 when he was killed. 

    Ortiz was 18 when it happened, three years into the drug use and addiction that led to thefts and eventually murder. 

    He is 50 now, and like all people released from prison, he was left with three choices. Two -- welfare, or crime and more prison -- would have kept him on the public dole. One -- finding meaningful work -- would allow him to lead a productive life, and even become a taxpayer rather than a tax-taker.

    MORE: Recent Mark Di Ionno columns 

    Through former Gov. Jim McGreevey's New Jersey Reentry Corp. program, Ortiz is now a bricklayer apprentice, out of the International Union of Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Local 4 & 5 in Fairfield.

    On Thursday, McGreevey held a news conference to announce an $843,000 grant from the state Department of Labor to help launch an ambitious new program called New Jersey Build, which will put 200 people to work this year. Some will be released inmates. Others will be people looking for livelihoods beyond minimum- or low-wage jobs. 

    The program will offer apprenticeships to people who want to learn the building trades and give them a pathway to union work.

    "We spend $55,000 a year keeping someone in prison," McGreevey said at the Department of Transportation yard near Route 9 in the Keasbey section of Woodbridge. "We spend $1 million keeping someone in prison for 20 years without blinking an eye. This program costs $2,200 a year -- and the people become taxpayers."

    Ortiz is now one of those people.

    "I learned a great work ethic from my mother," Ortiz said. "I deviated from it when I was young, but in prison I found it again. I never had a male role model when I was young, but I had mentors in prison, older guys who talked about being responsible and doing the right thing."

    He is working for LaConti Brick & Masonry in Brick Township and is on a job in Perth Amboy "laying blocks," he said. "I'm not as fast as other guys, but I'm getting there."

    His first day on the job he told his supervisor, Kevin Richie, he had done time.

    "He said, 'How much?' I said, '30 years.' He was like, 'Whoa.' But he never asked why. Eventually I told him because I don't feel I'm being judged on who I was then, I'm being judged on who I am now."

    This is the whole point of former McGreevey's new life work. Second chances and new leases on life.

    For the past 11 years, beginning when he enrolled in an Episcopal Church seminary, he has been helping prisoners and released inmates kick drugs, get educations, learn skills and otherwise re-acclimate to society. 

    "We want to help them be the people God intended them to be," he said.

    McGreevey credited the late Jersey City Mayor Glenn Cunningham for pioneering re-entry programs in the state 20 years ago. His widow, state Sen. Sandra Bolden Cunningham, praised McGreevey for carrying on the work, and McGreevey called her the "patron saint" of his program.

    "If there is a calling, he has found it," she said.

    Cunningham, like McGreevey and other speakers, spoke about "second chances."

    "We all mistakes," she said. "Some are worse than others. But everybody has the right to lead a decent, productive life."

    She spoke of the "pre-entry" part of the program as a way to bring hope to some neighborhoods in New Jersey's cities.

    "Until the street corners are cleared, until we give people opportunity, New Jersey will never be the great state it should be," she said. "We have to reach out and help people."

    Corey Rhett is 30 and was working as security guard at a financial building in Jersey City. He was never in jail but found himself trapped in the economic inertia of low-paying, unskilled jobs.

    Through the program, he is now a member of Laborers International Union Local 3 in Mountainside.

    "It's hard work," he said. "It will make you or break you."

    The news conference was held at the DOT yard because that agency is also helping get former inmates jobs. Andrew Tunnard, the assistant commissioner of operations, gives parolees part-time jobs working on the roads.

    "We give them a one-week course on safety, and they go to work on the aesthetics," he said.

    Aesthetics. A euphemism for picking up litter, whitewashing graffiti and cutting grass. It's not pretty but it's honest work.

    "I think that's all any of us want," Ortiz said. "Honest work for honest pay."

    Mark Di Ionno may be reached at mdiionno@starledger.com. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Authorities say a dark-colored vehicle was driving behind two motorcycles in surveillance footage

    Authorities announced some new details Thursday in the fatal South Plainfield motorcycle crash that killed 28-year-old Jessica Montes on July 4.

    Surveillance footage captured two motorcycles traveling northbound on New Brunswick Avenue, as well as another dark-colored car driving in front of them, the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office announced.

    Investigators believe the car's driver may have witnessed the crash, which happened near Carlton Avenue and Stelton Road around 4:50 a.m.

    The prosecutor's office said they don't know for sure if the motorcycle in the video was the one that crashed, and there's no footage of the actual crash.

    Montes was on a BMW motorcycle operated by Ruddy Custidio, 30, of Piscataway, when he lost control of the vehicle, crashing and and ejecting Montes, authorities have said.

    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.

    Montes, also of Piscataway and who had an 8-year-old son, was rushed to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, but died from her injuries later that morning.

    Her family and friends have been fundraising on GoFundMe to support the costs of her funeral.

    "Everyone who knew Jess knew she was one of the most loyal people ever," her friend Lauren Cieri wrote on the page's description. "Whenever you needed her, she was there. She had a genuine heart and she loved her son more than anything."

    Police encourage any potential witnesses who were traveling on New Brunswick Avenue to come forward.

    Anyone who might have information about the crash is encouraged to contact Detective Don Heck of the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office at 732-745-8842 or Lieutenant David DeLair of the South Plainfield Police Department at 908-226-7679.

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


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    A massive barrier across the mouth of New York Harbor is just one proposal from the Army Corps of Engineers to protect the area against future major storms.


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    Don't feel bad about your low Twitter follower count -- these New Jersey celebrities may have had inflated totals because of bots. Now they're losing them.


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    Most districts in New Jersey will get more state aid. But not everybody will.


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    Bodies have turned up floating in bags in the Hackensack River and stuffed in the trunk of a car.


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    Dogs and cats throughout New Jersey await adoption.

    We accept 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.

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


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    ICE officials criticized Middlesex County for being a "sanctuary county" that releases immigrants from the country jail without notifying immigration officials.

    Immigrants accused of sexual assault, driving under the influence, burglary and domestic violence were among 37 arrested in a five-day "enforcement surge" in Middlesex County, immigration officials said Monday.

    The 37 people arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement included 16 who were released by the the Middlesex County Jail, which is among the New Jersey county jails located in a county that has a policy of limiting cooperation with federal immigration officials.

    "Middlesex County, which aspires to be a 'sanctuary county' by protecting criminal aliens, in the process assists criminals in undermining federal law, and creates a dangerous environment in the community," said Ruben Perez, acting field office director of Enforcement and Removal Operations in ICE's Newark office.

    3 N.J. counties make millions on Trump's immigration crackdown

    ICE has publicized similar round ups of immigrants in recent months to highlight other communities around the nation that have policies limiting cooperation with federal immigration officers.

    Middlesex County officials did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

    In many of the cases, ICE had issued a "detainer" asking that the Middlesex County jail hold the immigrants until they could be picked up by federal immigration officials, federal officials said. But the jail released the immigrant without notifying ICE.

    Under a policy adopted last year, Middlesex County authorities can refuse to honor ICE's two-day hold orders unless the immigrant was convicted of a first- or second-degree serious offense, including murder, drug distribution and carjacking and sex assault. 

    The 37 people arrested ranged in age from 21 to 68. All were previously arrested or convicted on crimes including illegal entry, theft, hindering apprehension and endangering the welfare of a child.

    They were from 13 foreign countries, including Mexico, Brazil, India, Peru and Turkey, ICE officials said.

    ICE did not release the names or hometowns of those arrested.

    Among those arrested, according to ICE:

    • A 21-year-old immigrant from Turkey who was arrested three times since May 2017 on various charges, including allegations of simple assault, harassment, and possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose.
    • A 32-year-old immigrant from Mexico who was convicted of aggravated criminal sexual contact and sentenced to 644 days time served, parole supervision for life and registration under Megan's Law. He was released in May from the Middlesex County Jail.
    • A 26-year-old immigrant from Mexico who was arrested by the North Brunswick Police Department last year for allegedly driving while his license was suspended. He was sentenced to ten days in the Middlesex County Jail and released. He also had a prior conviction for driving while intoxicated.
    • A 42-year-old immigrant from Honduras who was convicted of illegal entry in 2009 and deported. Between 2017 and 2018, she was arrested three times for allegedly  shoplifting at various locations, including in Woodbridge. She was released in April from the Middlesex County Jail.
    • A 25-year-old citizen immigrant from the Dominican Republic who was arrested in Perth Amboy in May for alleged harassment and other charges. He was released from the county jail in May.

    The "enforcement surge" in Middlesex County comes as ICE arrests have been increasing in New Jersey. In fiscal year 2017, there were 3,189 arrests in New Jersey by ICE, a 42 percent increase compared to the previous year, according to federal data.

    Kelly Heyboer may be reached at kheyboer@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KellyHeyboer. Find her at KellyHeyboerReporter on Facebook.

     

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    Perth Amboy's director is security will receive the cash to settle a lawsuit.

    Perth Amboy school district paid a fired employee $174,000 to settle a lawsuit claiming he was axed for not hiring Hispanic workers.

    James Ferriter, who is white, served as the district's director of security for two years until he was removed in 2011.

    Ferriter claimed he was criticized by "Hispanic board members for hiring non-Hispanic individuals" for security jobs even though he says the people he hired were more qualified, according to his lawsuit, filed in Superior Court.

    In the suit, which named now-former superintendent Janine Caffrey, the school board, and several board members by name, including Obdulia Gonzalez, Kenneth Gonzalez and Israel Varela, Ferriter claimed Varela stated the district should "get our own kind," in reference to hirings.

    Ferriter was told in July 2011 that his position was being abolished and he was terminated the following month.

    His position was then "improperly filled" by someone willing "to recommend for hire individuals in accordance with the defendant's discriminatory practices," the suit charged.

    Ferriter claimed his firing violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and was a breach of contract because he was not given 60 days notice.

    Under the settlement, school officials admit no wrongdoing and Ferriter agrees to drop all claims against the district.

    Open public records advocate John Paff first reported the settlement.

    Ferriter wasn't the only former employee to claim similar discrimination in Perth Amboy schools.

    Two other ex-employees sued in 2014, claiming they were fired because they were not Hispanic. 

    Bernice Marshall, a human resources manager who oversaw the district's affirmative action policies, and Edmund Treadway, former transportation manager, said the district favored Hispanic job candidates and staff members. Marshall is African-American, while Treadway is white.

    The district settled Marshall's case for $170,000 in 2015.

    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 man alleged that he tore three knee ligaments and fractured his left patella.

    A Piscataway couple was paid half a million dollars to settle their suit which alleged a beating by state troopers in a patrol vehicle and in the police barracks.

    Jermaine and his wife Louise Rudd sued the New Jersey State Police in 2016, stating that six troopers also named in the suit "assaulted, battered and otherwise violently attacked" Jermaine Rudd after his DWI arrest on Dec. 24, 2014 by trooper Nitesh Patel with the assistance of Thomas Gamaro, Joe Villa, Oczkos Blazeg, Julio Mota and Gerrad Vega.

    The New Jersey Turnpike Authority paid the $500,000 settlement to the Rudds on April 13, 2018. Details of the settlement were posted on a blog run by open government advocate John Paff.

    Minutes from a Turnpike Authority meeting reveal more of what was alleged in the suit: Rudd fractured his left patella and tore three ligaments in his knee.

    The Turnpike Authority paid the settlement after weighing the potential cost of defending the claim. According to the meeting minutes, while dashcam video was available, "video from the Barracks was not [preserved] which could lead to a spoilation charge."

    A State Police spokesman declined to comment on the settlement or to say if the troopers named in the suit faced discipline.

    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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    The former Archbishop of Newark allegedly invited young priests and seminarians to a Shore house in Sea Girt.


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    The New Brunswick-based company reported net income of $3.95 billion for the quarter

    Fueled by a 20 percent sales jump in its prescription drugs business, Johnson & Johnson posted a 3 percent increase in second-quarter profit.

    Still, the world's biggest maker of health care products trimmed its forecast for 2018.

    J&J's prescription medicine business, which had lagged its medical device business until a couple years ago, accounted for half its $20.83 billion in total revenue.

    N.J. couple awarded $80M more in Johnson & Johnson baby powder cancer case

    That business has prospered from wider use of its cancer and immune disorder medicines and its $30 billion acquisition of Swiss drugmaker Actelion last year. That deal brought J&J Opsumit and other drugs for high blood pressure in the lungs, a business that could hit $2.5 billion in sales this year.

    The New Brunswick company on Tuesday reported net income of $3.95 billion, or $1.45 per share, up from $3.83 billion, or $1.40 per share, a year ago.

    Adjusted for one-time gains and costs, earnings came to $2.10 per share, or 4 cents better than Wall Street had expected, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research.

    The $20.83 billion in revenue, up from $18.84 billion in the year-ago quarter, also topped analyst expectations for $20.21 billion.

    The results come on the heels of a $4.69 billion jury verdict against J&J last Thursday in a 22-plaintiff lawsuit alleging its iconic Johnson's baby powder contained asbestos and caused their ovarian cancer. J&J plans to appeal that verdict and is fighting about 9,100 lawsuits alleging that talc in its baby powder and Shower to Shower caused ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, despite significant evidence that talc, an inert element, is safe.

    Prescription drug revenue totaled $10.35 billion, while medical devices and diagnostics products brought in $6.97 billion, up 3.7 percent. That segment is now entering the third year of a restructuring program that's included several divestitures.

    Sales of the immune disorder drug Stelara, used to treat psoriasis and Crohn's disease, jumped 36 percent, to $1.34 billion. That made it J&J's top earner, toppling longtime best seller Remicade, for rheumatoid arthritis and five other immune disorders. Remicade's revenue dropped nearly 14 percent, to $1.32 billion, as cheaper "biosimilar" near-copies of the expensive injected biologic drug increasingly erode its sales.

    Meanwhile, three of J&J's cancer drugs -- Darzalex and Velcade for multiple myeloma, and Zytiga for prostate cancer -- saw sales skyrocket, each rising between 37 percent and 71 percent. Fueled by approvals for additional uses or patient groups, J&J's oncology medicines are now on pace to bring in nearly $10 billion this year.

    However, J&J's diabetes drug Invokana posted a 27 percent revenue plunge, to $216 million, amid pressure from insurers for lower prices in that fiercely competitive category.

    Consumer health products such as Band-Aids and Neutrogena skin care products saw sales edge up 0.7 percent, to $3.5 billion. Sales rose 6 percent to $1.07 billion for nonprescription drugs such as Tylenol pain reliever and Benadryl allergy pills, but sales of baby care items such as No More Tears shampoo dropped nearly 8 percent to $494 million. J&J is launching a new promotional campaign for that business.

    Johnson & Johnson said it now expects full-year earnings between $8.07 and $8.17 per share, down a bit from its April forecast for $8 to $8.20 per share. It now anticipates revenue between $80.5 billion and $81.3 billion, down from its prior forecast of $81 billion to $81.8 billion.

    Analysts are expecting $81.2 billion in sales and earnings per share of $8.10, on average.

    In premarket trading, shares rose slightly.

     

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    Richard Zuvich, 64, was sentenced to five years in state prison.

    A Woodbridge lawyer admitted to stealing his clients money, and entered into a plea agreement that includes five years in state prison and restitution of approximately $310,000.

    Richard Zuvich, 64, of Woodbridge pleaded guilty Monday in Middlesex County Superior Court to thefts that took place between May 8, 2015 and July 2017 according to Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office. 

    In the first incident, prosecutors say Zuvich admitted he took the proceeds from a house sale for a client, put the funds in a trust account, then withdrew the funds for himself. 

    He pleaded guilty to theft by unlawful taking and misapplication of entrusted property. 

    In another incident, Zuvich stole the insurance settlement money for his client for a house that burned down. Prosecutors say the client had no knowledge that Zuvich had negotiated the settlement. 

    As part of the settlement, Zuvich pleaded guilty to theft by deception and theft by failure to make required disposition. 

    Zuvich has practiced as a lawyer for nearly 27 years. 

    He is scheduled to be sentenced by Superior Court Judge Pedro Jimenez in New Brunswick on Feb. 22, 2019. 

    Taylor Tiamoyo Harris may be reached at tharris@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @ladytiamoyo.

    Find NJ.com on Facebook.  

     

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    The Fourth of July crash took the life of a Middlesex County woman. Now, the driver is facing criminal charges

    The driver in a motorcycle crash that killed a 28-year-old woman on July 4 is now facing criminal charges, in addition to the DWI he was already charged with that morning, the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office announced Tuesday.

    Ruddy Custodio, 30, of Piscataway, was charged with second-degree vehicular homicide on Monday. He was driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, the prosecutor's office said.

    Custodio was driving a BMW motorcycle on New Brunswick Avenue in South Plainfield around 4 a.m. when he lost control of the vehicle and hit a curb near Carlton Avenue, ejecting Jessica Montes, 28, from her seat.

     Family identifies N.J. mom as victim in fatal motorcycle crash

    Montes, a resident of Piscataway, was identified as the victim of the crash the following day by friends and family.

    She was rushed to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, but died from her injuries later that morning. Custodio was treated for minor injuries at JFK Medical Center in Edison.

    Montes' friends set up a GoFundMe page for her funeral. Half of the $8,000 goal has been met as of Tuesday morning.

    She was a phlebotomist at Raritan Bay Medical Center, and a mother to an 8-year-old son, Ruben.

    Custodio previously faced "multiple motor vehicle summonses" after the crash, including driving while intoxicated, driving while license suspended, failure to maintain lanes, driving without a license, failure to possess an insurance card and no insurance.

    He is currently being held in the Middlesex County jail, awaiting a detention hearing.

    Custodio's last name had previously been spelled as "Custidio" when the accident was announced, but the prosecutor's office confirmed Custodio is the correct spelling.

    The investigation is still ongoing, and police are still looking for witnesses who may have seen the early morning accident.

    Anyone with information is asked to call Lt. David DeLair of the South Plainfield Police Department at 908-755-0700, or Detective Donald Heck of the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office at 732-745-8842.

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


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    Ex-players and officials for Sky Blue FC, whose majority owner is Gov. Phil Murphy, say in a report the team is plagued by poor housing, subpar facilities and mismanagement.

    Former players and a former coach for a New Jersey professional women's soccer team whose majority owner is Gov. Phil Murphy say the team has been plagued by poor housing, subpar facilities, and mismanagement, according to a report Tuesday by a soccer news website, which called life at the club "bleak."

    Players for Sky Blue FC -- which is based in Tinton Falls and plays home games at Yurcak Field at Rutgers University in Piscataway -- have lived in homes with plastic bags for windows and sometimes are made to sleep in bunk beds, according to the report by The Equalizer. 

    The team has used facilities that don't include a shower, and the club does not have an equipment manager, according to the report, which cites interviews with a half-dozen people affiliated with the team, some of whom requested to remain anonymous. 

    Murphy talks sports with NJ Advance Media

    Murphy spokesman Dan Bryan declined to comment to NJ Advance Media on Tuesday, deferring to Sky Blue, which plays in the National Women's Soccer League.

    Mary Smoot, a spokeswoman for the team, says Sky Blue "believes in the transformative power of women's soccer and we're proud of our longstanding commitment to our players, fans, and community."

    "Sky Blue FC is committed to providing our players with the full support and resources they need to succeed both on and off the field," Smoot added. "We take any concerns from our players seriously and are actively engaged in discussions with players and team leadership to ensure their voices are heard and their concerns are addressed."

    Among the team's players is soccer icon Carli Lloyd, a Delran native and Rutgers graduate who was traded to the club in January. 

    Former Sky Blue assistant coach Dave Hodgson told The Equalizer that player housing last year "was a disaster." 

    "Like one of the houses that players had to live in just should have been knocked down," Hodgson told the website. "Plastic bags for windows, sheets of cardboard for windows, comforters stuck in holes in the wall. I'm not exaggerating. Stuff like that's horrific."

    Team general manager Tony Novo told the website that housing is a challenge in New Jersey, where the cost of living is among the highest inthe nation. Novo added that housing has improved over the last three years.

    The team has also used a training facility known as "The Jungle," which sources told the website has no locker rooms, running water, or bathrooms outside of a porta-potty.

    A source with Sky Blue said team officials met with players this week to address concerns.

    The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, also stressed that some of the housing complaints in the story stem from previous years and that the league's housing cap of $57,4000 is difficult to meet in the state's market. 

    Housing this season has been upgraded and training facilities are also being improved, the sourced added.

    Sky Blue co-owner Steven Temares declined to be quoted for The Equalizer story.

    Murphy, a die-hard soccer fan and former Wall Street executive worth millions, is one of three owners of the team.

    He's listed as the majority owner. But Murphy told Soccer America last week that he is "not deeply" involved in running the team and that Temares is "more actively involved."

    "And obviously, we have a professional staff at the general manager and business side as well as the coaching staff," Murphy said in that interview. "I'm intensely involved on the capital side, but less so on operations."

    Tax returns show Murphy has lost about $5 million on the team over the years, including about $523,000 in 2016.

    Murphy has said his investment in the team was never financial -- he simply wanted to show his daughter that soccer is not just a men's sport.

    NJ Advance Media staff writers Matt Arco and Steve Politi contributed to this report.

    Brent Johnson may be reached at bjohnson@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @johnsb01. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.


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