MIDDLE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL INDICTED IN AUTO ARSON, FACES TEN YEAR SENTENCE
Red Bank Middle School Principal Terence Wilkins has been indicted by an Essex County grand jury in connection with a scheme to have his leased car stolen and torched, the Asbury Park Press is reporting.
From the story:
Wilkins, 34, of Neptune, is scheduled to surrender to authorities and appear in court on Friday, said Paul Loriquet, prosecutor’s office spokesman.
The car, a 2004 Acura TL, was found ablaze in the Barringer High School parking lot in Newark shortly before midnight on April 19, 2006, by Newark firefighters, said Michael Morris, assistant Essex County prosecutor. Wilkins had reported the car stolen in Neptune on April 20, 2006.
The car was on a three-year lease and had six payments remaining, however, Morris said that Wilkins was facing a $9,000 charge for excess mileage. The scheme was allegedly concocted with Kenyatta O’Bryant, 36, of North Plainfield, who is believed to be a childhood friend of Wilkins, Loriquet said.
“It looks like an arrangement for a fee of $600, he got the vehicle destroyed. It’s unclear who was hired to do it, but they concocted the scheme,” Loriquet said. “The insurance claim was denied, and we were already pursuing it.”
If convicted, Wilkins faces up to 10 years in prison, as does O’Bryant.
Wilkins, whose salary is $111,992, is not at work today and a supervisor who is a certified principal is filling in for him, said Laura C. Morana, superintendent of schools, who added the main issue is to make sure the school continues to function without interruption. The borough Board of Education will hold a special meeting on Monday about Wilkins.
“We were surprised. We had no idea this was going on,” Morana said. “We met with the faculty this morning and a letter will be mailed to the families and we’ll speak to the children.”
Wilkins has been with the borough schools for seven years, the last four as principal, and was named Educator of the Year by a community group.
Here’s the press release on the case from Prosecutor Paula Dow’s office:
OFFICE OF THE ESSEX COUNTY PROSECUTOR
PAULA T. DOW, Essex County Prosecutor
For Immediate Release
Monday, April 28, 2008
North Plainfield Man Indicted For Arson and Insurance Fraud
Essex County Prosecutor Paula T. Dow today announced that a North Plainfield man was arraigned in court this
morning after a six-count indictment was returned by an Essex County Grand Jury charging him and a codefendant
with arranging to set a leased vehicle on fire to collect insurance proceeds in order to avoid paying more than
$9,000 in mileage penalties.
Kenyatta OBryant, 36, was charged with second-degree conspiracy to commit aggravated arson, second-degree
aggravated arson, third-degree conspiracy to commit theft by deception, third-degree attempted theft by deception,
second-degree conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and second-degree insurance fraud. Essex County Superior
Court Judge Harold Fullilove set bail at $25,000 cash or bond. If convicted of the charges, OBryant faces up to 10
years in prison. Codefendant Terrance Wilkins, 34, of Neptune is expected to be arraigned Friday, May 2. He faces
According to Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Morris, in April 2006, OBryant concocted a scheme
with Wilkins to destroy a 2004 Acura TL. With only six payments remaining on his three-year lease and facing
high mileage penalties, Wilkins along with OBryant had his vehicle torched. Newark Fire Department found the
vehicle ablaze inside the Barringer High School parking lot in Newark shortly before midnight on April 19, 2006.
Wilkins had reported the vehicle stolen from Neptune on April 20. Detectives from the Essex County Arson Task
Force/Vehicle Fire Initiative determined the cause of the fire to be arson. Clarendon Insurance Company of Saddle
Brook denied the insurance claim.
Prosecutor Dow commended Detective Marlin Bullock of the Essex County Prosecutors Arson Task Force/Vehicle
Fire Initiative with the investigation.
These criminal charges are mere accusations. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of