YELLOW HAS SHARMA BACKERS SEEING RED

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In a move that embattled Best Liquors owner Sunny Sharma and many of his customers see as a blatant attempt to harass him out of business, the borough of Red Bank painted the curbs at Leighton Avenue and Catherine Street yellow on Tuesday.

Borough officials say the paint job underscores what was already illegal: parking too close to a corner. But Sharma says the move is a thinly disguised attempt to drive away customers by ticketing them for doing something they’ve been doing without police interference for some 80 years.

“I don’t know how they found only one corner in all of Red Bank to paint yellow,” Sharma railed from behind the counter of his store early this afternoon, as a steady stream of customers offered a chorus of supporting comments.

“There’s a school crossing just one block away. They didn’t paint that. They didn’t paint the curb in front of Yogi’s yellow. They didn’t paint the curb in front of On the Rocks yellow,” he said, citing two nearby liquor stores.

“They couldn’t find a legal way to shut us down,” he said, referring to the recent dropped-charges case alleging the sale of beer to a minor. “So now they’re going to harass the customers. Every customer is complaining, ‘what the hell is this shit?'”

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MAYBE THEY NEEDED LEGAL-SIZED PAPER

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Seems somebody may have been desperate for office supplies.

The Asbury Park Press has a story this afternoon about four out-of-staters arrested Sunday at the Staples store in Shrewsbury for trying to pass a stolen credit card number.

Apparently, the suspects decided to try that store after being rejected at another Staples just up Route 35 in Middletown.

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RUMSONITE INDICTED IN $75M OIL PLOT

A Rumson man remained jailed on Long Island yesterday on federal charges othat he was involved in a $75 million scheme to cheat heating oil customers through rigged meters on delivery trucks, according to an article in Newsday.

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Bail hearings for Tonino Solimine, 49, and three other executives at two companies were postponed yesterday until FBI and IRS agents could complete their inspection of trucks owned by the two companies.

After checking out more than 30 delivery vehicles they seized and others owned by the two companies, the agents hadn’t found any that were not rigged, Newsday said sources had told it.

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SEEN THIS GUY?

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Red Bank police today released this sketch of a suspect wanted in the sexual assault of a woman in a downtown parking lot in the early morning of Sunday, July 8.

Description: Hispanic male, round face, olive complexion, five-foot-six, medium build, age 20’s. Seen wearing blue jeans, dark gray or black hooded sweatshirt with white lettering on the front.

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STUNNER: BORO DROPS SINGH CHARGE

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Just hours after a municipal court hearing on the latest allegations of an alleged sale of alcohol to a minor, Red Bank police are dropping the charges, redbankgreen has learned.

Borough attorney Tom Hall tells us that Javier Lopez-Ruiz, the 19-year-old Middletown man arrested for buying beer from the store on July 10, has recanted his story about not being carded by store employee Balvinder Singh.

That leaves the borough without any testimony linking Lopez-Ruiz to Singh, and thus, no case.

“We had to do the right thing,” Hall told redbankgreen early this afternoon. “I can’t prove any further violations of the law.”

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SINGH: ‘IT’S ON THE TAPE’

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By LINDA G. RASTELLI

The case against Best Liquors clerk Balvinder Singh, accused of selling beer to a 19-year-old two weeks after the Borough Council revoked the store’s alcohol license for sales to minors, was adjourned in Red Bank Municipal Court this morning.

A date for the trial, which is to be prosecuted by borough attorney Tom Hall instead of the borough prosecutor, has not yet been scheduled.

Singh, in an interview afterward, said he would plead not guilty to the charge.

“He had a Mexican ID, and it’s on the tape,” he told redbankgreen, referring to customer Javier Lopez-Ruiz, the Middletown resident who was arrested July 10 for illegally buying beer. Lopez-Ruiz implicated Singh, police contend.

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SHARMA GOES ON OFFENSE

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By LINDA G. RASTELLI

Feeling intense heat as a result of last week’s bust of an employee for the alleged sale of beer to a minor, Best Liquors owner Sunny Sharma broke his months-long silence this morning to defend the employee and his store.

“I do check IDs,” Sharma told redbankgreen. Referring to a security videotape of the July 10 incident involving 19-year-old customer Javier Lopez-Ruiz, which he did not show us, Sharma said, “You can see on the camera that he had a Mexican consul ID, issued by the Mexican embassy. He showed legal ID.”

That’s not what the police report says. Lopez-Ruiz (who police Capt. Steve McCarthy says is a Middletown resident, not a Red Bank one, as previously reported) was arrested, and Best Liquors clerk Balvinder Singh was issued a warrant for selling Lopez-Ruiz a 12-pack of Modelo Especial beer without asking for any proof of age.

The police report said Lopez-Ruiz had no ID in his wallet when he was stopped on his bicycle or on his person when he was searched later. (Download supplemental_charges_and_specifications_71207_with_exhibits_redacted.pdf)

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NEXT STOP FOR SUNNY: TRENTON

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The front in the battle between the Borough of Red Bank and Best Liquors shifts to Trenton later this month, when the state Alcoholic Beverage Control division will decide “whether there is an overriding public interest” in immediately terminating the store’s liquor license, according to a notice sent to lawyers for each side yesterday.Download 71607_abc_order_scheduling_hearing.pdf

The hearing is scheduled for 10a July 25 at the office of the ABC director. The burden of proof is on the borough, a deputy state attorney general wrote in the notice.

Meantime, store employee Balvinder Singh is due in Red Bank Municipal Court on July 19 to answer a summons for selling beer to a 19-year-old on July 10. The store was under surveillance at the time. Download supplemental_charges_and_specifications_71207_with_exhibits_redacted.pdf

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ANOTHER BUST IMPERILS BEST LEGAL CASE

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You’d think, as one wag at Borough Hall puts it, that anybody who works at Best Liquors “would be carding his own grandmother” these days, with the store’s license revocation up on appeal before the state Alcoholic Beverage Control division.

But just two weeks after the Borough Council unanimously voted to yank its license, Best is in trouble anew for exactly the kind of alleged practices that have landed it in its present legal jeopardy.

On Tuesday night, Red Bank police arrested a 19-year-old borough man “as he had just purchased alcohol” at the Leighton Avenue establishment, according to a statement issued by Capt. Stephen McCarthy. Police also cited store employee Balvinder Singh for making the sale. Both men are due in municipal court July 19.

The episode has prompted borough officials to move for an immediate end to liquor sales at the store.

“Simply put, this licensee cannot be trusted to run its business in accordance with the law,” borough attorney Tom Hall said in legal papers filed with the ABC yesterday.

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SEXUAL ASSAULT IN PARKING LOT REPORTED

A 21-year-old Howell woman was sexually assaulted in the municipal parking lot between Wallace and Mechanic streets early Sunday morning, the Asbury Park Press reports today.

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The attack occurred shortly before 1:30a as the woman and a friend were approaching the victim’s car, the Press says, citing Capt. Steve McCarthy as the source.

From the story:

As the victim opened her car door and tried to get inside, the man grabbed her around the waist, the captain said.

She sat down in her car and began to kick him, police said.

The man then assaulted her, McCarthy said.

She continued to kick him, and he ran away, toward backyards on Mechanic and Mount streets.

Her friend called police. The incident was over within minutes, police said.

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WEST SIDER INTERRUPTS BLACK-BAG JOB

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A Tinton Falls man is in the county lockup following an incident in which he was caught carrying black trash bags full of loot from an unoccupied West Westside Avenue house last Friday night, the Asbury Park Press reports.

Sixty-one-year-old Rufus Monroe Jr. was spotted by a neighbor leaving the back yard of the property at about 10:50p with the bags, the Press reports. The neighbor, who was not identified, called after Monroe to stop, and when he didn’t, gave chase.

The samaritan apparently had a cell phone with him, because the newspaper says he called police to tell them what was happening.

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SUNNY’S DONE; COUNCIL PULLS LICENSE

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By LINDA G. RASTELLI

In a sweeping show of bipartisanship, the Red Bank Borough Council this evening voted not to renew the alcohol distribution license of Best Liquors, the packaged goods store on Leighton Avenue that last year became a hothouse of illegal activity and drew the enduring wrath of its neighbors.

The governing body voted 5-0 against the store on each of six charges that formed the basis of the license hearing. Councilman RJ Bifani, who had an unspecified potential conflict of interest, did not attend hearings in the matter.

Both store owner Sunny Sharma and his antagonists — a group of homeowners living near the intersection of Leighton Ave. and Catherine Street — were surprisingly subdued as the outcome of the case became clear.

The decision not to renew the license, which under normal circumstances would expire June 30, is the first step in what could prove to be a prolonged battle in the courts. Next, the council will draft an resolution to introduce Monday night, at its next regular meeting, calling for the permanent revocation of the store’s liquor license.

A special meeting to vote on the resolution was scheduled for 5p next Thursday. If the measure passes, it would become effective at 11:59p that night.

Store owner Sunny Sharma, however, is expected to appeal to the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission. According to his lawyer, Samuel ‘Skip’ Reale Jr., a former deputy state attorney general, the store will be permitted to continue selling alcohol during the pendency of the appeal.

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COPS: HE PROWLED WHILE MOST SLEPT

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Red Bank Police have linked a man they arrested last week with five early-morning burglaries on the East Side.

Mauro Vasquez-Galvan, 26, of East Front Street, is being held in the Monmouth County Jail on $135,000 bail following his arrest Friday, June 15 at 4:50a for defiant trespass.

He was discovered in the rear yard of a residence on Linden Place, according to a statement issued by Lt. Stephen McCarthy. The arrest was part of an increased patrol and surveillance operation of the area initiated in response to a number of residential nighttime burglaries in the area, McCarthy said. Ptl. Robert Kennedy and Ptl. Steven Adams made the arrest.

Subsequent investigation by Sgt. Eliot Ramos led to Vasquez-Galvan being charged with the following incidents:

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BEST LIQUORS CASE TO RESUME

The Red Bank Borough Council has set June 14 as the resumption date of its hearing in the Best Liquors license matter.

The hearing, a special session of the council, will begin at 5p.

Borough Attorney Tom Hall, who is prosecuting the case, tells redbankgreen he expects that the hearing will conclude that night.

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AFTER FOUR HOURS, SHARMA’S BACK ON ICE

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By Linda G. Rastelli
In a hearing characterized by polite sparring between lawyers, the Red Bank borough council sat through nearly four hours of testimony in the case against Sunny Sharma and Best Liquors without a decision Tuesday night.

No date was set for a resumption of the hearing, in which the council is sitting in judgment. Mayor Pasquale Menna said he hoped the next installment could be scheduled within 30 days.

Testimony was taken from four witnesses for the borough: a 20-year old Middletown woman who was arrested for illegally buying beer from Best Liquors last year and three police officers involved in arrests or investigations centering on the store at Leighton Avenue and Catherine Street.

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MERCHANTS AND MAYOR TEE UP LOITERERS

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Mayor Pasquale Menna lashed out last night at “little juveniles” from out of town whom he blames for recently grafitti-bombing the public library and loitering in front of stores near West Front Street and Maple Avenue.

His remarks came amid a series of complaints by merchants at last night’s borough council meeting that packs of young people are hanging out in front of stores and damaging property, particularly at the City Centre Plaza shopping center, the 7-11 and the parking lot next to the Commerce Bank.

“These are not our kids,” Menna said. “These are the rich kids from other towns.”

Not so, said Mark Harry, whose wife runs a hair salon at City Centre, where he said employees have been harassed by loiterers, including at least one incident in which a young adult sought to exchange sex for cash.

“Some of those kids wear Red Bank Regional jackets,” Harry said. “Don’t tell me it’s not Red Bank.”

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THIEF WAS VICTIM’S DAUGHTER, COPS SAY

Bail was set at $85,000 yesterday for a 46-year-old Rumson woman arrested on charges of using her 85-year-old mother’s identity to falsely obtain credit cards and loans totaling $110,000, the Asbury Park Press reports.

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Mary E. Kohler faces charges of second-degree theft by deception, third-degree forgery and third-degree identity theft. Among the allegations: that she financed a 2007 Mercedes convertible worth more than $55,000 using her mother’s identity.

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COP: JUDGE’S RULING ‘DISGUSTING’

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Today’s Asbury Park Press has more details about the ruling by Red Bank Municipal Court Judge William Himelman in a case in which a Wall Township police captain was found not guilty yesterday of drunken driving.

The case had been moved to Red Bank from Wall to avoid appearances of conflict of interest.

Himelman found Capt. Bernard Sullivan not guilty despite testimony from the arresting officer, Patrolman Todd Verrecchia, that Sullivan had run a red light, nearly hit another car, was driving on the wrong side of the road and gave a Breathalyzer test that showed his blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit.

Afterward, breaking a gag order imposed on him by his superiors, Verrecchia said the verdict was “the most disgusting and disturbing possible outcome” for the case, according to the Press.

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RED BANK JUDGE CLEARS WALL COP

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In a case that was moved to Red Bank Municipal Court to avoid the appearance of partiality, a Wall Township police captain was cleared of a drunken driving charge despite evidence that a Breathalyzer test showed him at twice the legal limit of intoxication.

According to the Asbury Park Press, Judge William Himelman found that the attorney for Capt. Bernard Sullivan had raised enough reasonable doubts to warrant a not-guilty verdict.

From the story:

“This is the first time in five years I have found someone not guilty in a drunk driving case,” Himelman said.

An Associated Press story says Municipal Prosecutor James N. Butler was “incredulous” at the verdict.

From the story:

“I just don’t understand it,” he said Monday afternoon. “Once we get a .19 [blood-alcohol level], how do you just say he’s not guilty? That’s saying you don’t believe the (arresting) police officer.”

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‘POWERFUL’ DOC CONTINUES SERIES

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The Freedom Film Society screened ‘Deliver Us From Evil‘ for a couple of dozen moviegoers last night as part of a once-a-month series at the Clearview Cinemas on White Street.

The film, an Oscar-nominated documentary by CNN producer Amy Berg, is an up-close look at Fr. Oliver O’Grady, a narcissistic Roman Catholic priest who is believed to have sexually abused hundreds of California children over two decades, and the efforts that church officials took to conceal his crimes.

Yeah, not exactly a popcorn flick.

“We’re interested in powerful, controversial films,” says FFS Chairman Richard Alter. “This one was a difficult choice. But for all the priests who are abusing, thank god there are movies like this.”

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STUDENT FLEES MAN TRYING TO ENTER CAR

Red Bank police are investigating a report of an unidentified man trying to enter a car driven by a Red Bank Catholic senior while she was stopped downtown at a red light on Tuesday afternoon.

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The 18-year-old driver, who was alone, drove through the red light to get away after the man tried opening a locked door to her car, said Lt. Stephen McCarthy of the detective division. She reported the incident to police when she reached her Middletown home.

The incident occurred shortly before the 4:25p report, at the intersection of Broad and Monmouth streets, according to McCarthy.

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ARMED MAN SURRENDERS AFTER STANDOFF

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A three-hour standoff between Middletown police and a shotgun-holding man in a pickup truck ended peacefully last night, the Asbury Park Press reports today.

The tense episode, which triggered police backups from Holmdel and Belmar, centered on a vehicle parked in the driveway of a Danemar Drive home, in the northern Fairview section, where the apparently despondent man resided. His name does not appear in the Press account, nor does the exact address of the house. The Star-Ledger says the police did not release his name.

The Ledger also reports that one shot was fired early on in the standoff; the Press account online has no mention of this.

From the Press:

[Next-door neighbor Cathy] Lynch said she was inside her home when she noticed that her neighbor’s truck had been sitting in the driveway for some time with the ignition on. She thought he was having a medical issue, so she went outside to offer help.

But when she approached his vehicle, she saw a gun sitting on his lap.

“I wasn’t even thinking about the gun, I just kept saying “Don’t do it. Don’t do it,’ ” she recalled Tuesday around 9 p.m. while standing on the corner of Danemar Drive and Chapel Hill Road. She was waiting to go back to her home, which she had left unlocked with a steak on the grill. “I told him to shut the car off and get out. But he just told me to go back in the house.”

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DRUNK RED BANK TEEN MAKES SELF AT HOME

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A unidentified Red Bank teenager, drunk and separated from his partymates, wandered into an Ocean Township home early today, where he noshed on food before passing out in a chair, the Asbury Park Press is reporting.

From the story:

The 17-year-old, who was not identified because of his age, was discovered by police sometime after 5:35 a.m. when a resident woke up to the sound of the family’s dog barking and realized an intruder was in the house. The resident called 911 to report the prowler, police said.

The teen was charged with defiant trespassing and consuming alcohol on private property while under the age of 21.

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PHONE SCAM ALERT

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Here’s an item from an email sent out this morning by RiverCenter:

Phone Solicitation Notice – Important
Someone representing Red Bank PAL (police athletic league) has been making solication calls to Red Bank businesses asking for money for this organization. They are asking for your credit card information to pay for the donation.

According to the Red Bank Police Department, there is no Red Bank PAL, so please do not agree to donate anything to this organization. It does not exist.

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BELLS TO TOLL FOR VA. TECH VICTIMS

Acting Gov. Dick Codey is asking for a statewide pealing of bells at noon today to honor the dead in this week’s Virginia Tech massacre, the Star-Ledger reports.

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And tonight, friends of Julia Pryde will lead a candlelight vigil for the 23-year-old Middletown North graduate who was among the 32 students and faculty members who died in Monday’s assault by another student, who killed himself.

The Asbury Park Press says the event will be held at 7p at the football field at High School North, 63 Tindall Road.

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