Multiple Ferraris were part of the caravan (Photo : Flickr)
New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa and State Police Superintendent Colonel Rick Fuentes have announced criminal and disciplinary charges against five state troopers involved in unauthorized escorts of illicit driving clubs, evidence concealment, and improper conduct surrounding tickets.
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The criminal charges are against Sgt. First Class Nadir Nassry, 47, who has 25 years as a trooper behind him, and trooper Joseph Ventrella, 28, who has six years. Charges allege that the two officers provided an escort to a caravan of high-performance sports cars - mostly Ferraris - to Atlantic City on March 30, 2012.
Two enthusiastic motorists encountered the caravan on the Garden State Parkway and gave pursuit, recording as they went. The video quickly found its way to Youtube.
The officers allegedly used black electrical tape to alter the numbers on their license plates, and instructed the other drivers to alter or conceal their plates by various means.
Nassry is accused of leading the caravan and enlisting the other troopers. He is charged with third-degree tampering with public records or information and fourth-degree falsifying or tampering with records. Ventrella is charged with fourth-degree falsifying or tampering with records.
Though the attorney general's office mentions other troopers, no other officers are named as facing criminal or disciplinary action regarding the incident.
Disciplinary actions were discussed, however, regarding a similar unauthorized escort provided by troopers on June 27, 2010. Two troopers involved in that incident are the subject of administrative charges for improper conduct of an escort and unsafe driving. Administrative charges have also been filed against two supervisors for improper supervision regarding the incident.
Another incident to land a state trooper in trouble involved the January 17, 2010 ticketing of a Lamborghini driver case on the Garden State Parkway in Paramus. The driver received a ticket for driving 116 miles per hour in a 65 zone on the Garden State Parkway in Paramus. The trooper allegedly engaged in improper conduct relating to his handling of both the stop and his ticket.
The attorney general did not specify the exact nature of the administrative penalties, as they are still the subject of a hearing process. The five troopers facing the administrative charges face periods of unpaid suspension.
As Nassry is charged with a third-degree crime, he faces a maximum sentence of three to five years in state prison and a $15,000 fine. Because the charge involves his public office, he faces a mandatory two-year period of parole ineligibility and mandatory loss of pension under New Jersey's anti-corruption law.
For their fourth-degree alleged crimes, Nassry and Ventnrella face maximum sentences of 18 months in state prison and $10,000 fines.
The two troopers were suspended without pay commencing on April 23, 2012. They would forfeit their jobs upon conviction, and be permanently disallowed from holding public employment in the State of New Jersey.
The charges will be presented to a state grand jury for indictment.
The attorney general and police superintendent have announced new guidelines for police escorts as part of standard operating procedure.
"No one is above the law, and the public expects and deserves a higher level of conduct from our state troopers, most of whom deliver admirably and professionally in that regard," Chiesa said in a statement. "The conduct alleged here jeopardized public safety and undermined the trust the public places in law enforcement and the State Police. Serious misconduct by any state trooper must be met with serious discipline and, where warranted and appropriate, criminal charges."
"Clearly, there is no double standard for troopers. Those who, by their actions, bring discredit upon the rest of the outstanding members of the State Police have a very hard reality to face," said Fuentes.