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Breaking_crime_news
Atlantic County ‘doctor to the stars’ sentenced to 4 years for drug trafficking

MAYS LANDING — An Absecon doctor who once treated celebrities such as Billy Idol, David Lee Roth, Paula Abdul and the Jonas Brothers said at his court sentencing Thursday that he was “ashamed and sorry” and blamed writing hundreds of OxyContin prescriptions on his own addiction.

During Dr. Alan Faustino’s emotional 15-minute statement, Faustino spoke about the disappointment of letting down his parents, who taught him to work hard, and about becoming addicted to pain medication after being diagnosed with diabetes and Crohn’s disease. It’s an easy trap to fall into for doctors with unfettered access to medication, he said.

Chief Assistant Prosecutor Janet Gravitz said Faustino helped poison residents by writing an estimated 690 prescriptions for OxyContin, putting 81,000 pills on the streets of Atlantic City.

Faustino, 50, was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs, visibly shaken, by Atlantic County sheriff’s officers. He was sentenced to four years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury for second-degree distribution of a controlled dangerous substance.

Prosecutors alleged Faustino led an opioid drug ring out of his Atlantic City practice, located on Pacific Avenue.

He sold prescriptions for OxyContin, Roxicodone and Alprazolam to patients he had never met or treated, investigators said. Six co-defendants in the trafficking scheme would fill the prescriptions, then sell the pills on the streets of the resort, use them, or give them back to Faustino.

Gravitz called Faustino “a dealer with a medical license” and said that between Jan. 1, 2015 and April 8, 2015, Faustino wrote an estimated 690 prescriptions for OxyContin.

“That translated to an estimated 81,000 pills that he flooded Atlantic County with,” she said. “A county already facing the opioid crisis like the entire country is.”

Faustino’s lawyer, Mark Roddy, argued that Faustino was “his own victim,” and argued for house arrest, but DeLury denied the motion.

Although he pleaded guilty Feb. 9 to the second-degree charge, which carries a 10-year maximum sentence, DeLury said he considered factors including Faustino’s health issues and the anticipated revocation of his medical license before imposing the lower sentence.

Four of the six co-defendants appeared in court for sentencing after Faustino.

Jeffrey Millman, 58, of Atlantic City, received a five-year suspended sentence for his role in the ring.

Stephen Sklar, 71, of Atlantic City, and Kara Minchin, 30, of Galloway Township, both received three-year suspended sentences.

DeLury ruled that Ashley Channell, 29, of Galloway Township, can make an application for pretrial intervention, but if the application fails, her new sentencing date is 9 a.m. Sept. 27.

Jason Cylc, 42, of Brigantine, who also pleaded guilty in the scheme, is scheduled to appear in court for a status conference July 10.


Casinos_tourism
Ex-Revel owner Glenn Straub still playing in Atlantic City

ATLANTIC CITY — Even after turning a profit by selling off a once-bankrupt casino hotel, former Revel owner Glenn Straub stands to cash in from the opening of Ocean Resort Casino.

The Florida-based real estate developer sold the casino, a power plant and two accompanying leases to Bruce Deifik in January for a total of $229 million. Straub paid $82 million to buy the shuttered $2.4 billion Revel from a bankruptcy court in 2015 and later that year purchased the power plant for $30 million. As part of the sale to Deifik, Straub’s company, Polo North Country Club LLC, retained rights to certain parking fees generated by the casino hotel for a period just shy of a century.

Beginning in 2021, Straub will collect $1.50 for each car parked in the garage of Ocean Resort, and in 2028, the fee will increase to $4 per car, according to Ocean Resort officials’ testimony to the Casino Control Commission on June 20. Officials with the casino estimate that arrangement to cost $975,000 by the 2021 fiscal year.

Straub, 71, declined to confirm the deal when reached Thursday, citing confidentiality agreements, but said, “We’ll be involved, I’ll say that much. We’ll be involved for 99 years.”

Straub is a sore subject for Deifik, a Colorado-based developer with Nevada casino investments. When Deifik was asked during the licensing hearing in June about his relationship with Straub, he testified the two had only met twice.

“More than I needed to,” Deifik quipped, before detailing how he had been writing checks for Straub’s unpaid payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, to the tune of $2 million per month.

During the three years that Straub owned the property, he fought with the casino commission and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority about the steps he needed to take to reopen Revel, which he rebranded TEN.

But, as it turns out, Deifik — and Atlantic City — may be seeing more of Straub.

The multimillionaire’s investment in the city did not end with the sale of the casino hotel. According to tax records, Polo North owns 43 parcels in the South Inlet, including three properties on the Boardwalk and multiple plots of land on Rhode Island and Metropolitan avenues in the shadow of Ocean Resort.

Opening day of Ocean Resort Casino

Straub said his company also owns at least a 50 percent share in another 20 foreclosure properties in the city.

But Straub, who made several unfulfilled promises to reopen the casino, said he still has his sights on another tract of land at the opposite end of the city: Bader Field. Speaking from his country club in Florida on Thursday, Straub said he is prepared to “put about $70 million” into the vacant airfield.

In 2016, the city put Bader Field up for auction with a minimum bid of $155 million. The city received two bids for the land, one for $50 million. The bids were ultimately rejected.

In July 2017, City Council narrowly approved a resolution authorizing the issuance of a request for proposals to purchase and redevelop the 143-acre plot.

Council President Marty Small Sr. said $70 million is not enough for a prime piece of real estate like Bader Field and the city was not looking to sell the asset for “financial expediency.” Small added he appreciated Straub’s investment in the city, particularly the purchase and upkeep of Revel, but remained unconvinced of the developer’s sincerity in contributing to the revitalization of the resort.

“We heard this before,” Small said Thursday of Straub’s proclamations of city development.

Straub said he has not had any discussions with city or state officials about Bader Field because of confusion about whom to discuss the matter with since the state takeover in 2016.

“You can’t talk to one group, like the city (officials), and turn around and find out the state is making all the decisions,” he said. “That’s hampering any kind of development that we would be putting into the city.”

Small said at best, Straub’s claim he does not know whom to contact in Atlantic City is “a little disingenuous.”

“The city is open for business. We’ll always be open for business,” Small said. “But only for the right opportunity, and right now, we don’t see that opportunity. And Mr. Straub, this isn’t our first time at the dance with him. If he’s serious about doing business with the City of Atlantic City, he absolutely knows who to contact.”


Education
Autistic children learn swimming safety through Massi's Mission

BRIGANTINE — With a pink pool noodle tucked under her arms, Sari Carroll began a lap across the Aquatic Center pool chanting, “Scoop and push, scoop and push.”

As she moved her arms through the water, like ducklings behind her swam several children with special needs, ranging in age from 8 to 24, all chanting along, pool noodles in tow.

Through a program called Massi’s Mission, many of the children in Carroll’s group learned how to swim and have since graduated to the Special Olympics team she was teaching Saturday morning.

Carroll said it is imperative to teach children with special needs how to swim for two reasons: They live in a coastal community, and research shows accidental drowning is a top cause of death among children with autism.

“All of the parents that you talk to about it basically say the same thing, that they’re scared, that they live two blocks from the ocean and the kids wander off and they’re so scared they’re going to wander into the water,” said Carroll, program director for the Brigantine Aquatic Center and swim instructor for Massi’s Mission, where she helps children on the autism spectrum learn how to get to safety when in the water.

Massi’s Mission was started about two years ago by support and advocacy group FACES 4 Autism board members Alexa Barrera and Jason Taylor after Taylor’s 4-year-old son, Bode, drowned in the family’s pool. Through Massi’s Mission, FACES provides eight-week scholarships for the students to learn how to survive if they fall into the water.

“It’s based on what we say is safety and survivability in the water,” said FACES founder Isabelle Mosca, of Ventnor. “We don’t want them to not know how to get out of the water. There are kids who attend who are up to 15 years old who are afraid.”

Mosca said the name Massi comes from Barrera’s son, Massimo.

Four approved locations in Atlantic County participate in Massi’s Mission: the Brigantine Aquatic Center, the Milton & Betty Katz Jewish Community Center in Margate, and Tilton Fitness in both Galloway Township and Northfield.

Carroll said often the eight weeks is not long enough, but she works out a way to make sure the children learn if it takes longer.

“Since then, we had some kids that graduated to the Special Olympics program,” Carroll said.

Massi’s Mission graduate Stan Adams swam for Absegami High School last year and recently won races at the New Jersey Special Olympics.

“Knowing that a group of parents who were concerned wanted to make that difference is key. When you see a need for something, you have to fill that need, and that’s what we have done with Massi’s Mission,” Mosca said.

Families can apply for special-needs swim scholarships at faces4autism.org/massismission, contact one of the locations for adapted swim lessons or email Kim Goodman at kimgoodman@ faces4autism.org.


Breaking-the-cycle
Domestic violence homicides rose in 2016, state report says

The number of domestic violence-related homicides that took place in New Jersey in 2016 rose 6 percent from the year before — and they also rose in 2015, State Police data show.

The New Jersey State Police 2016 Domestic Violence Report, released this year, shows there were 52 domestic-violence related homicides across the state, an increase from the 49 reported in 2015. The number of homicides increased 16 percent in 2015.

There was also an uptick in the total number of domestic violence-related incidents reported across the state that year, according to the report.

But the report doesn’t reflect all the domestic violence incidents and victims in the state, said Nicole Morella, director of public policy and communications at the NJ Coalition to End Domestic Violence.

“It’s certainly a good opportunity for us to see a snapshot particularly of what law enforcement is seeing,” she said.

Not everyone affected by domestic violence reports their case to law enforcement or to the courts, and some people affected may not seek a restraining order, but they might reach out to a domestic violence program in their area, she said.

The report is compiled from data from domestic violence reports submitted to the state Uniform Crime Reporting System by every law-enforcement agency in the state. Statewide, 63,420 domestic-violence offenses were reported in 2016 — a 3 percent increase from 61,659 in 2015.

Of the 52 reported homicides in 2016, Atlantic County accounted for three, Cumberland County two and Ocean County one. There were no reported domestic violence-related homicides in 2016 in Cape May County.

Cumberland County’s total increased to 2,676 reported offenses in 2016, up from 2,589 offenses in 2015.

Atlantic County had 4,563 total domestic violence offenses in 2016, down from 4,671 in 2015. Cape May County had a total of 1,262 domestic-violence offenses in 2016, down from 1,293 in 2015. Ocean County also saw a decrease in total offenses in 2016, tallying 3,953, down from 4,340 in 2015.

Martina Singleton, the sexual assault program director for CARA, the Coalition Against Rape and Abuse in Cape May County, said the decreases reported there speak to how the community works together against the problem.

While it’s not a solution, it’s a start, she said.

“We know for a fact that there are still a lot of these that are not reported,” she said, especially when it comes to children and senior citizens. “We are working very hard to get the word across that you don’t have to remain in these situations, there are resources out there.”

Singleton said in the county, law enforcement, courts, legislators and advocacy response groups work together to fight domestic violence and get people to know there is help.

“We come together, we talk, we brainstorm on how we can work in the community,” she said. “We have to look at the big picture.”