Two former and one current employee of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office have accused prosecutor Damon G. Tyner of committing mortgage fraud, hiding evidence in the investigation of radio show host April Kauffman’s murder, and protecting friends and political allies from criminal prosecution.
The complaint, filed Oct. 4 by former assistant prosecutor Diane Ruberton, former Lieutenant Heather McManus and assistant prosecutor Donna Fetzer, asks the New Jersey Attorney General and U.S. Attorney to investigate Tyner.
“The matters alleged involved personnel issues with disgruntled former employees and current employee,” Tyner said in an email response. “As a result, I have retained legal counsel to respond to these matters. The great work of the women and men of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office will continue unimpaired under my leadership.”
According to the complaint, Tyner sold his Egg Harbor Township home, assessed at $267,000, to his father-in-law for $425,000 in March 2006. In September 2006, the father-in-law sold the house back to Tyner for $1, according to documents. The property has never been assessed above its current value of $278,000, according to the complaint.
The transactions constituted a type of mortgage fraud called illegal property flipping, according to the complaint.
“This fraudulent scheme occurs when property is purchased, appraised at a higher value than it is worth, and then sold immediately for a profit with an artificially inflated value,” the complaint states. “This scheme can involve one or more of the following: fraudulent appraisals, falsified loan documentation, inflated buyer income, and collusion of and/or kickbacks to buyers, investors, loan brokers, real estate brokers, appraisers, and title company employees.”
The complaint alleges Tyner used the money to pay off campaign debts from his political campaign for the state Assembly in 2005.
In 2017, the bank filed an action against Tyner to foreclose on that same property for not making mortgage payments.
In the Kauffman case, the complaint alleges Tyner learned of possible inappropriate actions by detectives working on the case, but purposely covered it up to keep potential evidence away from defense lawyers so the case would not be damaged.
Kauffman was found murdered in her home in 2012, but no charges were filed in the case until Tyner took office in 2017. A jury recently found former Pagans motorcycle gang leader Ferdinand “Freddy” Augello guilty of hiring the hitman who killed her.
According to Ruberton, McManus and Fetzer, Tyner directed that there would be no internal affairs investigation regarding possible misconduct.
The potential inappropriate actions included leaking confidential material, losing evidence and failing to complete reports relevant to the case.
When Ruberton confronted Tyner with these allegations, he fired her, according to the complaint. She was fired on June 28.
The complaint also suggests it was the FBI that cracked the April Kauffman murder case through its investigation into a drug-ring kickback scam that Dr. James Kauffman was allegedly involved in, but that Tyner swooped in and took credit for it in the media.
The attorney general’s office said it could neither confirm nor deny it had received the complaint.
Attorney Michelle Douglass, who said she is representing the three women, would not comment further.
Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said Monday he is aware of allegations but was unable to comment.
He did, however, say it’s unfair to take credit away from Tyner for solving the Kauffman case.
“That case was cold for years before Damon Tyner came into office,” Levinson said. “When he was appointed, he told me that the Kauffman case was a top priority for him, and the Prosecutor’s Office delivered with convictions.”
Levinson added that Tyner is a county employee, so legal fees he incurs will be paid for with county tax dollars.
“He was appointed by the governor, and we have nothing to do with the workings at the prosecutor’s office,” Levinson said. “We just pay them.”