Jersey Bounty Hunter Pleads Guilty in Fugitive Capture Scam
Trenton–Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced that a bounty hunter who formerly lived in Jersey City pleaded guilty today to conspiring in a scheme in which he had sheriff’s officers sign false documents so he could collect additional fees by claiming to capture fugitives who had already been apprehended by police. He paid the sheriff’s officers for their aid. The sheriff’s officers, who previously pleaded guilty, are awaiting sentencing.
The bounty hunter, Adel Mikhaeil, 47, who now lives in Stroudsburg, Pa., also pleaded guilty to paying bribes to an insurance company executive and an employee of a company that locates fugitives for bail bond insurers in return for giving him more business. Mikhaeil pleaded guilty before Superior Court Judge Stuart A. Minkowitz in Morris County to all 14 counts against him contained in a Sept. 30, 2008 indictment obtained by the Division of Criminal Justice.
The plea, which came on the eve of trial, was an open plea, meaning there was no plea deal with the Attorney General’s Office, but Judge Minkowitz stated that he intended to cap Mikhaeil’s sentence at six years in prison in light of the plea, as well as health and financial issues faced by Mikhaeil. Mikhaeil pleaded guilty to numerous second-degree charges, which carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison. However, the judge said he would sentence him in the third-degree range on those charges, imposing concurrent three-year sentences for most of those charges, and a consecutive three-year sentence for money laundering, bringing the total sentence to six years.
“This bounty hunter enlisted two sheriff’s officers, an insurance executive, another corporate employee, and two of his own employees in his corrupt activities, which included bribing bail bond insurers for their business and dishonestly collecting bounty that he hadn’t rightfully earned,” said Attorney General Chiesa. “We ultimately snared him in his own web of deceit.”
“Through his false body receipts, Mikhaeil raked in a fraudulent windfall,” said Stephen J. Taylor, Director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Thanks to our excellent joint investigation with the State Police and Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, he now faces a state prison sentence.”
Deputy Attorney General Anthony A. Picione, Deputy Chief of the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, and Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Manis prosecuted the case and took the plea for the Division of Criminal Justice. The charges resulted from an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice, New Jersey State Police and Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.
Mikhaeil pleaded guilty to second-degree offenses including conspiracy, three counts of official misconduct, offering an unlawful benefit to a public servant for official behavior, commercial bribery, and money laundering. He also pleaded guilty to third-degree charges of theft by deception, commercial bribery, witness tampering, and hindering apprehension or prosecution, as well as fourth-degree charges of falsifying records and fabricating physical evidence. Judge Minkowitz scheduled sentencing for Mikhaeil for Jan. 11, 2013.
Two former Hudson County sheriff’s officers who were indicted with Mikhaeil previously pleaded guilty to official misconduct charges. They are awaiting sentencing. The state is recommending a five-year prison sentence for one of those men, and jail time for the other.
Deputy Attorneys General Picione and Manis conducted the investigation with Detective Sgt. Myles Cappiello and Detective Sgt. Neil Hickey of the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption North Unit; Detective Scott Donlan and Analyst Alison Callery of the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau; and Detective Sgt. Mary Reinke of the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office. The Hudson County Sheriff’s Office also assisted in the investigation.
The state’s investigation revealed that Mikhaeil conspired with the sheriff’s officers to have them sign false “body receipts” indicating that he had caught fugitives, when, in fact, the fugitives had already been arrested by law enforcement. As a result, Mikhaeil collected higher fees from the insurance companies that insured the fugitives’ bail bonds. While a bounty hunter does receive a fee for a “paper transfer” when he locates a fugitive who is already in custody, the fee is lower than for a physical apprehension by the bounty hunter. The false body receipts also led to a reduction in the amount of bail forfeited, resulting in savings for the bail bond insurers, but a loss to the counties where the fugitive jumped bail and the State, which divide forfeited funds.
On July 14, 2009, former sheriff’s officer William Chadwick, 57, of Keansburg, pleaded guilty to second-degree official misconduct for signing false body receipts for Mikhaeil. The state will recommend that Chadwick be sentenced to five years in state prison. Chadwick forfeited $5,500 in illegal cash gifts that he admitted receiving from Mikhaeil. On Jan. 12, 2010, a second former sheriff’s officer, Alberto Vasquez, 43, of Apex, North Carolina, pleaded guilty to third-degree pattern of official misconduct for signing false body receipts for Mikhaeil. The state will recommend that Vasquez be sentenced to 270 days in the county jail and a term of probation. He forfeited $3,500 in illegal cash gifts that he admitted receiving from Mikhaeil. Both former sheriff’s officers are permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey.
On April 20, 2012, Trevor Williams, 39, of Jersey City, a bounty hunter employed by Mikhaeil, pleaded guilty before Judge Minkowitz to third-degree hindering apprehension or prosecution and fourth-degree fabricating physical evidence. Under his plea agreement, the state will recommend that he be sentenced to 364 days in the county jail and a term of probation.
In pleading guilty, Williams admitted that he helped to cover up $92,000 in commercial bribes that Mikhaeil paid to an insurance company executive in return for business. The executive, John Sullivan, 46, a former vice president for Sirius America Insurance Company, pleaded guilty on May 30, 2008 to commercial bribery and financial facilitation of criminal activity. The state will recommend that Sullivan be sentenced to 364 days in the county jail and a term of probation. Mikhaeil pleaded guilty to attempting to induce Sullivan to give false information to law enforcement about the commercial bribes. Another employee of Mikhaeil’s, George Formoe, 46, of Ridgefield Park, also pleaded guilty to covering up those payments. He faces probation.
On Feb. 5, 2009, another defendant indicted with Mikhaeil, James Irizarry, 45, of Mohnton, Pa., pleaded guilty to commercial bribery. Irizarry admitted he took bribes from Mikhaeil in return for hiring Mikhaeil to recover fugitives for his former employer and for approving Mikhaeil’s invoices for payment. Irizarry worked for a firm that locates fugitives for insurance companies that insure bail bonds. The state will recommend that Irizarry be sentenced to 364 days in the county jail and a term of probation. He forfeited $5,000 Mikhaeil gave him.
Attorney General Chiesa and Director Taylor noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free Corruption Tipline 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities confidentially. The public can also log on to the Division’s webpage at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing confidentially.