10 Things to Know: Ex-JCPD Chief Philip Zacche was indicted for my reporting — Mayor Fulop, Prosecutor Suarez and Director Shea condoned the corruption

Sources have confirmed that Real Jersey City’s investigation of ex-JCPD Chief Philip Zacche’s no-show, off-duty security job in Marion Gardens, which he recently pleaded guilty to, sparked a federal probe into the Jersey City Housing Authority’s police off-duty jobs program.

FEATURED: Ex-Chief Philip Zacche, Mayor Steven Fulop, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez, Public Safety Director James Shea, Real Jersey City publisher Michael Shurin.

Hindsight is 20/20, and my life is certainly one bad decision and mistake after another, but I’m sure my friends leading the Jersey City Police Superior Officers Association (JCPSOA) regret the premature celebration they had when Real Jersey City lost its funding.

They must’ve not understood this project wasn’t about money, it was about change and justice so I can find inner peace. Heroes like now-Lt. Vincent Corso and now-Capt. James Carroll inspired me to put it all on the line. The will to keep digging and pushing – OPRA requests, surveillances, reports, editorials, speeches at council and freeholder meetings… The Resurgence, to be exact (watch below):

Unfortunately, I didn’t get change because Mayor Steven Fulop and Public Safety Director James Shea focused on protecting the forces of racism, sexism and corruption. Though, in the case of ex-Jersey City Police Department (JCPD) Chief Philip Zacche, it’s certainly fair for me to say I got justice.

Ironically, it was the final piece, the one that sucked the life out of me to write and publish, which apparently was the demise of Zacche and those he’s snitching on.

Zacche pleaded guilty last Friday before U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson in Trenton federal court to one count of embezzling, stealing, obtaining by fraud, misapplying, and without authority knowingly converting money belonging to the Jersey City Housing Authority (JCHA), according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Vikas Khanna of Bridgegate fame. Special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of the Inspector General (HUD IG), working under the direction of Timothy A. Gallagher and Christina Scaringi, respectively, were credited with Zacche’s guilty plea.

The charges mirrored an April 11, 2016 investigative report by Real Jersey City outlining a pattern of suspect records pointing towards a no-show, off-duty security job Zacche had in the JCHA (Marion Gardens).

Despite public statements to the contrary, Zacche was exonerated by the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office (HCPO) for the Real Jersey City investigation – which will be discussed further down.

Given the mess I’ve caused, plus the misinformation (Jersey Journal), sponsored content (Chicpea, Hudson County View) and people that really need to stop with the comment section ramblings (former Chief Robert “Bubba” Cowan) – it’s time for a professional breakdown.

Without further ado, I’m keepin’ it real:

1. A source within the JCHA confirmed to Real Jersey City that the HUD IG was seeking “all records sought by the police off-duty OPRA requestor over five years.” It was the third time the off-duty records were requested – the first being Real Jersey City (via OPRA) and then either the JCPD or HCPO soon after (for sham investigation), which only spanned from July 1, 2013 to November 7, 2014.

It’s believed that the HUD IG obtained the off-duty records around mid-to-late January 2017, after the FBI was tagged in the Real Jersey City tweet for the editorial “No, I have nothing to do with the FBI’s Jersey City Police Investigation.”

2. Given that the HUD IG was looking specifically at my OPRA requests, the approximate date it was asked for and the timing of the tweet – it’s easy to deduce what likely sparked the investigation. Though, in retrospect, it’s curious that one name is missing from the editorial – Phil Zacche.

Well, there was this one cryptic tidbit:

…my work was swept underneath the rug by Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez and First Deputy Assistant Prosecutor Peter Stoma. More to come about Stoma sweeping things under the rug for a certain Denver Broncos fan and the JCPD’s highest ranking Oakland Raiders fan.

3. The Denver Broncos fan? It was ex-JCPD cop Anthony Iannicco, who was “assistant pick coordinator” in the West District under Fulop’s new chief – Mike Kelly. On June 28, 2017, Iannicco pleaded guilty to his role in the off-duty jobs conspiracy going back to March of 2011 until April 28, 2016.

Did anyone from the FBI know about Iannicco’s lifestyle, which, according to sources, included spending a lot of money directly or indirectly on the Broncos? Maybe not, but someone had to know Stoma “let him off the hook” for essentially the same exact crime, wait for it… around 2011.

Truthfully, I don’t know much about Vikas Khanna, Timothy Gallagher or Christina Scaringi. Yet, with little doubt, I’m confident enough to say they wouldn’t/didn’t work with Fulop, the JCPD or HCPO to investigate corruption within the JCHA off-duty jobs program.

For those that don’t know, there’s a big difference between “working” and “cooperating”
with the FBI.

4. Speaking of “working” with the HCPO, I think Khanna and Gallagher could empathize with why I wouldn’t work with Suarez, Stoma and Lt. Matthew Gasiorowski. If fake news worked to keep Hillary Clinton out of the Oval Office, fake HCPO investigations worked to keep Zacche, also a liberal Democrat, out of prison.

On the flipside, if politics is at the core of the FBI’s investigation of Trump, is Shea getting special treatment because he once sided with the FBI in a “turf war” vs. NYPD brass?

Continuing on the national politics theme, I’m sure someone at the DOJ found it tasteless that Suarez, a county prosecutor, would accept a “trailblazer” award from a U.S. Senator facing federal corruption charges at the time. Nevertheless, I know there’s questions of prosecutorial misconduct Suarez, Stoma and Gasiorowski should be answering as part of a broader federal investigation (some of which are raised in this piece).

5. The educated guess is that Fulop, Shea and Suarez didn’t know until mid-September 2017 about Zacche’s indictment – the same time all of the JCPD insiders found out. Though unconfirmed at this time, various sources are under the belief Zacche wasn’t aware he was under federal investigation until agents paid him a visit around late-July to mid-August of 2017.

Trust this, Suarez and Fulop wouldn’t have taken a picture at his retirement party and issued such glowing quotes if they knew on June 2, 2017.

Ironically, this journalist was unaware of a federal investigation when publishing an editorial regarding Al Sullivan’s poetry, awful journalism and liberal white supremacy on September 4, 2017 – which focused heavily on Zacche’s no-show job.

As one source opined, “how many dirty cops called Zacche after the editorial and admitted to criminal behavior while being recorded?”

6. Speaking of awful journalism, yes, ex-Chief Cowan wrote an October 2013 report regarding the JCHA off-duty jobs – which merely outlined the potential for abuses. That’s not why Zacche was indicted, and the rest of Terrence McDonald’s “bombshell” failed to investigate its most serious charge – whether Fulop and Shea condoned the off-duty corruption.

The truth? Fulop and Shea condoned every form of police corruption, including off-duty jobs. Here’s some fun facts to back that up:

– Remember when then-Councilman Fulop decried “half the Christie arrests made in Operation Bid Rig were Healy’s councilmen and deputy mayors for accepting bribes”? Well, good thing he didn’t care about wannabe politicians and so-called public servants – like Mike Manzo.

Manzo, who pleaded guilty to taking bribes as part of Operation Bid Rig, has been Shea’s top assistant in the city’s Department of Public Safety. According to sources, Manzo advised Shea to make Zacche – his partner in crime from the old days in Marion – police chief after removing Cowan.

In exchange for relinquishing control of the JCPD day-to-day operations and voluntarily subordinating himself to Shea, Zacche got a raise and boost to his pension & historic unused sick/comp day payout of more than $500,000. Additionally, Shea hired ex-JCPD Capt. John Sabo – originally as a “gang expert,” according to a source – to work in his office as a gift to Zacche.

According to sources, until he retired in January 2014, Sabo worked on-duty under then-Deputy Chief Zacche – who would sign-off on his overtime. In addition to earning overtime, Sabo’s off-duty job was coordinator of the JCHA police off-duty program – and in that position he signed-off on Zacche’s timesheets from Marion Gardens.

Sources also claim Sabo retired after Cowan transferred him to patrol, allegedly due to what Cowan believed were suspicious overtime payments versus that of other captains.

Sabo’s off-duty timesheets were signed-off by Joyce Worthington, Compliance & Tech Support Director at the JCHA. According to Worthington’s LinkedIn page, she claimed to have planned and effectively coordinated the “JCHA’s Off-duty Police Program, ensuring coverage throughout developments; reviewing arrest reports and designing crime statistics reports.”

Talk about everyone scratching each other’s backs, I’d love to see those “crime statistics reports” Worthington “designed”…

– The Jersey Journal, as well as sponsored content websites, due to incompetence and/or financial agreement, completely failed to mention that management of the JCHA off-duty jobs moved back to the city after Fulop made Zacche chief. They also fail to mention that the entire off-duty program has been administered by Shea since 2013.

Now, if Shea really had an ounce of integrity – would he have been partying at a bar with the JCPSOA, including 1st VP Sgt. Vincent Corso while he was supposed to be working an off-duty shift, after a shooting at Dickinson High School? A month after the Jersey City Council increased a fee paid by contractors for off-duty supervisors and administrators by 50%?

I just hope Shea and Fulop are grateful they’ve got the Jersey Journal’s Caitlin Mota writing fake news headlines like “One city is schooling police recruits before they get to academy — and it’s working“. Here’s the real story, because Mota is either incompetent or racist – the “schooling” of JCPD recruits before they get to the academy started last year after Deputy Chief Joseph Connors, head of Internal Affairs (IA), made sure black and Latino recruits were bumped off the soon-to-expire police hiring list for his son.

In short, if they didn’t hire Connors’ son before January 2017, the list the kid was on would expire and he wouldn’t be eligible to be hired as a JCPD officer.

Don’t worry, though, the Jersey Journal is focused on the “important issues” – like the affordable housing apartment in Newport that Connors’ son was living in with Jersey City Fire Department (JCFD) Battalion Chief Constance Zappella‘s sister (which the HUD IG is allegedly investigating, though unconfirmed, according to a source).

Before I forget, it was good to see Det. Fermin Sanchez barking orders in those great pictures by Reena Rose Sibayan. It’s even better to know Sanchez won’t have Connors’ threatening his job for being too hard on junior this year…

– Now few will remember this, but the tenth article published on this website was about a city car involved in a motor vehicle accident in Howell, NJ on March 9, 2015. The two officers involved with the crash were Michael Galvez and James Lisi – no strangers to the JCHA off-duty jobs.

According to sources, Galvez and Lisi were supposed to be working an off-duty JCHA security detail at the time of the crash.

The ultimate punishment for the incident? They both lost approximately 10-15 days each and were banned for three months from working JCHA off-duty jobs. Don’t believe me? Remember the date of the incident (3-9-15), and the publication of the Real Jersey City report (4-7-15), then review both Galvez and Lisi’s off-duty records from 7-1-13 to 7-1-15.

Michael Galvez Off-Duty Records

James Lisi Off-Duty Records 

Furthermore, after comparing Galvez and Lisi’s JCHA timesheets (pre-November 2014) against other off-duty work, one of them may have illegally double-dipped on a job or two.

Either way, good for both of them that Lisi’s uncle, Anthony, is long-time friends with Zacche, and that his other uncle, Danny (aka The Sensei), is close to Connors. Otherwise, according to sources, would Connors have attempted to pressure then-Sgt. Anthony Scerbo to alter an IA report regarding the events of March 9, 2015?

Phil Zacche and James Lisi, then and now (SOURCE: Facebook).

Phil Zacche and Anthony Lisi, then and now. (SOURCE: Facebook)

7. Speaking of a potential criminal investigation, let’s not forget about the HCPO’s sham investigation of Zacche and the JCHA off-duty jobs. Misinformation aside, here’s two things I actually learned from the Jersey Journal’s original report of Zacche pleading guilty:

A) Khanna stated in court that federal prosecutors obtained phone records which would prove Zacche was “nowhere close” to Marion Gardens when he claimed to be working there.

B) Fulop claimed credit for forwarding the allegations against Zacche to the HCPO in 2015.

Good thing for Fulop that McDonald is more publicist than journalist, because he neither questioned the HCPO regarding Part B, nor asked Fulop for the exact date in 2015 the city supposedly forwarded the allegations to the HCPO. The HCPO did provide this quote to Hudson County View:

Based upon the information provided at that time, the facts and allegations were thoroughly investigated including a review of documents that were provided by Jersey City and several witness interviews. The investigation did not disclose sufficient evidence to clearly prove or disprove the allegations. It’s clear the federal authorities had more resources and more information than we were ever provided.

Given that Hudson County View has become one big sponsored content website, I’m not surprised difficult follow-up questions weren’t asked. Don’t worry, folks, I’ll do it for the not-so-independent news website:

– Were Vincent Alberto, Brian Cullinane and James Waiters, the other three cops supposedly working in Marion Gardens, interviewed by the HCPO? If so, given Zacche pleading guilty, will the HCPO revisit any witness statements and investigate for providing false testimony? (More on Cullinane, Waiters and McDonald’s white supremacy in a future piece.)

– Did the HCPO notify federal authorities that they were investigating the misuse of federal funds? Given the supposed lack of resources, was the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General notified and/or requested for assistance in the investigation?

– What type of resources are necessary to obtain the phone records federal prosecutors secured? Has the HCPO ever used phone tracking technology for other off-duty investigations?

Lt. Kelly Chesler alleged in her sexual harassment lawsuit that on January 22, 2015, in a meeting prior to being transferred from her position in special operations to patrol, Zacche said that Shea told him Chesler had engaged in sexual activities with “half the motorcycle squad.” What resources did the HCPO use to indict Chesler and her co-plantiff, ex-JCPD Captain Joseph Ascolese, after their whistleblower lawsuit was filed? Is Chesler accused of stealing more money than Zacche admitted to?

– Better yet, is Chesler accused of stealing more money than Lt. Terrence Crowley admitted to in multiple IA discipline hearings – including investigations kicked back by the HCPO to JCPD unrelated to Real Jersey City reporting?

I’ll stop there, more to come in a future piece about Suarez protecting rape culture in Hudson County.

8. One final note on the HCPO, a source claimed Gasiorowski was telling law enforcement colleagues he was intent on investigating Zacche, but that Suarez and Stoma stonewalled him. I’ll start believing that when I see a CEPA lawsuit or something equivalent, until then there’s a criminal running the HCPO’s IA.

What I’m concerned with now, from a change perspective, is this – Will Gov. Murphy and New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal remove Suarez and Stoma, or will they let the corruption continue under their watch?

When will there be accountability for corrupt, overzealous county prosecutors in New Jersey?

Remember, I asked Gov. Christie to handle the JCPD problem nearly two years ago. I’m about to ask Murphy and Grewal to handle both the JCPD & HCPO problem, because the people of Jersey City and Hudson County deserve better.

9. Zacche is snitching and more arrests related to the JCHA off-duty jobs are coming. I’ve compiled a lot of paperwork related to the scam, some of the stuff is so blatant it will make your skin crawl – I only focused on Zacche because he was the chief.

I was informed yesterday that nearly 20 to 30 past-and-present supervisors might be facing federal prosecution related to Zacche snitching. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know the JCPSOA leadership – especially now-Capt. Robert Kearns, Carroll and Corso – are responsible for inspiring me.

If you’re Zacche, or another supervisor facing prison time, look no further than those three men for your current predicament. As for the geniuses running the POBA, I wonder what all the cops that got screwed by Fulop and Shea think of the Disbrow brothers contract strategy? Because of their incompetence, I’m sure more than a few would like the FBI to ask Vinny about his work in Van Wagenen… Maybe some misinformed activists can have a rally for transparency to spur an investigation?

And for those that don’t understand why the program was ripe for corruption, just think of this value proposition – why would a cop, working 40 hours a week, take less money than they get paid on their regular shift (sometimes less than half), to work extra hours as security in a JCHA complex?

10.  Stay tuned to Real Jersey City, there’s a lot more information to be published and stories to be analyzed – including the politics of Fulop, Shea and Suarez that led to cover-ups for Zacche and others.

3 comments

  • Great job Michael Shurin, we need more people like you in our community. We need people like you, who work in the interests of the People, on the City Council and as cops.

  • Robert Cowan

    Micheal, as to your article, point taken, however, unlike you I only had one opportunity to retire from the Police Department whereas you are able to practice retiring from journalism, ie. I think if anyone was counting you may have retired 5 or 6 times already, so obviously you understand the concept of retirement much better then I do. In any event, below is a comment the Fulop administration made to the Jersey Journal regarding the changes to the off duty ordinance I submitted to Director Shea in October 2013 while the revamping of the Police Off Duty Detail ordinance was being discussed.

    Jersey Journal Statement by Fulop Administration:

    “This is the first anyone has heard of Cowan’s letter which is suspiciously without a date,” Scalcione said. “That being said, he was in sole charge of internal affairs during that time. If he was as concerned as this mysterious letter says he was, he would have been the one responsible for initiating an investigation.”

    My answer:

    “Once again the Fulop Administration particulary Public Safety Director Jim Shea has demonstrated a lack of knowledge in the role of Internal Affairs in a New Jersey Police Department. My 2013 submission of the recommendations to Shea concerning the Police Details at the Housing Authority clearly indicated the details should be addressed under the new off duty ordinance being considered; I made no reference to specific misconduct, thus it was in the wheelhouse of Director Shea and the Fulop Administration to take action. The statement by the Administration is classic Fulop spin where he changes the subject that noone actually cares about or even understands”

Leave a Reply