Ex-Chief Zacche approved JCPD IAU ‘cover-up’ of Capt. Lou Karras-RJC investigation
Months before he was convicted by federal authorities for off-duty corruption exposed in a Real Jersey City investigation, ex-JCPD Chief Philip Zacche approved a “cover-up” of another Real Jersey City investigation – a surveillance report focused on Capt. Leonidas “Lou” Karras.
Federal authorities have focused on a wide-range of corruption in the Jersey City Police Department (JCPD), totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, while the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office (HCPO) and Real Jersey City have conducted limited investigations in the hundreds and thousands of dollars.
Unlike the HCPO’s “circumstantial” case against Capt. Joseph Ascolese, Lt. Kelly Chesler, and Officer Michael O’Neill, Real Jersey City’s investigation of Capt. Leonidas “Lou” Karras was based exclusively on direct evidence – surveillance video and corroborating public records.
Also, unlike Lt. Terrence Crowley, the subject of another Real Jersey City investigation based exclusively on direct evidence, Karras wasn’t charged with all of the offenses caught on video.
While both Crowley and Karras were allowed to retire with minimal punishment, according to a JCPD Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) document obtained by Real Jersey City, Karras wasn’t charged with all the dates identified from the May 2016 surveillance report.
JCPD IAU FILE #2016-096
On January 30, 2017, Karras waived his right to an informal departmental hearing, and was ultimately penalized with a loss of three compensatory days for violating Rule 3:124 Leaving Assignment (2 counts). Specifically, Karras was only charged with leaving his post for a total of four-and-a-half hours, for a cumulative theft of $270 (Crowley was accurately charged with stealing approximately $390).
Additionally, unlike Crowley, Karras was caught on camera not working his regular duty – on top of stealing from off-duty vendors. Unless the JCPD had instituted a “work from home” policy, Karras wasn’t charged for four separate occasions he was at his residences while on the clock for his taxpayer-funded $168,000 job as a police supervisor.
Karras was charged only two times, partially at that, for stealing from two separate off-duty jobs. Both of the dates specifically mentioned, January 13, 2016, and February 1, 2016, were from days Karras didn’t work a regular shift prior to the off-duty supervisor detail.
Specific to January 13, 2016, IAU considered time Karras spent at his Country Village residence to be considered working his off-duty supervisor job. Karras was also caught on camera at and around his Jersey Shore residence.
The hearing officer was Captain Anthony Genova of IAU.
JCPD IAU “cover-up” approved by disgraced ex-Chief Phil Zacche
Phil Zacche, as chief of police, ultimately approves of all Internal Affairs charges filed. Multiple sources have referred to Karras’ final punishment as a “joke,” and a clear “cover-up” orchestrated by JCPD IAU and approved by Zacche.
Of note, Zacche was ultimately convicted by federal authorities for his no-show, off-duty security job in the Jersey City Housing Authority (JCHA). Before being convicted by federal authorities, ultimately for $20,000, Zacche was exonerated by the HCPO for the same crime following a Real Jersey City report. Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez even posed for a photo-op at the ex-chief’s retirement party, eventually posting it to the HCPO’s Twitter:
— ProsecutorSuarezHCPO (@HCPOProsecutor) June 2, 2017
Of note, Michael O’Neill stands trial by the HCPO for allegedly stealing $400, while Karras and Crowley faced informal departmental hearings for similar amounts with minimal consequences. Joseph Ascolese and Kelly Chesler are not actually being accused of stealing money, rather, it’s claimed they knowingly signed pay vouchers falsified by officers who never worked NJDOT off-duty jobs.
Jersey City spokesperson Kimberly Scalcione was not reached for comment on this story. It’s considered official Fulop Administration policy to ignore this journalist.
I appreciate that @JC_Gov Public Safety Director James Shea is getting straight to the point, but, for the record, I do write very polite emails to @KimWallaceJC. #JerseyCity pic.twitter.com/VWTJKPs0gf
— Real Jersey City (@RealJerseyCity) March 4, 2018
UPDATE: This article has been updated to more accurately reflect the amount of money stolen by Crowley. Originally $412 was reported, when the amount is approximately $22 less for around $390.