Third person charged in connection with Princeton Sewer Operating Division

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Frank Casole. Photo: Mercer County Prosecutor's Office

A former Princeton Sewer Operating Division employee has been charged with being an accomplice to bribery in connection with illegal dumping at the Princeton Sewer Operating Committee’s River Road site, according to Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri.

Frank Casole, who was an equipment operator, became the third person to be charged in the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office’s investigation into illegal dumping when he was charged Oct. 16 with being an accomplice to bribery.

The complaint alleges that Casole helped Thomas Hughes, the former supervisor of sewer operations, in his bribery scheme. He knew that Hughes was taking bribes from the owner of a construction company to allow soil excavated from a water park project to be dumped at the River Road site, the Prosecutor’s Office said.

Pantelis Kounelias, who owned V & K Construction Co. in Edison, allegedly dumped the soil from the water park project at the Sewer Operating Committee’s River Road site during July and August 2018.

Casole helped to record and conceal the crime by accounting and co-mingling construction waste from the water park project with other waste so it would not be discovered, the prosecutor’s office said.

Hughes, the former supervisor, was charged with bribery in June for accepting approximately $3,000 in bribes from Kounelias to allow the dumping of the excavated soil at the River Road site, the prosecutor’s office said.

Kounelias, the construction company owner, was charged with bribery in September for bribing Hughes to accept the excavated soil, the prosecutor’s office said.

Hughes, Casole and Robert Hough, the former director of infrastructure and operations, have been fired in connection with the illegal dumping allegations. The Sewer Operating Division falls under the Department of Infrastructure and Operations.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection notified Princeton officials in June that the town had been illegally operating a dump at the Sewer Operating Committee’s River Road site, following an earlier inspection in February.

Princeton officials conducted an initial investigation into the issue and decided to refer it to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office.

In the wake of the latest arrest, Princeton Administrator Marc Dashield said the town “remains committed to a full and thorough investigation regarding the allegations of improper dumping at River Road to ensure all individuals involved in inappropriate or illegal activities are held to account.”

“The alleged actions of the employees charged during the investigation are an affront to Princeton’s core values. It is not reflective of the conduct of the hardworking employees of the Municipality of Princeton,” Dashield said.

Town officials are grateful for the work of the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, Dashield said. The officials view the latest development as a positive step toward ensuring that all responsible parties are held accountable, he said.

The investigation is ongoing, and anyone with information is asked to call the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office’s Economic Crimes Unit at 609-989-6365.