Superior Court judge dismisses case against four of five Edison officers in ‘no show job’ case, state expected to re-present case to grand jury

KATHY CHANG/STAFF

EDISON – The question remains if five Edison police officers – Sgt. Ioannis (John) Mpletsakis, Patrolman Paul Pappas, Patrolman James Panagoulakos, Patrolman Gregory Makras and Sgt. Brian Rossmeyer – conspired together to get extra duty security and road jobs, not show up for them, all for their financial gain.

Or was the “internal affairs investigation of a disastrous part-time off-duty system [inside the Edison Police Department] masquerading as a criminal case.”

The defense counsel for four of the five officers argue the latter in court documents while the state, with cooperation of one of the defendants, Pappas, is expected to re-present the case before a grand jury when grand jury proceedings are reconvened.

Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Pedro Jimenez, sitting in New Brunswick, through an order, had dismissed the case against Mpletsakis, Panagoulakos, Makras and Rossmeyer after a Zoom hearing on April 16. The order did not include Pappas, who pled guilty to one of the related charges of the indictment in October 2019, according to court papers. The other four officers have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

The order allows the state to re-present the case to the grand jury. The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office declined to comment on the matter at this time. Edison Police Chief Thomas Bryan referred comment to the prosecutor’s office.

Mpletsakis, Pappas, Panagoulakos, all of Edison; Makras, of Cranford; and Rossmeyer, of Bedminister, were charged in October 2018 in an 11-count indictment with two counts of official misconduct in the second degree; participation in a pattern of official misconduct in the second degree; financial facilitation of criminal activity in the second degree; conspiracy to commit the crime of financial facilitation of criminal activity in the second degree; theft by unlawful taking in the second degree; and theft by deception in the second degree, according to the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office.

Since then, the officers have appeared in Superior Court with their attorneys for multiple status hearings before Jimenez as state and defense counsel sifted through more than 28,000 pages of bank records, audits, receipts and phone pinging locations.

Attorneys Henry E. Klingeman and Ernesto Cerimele for Mpletsakis, attorney Charles Sciarra for Panagoulakos, attorney Michael Rubas for Makras and attorney Steven D. Altman for Rossmeyer filed a 94-page joint brief to dismiss the case on grounds the state failed to present key evidence during grand jury proceedings ahead of the April 16 hearing.

The investigation determined between Nov. 14, 2016, and May 7, 2018, the five officers were allegedly getting paid for extra-duty jobs that they were not present for. The extra-duty, or “side jobs,” were in addition to the regular hours which they, as members of the Edison Police Department, were assigned to work.

In addition, Mpletsakis was charged with promoting organized street crime in the first degree and Makras was charged with hindering prosecution in the third degree, uttering a forged document in the fourth degree, and fabricating physical evidence in the fourth degree, according to the prosecutor’s office.

The indictment was handed up in New Brunswick following an investigation by the Edison Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit and the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office. The case was presented to the grand jury by Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Christine D’Elia.

The defense argued the state shielded the grand jury with “half-truths and non-truths.”

The township learned of the alleged “no show jobs” with road jobs with American Water Company and security jobs with Atlantic Realty through Pappas’ ex-girlfriend during an interview of an unrelated official misconduct allegation matter, according to court papers.

The officers who volunteer to take the extra assignments have full police responsibilities while performing the extra-duty assignments. The extra-duty assignments include directing traffic for utility companies at work sites and providing security services for local businesses and residential communities, officials have said.

In Edison, there was no centralized system of assignment for the extra-duty jobs. Instead, several individuals in the police department have wide discretion as to who gets the assignments, officials said.

Payment for the side jobs is billed through the township’s payroll for police services. The fee charged includes an administrative fee and an additional fee for a police vehicle when one is required, officials have said.

The Edison Police Department has since limited the allowance of extra-duty jobs in the department.

The road jobs were coordinated by Andres Rosa, a retired lieutenant from the Edison Police Department. Rosa would follow rotation and give jobs out by seniority and Mplestakis was in charge of scheduling, invoicing and billing of security jobs with Atlantic Realty, according to court papers.

The defense argued the state failed to provide information to the grand jury on issues with scheduling the part-time jobs, with the overlap of scheduled jobs, with invoice and billing of the jobs and discovery issues, according to court papers.

In addition to the “no show job” indictment, Pappas was also indicted on charges of official misconduct, computer theft and stalking his ex-girlfriend on Sept. 21, 2018.

At the time of the charges, Mpletsakis had been a member of the Edison Police Department for 16 years, Pappas for 14 years, Panagoulakos for four years, Makras for seven years, and Rossmeyer for 11 years.

The officers had been suspended without pay since their arrests on June 1, 2018, and the officers remain suspended without pay, according township officials.