Was the fire Payback?
According to our sources, Mordechai Thaler who is an electrical contractor, is the person responsible for setting up Former Lakewood Electrical Code Inspector, indicted for allegedly accepting bribes from contractors . We find it beyond mere coincidence that Mordechai Thaler had his house burned down last week in an electrical fire. Payback?
The investigation began after the New Jersey State Police received information that Perkins allegedly had been accepting bribes from contractors. It is alleged that, between May 1, 2015 and Sept. 30, 2015, Perkins accepted four separate payments of $300 from an electrical contractor as consideration for preferential treatment. The contractor was working as a cooperating witness for the State Police at the time and requested that Perkins inspect his work more quickly. Perkins returned the first payment, but he allegedly kept the three later payments. It is alleged that, after the first payment, Perkins, who previously had inordinately delayed inspections of the contractor’s works sites, began to conduct timely inspections of his work sites. On one occasion, Perkins allegedly approved electrical work performed by the contractor without first inspecting the work. Afterwards, Perkins allegedly accepted the fourth $300 payment.
In connection with those four alleged payments, Perkins is charged with bribery, official misconduct, and acceptance or receipt of an unlawful benefit by a public servant for official behavior. He is charged with a second count of official misconduct and a second count of acceptance or receipt of an unlawful benefit by a public servant for official behavior based on multiple instances dating back to 1997 when he allegedly accepted other payments from contractors to influence the performance of his work as an electrical sub-code official and inspector for Lakewood Township. The charge of pattern of official misconduct relates to that conduct as well as the conduct involving the cooperating witness in 2015.
“Government inspectors are supposed to safeguard the public from improper work and potential fire hazards, not line their own pockets,” said Acting Attorney General Porrino. “When inspectors like Perkins allegedly take bribes, large or small, from contractors for preferential treatment, trust in government is undermined and public safety can be compromised.”
“Bribes, at any level of government, undermine public confidence in government,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We will continue to aggressively prosecute any officials who corruptly use their public positions for personal gain.”
“There are few assets more valuable than a person’s home, and homeowners have a right to expect that government inspectors will focus exclusively on ensuring that homes are safe, not on satisfying contractors who pay bribes,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “The arrest and indictment of Perkins will send a message that the state will not tolerate any illegal behavior that could endanger its citizens.”
Deputy Attorney General Pearl Minato presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Acting Attorney General Porrino commended the detectives who conducted the investigation for the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau South Unit.
Each of the charges in the indictment carries a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison, including a mandatory five-year period of parole ineligibility, and a fine of up to $150,000.
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Ocean County, where Perkins will be ordered to appear in court for arraignment at a later date.
Touring what’s left of his home after a devastating fire, Lakewood resident Reb Mordechai Thaler kept saying one thing – “Baruch Hashem nobody was injured – a home can be replaced.”
The fire on Erev Shabbos completely destroyed his home, and nearly all of its contents, and this morning he was still rummaging through the ashes to see what he could salvage – which wasn’t much. Clothing, furniture, books, a Talis and Tefillin – everything was burned or destroyed by water.
Among the ashes, he found some family pictures, though most were destroyed.
“We’ll be like the couple who married in the 50s and 60s who just have a couple of photos,” he said.
Nearly every inch of the recently-renovated home was covered in ashes, including the bedroom a family member was sleeping in at the time the fire started.
“This is where he was sleeping,” Reb Mordechai pointed out to us. “There used to be a cabinet here – there’s nothing left of it.”
Luckily, a fire safe containing valuables were saved, and other documents which he removed for use, were also saved.
This morning Reb Mordechai came out publicly to thank the Ribono Shel Olam, and the entire community for the tremendous amount of support he and his family received following the fire.
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