Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor (OIFP) announced that a Blairstown man pleaded guilty yesterday to leading a theft network that stole heavy machinery worth approximately $300,000 from construction sites in the state and then sold the equipment out of a vacant lot in Newark to buyers from New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Michael J. Troncone, 34, pleaded guilty to second-degree theft before Bergen County Superior Court Judge Eugene Austin. The plea agreement calls for Troncone to receive an eight-year state prison sentence.
“The defendant’s thefts threatened the livelihood of many small contractors and builders in New Jersey and delayed projects that were in the process of completion,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “Those who steal and knowingly purchase stolen property are criminals and will be brought to justice.”
“Given that this equipment was insured, the cost of this theft was not just borne by the contractors, its burden was carried by all those participate in the insurance market, which is a substantial portion of New Jersey’s population,” said Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Ronald Chillemi. “So when you read stories about theft, know that the thief could be stealing from you, too.”
OIFP was tipped off to a pattern of thefts by the police departments in New Providence, Lyndhurst and Hanover. With the assistance of local and state detectives, OIFP gathered video evidence which allegedly shows Troncone and a co-conspirator, Marc Fucetola, 38, of Blairstown, stealing equipment from construction sites during late evening or early morning hours. The thieves would allegedly drive up, hook up a trailered piece of equipment and drive off with stolen equipment in tow. OIFP detectives used high-tech equipment to foil the scheme including remotely-operated surveillance cameras, tracking devices and digital forensics.
Troncone and Fucetola were arrested and charged with the thefts in October. As a result of the investigation, Craig Slaaen, 40, of Livingston, was also arrested in October and charged with second-degree receiving stolen property. The cases against Fucetola and Slaaen are pending.
After gathering evidence, detectives executed three search warrants in New Jersey, and the Pennsylvania State Police executed an additional search warrant in Pennsylvania. At least 21 pieces of heavy equipment valued at several hundred thousand dollars were recovered during the investigation including:
- 2013 Takeuchi TB153FR mini-excavator with an approximate value of $65,000
- 2014 John Deere 35G Compact Excavator, with an approximate value of $58,100
- 2006 Bobcat S300 Skid-Steer, with an approximate value of $28,250
- 2006 Bobcat S250 Skid-Steer, with an approximate value of $28,250
- 2006 Case 420 Skid-Steer, with an approximate value of $22,700
- 2005 Caterpillar 232-B Skid-Steer, with an approximate value of $17,950
- 2002 Bobcat T-190 Skid-Steer, with an approximate value of $14,300
- 2014 John Deer Gator ATV, with an approximate value of $10,243
- 1998 Case 85XT Skid-Steer with an approximate value of $9,500
- 2006 Wacker Generator valued at $24,895
- 2008 ODB Leaf Vacuum
- Two 2014 John Deere Zero-turn Mowers
- Several trailers including enclosed trailers and flatbed type trailers
Deputy Attorney General Reid Caster represents the State in this matter. Lieutenant Joseph Waters and Detective Amy Carson led the investigation, with assistance from Detectives Jonathan Berman, Christopher Schell, Robert Rosa, Janet Amberg, and Michael Behar and Analyst Marwa Kashef.
Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Chillemi thanked following organizations for their assistance: Lo-Jack, the New Jersey State Police, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Division of Criminal Justice Electronic Surveillance Unit (ESU), Detective Andrew Diamond of the New Providence Police Department, Detective Michael Lemonowicz of the Lyndhurst Police Department, Detective Lieutenant John Fox of Hanover Police Department, Ramsey Police Department, Totowa Police Department, Essex County Prosecutors Office, the National Insurance Crime Bureau, and the National Equipment Registry.
Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Chillemi noted that some important cases have started with anonymous tips. People who are concerned about insurance cheating and have information about a fraud can report it anonymously by calling the toll-free hotline at 1-877-55-FRAUD, or visiting the Web site at www.NJInsurancefraud.org. State regulations permit a reward to be paid to an eligible person who provides information that leads to an arrest, prosecution and conviction for insurance fraud.