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After Fraud Charges, Bergen Prosecutors Attempt Another Suspicious Auction

Former Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli, Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino, and Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal (left to right)

Two Years After Top Prosecutor was Charged with Fraud, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office is at it Again Using the Same Auction Company

In 2015, a then little known community activist, Bill Brennan, and Pix11’s Howard Thompson exposed a scheme in which former Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli sold off fake baseball memorabilia at a county action conducted by the Caspert Management Company. A Hackensack judge eventually charged former Bergen County Executive Assistant Prosecutor Frank Puccio  with fraud after Brennan filed a citizen’s complaint.

Now, Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal is planning on selling “seized” and “confiscated” vehicles, including a 2010 Rolls Royce Phantom, at an auction in Hackensack on June 17, 2017. According to Caspert’s auction website, the following vehicles will be sold by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office:

This public auction will feature a 2010 Rolls Royce Ghost, 2008 Audi R8, 2010 Land Rover Range Rover, 2003 Cadillac Escalade, 2013 Mercedes Benz ML63, 2006 Yamaha Motorcycle, 2008 Honda CBR Motorcycle, and More!

The auction website doesn’t even mention that the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office is selling the vehicles. The front page of the prosecutor’s website, however, contains a link to the auction page.

The time John Molinelli decided to sell fake memorabilia

On May 3, 2014, Caspert and the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office conducted an auction in Mahwah where Molinelli sold baseball memorabilia that the prosecutor’s office had seized from a drug suspect. Caspert received a fee of 15% according to a Bergen County Freeholder Board Resolution.

Pix11’s Howard Thompson reported at the time:

PIX11 reported in November that the prosecutor’s office made false statements in an official document so it could get a no bid contract to hire Prosecutor John Molinelli’s chosen autograph authenticator.  That authenticator, Drew Max, has a dubious reputation in the field.  He authenticated hundreds of signatures on the items Molinelli’s office had seized.

Molinelli subsequently sold the items at two auctions, bringing in close to $50,000.  After paying the auction house its percentage, the balance went to Molinelli’s seized asset fund.

It turned out that memorabilia was fake and Molinelli knew it was fake before he  sold it off.

However, about three weeks after PIX11 first reported on the false statements and evidence that signatures were bogus, Molinelli agreed to issue refunds to all purchasers requesting them.

Molinelli denied any wrongdoing when PIX11 spoke with him in September outside the Bergen County Criminal Justice Building.  He also defended his choice of authenticators.  But he bolted from our camera after we asked about a document showing he had been warned in previous litigation that the bulk of the signed items he’d seized were bogus.

The 2014-2015 fiasco resulted in an investigation by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, a decision by the Appellate Division (thanks to Bill Brennan), and an ongoing Government Records Council proceeding.

On April 25, 2017, the state Government Records Council revived a 2015 case brought by Aakash Dalal and ordered the Attorney General’s Office to turn over several emails between Assistant Attorney General Michael Williams and John Molinelli. Williams had quashed a criminal investigation into Molinelli involving the 2014 auction. The council ruled that Aakash Dalal’s “argument regarding the non-existence of investigatory reports does bring into question” the Attorney General’s Office’s refusal to disclose the records regarding the auction.

The state panel is currently privately reviewing the documents to determine whether they should be publicly released.

View/Download PDF of the Government Record Council’s April 25, 2017 Decision



1 Comment

  1. Ron Silver

    An auctioneer on Reddit has suggested that this is likely another scam:

    “[–]KringlebertFistybuns 1 point 1 day ago

    Auctioneer here. It’s scammy to me because there are a ton of red flags. The prosecutor’s office isn’t the body auctioning the vehicles (and they didn’t auction the sports memorabilia), that’s standard in seized asset auctions. That’s where the on the up and up ends here. It seems like the prosecutor’s office has colluded in the past with an unethical authenticator in order to drive up interest and prices for fake items. That should cast a huge doubt on their current auction. Auto auctions are common, but they usually follow the same formula. There’s a preview, cars are sold under different lights. “Green” is for great condition and running, “yellow” for so-so condition running rough, needs parts but sort of sound. “red” is for bring your own tow truck, this thing ain’t moving on its own accord. If I had to wager a guess, I’d say they’re going to forgo all of those safety nets for the bidders and hope to hell they don’t get slapped down again. There are ways for bidders to get their money back if they’re burned,however. It’s illegal as hell to sell fake merchandise passed off as real at auction. I use words like “visually similar” or “appears to be…” if I can’t confirm, but I make it clear a piece wasn’t authenticated.”

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