EDISON, NJ — Officers Gregory Makras and James Panagoulakos, and Sergeants Brian Rossmeyer and Ioannis (John) Mpletsakis, were charged in June 2018 by the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office with receiving payment for extra-duty jobs they didn’t actually perform.
The charges were dismissed in April 2020, and the police officers reported back to duty this week after Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Arthur Bergman signed an order to reinstate the four.
The officers will receive back pay from June 1, 2018 to the present, and their benefits will be retroactive. The township and police department will also be required to pay the officers’ legal fees within the next 20 days.
Examples of extra-duty jobs are working security at events and businesses as well directing traffic for utility companies.
The officers had been suspended without pay in June of 2018 and then were indicted by a Middlesex County grand jury.
Another officer, Paul Pappas, was also charged. He pled guilty and entered into an agreement with the prosecutor's office. He is facing a four-year sentence in state prison with two years of parole ineligibility.
Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Pedro Jimenez deemed the first grand jury presentation flawed and dismissed the indictments against Makras, Panagoulakos, Rossmeyer and Mpletsakis on April 17, 2020. He later dismissed the criminal complaints.
Jimenez said the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office made very clear that it needed to resubmit the case to a grand jury because of information that might clear someone of guilt. Prosecutors did not resubmit the case.
The four officers filed a civil suit to be reinstated at their jobs.
Rossmeyer’s attorney Steven Altman cited a state law that “defines back pay as salary minus mitigation.” That means that if a suspended police officer begins working at another job while suspended, back pay is calculated by subtracting the money earned while suspended minus his original salary.
The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office asked Jimenez to reconsider the dismissal of the indictments and criminal complaints. Jimenez refused their request saying that he dismissed the lawsuit because it is not legally sound.
On Wednesday, the officers' attorneys and the prosecutors spoke to Jimenez about the criminal case. The defense attorneys submitted a motion requesting that Jimenez remove the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office from the case.
In addition to deciding if the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office should be removed from the case, Jimenez is also considering whether the dismissal of the officers' complaint will be with prejudice. With prejudice means prosecutors will not be able to resubmit the case to a grand jury. However, without prejudice, means they can resubmit the case.
Jimenez will announce his decisions in the next two weeks.
The judge proclaimed that witnesses can become involved in the proceedings. He named Edison Township Attorney William Northgrave as a possible participant.
Northgrave was copied in an email with Christopher L.C. Kuberiet, former acting Middlesex County Prosecutor. Defense attorneys stated that the email was about the reinstatement of the officers.
Jimenez said, "I can tell you right now, I'm getting the sense that Northgrave is going to be appearing in court to explain that and a whole bunch of other things."