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County Official Sentenced to 3 Years in Jail for Accepting a Bribe in Hazlet

Freehold Soil Conservation District employee John Tonon sentenced to three years in prison

A Former Freehold Soil Conservation District employee from Wall was sentenced to three years in prison today for accepting a bribe to expedite construction approvals in Hazlet in 2009, authorities said.

John Tonon, 51, of Lakewood Road, was sentenced to three years in prision today by Superior Court Judge Ronald Lee Reisner. Tonon will be eligible for parole after two years, according to a release from the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office.

Tonon in April pleaded guilty to official misconduct and bribery, both third degree crimes. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Authorities have said that Tonon accepted a $700 cash bribe from an undercover officer while serving in his job as a soil conservationist and inspector for the Freehold Soil Conservation District.

Tonon, who according to state records in 2009 made $65,226 in his position with the conservation district.

Tonon accepted the bribe on Oct. 26 in Hazlet to expedite the permitting process for a recently built home, the Prosecutor's Office has said.

Tonon told the builder the fees associated with the Freehold Soil Conservation District inspection and the associated paperwork ranged between $1,400 and $3,000, the Prosecutor's Office has said.

But Tonon offered to expedite the process and issue approvals in exchange
for a $700 cash payment – approvals that would ensure faster issuance of a certificate of occupancy for the property, the Prosecutor's Office has said.

Then an undercover officer, posing as a business partner of the builder, stepped in and made several consensually recorded conversations regarding payment and Tonon accepted a $700 cash bribe from the undercover officer, the Prosecutor's Office has said.

The Freehold Soil Conservation District is one of 15 soil conservation districts in the state, run by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

Conservation districts are charged with the implementation of the New Jersey Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Act, which regulates development in areas including stormwater management, soil erosion and sedimentation.

The Freehold Soil Conservation District works in both Monmouth and Middlesex counties.

Bill Heller October 06, 2012 at 05:29 PM
The sting operation must have been set up by the prosecutor's office because they had evidence of bribes Tonon had accepted previously, but those details have apparently not been made public. Specifically, I wish the prosecutor would find out from Tonon if he ever had any illicit dealings concerning soil disturbance in the construction of the foundation for the Bayshore Regional Sewerage Authority's controversial industrial wind turbine project. Tonon was the inspector of record on that job. Although there is no apparent evidence pointing to wrongdoing, the BRSA did run into hot water with Freehold Soil and the DEP due to a citizen's complaint over the amount of earth moved that the BRSA first ignored. The issue was smoothed over rather easily when all was said and done, raisng a few eyebrows around these parts. Here's an article that covers some of the details: http://ind.gmnews.com/news/2011-02-17/Front_Page/DEP_No_violation_of_BRSA_wind_turbine_permit.html
Charles E. Hoffman. Jr. October 06, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Is the Tonon conviction just the tip of the iceberg? According to press reports, the Birdsell Co. whose business involves soil management/remedial work had its office spaces raided by the Monmouth County Prosecutor and then State level investigators have called for an Ocean County community's files of their dealings with said company. As noted Tonon's sentence could have been severe as 10 years, but was only 3 yrs with the possibility of parole after two. Did he plea bargain by turning state's evidence in another BIG Jersey Corruption Case.? The lack of public info being made available on the part of the State and County investigating arms would lead one to believe that the whole matter is still under investigation.
Charles E. Hoffman. Jr. October 06, 2012 at 06:55 PM
I should have added the following line to my previous comment. "Is the severity and the political implications of this investigation being tamped down/ held back from the Public until after the November elections?"

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