The arrests stem from a four-month investigation that began in Caldwell where customers at local eateries were victimized when their credit cards were swiped, duplicated and later charged on average of several thousand dollars.
According to Deputy Chief Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Fennelly, the alleged loan sharking scam came about because restaurant owners, who had suffered difficult economic times, allegedly approached the defendants for unsecured loans at high interest rates.
When their loan payments became delinquent, they were allegedly approached by the defendants to participate in a credit card swiping scam. The eatery owners would allow credit cards to be swiped, duplicated and later scammed in lieu of payment towards their deficient loans.
Police arrested four people during pre-dawn raids on Friday:
John Paladino 44, of 189 Union Avenue, Clifton N.J. was charged with several counts of Criminal Usury, Conspiracy, Fraudulent Credit Card Usage and Theft by Deception.
Darlene Priester, 37, of the same address were charged with distribution of CDS (Cocaine and Marijuana) and Conspiracy to sell CDS. Additional charges are pending. Paladino's bail as been set at $250,000.00 and Priester's bail is set at $10,000.00. Paladino has been on federal probation from a previous racketeering conviction.
Dean Ulan, 35, of 436 Essex Avenue, Bloomfield, was charged with several counts of Criminal Usury, and Fraudulent use of Credit Cards. His bail was set at $150,000.00.
Ramzi Musleh, 49, of 910 Paulison Avenue, Clifton, was charged with several counts of Conspiracy, Fraudulent Use of Credit Cards and Theft by Deception. His bail was sent a $150,000.00.
Three others were arrested during the investigation:
Robert Giaconia, 32, was arrested at his Passaic, N.J. home. He was charged with Conspiracy to violate NJ Narcotics Laws and Possession CDS (Percocet). Bail was set at $10,000.00.
Katherine Paladino, 48, (John Paladino's Cousin) of Hasbrouck Heights, was arrested at her for Conspiracy to Violate the NJ Narcotics Laws. Her bail is set at $10,000.00
Guy Madmon, 32, of Fair Lawn, is wanted for Conspiracy to commit fraudulent use of Credit Cards. His bail is set at $50,000.00. He remains a fugitive.
The Italianissmo Restaurant in Caldwell and the Baloco Restaurant in Clifton were among the places involved.
The investigation was a team effort involving Essex County Prosecutor's Office, United States Secret Service, Bergen County Prosecutor's Office and Caldwell Police Department.
More arrests were expected.