Wednesday, August 31, 2016

South Jersey prison guard suffers partial pension forfeiture after guilty plea that resolved sex offense charges.

At its July 11, 2016 meeting, the Police and Firemen's Retirement System (PFRS) Board of Trustees voted to label a little more than three years of a correction officer's service time as "dishonorable."  This resulted in the officer, who had entered into a 2015 plea deal that resolved charges that he had committed sex offenses against two fourteen year old girls, being denied a service requirement.  The Board, however, found that the officer is still entitled to deferred retirement benefits when he turns 55 in March 2020.

According to an April 10, 2015 plea agreement, former South Woods Prison Senior Corrections Officer Alfred Vargas received a one year term of probation and was required to "undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation" to resolve charges arising out of his interactions with two fourteen year-old girls.  A January 13, 2015 written decision by Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Robert G. Malestein stated that the two girls had reported to police that Vargas had twice placed his penis in their hands while they slept.  The girls said that one incident occurred when they were 14 and the other occurred when they were 16.  One of the girls said that Vargas "had exposed himself to her several times" between the two incidents.  Judge Malestein's January 13, 2015 decision affirmed the Cumberland County Prosecutor's denial of Vargas' bid to enter into the Pretrial Intervention (PTI) program.

According to the PFRS minutes, Vargas was suspended without pay within days after his December 19, 2013 arrest and was ordered to forfeit his public office.  Judge Mary C. Jacobson's November 5, 2015 Order in State v. Vargas, Docket No. MER-L-1777-15, ordered the forfeiture.

Vargas was represented by Robert J. Luther who is "of counsel" to the Haddon Heights law firm of Helmer Conley & Kasselman, PA.  Both Luther and Yaron Helmer, a named partner in the firm, previously served as First Assistant County Prosecutor in the Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office.  Helmer is also facing ethics charges for allegedly working to persuade the Cumberland County Prosecutor's office to threaten criminal charges against two men whose company owed money to Helmer's client.