Matawan man, 47, charged with stealing cocaine

Asbury Park Press (New Jersey)
SECTION: NJNEWS
BYLINE: Joshua Burd | Staff Writer,

Asbury Park, NJ

A township police officer has been charged with stealing cocaine from the department's evidence room while overseeing it as the evidence officer, authorities said.

Albert Annuzzi, 47, of Matawan was arrested April 25 on one count each of official misconduct, theft and tampering with evidence, Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan said Thursday.

The 23-year veteran was charged after investigators determined that he took an unknown amount of cocaine for personal use, Kaplan said. The alleged theft occurred while he was working as the evidence officer, a position he held since February 2010.

Annuzzi was suspended from duty and remains free after posting $50,000 bail, which was set by state Superior Court Judge Diane Pincus, sitting in New Brunswick. His base salary in 2009 was $103,316, according to state employee records.

A statement from Kaplan's office did not immediately say when the cocaine was taken.

The charges came as no surprise to Timothy Smith, a Fairfield-based attorney who said that at least some of the drugs in question were related to a case against one of his clients. He said his client Yusef Gethers was preparing to go to trial when an assistant prosecutor called Smith on April 25 and offered a plea agreement.

Smith and Gethers accepted the deal, which was more favorable than one the state previously offered, and entered the plea April 27, the attorney said. But a week later, he said, a different Middlesex County prosecutor notified him that the evidence officer had been charged with stealing the cocaine.

Smith then moved to retract the plea and sent the Prosecutor's Office a list of questions about chain of custody, he said. He expressed concern about why the arrest was not disclosed to him when it first took place.

James O'Neill, a Prosecutor's Office spokesman, did not immediately return calls.

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