Fenimore landfill owners’ teen kids subpoenaed in criminal investigation
The Fenimore landfill owners’ twin children have been subpoenaed to testify in an ongoing criminal investigation involving their parents’ enterprise.
Nicole and Richard Bernardi Jr. have been summoned to appear before a state grand jury in Trenton on July 1 at 10 a.m., according to copies of the subpoenas their father, Richard Bernardi Sr., has provided to NJ Advance Media.
“They’re sending me a message. They’re going to take my 19-year-old daughter and they’re going to grill her,” Richard Bernardi Sr. said.
NJ Advance Media first reported on the criminal inquiry in December, when Richard Bernardi Sr. said his accountant was issued a subpoena for financial records. Peter Aseltine, as spokesman for the Attorney General’s office, said at the time as a matter of policy he can’t confirm whether any criminal investigation is taking place.
Aseltine said the same when contacted this week.
But Bernardi Sr. alleges the criminal investigation is a tactic to put pressure on him as he and the state continue a civil battle over the former Fenimore landfill site — which the Department of Environmental Protection took over in 2013 amid complaints of rotten egg-like smells spreading for miles.
The DEP has materially finished an extensive capping project meant to eliminate that problem, but an appellate court recently ruled the state overstepped its authority during the takeover. The company owned by Richard Bernardi Sr. and wife Marilyn Bernardi, SEP, is seeking to have the site returned and is scheduled for a court-ordered mediation session June 24, before a court appearance July 17.
Bernardi Sr. said in the time since his accountant received a subpoena, transfer stations that sent materials to SEP for its own capping and grading project — meant as a precursor to installing a solar facility — were ordered to hand over records.
“They’re just harassing the people around me. But this just surprised the hell out of me,” Richard Bernardi Sr. said.
Bernardi Sr. has alleged often, both to media and to the courts, that several politicians and state officials have conspired against him in part to serve their own political interests, and in part out of spite. He has maintained he nearly had odor problems at Fenimore under control, and the state intervention was unnecessary.
He said his son worked at the site, operating equipment. His daughter helped wife Marilyn with paperwork related to the operation,
Bernardi Sr. said with the mediation just a week away, he believes the subpoenas are timed to pressure him to give into DEP demands over the future of the site.
State officials have not said what the criminal investigation might entail.
“I don’t think they’re trying to get me on anything. I think they’re trying to drive me crazy,” Bernardi Sr. said.
Louis C. Hochman may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.