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14 July 2008

Ticket-fixing judge indicted by state AG's Office

TRENTON – Attorney General Anne Milgram today announced a state grand jury returned separate indictments charging former Chief Judge Wanda Molina and former Court Administrator Virginia Pagan of the Jersey City Municipal Court with official misconduct for allegedly fixing parking tickets.

According to Criminal Justice Director Deborah Gramiccioni, Molina, 49, of Jersey City, was charged with two counts of second-degree official misconduct, one count of second-degree pattern of official misconduct, one count of third-degree tampering with public records or information and one count of fourth-degree falsifying records.

Pagan, 53, of Jersey City, was charged in a separate indictment with second-degree official misconduct, third-degree pattern of official misconduct, third-degree tampering with public records or information, and fourth-degree falsifying records.

“When court officials engage in ticket fixing, it shakes the faith of average citizens who pay up when they get a ticket,” Milgram said. “Today’s indictments send a message that these defendants are not above the law and there is indeed one system of justice to which all must answer.”

The indictment against Molina alleges that between September 2006 and August 2007, she took judicial action to dismiss eight parking tickets that were issued to a close personal companion. The Court Rules and the Code of Judicial Conduct strictly prohibit judges from hearing cases if they have any personal interest in them or if anyone close to them does. It is further alleged Molina wrote the word “emergency” on three of the tickets, falsely indicating there were compelling circumstances to justify the illegal parking, when in fact there were not.

The second indictment alleges between November 1999 and July 2007, Pagan used her official position as municipal court administrator to access the court’s computer record system and make entries dismissing 215 parking tickets that had been issued to her and her daughter. Pagan’s duties included entering dispositions on tickets after they had been adjudicated by a judge. No judicial determinations had been made on the tickets she dismissed for herself and her daughter. The state’s investigation found that the potential fines on the tickets exceeded $5,000.

The second-degree official misconduct counts against Molina and Pagan carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of $150,000.

Because both defendants are charged with counts of second-degree official misconduct that allege criminal conduct that occurred, in part, after April 14, 2007 — the effective date of the state’s new public corruption sentencing enhancement law — they face a mandatory minimum of five years in prison if convicted of that conduct.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed the law in March 2007 to significantly enhance the punishment of government officials who are convicted of abusing their office and violating the public trust.

“We charge that these defendants repeatedly violated the law in order to benefit themselves and those close to them,” Gramiccioni said. “Fortunately, a tip put an end to their alleged abuses. We encourage anyone who suspects public corruption to report it to us.”

Hudson County Assignment Judge Maurice J. Gallipoli initially investigated allegations regarding irregularities in the disposition of tickets in Jersey City Municipal Court. He referred the matter to the Attorney General’s Office.

Molina and Pagan resigned from their court positions in September 2007 after their alleged misconduct came to light.

The case was investigated by Detective Lisa Cawley and Sgt. Lisa A. Shea of the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Deputy Attorney General Asha Vaghela is handling the case for the Attorney General and presented it to the state grand jury.

Third-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $15,000 fine, while fourth-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine

The indictments are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The indictments were handed up to Superior Court Judge Maria Marinari Sypek in Mercer County. Molina’s case was assigned to Bergen County, and Pagan’s was assigned to Hudson County. They will be ordered to appear in court at a later date to answer the charges.

Copies of the indictments are available at

Milgram noted the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau has established a toll-free Corruption Tipline for the public to report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities. The statewide tipline is 1-866-TIPS-4CJ. Additionally, the public can log on to the Division of Criminal Justice's Web site at to report suspected wrongdoing. All information received through the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Tipline or Web page will remain confidential.


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