N.J. Officer suspended after 250K in stolen goods found in yard

By RICHARD COWEN, Special to the Herald News, North Jersey Media Group

Copyright 2005 North Jersey Media Group Inc.,
All Rights Reserved
Herald News

A Passaic County sheriff's officer has been suspended without pay after a weekend raid in which police found an estimated $250,000 worth of stolen outdoor equipment in his backyard, authorities said Wednesday.

Douglas Owen, 44, has been charged with receiving stolen property after state police raided his home in Lafayette, Sussex County, last Friday. In the backyard, investigators uncovered a virtual showroom of stolen outdoor equipment, all of the items reported stolen in recent months.

A woman who answered the telephone at Owen's home on Wednesday said he would have no comment on the arrest.

Among the items were three ATVs, three tractors, two wood chippers and five power mowers, as well as an assortment of power tools, police said.

State police Capt. Al Della Fave said it took police until Tuesday afternoon to catalogue all the items found in Owen's backyard. Police checked the identification numbers on the all the equipment, and determined that they were the result of eight thefts at construction sites in New York and New Jersey during the past several months.

The equipment will be returned to the owners, Della Fave said.

State police raided the backyard at Old Beaver Run and Monroe roads after a self-employed construction worker, Mike Zajac, drove by and saw what appeared to be power tools that had been stolen from him, Della Fave said.

Owen was arrested and charged with receiving stolen property and taken to the Sussex County Jail, where he spent the weekend. His bail was originally set at $50,000, but a judge lowered that amount Monday morning to $7,500 with a 10 percent cash option.

Owen was later freed after posting $750, police said.

Bill Maer, spokesman for the Passaic County Sheriff's Department, said it's not known whether Owen was operating alone or with others, or why the equipment was in his possession. Since the arrest on Monday, Owen was suspended from the Sheriff's Department without pay. Maer said Owen would lose his job if he's found guilty.

"If there is any admission of guilt or a conviction, he will be terminated," Maer said.

Owen, a 17-year veteran, makes $75,779 a year. He is attached to the security detail at Superior Court in Paterson. If convicted, Owen faces up to 10 years in prison. 
December 22, 2005

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