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TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that criminal charges were filed today against a suspended detective in the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office (CMCPO) for allegedly conducting an unauthorized investigation into a minor motor vehicle accident involving a relative.
The Office of Public Integrity and Accountability charged Detective Sgt. Robert P. Harkins Jr., 48, of Wildwood Crest, N.J. by complaint-summons with the following criminal offenses:
- Conspiracy to Tamper with Public Records or Information (3rd Degree)
- Tampering with Public Records or Information (3rd Degree)
It is alleged that in December 2019 and January 2020, Harkins personally initiated and conducted an unauthorized investigation into a minor motor vehicle accident involving a relative in the parking lot of a store in Middle Township, specifically to identify the driver of the other vehicle, who left the scene without exchanging information. Harkins allegedly failed to record his official actions in CMCPO’s records management system, as required, and instead documented them with an outdated “general investigation report” to avoid review by his superiors. It is further alleged that Harkins—without approval, permission or lawful authority—issued a subpoena to the store where the crash occurred, used his CMCPO affiliation to send official requests for information to state agencies in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and ultimately provided his investigative findings, including a 10-page report and a file of various documents, to another law enforcement agency, the Middle Township Police Department.
The Middle Township Police Department, which was actually responsible for the official investigation of the accident, advised CMCPO of the situation. Following an internal review by its Professional Standards Unit, CMCPO referred the matter to the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA).
Deputy Attorney General Brian Uzdavinis is assigned to prosecute the case for the OPIA Corruption Bureau. Attorney General Grewal commended the detectives of the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau who investigated for the OPIA Corruption Bureau. He also thanked the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office and Middle Township Police Department for their invaluable assistance.
Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000. The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Attorney General Grewal created the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) in September 2018 to combat corruption and strengthen public confidence in government institutions. In December 2019, the Attorney General issued a directive codifying OPIA and making it a permanent part of the Attorney General’s Office. That directive established the OPIA Corruption Bureau as the lead office within the Department of Law & Public Safety for the investigation and prosecution of state criminal violations involving corruption and abuse of public trust.
OPIA has a toll-free Tipline 1-844-OPIA-TIPS for the public to report corruption. The AG’s Office has an Anti-Corruption Reward Program that offers a reward of up to $25,000 for tips leading to a conviction for a crime involving public corruption. Information is posted at: http://nj.gov/oag/corruption/reward.html.
Defense Attorney: Michael Testa Sr., Esq., Testa Heck Testa & White, P.A., Vineland, N.J.