Case Snapshot
Case ID: 20108
Classification: Poisoning
Animal: bird (wildlife)
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Defense(s): Gary A. Kraemer

For more information about the Interactive Animal Cruelty Maps, see the map notes.

Thursday, Jul 16, 2015

County: Passaic

Disposition: Alleged

Alleged: Carlos Luaces

The West Milford superintendent of public works was charged Friday with animal cruelty for allegedly spraying a robin's nest with pesticide, killing two chicks and destroying an egg.

The Passaic County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals charged Carlos Luaces, of Byram in Sussex County, with knowingly poisoning a living animal and causing death, an indictable offense that is a crime of the third degree. The agency also charged Luaces with the lesser crime of knowingly poisoning an animal, which is a disorderly persons offense.

If convicted of a third-degree crime, Luaces could face three to five years in prison, plus face a fine, according to state sentencing guidelines.

The animal-protection agency also filed a civil complaint against Luaces seeking to recover the costs of the investigation it conducted with the West Milford Police Department, Alan Purcell, an agent with the county's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The charges are based on interviews with a half-dozen public works employees, who said Luaces first ordered them to destroy the nest by spraying it with pesticide. The employees refused, and on July 16, Luaces allegedly took a spray can filled with pesticide and doused the nest, killing the chicks and destroying another egg, Purcell said.

"This was the second family of birds that had lived in the nest, and the employees had grown attached to it," Purcell said. "They were feeding the birds strawberries and other things."

The sudden death of the birds left the workers distraught and clamoring for an investigation. One public works employee broke down in tears while she was being interviewed, Purcell said.

Instead of throwing the nest away, the workers stashed it so it could be used as evidence, Purcell said. West Milford Police were called in first, then the animal-protection agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection, which conducted a separate probe into illegal spraying of pesticides. That investigation was not complete as of Friday, DEP spokesman Larry Hajna said.

Luaces, who was hired as DPW chief in April, remains suspended with pay and could not be reached for comment on Friday. His attorney, Gary A. Kraemer, had not seen the complaint but said Luaces will fight the charges against him.

"We deny all the charges and intend to plead not guilty and see the case through to success in court," Kraemer said.

Luaces is due to make his first appearance in West Milford Municipal Court on Aug. 27. The judge will read the charges and determine whether there is enough evidence to refer the indictable offense to the grand jury.


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