Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced the state grand jury indictments today of former Elizabeth Board of Education member Juan Donoso, Board Attorney Kirk Nelson, and outside board counsel Frank Capece on charges that they covered up a false application filed by Donoso’s wife for the federally funded free lunch program.
The jury charged Donoso, 42, of Elizabeth, in a five-count indictment with two counts of official misconduct (2nd degree) and one count each of tampering with public records or information (3rd degree), tampering with or fabricating physical evidence (4th degree), and hindering apprehension or prosecution (4th degree). Nelson, 46, of Roselle, and Capece, 63, of Cranford, were named in a separate six-count indictment charging each of them with two counts of official misconduct (2nd degree) and one count each of conspiracy (2nd degree), tampering with public records or information (3rd degree), tampering with or fabricating physical evidence (4th degree), and hindering apprehension or prosecution (4th degree). The Division of Criminal Justice and the New Jersey State Police initially investigated the trio.
Allegedly at Donoso’s request, Nelson and Capece obstructed a state investigation into abuse of the school lunch program by covering up a false application filed by Donoso’s wife. After the State Police served a subpoena on the school district through Nelson demanding all applications for the free lunch program going back to 2004, Nelson and Capece allegedly directed that the wife’s application be removed from district records, so that it was not turned over in response to the subpoena. Donoso’s wife, Olga Oviedo-Arevalo, was charged by complaint in April with filing several false applications, but she was admitted into the Pre-Trial Intervention Program in August. Her charges will be dismissed if she successfully completes PTI. She paid restitution of $1,700 as a condition of enrollment in PTI.
“We allege that these defendants corruptly used their authority within the school district to try to sweep this matter under the rug,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “We simply will not tolerate such a blatant disregard for the law.”
“These two attorneys allegedly did Donoso’s bidding by deliberately thwarting a State Police subpoena that would have uncovered his wife’s false application for the free lunch program,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Rather than fulfilling their obligation as lawyers to uphold the law, Nelson and Capece allegedly obstructed a criminal investigation to satisfy their client. All three men rightfully face serious charges.”
Deputy Attorney General Michael Monahan presented the case to the grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.