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Charges Against Staten Island Hustle Cast and Crew Dismissed

DATE:  4/20/2018
Adolfo Lacola, Carlos F. Gonzalez, Jacob Towsley, Michael Palmer, Philip Nakagami, Ronald Montano, Samuel Berns, Timothy Duffy, William Oaks

April 20, 2018
Charges Against Staten Island Hustle Cast and Crew Dismissed

Newark – Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino announced today that the charges are being dismissed against nine cast and crew members of the reality television show “Staten Island Hustle.” As part of an episode of the show, the men tried to bring a device — originally misinterpreted as being a bomb — through the x-ray screening at Newark Liberty International Airport.

On Jan. 18, the following individuals were charged with creating a false alarm, conspiracy to create a false public alarm and interfering with public transportation for putting through the screening system at Newark Liberty International Airport a device that appeared to be suspicious. It has since been determined that the device was not a destructive device but a makeshift luggage shrinking device designed by characters starring in a reality television show.

Consequently, all charges will be dismissed against all nine defendants.

• Ronald Montano, 44, of Staten Island, New York
• Samuel Micah Berns, 39, of Hollywood, California
• Jacob M. Towsley, 34, of Portageville, New York
• Michael L. Palmer, 51, Staten Island, New York
• William Oaks, 36, of Brooklyn, New York
• Philip K. Nakagami, 26, of Jersey City
• Carlos F. Gonzalez, 33, of Queens, New York
• Timothy S. Duffy, 34, of Sparta, NJ
• Adolfo Lacola, 51, of Staten Island, New York

“The conduct engaged in by these individuals was ill-advised, and demonstrated extremely poor judgment in this age of heightened security awareness, but it does not rise to the level of a knowing violation of the criminal laws of the State of New Jersey,’’ said Acting Prosecutor Laurino.

According to Assistant Prosecutor Joseph A. Giordano, who handled the case, the incident which led to their arrests occurred on Jan. 18 of this year. Ronald Montano entered the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint at Newark Liberty International Airport, Terminal C, and placed for x-ray screening a suitcase containing a black Bissell vacuum cleaner motor with connecting half inch PVC pipes, a metal connector and a power cord. Adolfo Lacola was with Montano. Both men had boarding passes for a flight to Boston. Samuel Berns, the producer of the show, was behind the checkpoint when Montano went through. They were filming the incident with a cellphone.

Eventually, TSA bomb techs cleared the bag but all nine men were charged.
Michael Palmer, Timothy Duffy, Philip Nakagami, Carlos Gonzalez, were all apprehended right outside of the checkpoint awaiting the exit of Montano.

William Oaks, the alleged mastermind behind the idea to have Montano walk through TSA checkpoint, arrived later. Berns said that they were affiliated with CNBC but could not immediately provide any media credentials. They all arrived in a Blue Nissan Armada parked at the airport. The vehicle was located and the driver, Jacob Towsley, was arrested.

“From our perspective, TSA officials did exactly what they are supposed to do. They discretely stopped Montano and inspected his luggage and concluded that the device was possibly an explosive and called for help which led to the arrests,’’ said Acting Prosecutor Laurino.

But as we investigated the case, we learned the device was not an explosive, said Acting Prosecutor Laurino. Moreover, the defendants, through their lawyers, claimed they believed they were permitted to bring this onto the plane based on their independent research and past company practice.

“As tempting as it is to use this case to make a public example of what NOT to do, based on all the facts and circumstances, we concluded that the charges had to be dismissed because they did not knowingly create a false public alarm, as required by the statute. Fortunately, the airport was not evacuated. No planes were grounded. No action was taken that disrupted the flow of actively at the airport that day,’’ said Prosecutor Laurino. “These individuals could face civil penalties but we have concluded they will not face a criminal prosecution in state court in New Jersey.”

“Every case has to be judged on its unique set of facts,” added Prosecutor Laurino. “Anyone who does intentionally seek to disrupt or cause harm to the commuting public should be forewarned that they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

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