Two state troopers who led a caravan of luxury cars at speeds topping 100 mph in March were charged Friday with records-tampering after an investigation found they taped up their plates to conceal their involvement in the improper escort, which jeopardized public safety and undermined trust in the state police, the attorney general said.
"No one is above the law," Attorney General Jeff Chiesa said.
Administrative charges also were brought against four other members of the state police in connection with a high-speed escort in 2010, and a fifth trooper for his handling of a ticket issued to the operator of a Lamborghini clocked at 116 mph, also in 2010.
Sgt. 1st Class Nadir Nassry and Trooper Joseph Ventrella sought to conceal their involvement in the March escort by using black electrical tape to alter their plates, the attorney general said.
Nassry also is accused of instructing other drivers in the caravan of high-performance vehicles to conceal or partly conceal their plates using tape or other means.
By hiding their plate numbers, the drivers were able to speed through tolls on the Garden State Parkway without paying, the attorney general said, creating what he described as a "mirage."
Chiesa said the taping of the troop cars showed "they intended to conceal their involvement in conduct that they knew was wrong."
The attorney general said the time limit had expired to issue any tickets to the motorists involved in any of the high-speed caravans.
New escort procedures are now in place, including "clear instructions on observing posted speed limits," Chiesa said.
Nassry, an assistant station commander and 25-year-veteran, on Thursday took full responsibility for the escort and submitted his retirement papers. He asked for leniency for Ventrella, whom he said was simply following orders and has been on the force only six years.
Nassry's attorney said he denied any criminal wrongdoing. An attorney for Ventrella could not be reached by phone Friday.
Both Nassry and Ventrella were charged with fourth-degree falsifying or tampering with records. Nassry also faces a second charge of third-degree tampering with public records.
Nassry had agreed to participate in the escort because of his friendship with Brandon Jacobs, a former member of the New York Giants, now with the San Francisco 49ers, who was part of the caravan, Nassry's attorney, Charles Sciarra, said Thursday.
Witnesses who emailed the state Turnipike Authority reported seeing the caravan, escorted by two state police vehicles, traveling down the parkway at speeds over 100 mph, weaving in traffic and forcing some motorists to speed up to get out of the way. Its participants included members of a New York driving club.
Nassry, 47, and Ventrella, 28, were suspended in April.
The investigation into the escorts also led to a major shake-up of state police brass, with the reassignment of 10 state police commanders.
Gov. Chris Christie at first called the incidents "dumb," and then later said they "would have graduated much beyond dumb if someone had gotten hurt."