On appeal from a Final Decision of the Department of Corrections.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 30, 2009
Before Judges Carchman and Parrillo.
Appellant Lorenzo Barrenechea, an inmate at East Jersey State Prison, appeals from a final decision of the Department of Corrections (DOC) adjudicating him guilty of prohibited act *.704, perpetrating a fraud, N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.1. Following a hearing, appellant was sanctioned 15 days detention, 300 days of loss of commutation credit and 300 days of administrative segregation. On the administrative appeal, the Commissioner's office affirmed the hearing officer's findings and sanctions. Appellant appealed, and we affirm.
These are the relevant facts adduced from the record.
On May 15, 2008, the Special Investigations Division (SID) at East Jersey State Prison recorded a telephone conversation between Barrenechea and Melissa Gell, his fiancée. In that conversation, Gell told Barrenechea that she was being investigated by the State Commission on Investigation. Barrenechea said that it would "go on him" and that he was receiving money from other inmates in exchange for providing legal work.
In June 2008, SID reviewed the record of outgoing inmate payments. More than forty inmates had sent money to Justina Hidalgo, with an address in Elizabeth, New Jersey and a post office box in Rahway, New Jersey. SID then ascertained that Justina Hidalgo was the mother of and resided with Melissa Gell, who was listed on Barrenechea's visitor list as his fiancée. Gell and Hidalgo had opened a post office box together in January 2008. SID's review of records from that time period showed that fifty-eight payments had been made to Gell and Hidalgo.
Based on the telephone conversation and the number of inmates sending money to Gell and Hidalgo, SID determined that appellant was perpetrating a fraud in order to obtain money from other inmates by charging them for legal work and then having the money sent to Gell outside the institution to circumvent institutional rules regarding transfer of money between inmates. Investigator Kevin Koch charged appellant with violating prohibited act *.704, perpetrating a fraud, and appellant was placed in pre-hearing detention.
Following service of the charges on June 6, 2008, appellant declined to make a statement or identify witnesses. He did request counsel substitute and appeared before a hearing officer on June 9, 2008; however, the hearing was adjourned to allow review of the relevant reports. The hearing was continued on June 27, 2008, where appellant appeared with counsel substitute and made a statement indicating that appellant's conversations with Gell were misinterpreted. He indicated that the checks were actually gifts for prior legal work. The hearing officer rejected appellant's testimony and adjudicated appellant guilty.
On appeal, appellant asserts:
Finding of guilt did not meet nor was based on standard requirement of substantial evidence as defined in N.J.A.C. 10A:4-9.15 therefore Appellants guilty ...