Verona council candidate has history of arrests, bankruptcy

A candidate for a Verona Township Council seat has a history of legal and financial difficulties, including multiple arrests on assault charges, that have not yet been raised before the May 9 non-partisan municipal election.

Christian Strumolo has faced a string of arrests and criminal charges over the last two decades, including a 2002 arrest for aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer that was later negotiated down to a guilty plea on a simple assault charge.

Over the years, Strumolo has pled guilty to impersonating a public servant or law enforcement officer, obstructing the administration of a government function, loitering while intoxicated, and assault.

Four years ago, Strumolo was arrested for drunk driving on Bloomfield Avenue in Verona within 1,000 feet of a school.  That was his second DUI conviction: the first came in 2008 while driving on Pompton Avenue in Cedar Grove, again within proximity of a school and with a refusal to take a breathalyzer test.

He filed for bankruptcy in 2015 after accumulating over $600,000 in debt and assets of roughly $6,000.  Between 2009 and 2018, the Internal Revenue Service and the New Jersey Division of Taxation filed about $500,000 in liens against Strumolo, according to filings with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.  He also owed $8,500 to Caldwell College for unpaid tuition for his minor child.

That happened while claiming monthly take-home pay of $8,250 from a cleaning company he owned.

“Voters can’t make informed decisions unless they’re informed.  If you asked any self-respecting constituent of George Santos, they’d tell you they wish they knew then what they know now,” said Micah Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Institute of New Jersey Politics at Rider University.  “Voter diligence is the most bedrock, necessary principle of casting an informed vote.  It will do Verona zero good to learn the story of their new council member after the election.”

According to his bankruptcy filings, Strumolo had received a $7,900 personal loan from Ryan Graham, an owner of Fairview Insurance Associates.  At the time, Graham’s company was the insurance vendor for Bloomfield, where Strumolo’s father had been the longtime Democratic municipal chairman.

Brian Aloia, the Verona municipal attorney, had loaned $7,000 to Strumolo.  Aloia did not respond to a telephone message left at his law office.

Strumolo claimed in his bankruptcy filing to own a 1987 Chrysler Reliant K with $108,000 miles that he estimated to be worth $500.  Still, he was driving a new Cadillac when he stopped for two motor vehicle violations the following year.   Court records show he had been driving a 2015 Cadillac before his bankruptcy.

In 2016, Strumolo alleged he cut a deal with William J. Colgan, a politically connected real estate developer, to receive 20% of profits that came from the former North Jersey Development Center site in Totowa that the municipality purchased from the State of New Jersey for $1 and then quickly sold to Colgan for $5 million.

Strumolo introduced Colgan to Peter Murphy, then the Totowa GOP chairman and now the Passaic County Republican chairman.

“Strumolo spent more than a year meeting with Murphy, often multiple times a day, to explain Colgan’s plans for the Property, assure Murphy that Colgan would not deviate from those plans, and secure Murphy’s support for the project,” Strumolo’s lawyer said in a court filing.

Three parcels of land were sold in 2018 and 2019 for nearly $84 million to J. P. Morgan Chase for use as data centers.

In a lawsuit, Strumolo alleged that Colgan backed out of their deal.  It was later settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

Reached on his cell phone on Friday afternoon, Strumolo declined to discuss his issues.

“I’m at the gym,” he said.  “I don’t have time.”

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