By John Burton
HIGHLANDS — Art Gallagher, a Borough Council candidate in next month’s election, political blogger and local businessman, was arrested last Friday for an out of state warrant alleging a theft of more than three-quarters of a million dollars, according to police.
Police Chief Joseph Blewett this week said officers took Gallagher into custody at approximately 10:10 p.m. for a warrant issued by Delaware authorities, who requested local police arrest Gallagher.
In New Jersey authorities charged Gallagher as a fugitive, setting his bail at $250,000 and transporting him to the Monmouth County Correctional Institution, Freehold, where as of Tuesday he was still being held.
According to Corporal Jeffrey Hale, with the Delaware State Police, Gallagher has been charged with two counts of theft where the property value is $100,000 or more and two counts of third degree forgery.
Delaware would be seeking extradition to its jurisdiction, Hale indicated.
According to a press statement released by the Delaware State Police on Tuesday, the charges against Gallagher stem from an incident that started back on Sept. 6, 2011.
At that time, according to Hale’s release, the owner of a Delaware-based bus company had contracted to lease-purchase 11 school buses from a Pennsylvania bus company. Gallagher, law enforcement authorities alleged, had arranged the lease through his business.
Gallagher is president of Gallco Enterprises, Inc., a vehicle and equipment sales and leasing company, he operates in the Belford section of Middletown, according to Gallagher’s personal Facebook page.
The alleged victim told investigators that she had paid off the leased buses in August of 2010, but never received the ownership titles for them, authorities said.
When The Delaware bus company owner contacted Gallagher about the titles, she told police, he was allegedly uncooperative and then began refusing to take her calls.
Authorities estimated the value of the 11 buses at $776,000, and Gallagher had allegedly financed the initial bus purchases for the woman through two separate banks.
When the woman contacted the banks she was informed that Gallco Enterprises was behind in the payments.
The woman’s bus company had won the contract for a local school district to transport students, with the state of Delaware actually paying Gallagher’s company directly, investigators charged.
The Delaware State Police also charged that from September 2005 to May 2010 Gallagher had endorsed checks issued by the state of Delaware totaling more than $776,000—money earmarked as profit for the local school bus company.
In February 2011 the bus company owner discovered the buses were missing from her bus yard. And authorities alleged, Gallagher had gone to a Delaware Motor Vehicles location where he showed two allegedly “fictitious letters” bearing forged bank employee signatures, supposedly indicating the liens against the buses had been paid off, and Gallagher was able to get the titles.
Authorities said Gallagher subsequently sold a number of the buses back to the Pennsylvania bus company.
Gallagher, 53, is seeking a seat on the Highlands borough council, campaigning as an Independent. His campaign Web site says he’s looking to fill the one-year unexpired term of Frank Nolan, who was elected as mayor last year.
Gallagher has lived in the borough for 10 years and has been active on a number of fronts, serving on the borough’s planning board and zoning board of adjustment and vice chairman of the borough’s Depuration Plant Commission. He is a past president and board member of the Northern Monmouth Chamber of Commerce, according to his Web site.
In the political arena, he had been a Republican county committee member, and has attracted attention for his active politically conservative Web site and blog More Monmouth Musings.
On that site Gallagher posted a statement indicating, “On the advice of my attorney I can not discuss the charges against me at this time other then [sic] to say that they are vigorously contested and that I did not commit theft,” and he was working with his lawyers to seek his release.
“When I am released I intend to write about my experiences of the last few days,” his statement said.