Princeton Township Chief Allegedly Stole Antique Gun in Township Custody, Traded It for Rifle and Revolver

After months of speculation, the allegations have finally become public regarding Princeton Township Police Chief Mark V. Emann, who is accused of taking an antique weapon that was in police custody and trading it in for a rifle and revolver for personal use.

Emann was admitted into a pretrial intervention program today that requires a 12-month period of supervision, 40 hours of community service and restitution to Princeton Township.

The chief and the other two officers involved in the gun case have all retired.

Emann, 52, entered a plea of not guilty this morning to an accusation charging him with third-degree theft by deception before Mercer County Superior Court Judge Gerald J. Council. The accusation charges that Emann committed theft by purposely obtaining two weapons, valued at $2,400, by deception.

On June 1, 2007, Emman was allegedly involved in the trade of an antique weapon owned by the department for a rifle and revolver for the chief in his personal capacity, in addition to several rifles and other equipment for the police department. Sources say the antique weapon was turned in by a township resident.

On October 1, 2010, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office superseded Emann and assumed control of the daily operations of the Princeton Township Police Department. Emann, Lieutenant Michael Henderson and Corporal Arthur Villaruz were served with administrative charges and suspended from duty. Chief William Straniero of the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office was designated as the officer in charge of the supervision and management of the police department.

“My Internal Affairs Unit pursued an immediate and thorough investigation, while Chief Straniero conducted an audit of the department’s armory and inventoried all of its evidence,” Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph L. Bocchini Jr. stated. “The investigation revealed that this was an isolated incident, and the audit and inventory showed that all department weapons and evidence were accounted for properly.”

Emann has already resigned from his position as chief and submitted his retirement papers. His participation in the PTI program requires him to forfeit all future government employment. In making restitution, Emann will return one weapon that the police department has a use for and pay for the other weapon that was a custom made firearm that the department cannot utilize.

“Throughout my tenure as Mercer County prosecutor, government corruption cases have been zealously prosecuted in an effort to serve the best interests of justice,” Bocchini said. “In my judgment, justice in this case will be achieved by foregoing the criminal prosecution of a non-violent offender with a 32-year history of service to his community in favor of diversion into the PTI program, particularly in light of the fact that this defendant came forward and admitted his wrongdoing without the prompting of law enforcement.”

Henderson and Villaruz resigned from the police department on December 1, 2010, in lieu of further disciplinary action and or criminal prosecution.

Effective Friday, January 14, Chief Straniero of the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office will no longer be in charge of the supervision and management of the Princeton Township Police Department. With the resolution of the criminal investigation, decisions with regard to the police department’s leadership are back in the hands of the mayor and the township committee.

Straniero called the Princeton Township Police Department a very proud and professional organization and credited Captain Robert Buchanan with helping to guide the organization through this tumultuous period.

“After a short period of time, I transitioned into more of a monitor as it was clearly evident that Captain Buchanan was more than capable of overseeing the daily operations of the police department,” Straniero said. “While working alongside him for the last three months, I found him to be honest, very knowledgeable, even tempered and fair,” Straniero said.

“During his 31 years with the department, Captain Buchanan has risen through the ranks and worked in virtually every position. He is intimately familiar with all aspects of the department and completely understands the needs of the officers and the community they serve.”