A northern New Jersey police chief faces criminal charges of alleged use of officers to perform escorts for his private funeral home business, according to a criminal complaint released Monday.
The attorney general’s office said Saddle Brook Police Chief Robert Kugler has been charged with conspiracy, official misconduct and corruption of public resources. He was suspended Tuesday.
A criminal complaint alleges that from January 2019 through last August, the 59-year-old Kugler ordered officers to perform escorts using police vehicles during their regular hours, in violation of township ordinances, and didn’t reimburse the town for the costs. They also allegedly provided escorts to cemeteries outside Saddle Brook.
John Bruno, the attorney for Kugler, said that his client is "eager to have all the facts come out" and that he believes he will be exonerated, saying he was "shocked and outraged by the allegations."
When asked if Kugler was sending on-duty officers exclusively to his funeral home, Bruno said he believes that was a "courtesy extending to other funeral homes as well."
The Bergen County prosecutor’s office has taken over the Saddle Brook police department’s day-to-day operations, according to the attorney general’s office.
A relative said the Kugler Funeral Home had no comment on the charges. Saddle Brook Mayor Robert White said he was troubled by the charges, and after speaking with the prosecutor's office, said he understood why it was taking control.
"Initially I was taken back by them wanting to take over the police department," White said. "After they explained it to me, I realized the town would be better off with them taking temporary control of the department."
The conspiracy and official misconduct charges both carry five- to 10-year terms upon conviction, with a five-year mandatory minimum with no chance for parole in the case of the misconduct count.