TO: ALL NEWS MEDIA
FROM: PROSECUTOR MARK MUSELLA
DATE: MARCH 10, 2020
Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella announced today two enforcement matters relating to the alleged sale of a dangerous “spray sanitizer” at a 7-Eleven in River Vale. Prosecutor Musella announced that MANISHA BHARADE (DOB: 06/11/1972; married; owner of 7-Eleven) of Wood-Ridge, NJ was charged with Endangering The Welfare Of A Child and Deceptive Business Practices. At the same time, Attorney General Grewal announced that the Division of Consumer Affairs (DCA) opened an investigation into the store’s practices regarding the sale and promotion of health and sanitation products offered by the store since the emergence of the coronavirus outbreak. The arrest is the result of an investigation conducted by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office under the direction of Chief Robert Anzilotti and the River Vale Police Department under the direction of Chief Sean Scheidle.
On Monday, March 9, 2020, at approximately 8:13 p.m., the River Vale Police Department responded to the 7-Eleven located at 207 Rivervale Road after receiving information from social media that four juvenile boys (three 10 year-olds and one 11 year-old) had been burned after using sanitizer purchased at the 7-Eleven.
The ensuing investigation revealed that BHARADE had mixed commercially available foaming sanitizer, which was not meant for resale, with water and packaged it in aftermarket bottles to be sold at the 7-Eleven on Rivervale Road. An apparent chemical reaction from the mixture caused the burns. Fourteen bottles in total were sold at the 711. Five bottles have been turned over to the River Vale Police Department and nine bottles are unaccounted for at this time. Further analysis will be performed to determine the exact make-up of the chemical mixture.
As a result of evidence obtained by law enforcement, BHARADE was charged with four counts of Endangering The Welfare Of A Child, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4a(2), a 3rd degree crime; and one count of Deceptive Business Practices, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:21-7(d), a disorderly persons offense. BHARADE was issued a Summons.
In addition, the Division of Consumer Affairs opened an investigation into the store’s practices regarding the sale and promotion of health and sanitation products. Earlier today, the Division sent a letter to the store’s owners demanding that they preserve all records relating to the preparation and sale of the “spray sanitizer” seized by law enforcement, as well as the sale and advertisement of any health-related or sanitation-related products that the store began marketing or offering for sale after December 31, 2019, the first day that the government in Wuhan, China confirmed illnesses now known as COVID-19. The letter noted the Division’s commitment to protecting consumers from fraudulent, deceptive, or unconscionable business practices, especially during declared states of emergency.
“Let me be perfectly clear: if you try to take advantage of our residents during a public health emergency, we will hold you accountable,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Retailers who try to make a quick buck by exploiting others will face civil and criminal consequences.” Prosecutor Musella stated that, “Bergen County HazMat, the Bergen County Department of Health, Bergen County Office of Emergency Management, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and DCA have all been notified and are working with law enforcement to monitor the situation and ensure the safety of the public, which is our paramount concern.” Anyone who purchased hand sanitizer from the River Vale 7-Eleven is asked to contact the River Vale Police Department at 201-664-1111.
Prosecutor Musella states that the charges are merely accusations and that the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and he would like to thank the River Vale Police Department, as well as the County and State agencies mentioned above for their assistance in this investigation.