- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Authorities say a businessman lied to environmental officials to secure a contract to turn a contaminated landfill in northern New Jersey into a solar farm.

Richard Bernardi Sr. and his firm, Strategic Environmental Partners, were indicted Tuesday on several charges, including theft by deception and money laundering. The indictment was made public Wednesday, the same day Bernardi was arrested at his home in Millstone.

Authorities say the 61-year-old Bernardi made “numerous misrepresentations” to the state Environmental Protection Department and the former landowner of the Fenimore landfill in Roxbury. He’s also accused of diverting more than $5 million in tipping fees for personal and unauthorized uses and failing to pay $1.5 million in fees to an engineering firm he hired for the project.

The DEP reached an agreement with Strategic Environment Partners and Bernardi in 2011 to properly close the landfill - which had been shuttered in 1979 - and develop it into a solar farm. But authorities say the work could not be completed because Bernardi’s proposal was based on misrepresentations and because his firm had accrued several million dollars in debt.

The department seized control of the landfill in June 2013 and remains involved in the cleanup project. The state has also filed a civil suit in a bid to recoup millions from Bernardi.

It’s not known if Bernardi has retained an attorney.

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