Monday, October 19, 2009

Livingston couple accused of keeping more than 100 cats in Ocean County home

Additional video & pictures: here

By Brian T. Murray

BERKELEY TOWNSHIP -- State animal welfare authorities and police have descended on an Ocean County home this afternoon, where they claim an ex-convict and his wife have been collecting more than 113 cats, allowing them to live in deplorable and unhealthy conditions with urine and feces soaking into the floor.

The New Jersey State Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said it has leveled a minimum of 600 cruelty charges each against Richard and Gloria Maragni, both 63, of Spring Road in Livingston, who allegedly have been putting cats inside a relative’s home on Spinnaker Court in the Bayville section of Berkeley Township.

Richard Maragni is the former finance officer at Seton Hall University who was imprisoned for 30 months back in 1995 after admitting to federal charges that he illegally diverted nearly $1 million in tuition funds, spending the money on a shore home and other luxuries.

"We’ve already filed the charges. We’re now waiting outside the home for permission from the owner to enter and for a Superior Court Judge in Ocean County to issue a search warrant to allow us entry," said Matt Stanton, an SPCA spokesman.

Berkeley Township police and animal control officers are standing by with SPCA agents, who contend they learned of the situation on Sept. 13, talked to Richard Maragni and tried to work out a deal by which the cats would be removed.

"We began working with them in a deal to remove 10 cats a week so as not to overload local animal shelters where we would have to take the cats. But a couple of weeks ago they rejected the deal, so here we are," Stanton explained.,

He said the number of cats was initially estimated weeks ago when the SPCA and Maragnis began talking about their removal and looked inside the home. Stanton said it was unclear whether anyone lived with the cats, but that agents were told a few dozen additional cats may be at the Maragnis' home in Livingston..." More