The Clark teenager whose disappearance sparked an intensive search last year has admitted to using social media to make it appear that she had been abducted and later lying about it to investigators, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Thursday.
Kara Alongi pleaded guilty before state Superior Court Judge Robert Kirsch to a third-degree charge of creating a false public alarm and a fourth-degree charge of making false reports to law enforcement authorities. Under the terms of a plea agreement, she received a disposition of 12 months of probation, a six-month suspension of driver’s license, $2,000 restitution and 40 hours of community service.
Alongi vanished on the evening of Sept. 30, 2012, around the same time she posted a message on Twitter indicating that someone was in her home and imploring her online followers to call 911, according to the investigation. Detectives quickly uncovered evidence contradicting that account, however, and the case subsequently was investigated as a report of a missing person.
Local investigators fielded thousands of phone calls as Alongi’s disappearance made international headlines, and she was found unharmed at a New Jersey Turnpike service area two days after she went missing.
Alongi subsequently told the Clark Police Department, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office and New Jersey State Police that an unknown male entered her home on the night she disappeared and ordered her to pack some belongings and leave the area, according to the investigation. She further claimed that she had no memory of the following 46 hours, stating that she awoke in an unknown residence surrounded by three males, including her alleged abductor.
In the nine-month investigation that followed, authorities used phone records, interviews, video surveillance footage and other evidence to prove that Alongi left her home on her own accord and was never in danger, spending time in various locations in New York, New Jersey and Maryland during the time she was missing.
Alongi was formally charged in July.
“This was a calculated act,” said Union County Assistant Prosecutor Susan J. Gleason, who prosecuted the case. “And the response to this false alarm represented countless man-hours on the part of investigators.”
Kirsch directed Alongi to serve 20 hours of community service at the Elizabeth Police Department and 20 hours at the Elizabeth Fire Department in order to achieve a full understanding of the challenges faced by law enforcement and the effect false reports can potentially have on day-to-day operations.
Alongi was a juvenile at the time of her disappearance, but her identity and the adjudication and disposition rendered Thursday are matters of public record because she pleaded guilty to an offense that, if committed by an adult, would have constituted a third-degree charge, Kirsch explained.