Police officer suspended for allegedly tipping off gang

HILLSIDE, NJ — Hillside Police Officer Fernando J. Noblecilla, 31, of South Plainfield, was suspended for allegedly attempting to warn a member of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation that a law enforcement operation was about to be executed at his home. Noblecilla was charged Friday, May 20, with second-degree conspiracy to commit official misconduct, third-degree hindering of the prosecution of another, third-degree computer theft, third-degree hindering one’s own prosecution, and third-degree unlawful access and disclosure. These charges are the result of an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability; the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice; and the New Jersey Department of Corrections, Special Investigations Division.

Noblecilla is accused of attempting to warn a member of ALKQN on or about April 22, 2021, of impending discovery or apprehension, knowing that a law enforcement operation was being executed at his residence. The complaint alleges that Noblecilla deleted electronic communications on May 11, 2021, and Sept. 7, 2021, knowing the conduct charged or liable to be charged against him would constitute a crime of the second degree or greater. Second degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of as much as $150,000, and third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of as much as $15,000. Authorities say Noblecilla later tried to conceal and suppress evidence by deleting text messages from his iPhone.

“As a profession, law enforcement puts tremendous trust in our police officers to protect our communities and stay on the right side of the law. When a police officer makes a personal choice to violate that trust, immediate removal from our ranks is absolutely necessary,” said Hillside Police Chief Vincent Ricciardi in a statement emailed to Union County LocalSource on Wednesday, May 25.

“Officer Noblecilla was employed for just over three years as of the date of his suspension,” continued the police chief.

Noblecilla’s attorney, Timothy R. Smith, released a statement saying his client didn’t commit crimes.

“The facts which the government is interpreting as evidence of criminality are actually indicative of exemplary law enforcement techniques — it just doesn’t know the difference,” Smith said in a statement to NJ Advance Media.

“There is no room for police officers who break the law and betray their duty, as alleged in this case,” said acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin in a press release. “Officers who deviate from the sworn oath they take to protect and serve will be held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

“The filing of charges against Officer Fernando Noblecilla is the culmination of months of work by the N.J. Division of Criminal Justice with the full support of the Hillside Police Department,” added Ricciardi. “Officer Noblecilla is suspended without pay pending the outcome of the criminal case against him. Let me emphasize, the Hillside Police Department has and will continue to fully cooperate with all aspects of the attorney general’s activities in this matter.”