A 23-year old North Bergen resident has been caught in a firestorm ever since compromising photos of him apparently appeared in his internet profile last week.
Justin Italo, a 2005 North Bergen High School graduate, is the chief security guard for the North Bergen Housing Authority’s buildings on Meadowview Avenue, between 58th and 60th street, along with other properties.
According to NBHA Spokesperson Paul Swibinski, Housing Executive Director Diane Peirano-Ingvaldsen was approached on Friday by a member of the press who showed her photographs of Italo from his Myspace.com page. In one Italo was holding what appears to be a handgun and the caption reads “ILL KILL YA KIDS,” while in another he is sitting in a car holding what appears to a be a cup. The caption states ‘Who said drinkin n drivin was illegal.’ ”
The North Bergen Police Department is now investigating Italo and the photos.
“As soon as [she was] approached she called him and asked him about it,” said Swibinksi.
When asked if the NBHA checks for social networking accounts prior to hiring someone, Swibinski said that these may be a practice that they adopt in the future.
Phone calls to Ingvaldsen were not returned in time for publication.
Under police investigation, suspended
The North Bergen Police Department is now investigating Italo and the photos. Commander of the Detective Bureau Lt. Frank Cannella said that since it was an active investigation, he could not make any comment.
Swibinski said that on Monday morning Italo was suspended without pay immediately and told that he had the right to file for a grievance hearing within 15 days. Otherwise he would be terminated.
“She suggested to him that he should submit a letter of resignation,” said Swibinski.
Italo was hired in April of 2008 as a security guard. When he received the title of chief security guard, and a raise which made his salary $30,000, he was given administrative duties. Italo was in charge of scheduling and administrative duties for nine other guards and was overseen by Director of Operations Jack Kennell.
“He had not exhibited any problems before this,” said Swibinski. “Most of the security guards are pretty young.”
Photos were no joke
Italo’s Myspace account appears to have been terminated, but a cached version from Nov. 8, 2010 can still be accessed. On it, he says he is a “security sargeant” for the North Bergen Housing Authority.
Swibinksi said that his behavior was a violation of NHA policies and procedures.
“This is just another example of a young person who does not understand that the way he portrays himself on cyber space can have real implications and real consequences in his real life,” said Swibinski.
Tricia Tirella may be reached at TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com.