Jul 29, 2014
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South Orange Man Charged in Newark Campaign Bus Arson

South Orange man worked as a field coordinator for Shavar Jeffries' campaign.

South Orange Man Charged in Newark Campaign Bus Arson
A South Orange man has been charged in the arson of a Newark mayoral candidate's campaign bus.

Shareef Q. Nash, 35, of South Orange, was charged Thursday with first-degree arson for hire and conspiracy to commit arson for setting fire to Ras Baraka's campaign bus in February, the Essex County Prosecutor's Office said.

Newark mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries, a former assistant state attorney general, r equested Nash resign as his campaign field coordinator when authorities implicated him earlier this month, according to NJ.com.

Michael Benkowski, 43, of Newark, who had worked as a paid canvasser for Jeffries' campaign, was charged last week with third-degree arson, third-degree criminal mischief and third-degree burglary.

According to the prosecutor's office, Baraka's bus was torched and sugar was put in the engine during the early-morning hours of Feb. 16 at 423 Central Ave. Surveillance video and other technology revealed a white Chevy Express van was involved in the arson, the prosecutor's office said.

Nash was driving the 2007 van when authorities pulled in over on March 7 in the area of Morris and Central avenues in Newark, the prosecutor's office said. The van was registered to Nash's Newark-based Prestige Professional Management LLC, the prosecutor's office said.

Benkowski used the van in connection with the arson, the prosecutor's office said.

The investigation remains ongoing. Anyone with information can contact the Essex County Prosecutor's Office Major Crimes Task Force at 877-847-7432.

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