Co-owner of diner in Vernon plead not guilty to charges related to March fire
Herald file photo - Jerzeez the Diner in Vernon was destroyed by fire earlier on the morning of March 8. The fire was deemed suspicious the next day.
By Joe Carlson New Jersey Herald
Posted: Sep. 13, 2016 12:01 am
SUPERIOR COURT -- Tina Diakos pleaded not guilty last week to an indictment charging her with the March fire that leveled Jerzeez the Diner in Vernon.
Diakos' boyfriend, and co-owner of the diner, also pleaded not guilty to the indictment charging him with conspiracy to to burn down the restaurant.
Assistant Prosecutor Seana Pappas told the Herald Diakos pleaded not guilty Sept. 6 to three counts of second-degree aggravated arson, one count of second-degree insurance fraud, one count of third-degree criminal mischief, second-degree witness tampering and second-degree conspiracy to commit arson.
Cengiz also pleaded not guilty on Sept. 6 to the indictment that charged him with second-degree conspiracy to commit arson, Pappas said.
The indictments were handed up by a Sussex County Grand Jury on Aug. 18.
The fire was reported shortly after 4 a.m. March 8, when a neighbor saw flames coming out of the roof of the diner, police said.
Diakos was arrested a week later on witness tampering charges. Prosecutors allege that Diakos "paid or attempted to pay a witness not to cooperate or withhold information from law enforcement in connection with the investigation into the fire at Jerzeez diner," the Sussex County Prosecutor's Office said at the time of her March arrest.
Diakos was then arrested on the aggravated arson charges in May.
According to the affidavit of probable cause for Diakos' arrest, Diakos was having financial issues in the months leading up to the fire, including late mortgage and insurance payments and the inability to pay vendors, and was facing the cost of replacing the restaurant's septic system.
Though the indictment does not specify how Cengiz conspired with Diakos to set the blaze, the affidavit of probable cause for Diakos' arrest said Cengiz approached one witness prior to the fire and inquired about how to set a fire, and after the witness referred him to his uncle, a check of Diakos' phone records revealed she contacted the uncle in December 2015, which is the same time she increased her insurance coverage, the affidavit says.
Diakos and Cengiz will return to court on Nov. 28.
Fire that destroyed Jerzeez Diner was suspicious, report says
Authorities are investigating the fire that destroyed Jerzeez Diner Tuesday morning. (David Burns/@FD4D)
By Justin Zaremba | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
Email the author
on March 09, 2016 at 2:58 PM
VERNON, NJ — The fire that destroyed Jerzeez Diner on Route 94 Tuesday morning has been deemed suspicious by the prosecutor's office, New Jersey Herald reported.
Sussex County First Assistant Prosecutor Greg Mueller told the newspaper a final determination has not yet been made as to the cause of the fire.
Authorities responded to the blaze shortly after 4 a.m. Tuesday after receiving a call reporting flames coming out of the roof, Vernon police Lt. Keith Kimkowski said.
The blaze was deemed under control at 7:35 a.m. following firefighting efforts by the Mcafee, Pochuck Valley, Highland Lakes, Vernon, Sussex and Warwick, N.Y. fire departments, Kimkowski said.
No one was injured in the blaze.
Vernon diner fire deemed suspicious, under probe
Photo courtesy of McAfee Fire Department
By Joe Carlson New Jersey Herald
Posted: Mar. 9, 2016 11:50 pm Updated: Mar. 10, 2016 2:07 pm
VERNON -- Authorities continued their investigation Wednesday into the blaze that destroyed Jerzeez the Diner on Route 94 in Vernon Tuesday morning after determining the fire was suspicious.
"A final determination has not yet been made in regards to the cause of the fire," First Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Mueller said.Mueller declined to give a time frame for when a cause would be determined, nor would he elaborate on the investigation.
Law enforcement officials further examined the scene of the fire Wednesday.The fire is being investigated by the Sussex County fire marshal, the Sussex County Prosecutor's Office, the Vernon Township fire marshal, the Vernon Township Police Department and the New Jersey State Police.
The fire was reported shortly after 4 a.m. Tuesday when a neighbor saw flames coming out of the roof of the diner, police said.No one was injured, and the structure appeared to have been unoccupied when the fire started, according to Vernon Police Lt. Keith Kimkowski.
The diner was destroyed by the fire.
The fire led to the closure of the adjacent portion of Route 94 in McAfee for nearly four hours as firefighters from the McAfee, Vernon, Highland Lakes, Pochuck Valley, Sussex and Warwick, N.Y., fire departments battled the blaze.
The Vernon Township first aid squad also remained on the scene the entire time.The fire was deemed under control shortly after 7:30 a.m.Owner Tina Diakos told the New Jersey Herald via email Tuesday that her family was "devastated" by the loss.
Investigators were still at the scene of the fire as of Wednesday afternoon.