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Summons dropped in Edison probe of adult cricket grounds paid for Board of Education




A grand jury assembled to examine the construction of an adult cricket ground at a public school has subpoenaed documents from the Edison Board of Education that appear to revolve around political allies of controversial Democratic Edison chairman Mahesh Bhagia.

An investigation by Middlesex County prosecutors revolves around a $100,000 cricket pitch constructed by the Edison Board of Education at Woodrow Wilson Middle School on behalf of a politically connected private, semi-professional league. The school board has developed other cricket pitches for adult use around 2019 and 2020.

The New Jersey Globe has obtained a copy of the May 10 grand jury subpoena asking for incoming, outgoing and deleted emails from three school board members associated with Bhagia Mohin K. Patel, Jerry Shi and Shannon Peng, as well as school board members Shivi Prasad-Madhukar and Biral Patel, former school board members Yuna Chen and Elizabeth Conway, and Dr. Bernard F. Bragen, Jr., the superintendent of schools, between January 2019 and December 31, 2021.

The identity of the defendant in the grand jury’s investigation was published on the subpoena by the prosecutor’s office.

Sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the subpoena said the cricket ground was paid for by the Board of Education at the suggestion of Mohin Patel, Shi and others as a way of pre-favoring with the community members of the 2021 Democratic mayoral election.

Last year, Shi, Peng and Mohin Patel appeared at a Zoom meeting with members of the cricket league and pledged to support additional services for the field, the source said. At the same meeting, they reportedly pitched support for Bhagia, who was seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor of Edison.

Cricket pitches were maintained by the Board of Education, which cut the law, maintained the turf and even established league schedules and tournaments for nearly 50 individual cricket teams using the school facilities, sometimes for league matches. In a charity deal, teams had to pay just $50 to use the fields for their five-month season, a money-losing proposition for the public schools.

At the same time, high school students were essentially banned from using the facility.

The prosecutor’s office is also looking for other records that may be kept related to email correspondence in 2019 and 2020. The subpoena is looking for current or past accounts of the individuals, or any entity acting on their behalf.

The subpoena also asks for copies of all Edison Board of Education purchase orders, work request receipts, feedback forms, and a list of all checks written in 2019 and 2020. It also asks for minutes of all minutes of all finance and facilities committee meetings during that same period.

The prosecutor’s office also wants copies of all Edison Board of Education policies and procedures.

The subpoena was signed by Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone and the Clerk of the Superior Court.

A prominent player in the cricket league controversy is Vijay Diddekunta, also known as Vijay Dy, a leader of the Edison Cricketing Fraternity and the organizer of several cricket leagues in the municipality.

Public records indicate that Diddekunta is linked to an address in Edison associated with the Harshi Construction LLC, which sources say was the recipient of a non-tender tender from the Edison Board of Education to build the cricket ground at Woodrow Wilson school. to build.

The school board has proposed increasing the license fee for adult leagues to use their fields from $50 to $500 as a way to offset the cost. Diddekunta was one of the leaders of the cricket league who attended local government meetings last month in opposition to the fee increase.

Councilor Ajay Patil, an ally of Bhagia, has led the opposition to the increase.

It’s not clear if the cricket pitch probe is directly linked to the Edison Eight, a group of local politicians linked to a racist flyer Emailed anonymously to voters in 2017. The xenophobic flyer claimed that the Chinese and Indians are taking over our city, and suggested that if two Asian-American candidates win, they would build cricket fields.

According to a report by the US Postal Inspector, Bhagia, Shi, Patil and Mohin Patel were part of the Edison Eight. Patel, the treasurer of the Edison Democratic Organization, ran for the State Senate last year along with Bhagia. Both were unsuccessful. Peng lost a bid for the Bhagia slate before the city council.

In March 2021, Bhagia filed a campaign report with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission with Patel as its treasurer, but he never filed any reports.

Diddekunta, Peng, Patel and Bhagia did not immediately call back to ask for comment. Shi, reaching out briefly, declined the call. A spokeswoman for the Middlesex County Prosecutor declined to comment.




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